Asked and answered

Two days before the election, provincial Liberal pollsters called British Columbians to ask them whether they would "agree or disagree with Carole James and the NDP's policy to allow for a teachers' strike" - this, according a leaked phoned script. At the time, BCTV was reporting the station had "secret documents from the (British Columbia Teachers' Federation) suggesting that teachers could take a strike vote very soon after next Tuesday's election." The polling question was asked by those working at a party call center uncovered by columnist and Public Eye colleague Bill Tieleman. It matches the broadest definition of a push poll - in which questions are used not to collect information but rather raise issues that may encourage people to vote for one party or candidate over another. A version of this article was originally published in today's edition of 24 hours. The following is a copy of that script.

Good Morning/afternoon/evening

May I please speak to _______________

Hi, my name is _______________ and I am calling on behalf of Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals.

As you may be aware, a provincial election has been called for May 17th and we are doing a brief poll of your neighbourhood.

1. First of all, do you believe the BC Liberal government is headed in the right direction or do you believe the BC Liberal government is on the wrong track?
A. Right Direction
B. Wrong Direction
C. No Opinion / Don't Know

2. Recent news coverage is reporting a possible teachers' strike this spring. Premier Gordon Campbell says education is an essential service and should be free from strikes. NDP leader Carol James says the NDP would make immediate changes to legislation allowing for strikes at BC schools. Do you agree or disagree with Carol James and the NDP's policy to allow for a teacher's strike?
A. agree
B. disagree
C. Don't Know / No opinion

3. When the Provincial election is held on May 17th, will you be voting for your BC Liberal candidate, the local NDP candidate, the Green Party candidate or another party's candidate?
A. BC Liberal Party
B. NDP
C. Green
D. other
E. Undecided

1. Which Party's candidate would you be leaning toward at this time?

A. BC Liberal Party
B. NDP
C. Green
D. Other
E. Undecided

F. Won't Say/Hostile

4. Thanks for your Time
A. complete

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5/15/2005

13 Comments

If you want to know whether it was a push poll you need to know who they called. If it was a random sample, it was a real poll, with a wasted question (in other news, people like tax cuts and hate program cuts). If they called known undecideds, identified from the provincial canvas results, it was a push poll. I guess we will never know.

Just another example of the Liberals good use of questionable efforts in getting themselves elected.

This story was manufactured by the Liberals and exaggerated by BCTV in some of the most blatant political bias in years.

BCTV knew they didnot have what they said they had, "A BCTF document" suggesting there would be a spring strike. In fact BCTV ran the story with the sensational "secret" documents without providing a fair response from the BCTF.

The BCTF refuted BCTV's story right away yet BCTV played the story for three days in a row with it headlining the coverage.

The Tyee.ca has a good story on this issue.

The "teachers" question should probably have been placed last in order not to taint voter's party preference intentions.

However, I do think it was a fair question particularly when Carole James had made it a party position to re-institute a teacher's right to strike, against the wishes of the BCSTA, the Principal and Vice-Principal's Association, as well as the Parent Advisory Councils.

That said, 500 to 1,000 people were likely polled, for internal party purposes, two days prior to the election.

The results of the poll were not used to "convince people to vote for one party over the other".

Parties of all political stripes commission polls with political questions, which are never released to the public.

It's up to the keen party analyst to come to a conclusion based upon the poll questions and corresponding results.

A note to Political Junkie:

I am unaware of any policy statement by the BCSTA on the subject of collective bargaining in the school system. Similarly for the other two bodies you mention. Can you provide a link to these pronouncements?

You are aware, I assume, that it's not just teachers but all employees of the school system who are prohibited from striking under the present Liberal labour legislation. I assume you are also aware that BC is the one and only province in Canada where that is the case. IOWs, in Tory Alberta, under Premier Ralph Klein, school district employees have the right to strike. But not in BC.

In fairness, BCTF members still do retain the right to strike. However legislation dictates that essential service levels must be set first. Ultimately this means that any strike by the BCTF results in having our school system turned into a glorified daycare. Even Carole James said she would not give the BCTF any more money during the election. I assume she will say the same thing when the BCTF heads out on strike this coming September. Any Union that can afford to piss away the kind of money that the BCTF did this past election doesn’t deserve a dime in my books. It’s all about the student’s right.

Response to Budd Campbell:

A front page story on Section B of the Vancouver Sun entitled something to the effect "NDP to Grant Teachers the Right to Strike" either late last year or early this year was the first instance where this matter came to my attention.

My initial reaction was "Let sleeping dogs lie" - in other words, if it ain't broke don't fix it as it could be a contentious issue for the NDP.

That article therein gave a brief summary on the introduction of legislation banning teachers right to strike early in the Liberals first term and that it had the support of the BCSTA, BCPVPA, and PACs.

In fact, the Sun requested a response from the heads of these organizations on the re-introduction of the right to strike and the responses were negative. I assume that they spoke for their respective organizations.

Well, Political Junkie, if that's all true, I am very surprised. I really don't understand why a consumer group, the parents in this case, would be involved in taking stances on employee relations issues. As for the BCSTA, they are the employer, so in one sense you can say their stance is obvious. But they are supposed to be a sophisticated employer, so I would have expected them to avoid this kind of elementary school positioning.

All in all, I am very surprised these organizations would allow themselves to be used as partisan chess tokens.

Budd,

Can you seriously not understand that parents would rather NOT have strikes within the school system? To a parent, the right of children to attend class is NOT considered a partisan posture as you see it.

Not everyone views holding our kids right to an education hostage during labor negotiation as a simple employee relations issue as you so casually put it.

Well Kevin, I hope you realize that you don't speak for all parents. First off the very position of not allowing Teachers the right to strike is political. And whether some see it that way or not is irrelevent. There is no such thing as a non-partisan position with regards to this issue.

Second not all parents think it's the end of the world if their children miss a week of school, and not all parents think that their children need free supervision for every single minute of the day. While clearly a strike could be a big deal for the parent of someone in grade one, it wouldn't be for someone whose child is in grade seven and could stay home alone.

And while this issue is being made into a big stink by the Liberal Party of BC for the sake of highlighting the NDP's relationship with organized labour, one must remember that the last time the teachers went on strike, during an NDP goverment, they were ordered back anyways. So it's not as if there was a huge disruption that hurt the education of our young people. In all reality, this is a big to do about nothing by the Liberal Party, to scare parents, and gain votes. What an utter waste of our time.

this is all crap - i am a grade 12 student attending high school and i don't want a strike. i'll fall behind in my classes and not be prepared for the provincials!!

Teaching is not an essential service. Missing a few days of school would not be a crisis. I think it rather humorous how the government goes on and on about how the teachers are setting a bad example. The bully tactics, ripping up contracts, extending contracts without both parties agreeing to it . Are these not Bad Examples? The government has decided it wants to wage war on the teachers. Plain and simple! I read somewhere that management does`nt like to have people around that are smarter than they are. Do you think that might be the problem with our current government?

Teaching is not an essential service. Missing a few days of school would not be a crisis. I think it rather humorous how the government goes on and on about how the teachers are setting a bad example. The bully tactics, ripping up contracts, extending contracts without both parties agreeing to it . Are these not Bad Examples? The government has decided it wants to wage war on the teachers. Plain and simple! I read somewhere that management does`nt like to have people around that are smarter than they are. Do you think that might be the problem with our current government?

Teaching is not an essential service. Missing a few days of school would not be a crisis. I think it rather humorous how the government goes on and on about how the teachers are setting a bad example. The bully tactics, ripping up contracts, extending contracts without both parties agreeing to it . Are these not Bad Examples? The government has decided it wants to wage war on the teachers. Plain and simple! I read somewhere that management does`nt like to have people around that are smarter than they are. Do you think that might be the problem with our current government?

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