Root of B.C. teachers’ strike goes back decades

September 01 2014 05:55PM


VANCOUVER—All summer long, there’s been one overriding conversation amongst the hundred-plus employees at a Vancouver financial firm who have school-age children: British Columbia’s acrimonious teachers’ strike.

Project analyst Robert Ford, with Credential Financial, has a 12-year-old daughter and six-year-old son who won’t be starting their school year this Tuesday, and he said the parents at his company all feel the same.

“Fed up,” he said. “That’s it. No matter what, they want it done. Parents have actually devolved in their opinions to (picking) neither side. Just get ‘er done.”

Fourteen weeks have passed since B.C.’s more than 40,000 unionized teachers walked off the job in a rotating and then full-scale strike last June, ejecting half-a-million children from classes about two weeks before summer break.

Just a day before the scheduled start of the fall session, there was no indication about when, how or to what extent the conflict will be resolved.

On Saturday, a veteran mediator who spent three days attempting to jumpstart bargaining declared an impasse between the BC Teachers’ Federation and BC Public School Employers’ Association, the government’s bargaining agent. Lead negotiators for both sides acknowledged the new term would be derailed indefinitely.

Many parents and students say they’re holding B.C.’s politicians and the teachers’ union equally responsible.

“I think it’s crazy. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be (over). They’ve had lots and lots of time to negotiate and get a deal done. I don’t see why it takes over 16 months to get a contract in place,” said Victoria Barker, who recently graduated Grade 12 at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Surrey, B.C.

Now Barker, who concluded high school with less than 12-hours notice, is anxious about the potential impact of the delayed school start on her younger brother and peers in lower grades.

The trigger for the current dispute is usually identified by teachers as a unilateral blow to the collective bargaining process that occurred in 2002. That’s when Premier Christy Clark, who was then B.C.’s education minister, introduced legislation that stripped the union’s right to bargain class size and composition.

B.C. Supreme Court has since ruled twice that the government’s actions were illegal, but inability to get closure on the case, which is under appeal by the government, remains a major sticking point. Wages, benefits and classroom conditions have been the other key obstacles.

But today’s bitter standoff is actually back-loaded with more than four decades of labour strife in the province’s education sector, said a historian who has documented 140 years of the B.C. school system.

Tom Fleming, who wrote the book Worlds Apart in 2011 and lead a Royal Commission on Education in 1987-1988, said there’s been more than 50 strikes and three lockouts since April 1987.

“We’ve had this reputation of having very turbulent labour relations,” said Fleming, a University of Victoria professor emeritus.

“There’s a history of struggle and conflict that is now in the DNA of both sides. The teachers are innately distrustful of government and government is innately distrustful of teachers.”

Fleming said the province’s public schooling system was peaceful for a century up until 1972, run by a neutral civil service that ensured “nobody ever felt the rough hands of politicians on educational issues.”

But then school trustees began setting their sights on politics while a partisan union was built. A recession in the 1980s prompted “restraint” legislation that reduced the number of teachers and teaching assistants by about 2,000 positions, he said.

With a general strike in B.C. appearing imminent, Fleming was appointed in 1987 to helm a commission to bring peace between the teachers and government. But even before the report was out, the government of the day for the first time granted teachers full-scope collective bargaining powers.

“The BCTF stepped up and said, ‘Well, we are the true defenders of public education. We will speak for children, we will speak for parents, we will speak for schools,’ ” Fleming said. “So now you’ve had since the ’80s a battle for hearts and minds over control of school policy.”

The union’s crusader mentality has brought the downfall of at least two provincial governments, said Fleming, while adding no party has been left untouched.

“They fought with everybody,” he said. “Maybe (the union and the government) like the particular dance they do every year. They’ve gotten used to doing business this way.

“It’s hugely harmful to the community, to the reputation of public schooling. We’re looked at as an educational banana republic across this country in terms of our labour relations.”

There’s only been one contract signed over nearly three decades without a blowout.

The present-day dispute is the culmination of 40 years of battles clouding over the fact B.C. consistently ranks as an internationally top-performing school system, said Jerry Mussio, who spent much of 30 years in the education ministry as a senior bureaucrat.

“You’ve got these excellent teachers,” said Mussio, who has since served as Canada’s representative in the development of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment. “I think that they’ve been poorly served by both government and by their union.”

He said a positive outcome of the past three months of turmoil would be at long last recognition from both sides they must figure out a better way to manage their relationship.

“In terms of the larger picture, getting together and sorting this out so we don’t have a repeat of this is crucial,” he said. “Otherwise we are going to have a crumbling of the public school system, which is disastrous.”

Parents scrambling for daycare spaces as B.C. teachers’ strike delays school

September 01 2014 04:04PM


VANCOUVER— Daycare operators in British Columbia are scrambling to keep up with increased demand for child support as more parents need places to babysit their kids because schools will not open.

Janos Stiasny, owner of Wise Owl Montessori Child Care, says spots in his daycare have filled right up because of the ongoing teachers’ strike.

He says he normally gets more than 65 children, but after the strike his care centres are looking after about 90 kids in total.

Talks between the government and teachers fell apart over the weekend, dashing any hopes parents had that school would start as scheduled on Tuesday.

Both sides have said they are willing to speak again, but no meetings have been scheduled.

The province’s 40,000 public school teachers went on strike two weeks before the summer break started, booting half a million students out of class.

The sticking points are pay, class size, and the amount of support staff per class, and talks over summer months progressed at a glacial pace.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version of this story wrongly stated the number of children Stiasny normally receives.

Ryan Johansen and finding comparable talent (What We Learned) (Puck Daddy)

September 01 2014 12:20PM

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.) The Ryan Johansen saga stretches on and on in Columbus and neither side seems willing to budge especially far from their dug-in positions on the matter of the young center's new contract. Everyone agrees a two-year term seems wise, but when it comes to the money, not so much. Johansen wants $7 million per. The Jackets would prefer that number be $4 million per. You can see the issue. Anyone not directly involved with Johansen professionally or personally likely recognizes that $7 million is a big ask, but that the Jackets' number is probably not enough to be commensurate with a kid who just turned 22 a month ago and already has a 33-goal season under his belt. So it was a little surprising for Columbus to come out over the weekend and say, basically, that they're not unwilling to go into the season without Johansen signed, and would likely just bump every center on the depth chart up a spot. This would, of course, be detrimental to Columbus's chances of winning. That gets to the issue of what Johansen is really worth, and specifically, what would be a fair price to pay him for the next two years. It must be said that $7 million per is not a reasonable ask for Johansen's camp considering what we know of the NHL's newly rediscovered penchant for dishing out “bridge contracts” to guys whose entry-level deals are expiring; if elite players like P.K. Subban can take much shorter money than that, so too should Johansen. That's a semi-reasonable argument. But you gotta pay your talent, and Johansen's camp could contend that their client is very demonstrably the biggest talent on the team, as long as you ignore that troubled first-107-games-of-his-career stretch, in which he only scored 14 goals and 19 assists. So the question that needs to be hashed out is simple: Is Johansen actually this 33-goal guy? He is pretty clearly not the six-to-nine-goals guy of the first two years of his career, which were troubled to say the least (and not always through any fault of his own, though the AHL healthy-scratches can't be that far from his memory). But if you're paying someone $7 million, you better be damn sure that's the kind of production you're getting. Otherwise, it's all acrimony. There is no sure way to know the future, of course, and every player develops differently, but you can start to construct a pretty reasonable expectation for what Johansen might be able to bring in his age-22 season based on statistical looks at other 21-year-old players who put up similar numbers to him. Pretty simple, really. For one thing, you have to keep in mind that players' shot and point production tends to increase steadily from ages 18 to 24 or 25, so the likelihood that Johansen takes a step back in that regard doesn't seem particularly large. The good news is that the comparables for players who produced similar to Johansen in their age-21 seasons since the 2005-06 lockout (when goaltending was at a level similar to today's numbers, and with players who are mostly still in the league) are of a good quality. Among the six players who put up similar shots per game (2.89 in Johansen's case) and a high shooting percentage (13.3) when they were 21, Johansen was fifth in points (63) and tied for fifth in goals (33, deadlocked with some kid named Sidney Crosby). The rest of the company looks pretty good too: Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Staal, Phil Kessel. That alone tells you how rare a season Johansen enjoyed last year. All five of those guys went on to significant success as point producers, obviously, and are for the most part very deservedly among the highest-paid players in the game. Speaks very well for Johansen's ability to claim he's elite. However, it's worth noting that while those six guys were the only ones in the nine seasons to put up at least 2.8 shots per game and shoot at least 13 percent, Johansen trailed dramatically in both those categories. None of the other players put up fewer than 3.09 shots per game, some 7 percent more than Johansen. That's a number which is not insignificant. Further, lots of guys can put up high shooting percentages, and thus score a lot of goals, in one- or even two-season bursts. So is that success sustainable? In short, no. All those guys — save for Crosby, with whom Johansen was tied — posted higher shooting percentages as 21-year-olds, and all of them — save for Crosby, again — also saw their scoring efficiency take a big hit in their age-22 seasons. Even when accounting for Crosby's huge jump forward in shooting percentage, the average decline in shooting percentage among this elite group was 2.88 points (or a drop of 16.8 percent of their total shooting percentages). Most also saw their shots per game increase significantly (an extra .28 shots per game, or an increase of 9.08 percent), though, which helped to even out the goalscoring issue.  But again, they were shooting at truly stratospheric levels to begin with, meaning that their shot volumes and percentages were both miles ahead of Johansen's, so any kind of dropoff for them wouldn't be nearly as noticeable as one for a player whose numbers were not quite so sterling.  That is, if Johansen regresses in terms of shooting percentage and still increases his shots per game in ways that are more or less in line with these other averages, he should still see a decline in goal production even as his shots go up. This is by no means scientific, because again, every player is different, but it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Johansen bump his shots per game up to the 3.1 or 3.2 range (up about 9 percent), but his goal number overall still drop because his shooting percentage could drop by something like 2.3 points to the 11.6 percent area. And wouldn't you know it, that's right in the area of his career shooting percentage of 11.2. If those numbers hold up, that puts his goal total at about 30 goals or so on about 260 shots. Which, finally, brings us to the question of who shoots in the area of at least 11.6 percent in their age-22 seasons and scores 30-plus goals? You're looking at elite company for Johansen: Crosby and Malkin both make the list again, but most of the others get bumped off. In favor of Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Semin, Tyler Seguin, Bobby Ryan, and Anze Kopitar. Here, too, we see very strong company. And while Johansen would, once again, be at the lower end of this list in terms of production (his theoretical shot and goal totals would scrape the bottom), there's no arguing that these are legitimately excellent players. It seems that those banking on a big step back for a player of Johansen's caliber probably won't end up making money on such a beat. Even if you build some serious wiggle room into the comparables (just 3 shots per game instead of 3.15, and a shooting percentage of 10 instead of 11.6), you're still coming up with a small list of guys who are almost exclusively first-line players forwards. There's one outlier on that new list, and it's Devin Setoguchi; Johansen doesn't play with a distributor of Joe Thornton's caliber, and probably never will. So no, Johansen's probably not worth $7 million per season. Yet. At least, last season is not something for which you give him $7 million and hope he justifies it. But he probably will be within the next two seasons. He obviously isn't on the level of Crosby or Malkin or Ovechkin or Stamkos or Kessel or Kopitar or Kovalchuk or most of the other guys mentioned above (he's better than Setoguchi, it goes without saying), but if your name keeps popping up on statistical lists with them, then that has to mean something. Johansen's breakout was last season, and it's one that it would frankly be surprising to see him repeat this year. With that having been said, betting considerable success, even if there is a slight step back, would be a mistake. You take 30ish goals from just about anyone.  This kid is going places, but he needs to realize he hasn't arrived quite yet. What We Learned Anaheim Ducks : Who's the starting goalie for the Ducks next year? Don't ask Bruce Boudreau, because he doesn't know yet . Arizona Coyotes : Expansion would help the Coyotes because all the fees from it would help keep them afloat . Know what else would help? Moving to a real market. See ya. Boston Bruins : Former Bruins first-round pick Zach Hamill, who hasn't been in the NHL since he got 16 games in 2011-12, signed with a Finnish team this weekend. The Bruins took him one pick before the Sharks selected Logan Couture. Buffalo Sabres : The Rochester Americans will play a game in Buffalo on Oct. 29. So many NHL games at First Niagara next season, eh? Calgary Flames : That Tyler Dellow saying about “You don't become the Chicago Blackhawks by loading up on their rejects?” Someone might want to let the Flames know . Carolina Hurricanes : Eric Staal has been dealing with a lot of injuries the last few years, but now he thinks he's good and healthy again. I think the term here is “cautious optimism.” Chicago Blackhawks : If Jeremy Morin doesn't get anything done this season , he probably won't get anything done in Chicago ever. Colorado Avalanche : Avs prospect Tomas Vincour may or may not be coming over to play in the bigs next season. Even his Czech league team, though, seems a bit iffy on it. Columbus Blue Jackets : Columbus prospect Markus Soberg might become a very, very good junior player this season. Because what the Jackets need is more high-quality prospects coming in. Don't have enough of those yet. Dallas Stars : This summer has led to almost unbridled enthusiasm for the Stars' chances in the coming season. So here's a list of lingering concerns to let all the air out of things. Detroit Red Wings : An associate economics professor at the University of Michigan Flint argues that the Red Wings' new arena would be a bad investment for both the city and state . You don't say. Edmonton Oilers : Craig MacTavish says Justin Schultz has “ Norris Trophy potential ” for some reason. He almost certainly does not. Florida Panthers : P.K. Subban practicing at the Panthers' practice rink is the biggest Panthers news of the weekend. Great. Los Angeles Kings : Marian Gaborik will lead the Kings in goals this season? That's a prediction I wonder about. But him scoring 40, I think, is doubtful. Minnesota Wild : Mike Yeo doesn't know who his starter is yet, but this might just be the first time in NHL history a returning playoff team has a three-way battle for the spot . Montreal Canadiens : Carey Price was recently named an ambassador for First Nations people . This is a really nice story.  Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team : The Preds probably won't be too affected by NHL expansion. Take all the guys at the bottom of their roster. They dare you. New Jersey Devils : Before he got the invite to Devils training camp, Scott Gomez was thinking about retirement . This is basically the exact opposite of surprising news. Dude's made almost $63 million in his career. New York Islanders : Ryan Strome is going to have a “breakout” season ? Just another reason to bet on the Isles doing very well in the East. New York Rangers : Glad that's settled . Ottawa Senators : Looks like the Senators might re-extend their affiliation deal with Binghamton soon. Hey, great. Philadelphia Flyers : Ron Hextall says he likes to look at all the analytics before making decisions about his team, but also will keep Steve Mason as his starter despite the high risk of regression to garbage numbers. Hmmm. Pittsburgh Penguins : The Pens say Derrick Pouliot will be ready to start the season , and having his former junior coach behind the bench likely means that he can expect a pretty big role. San Jose Sharks : The Sharks might still trade those Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau guys? No kidding. St. Louis Blues : A Blues fan giving Brian Elliott's new contract a better grade than Paul Stastny's is shocking. I'm not sure about that one at all. Well, I am sure about it: It's crazy. Tampa Bay Lightning : Andrei Vasilievsky is probably going to play in the AHL this season , and that'll be good for Syracuse's chances. Dude's career save percentage in the comparable KHL is .923. Which is pretty good. Toronto Maple Leafs : William Nylander might be the most exciting rookie with a chance of making the Leafs in a long time. I'd be really excited to be able to watch this kid 82 times a year. Vancouver Canucks : Jim Benning maintains his own personal depth chart for every team in the league , made out of felt. See, he's just as big a nerd as you are. Washington Capitals : Barry Trotz says he'll still keep a close eye on the Preds next season. What a nice fellow. Winnipeg Jets : Yeah, no kidding . Gold Star Award

What you need to know for Labour Day Monday in Toronto: News, weather and events

September 01 2014 06:48AM


Weather and traffic:

Weather for the last day of the Labour Day long weekend looks to be a mix of sun and cloud, with a daytime high of 27 and a high UV of 7, according to Environment Canada.

Lights winds are expected out of the south this afternoon at around 20 km/h, and the sun will yield this evening with a 70 per cent chance of showers overnight and a risk of thunderstorms.

The showers are expected to continue into the first work day of the week, but should clear Tuesday afternoon.

There were no major delays on the TTC or Go Transit and flights leaving the city from the island or Pearson were running mostly on schedule this morning.

The last long weekend of the summer will also bring with it a number of road closures that could snarl traffic in the city. If you were planning on driving this weekend, it might be worth taking a peek at transit routes.

Events in the city:

Today is the final day of the Canadian National Exhibition, which means it’s your last chance to check out the exhibitions, performances and bizarre foods. You can find the schedule for the final day’s festivities online.

And with the closure of the Ex, today is the last day of the weekend’s Canadian International Air Show, which has been soaring above Lake Ontario. Drop by to see some amazing aerial acrobatics.

From 10 p.m., to 2 a.m., you can check out Laser Quest East’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Latenighter. The event promises six specialty games in the venue’s maze, lasers and ninja turtles. Entrance is $25 in advance, or $30 on the day of.

And as always you can find a detailed list of events in the GTA on the City’s website.

Top headlines:

One person is in life-threatening condition, and another in serious but stable condition after a double stabbing near Gerrard and River Sts. Police have one person in custody and are continuing the investigation.

A block party fundraiser in Burlington yesterday aimed to raise funds to rebuild after floods swept through the region earlier this month. Around 2,300 homes were damaged by 191 mm of rain that fell in just one day.

A Libyan militia group have occupied the abandoned U.S. Embassy and its residential compound in Tripoli. The Dawn of Libya took onlookers on tours through the compound yesterday, and video showed unarmed men playing in the pool. The move into the Embassy comes as the U.S. withdrew diplomats from Tripoli in July.

The first cat café in North America opened its doors Saturday in Montreal. The Café des Chats is home to eight cats, all adopted from the SPCA, who mingle with the feline-friendly customers. The trend has been gaining popularity in Europe, and there are plans to open similar cafés in Vancouver and Toronto.

Toronto FC fired its coach yesterday, and has announced that striker Jermain Defoe may be leaving the franchise as well. It’s another monumental change for the soccer franchise, which has never known major success in its history.

Did you know:

The CNE is Canada’s largest community event, bringing 1.36 million visitors in 2013, and is one of the 10 top agricultural fairs in North America.

A look back:

On this day in 1979, the American space probe Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft to reach Saturn. The satellite used Jupiter’s gravity to slingshot itself towards Saturn, and took photographs of the planet at a distance of around 250,000 miles.

Rob Ford email wave extends far beyond Toronto

September 01 2014 05:00AM


Rob Ford’s bid to remain mayor of Toronto seems to know no geographic boundaries as citizens who live outside the GTA — even as far away as Vancouver — report receiving unsolicited emails seeking campaign donations.

Adam Mallonee, a Vancouver resident, says he found it “odd” when he received an email Friday from the Rob Ford re-election campaign.

“I did not give express consent to his campaign or anyone else to use my email address for unsolicited communications, especially ones where they ask for money,” said Mallonee, who moved to Vancouver from Toronto two years ago. “It would be advisable for those seeking campaign donations to ask people who actually live in the city where the election is taking place and who are able to vote.”

Mallonee, 38, once emailed the mayor’s office two years ago asking Ford to resign and says he believes his email address was added to the re-election campaign’s list of supporters.

On Saturday, the Star reported on the concerns Toronto residents were raising after receiving unsolicited emails signed by the mayor’s brother and campaign manager, Doug Ford, asking for donations in exchange for a variety of Ford Nation merchandise, such as flags, bumper stickers and T-shirts.

Since then, more than two dozen citizens, including residents of Burlington, Oakville and Renfrew, have contacted the Star to report receiving the email. Most wonder how the campaign got their email addresses, none more so than those who don’t live in Toronto.

Port Hope resident Beth Hanson said she has received several emails from the Rob Ford re-election campaign despite not having lived in Toronto for the past 10 years and never having emailed the mayor’s office.

“I have no idea how the Ford campaign got my email. I had received one several months ago, before the rehab spectacle, and had unsubscribed, so I thought,” Hanson told the Star. When she received the latest email, she says her reaction was “anger, then a feeling of invasion and thinking it was very presumptuous to say in the body of the email I was aligned with the campaign somehow.”

“I have never given my name and have never had a relationship with the Fords or Toronto city hall for that matter,” said retired senior and 40-year Oakville resident Mariam Rossignol, who received the email on Friday. “Where did the Fords get my email address from?”

The email begins with the phrase “Hello Friend” and goes on to say that the campaign would not be possible “without your financial contributions.” The letter also states “you are receiving this email because of your relationship with the Rob Ford campaign.”

Neither Doug Ford nor campaign spokesperson Jeff Silverstein responded to the Star’s inquiries Sunday. Doug Ford told the Star earlier that he was “not too sure” where the campaign got the email addresses of the letter’s recipients, and said anyone unhappy with getting the email should unsubscribe.

This isn’t the first time Rob Ford has looked beyond the 416 area code for support. In September of last year, Vaughan and Mississauga residents were the recipients of robocalls from the mayor inviting them to attend the Ford Fest barbecue at Etobicoke’s Centennial Park.

The Star also heard from one voter who reported receiving an unsolicited email from the Olivia Chow mayoral campaign.

Chow spokesperson Jamey Heath told the Star the campaign used lists of email addresses “from a variety of sources” early in the campaign and built its own through the campaign website.

In July, new federal anti-spam legislation came into effect requiring businesses to obtain consent from potential customers before sending “commercial electronic messages.” The legislation does not apply to emails soliciting contributions on behalf of someone running for publicly elected office.

Coffee, tea or meow? Montreal opens first cat café

August 31 2014 04:00PM


MONTREAL—Would you like a cat with your coffee?

A new Montreal café is hoping plenty of people do. The Café des Chats, which opened its doors on Saturday, is a lot like a regular coffee house — except it’s home to eight cats.

Along with the usual tables and chairs designed for human clientele, the space is filled with scratching posts, plush toys, and a special multi-level window perch for the felines-in-residence.

Nadine Spencer, who helped set up the business along with her partner, said the concept is a big hit in Asia and, more recently, has gained popularity in Europe.

“We thought, ‘Why not bring this to Montreal?’ I think it’s a city that could definitely use it,” she said Sunday.

“There’s a lot of places that don’t accept cats these days and there are a lot of students here for a short time. And it’s also great therapy.”

According to Spencer, the café is the first of its kind in North America.

But not for long. There are plans to open cat cafés in several cities, including Vancouver and Toronto. There’s even another one set to open a few blocks away in Montreal.

The crowd of people packed into Spencer’s café on Sunday suggests there’s plenty of demand.

Michelle Lau made the trip from Toronto for the opening weekend.

“We’re big cat lovers and I can’t wait until one opens in our city,” said Lau, 24, explaining that she has a dog at home and is reluctant to bring a kitty into the mix.

“I think it’s just a nice environment. You sit down, you have a coffee and you play with the cats.”

Part of the goal was to give a few cats a second chance.

They are all adopted from the SPCA and have already made themselves comfortable in their new home, Spencer said. The cats have their own private quarters at the back of the shop, for when they want some quiet time or need to use the kitty litter.

“Personalities are already coming out,” she said.

“There’s definitely the Godfather, who kind of oversees everything in. There’s the big boss, Big Foot, and the Three Little Rascals, as I like to call them. I think they’re going to be the ones to be in charge eventually.”

B.C. to offer daycare subsidies as strike delays school year

August 31 2014 10:03AM


VANCOUVER—The British Columbia government said on Sunday it expects to be helping parents pay the costs of daycare because the first day of school appears to be delayed indefinitely by an ongoing teachers strike.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said parents who start registering at the government’s website can expect to receive $40 a day as early as late September or early October, although the Education Ministry subsequently said the payments will come after the strike is over.

“The registration process went live,” the minister said. “People are already registering for that $40.”

Many parents were concerned daycare bills would become a problem if school did not start on time and in July, the government proposed to give cash to parents with children aged 12 and under if that was the case.

However, Jim Iker of the BC Teachers’ Federation has been critical of the move, calling it an unhelpful bribe.

Fassbender defended the program on Sunday, saying the payments are in parents’ best interest.

“We just simply have the right as government, when there are savings that accrue from a strike, to apply those in any way that we think is in the benefit of the people of British Columbia,” said Fassbender. “We have absolutely every opportunity and right to do that.”

Fassbender’s announcement comes after teachers and their employers met for three days in an attempt to reach a deal that would end — or at least suspend — an ongoing teachers strike that is threatening to derail the start of school on Tuesday.

But hopes that school would start on time are gone now that the veteran mediator who organized the talks walked from the latest bargaining session, declaring both sides were too far apart.

Despite the collapse of bargaining, Fassbender reaffirmed his promise to not legislate teachers back to work, which is making it even less clear if and when school will start.

“Legislation has led to litigation, has led to court cases. We have got to stop doing it that way,” he said. “We are not going to legislate.”

Fassbender said teachers and employers are more than $300 million apart.

Both sides have said they are willing to bargain throughout the long weekend in hopes of striking a deal, but Iker and Peter Cameron, the government’s negotiator, have said school will likely not start on time.

Iker has said even if the dispute was settled, preparation time before classes begins will need to be discussed.

Veteran mediator Vince Ready was behind the three days of talks between both sides and is lauded as a mediator capable of resolving the toughest labour disputes.

Despite Ready’s declaration of an impasse, teachers and employers have both said they will be keeping in touch with him, and said Ready will contact them again once he believes a deal can be reached.

Before the latest round of talks with Ready, Iker and Cameron met with Fassbender, who asked both sides to drop the most contentious issues and start mediation.

These issues are teachers’ grievances, which are related to an ongoing battle in court between the union and government.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year the province had violated the union’s rights by stripping teachers of their ability to bargain for class size and support in 2002, but the government has launched an appeal of that decision.

The ruling prompted teachers to ask the government to set aside $225 million every five years to deal with grievances stemming from the court case, but Fassbender’s proposal would have put negotiations regarding those problems on hold.

Iker has said he is unwilling to back away from dealing with those issues, but after talks collapsed on Saturday, he said teachers were willing to reduce the grievance fund to $100 million.

During the summer, bargaining for the key issues — pay, class size and support staff levels — has been moving at a glacial pace.

The province’s 40,000 teachers went on strike two weeks before summer vacation, booting all half a million of B.C.’s public school students out of class.

Timbers beat Whitecaps 3-0

August 30 2014 11:15PM

Alvas Powell, Maximiliano Urruti and Rodney Wallace scored in the second half in the Portland Timbers' 3-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.

Recap: Vancouver FC vs. Portland

August 30 2014 10:44PM

The Portland Timbers scored three times in the second half en route to a 3-0 win over Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday at BC Place.

MLS Preview from The Sports Network (ET)

August 29 2014 03:06PM

Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the Portland Timbers will renew their Cascadia Cup rivalry on Saturday with a vital match at BC Place.

Canadian Milos Raonic advances at U.S. Open

August 28 2014 07:42PM


NEW YORK—Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic advanced to the third round at the U.S. Open with a 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over Germany's Peter Gojowczyk on Thursday.

The fifth seed from Thornhill, Ont., had 28 aces en route to victory over Gojowczyk, who's ranked No. 124 in the world.

Earlier, Wimbledon doubles champions Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver and Jack Sock of the United States both overcame injury to reach the second round with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Jarkko Nieminen and Henri Kontinen.

Tour bus crash on B.C. highway leaves dozens injured

August 28 2014 05:41PM

MERRITT, B.C.—Dozens of people were injured, six of them critically, when a tour bus on its way back from the Rocky Mountains rolled over Thursday on a highway in British Columbia.

RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming said all 56 passengers suffered some sort of injury when the southbound bus crashed at about 3 p.m. on the Coquihalla Highway, about 30 kilometres south of Merritt. The area is about a three-hour drive northeast of Vancouver.

Six of the passengers were in critical condition and 15 were seriously hurt, said Flemming. The rest suffered bumps, bruises and cuts requiring stitches, he said.

“We don’t have any fatalities listed yet and we’re just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best on that one,” he said.

Flemming said the cause of the accident is under investigation. However, he said the bus was the only vehicle involved.

Flemming said two interpreters were accompanying passengers and described the passengers as Asian, but he had no additional information.

Nick Kam, director of service for Super Vacation, a company based in Richmond, B.C., that identifies itself on its website as the largest “Chinese tour operator in North America,” confirmed the bus was on a tour organized by his company.

“It’s our tour, yes,” Kam told The Canadian Press.

Kam said the bus was not owned by his company but was chartered through another company, which he didn’t identify. He also said that company provided the driver.

Kam placed the call on hold, and another man who did not identify himself picked up the phone and said the tour was returning from the Rocky Mountains and was on a leg between Kamloops, B.C., and Vancouver.

When asked about the passengers’ origins, the second man said they came from everywhere.

Daniel Parsons was on his way home from work when he happened upon the scene. Police and ambulances were already there and two school buses had been brought in to help with the injured.

“You could see the bus, it was right off the side of the highway and it looked like it had rolled over,” Parsons said.

“There was just a pile of people all along the side of the bus receiving medical assistance and you could see some blood on the side of the bus. It was a pretty bad scene for sure. I haven’t seen one like that.”

He said the crash appeared to happen along a slight curve in the highway.

Parsons snapped a photo as he passed by. The white bus can be seen upright on the side of the highway with visible damage to its side. Passengers and emergency workers can be seen standing alongside the bus, with debris strewn about the road.

Kelsie Carwithen of B.C. Emergency Health Services said six helicopters and 19 ambulances were dispatched to the scene.

Grace Kucey of Kelowna General Hospital said her facility and a hospital in Kamloops were under a code orange.

Kucey said Kamloops was expecting about 40 passengers, with the rest heading to Kelowna. Staff were ready to triage patients, she said.

The highway was closed Thursday evening, with air ambulances landing on the roadway.

“It’s a big mess,” said Flemming.

Super Vacation’s website says the company was established in 1981 in Los Angeles, Calif., by a woman named Helen Koo.

The company has 15 branches and operates an office in Richmond, B.C. It employs more than 300 staff and owns at least 30 deluxe tour coaches in Canada and the United States. It says it operates more than 150 monthly tours and serves more than 150,000 customers every year.

See more national stories on thestar.com

"Kids Only" Press Conference at the PNE

August 28 2014 04:51PM

Vancouver, B.C. – The Vancouver Canucks extend a very special invitation to children of all ages to attend a ‘Kids Only’ press conference on Monday, September 1st at 4:30 pm at the Fair at the PNE. Kids are encouraged to bring their questions ...

Ashley Madison sues South Korea

August 28 2014 01:11PM


A Toronto-based dating website for married people seeking affairs is suing the government of South Korea after being blocked in that country over what it says are false allegations of illegal activity.

Ashley Madison’s Korean site was shut down this spring shortly after its launch, with authorities there alleging it incited immorality, according to media reports at the time. Adultery is illegal in South Korea.

In a statement of claim filed in federal court Wednesday, Ashley Madison denies the accusations, describing itself as “a social networking website facilitating communication between like-minded adults.”

The company accuses the South Korean government of engaging in “uncompetitive acts” by unfairly banning the website while allowing local businesses to operate similar ones.

It alleges the effects of that decision trickle down to Canada, limiting Ashley Madison’s success among Korean-Canadians and other Asian-Canadians and reducing overall competition in the social media market.

The company is seeking an unspecified amount for loss of revenue and lost profits, as well as general damages for uncompetitive conduct.

It also wants the court to order South Korea to stop blocking the website.

None of the claims have been proven in court and Korean authorities have yet to file a statement of defence.

Ashley Madison, which uses the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair,” launched its website in South Korea on April 1, the claim says. The site has already expanded to more than 30 countries, it says.

In just over two weeks, the new site drew nearly 50,500 members, the document says.

Soon after, the Korea Communications Standards Commission — a government agency also targeted by the suit — blocked the site, alleging that it “contained illegal information,” it reads.

The company says it was never told what the commission’s concerns were, and that its appeal of the decision was dismissed within days “without further explanation.”

Ashley Madison says the website “neither contains illegal information, nor does it aid or abet any illegal activity.”

“The website is for communication purposes only, and such communication is neither illegal in South Korea nor Canada,” the company argues in the document.

“No sexual interaction can take place on the plaintiff’s website any more than it can by individuals using other websites that the defendants permit to operate freely in the Republic of Korea.”

The suit alleges South Korea is trying to give its own companies a leg up when it comes to breaking into the Canadian market.

“The defendants’ anti-competitive practices in South Korea have a direct impact in Canada on communications and social networking businesses and websites competing for the Korean-Canadian and Asian-Canadian market for such websites,” it claims.

“Given the global reach of the Internet, a social networking service that meets with success among any particular group of people in one country has or will have a significant competitive advantage among people of that same group or related groups in other countries.”

Ashley Madison — which filed the suit through its parent company, Avid Life Media — says it will lay out its financial losses during trial, which it suggests be held in Vancouver.

NHL denies expansion report, including a second NHL team in Toronto

August 27 2014 06:02AM


Is Toronto getting a second NHL team by 2017?

A tweet by Howard Bloom of @SportsBizNews late Tuesday night suggested that the NHL will expand by four teams in three years, with new franchises in Seattle, Las Vegas, Quebec City and Toronto.

The league would get a total of $1.4 billion in expansion fees, according to the tweet.

The NHL shot down the report Wednesday morning.

“Not in our plans. Nothing new to report on expansion,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TVA sports.

The four cities have been mentioned every time there’s talk of expansion in the NHL but it would be surprising that all four would get a team at once.

The NHL has 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 in the West which has led to speculation that the league would be interested in adding two teams to balance the two conferences.

The Vancouver Province reported Tuesday that an expansion team in Las Vegas is a “done deal.”

In Seattle, billionaire Victor Coleman, who grew up in Vancouver, and Seattle-based Chris Hansen reportedly have an agreement in place regarding NHL expansion.

Local government, however, is more interested in bringing an NBA team back to Seattle first, a project also involving Hansen. Unlike other potential NHL destinations such as Quebec City and Las Vegas, Seattle does not have any current plans to build a new arena.

The NHL hasn’t expanded in 15 years, since Columbus and Minnesota were added in 2000. Last season, while reportedly scouting Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as sites for future outdoor games, commissioner Gary Bettman told the Star Tribune: “There’s a lot of interest (in expansion). We’re hearing from multiple groups in Seattle . . . and in Vegas, in Kansas City and Quebec City. We haven’t decided to engage in formal expansion process, but as we always do, we listen to expressions of interest. There may be good reasons to expand, there may not be. It’s not something we’ve seriously considered yet.”

The Seattle Times reported an NHL team could begin play in that city as early as the 2015-16 season if a new arena deal can be completed in the next six months.

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