SD78 enters ‘cooperation’ with ICBA despite reservations from teachers’ association

SD78 enters ‘cooperation’ with ICBA despite reservations from teachers’ association

Agreement re-written to deal with ICBA’s ‘political slant’

School District 78 (SD78) is entering a ‘protocol of a cooperation’ with a pro-pipeline and development association to help students find jobs.

An agreement between the school district and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA) was passed at the Board of Education meeting March 6 in Hope.

The intent of the ‘protocol’ is enhancing employment opportunities for SD78 student enrolled in construction-related programs by having the the resumes of qualified students passed along to ICBA and shared with the association’s members.

But the agreement has been scrutinized and re-written at least twice after trustee Cindy Ferguson mentioned the association’s partisan politics at a school board meeting earlier this year.

The association’s 40-year history representing B.C.’s construction industry includes apprentice sponsorship and a role as one of the leading third-party providers of group health and retirement benefits for construction workers in the province. But it’s the ICBA’s policy research and advocacy initiatives that has raised concerns for the Fraser Cascade Teacher’s Association and some members of the SD78 school board.

The association’s overt support for large-scale development projects like the Site C Dam, Energy East Pipeline and Trans Mountain expansion project is part of the association’s #Get2Yes campaign – an initiative supporting major development in B.C. that lists one of its accomplishments as stopping Vancouver’s natural gas ban in 2017.

In October, ICBA president Chris Gardner denounced the scrapping of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal in an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun.

“As federal and provincial governments across Canada have made regulatory approval and permitting processes increasingly complicated, time-consuming and expensive, one could be forgiven for thinking they are doing their level best to shut down our energy economy,” he wrote.

And the ICBA has been a staunch supporter of Site C, launching a “pink slip” campaign to convince B.C. premier John Horgan to finish the project. The campaign included multiple media events, a billboard on the Pat Bay Highway and even a hired plane flyng a Site C banner over the NDP Throne Speech.

Concerns over the ICBA’s partisan stance on energy and development issues led SD78 to reword their agreement document with the group.

What was initially described as a ‘partnership’ is now a ‘cooperation,’ and the agreement’s terms and conditions include a clause that the ICBA understand and acknowledge that SD78 is non-partisan and respects the school district’s mandate.

Despite the rewording, both the Construction, Maintenance and Allied Workers bargaining council (FC-CMAW) and FCTA abstained from voting to forward the document for approval.

“Some FCTA members still have expressed reservations about moving forward with the cooperation,” said superintendent Karen Nelson at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Trustee Ferguson expressed her ongoing disapproval of the agreement when it was brought up.

“Are there opportunities with the BC Jobs website or the BC Jobs initiative that would fulfill the mandate of the ICBA?” she asked trustee John Koopman, who told her the government avenue, “can’t promise jobs or set things up.”

“I still have reservations because of their partisan slant on politics,” Ferguson responded.

To which Koopman said, “I do too, for what it’s worth.”

District vice-principal Careers and Transitions Karl Koslowsky piped up that the new ‘cooperation protocol’ will have huge benefits for students by providing them with exposure to career opportunities.

“The number of certificate training that they provide is above and beyond just having a portal where the job banks go,” he said. “[The ICBA] has the three different aspects of industry information, training and employment opportunities.”

Koopman echoed his sentiment, and said that the adjusted agreement document, in his opinion, leaves no possibility for SD78 to be linked to the association’s political viewpoints.

“I really feel that by re-writing this, it’s totally non-partisan and we will never be seen as part of that sentiment as a board for our students,” he said. “If there’s any ripple in the water over this…then we can revisit it just like that. There is that escape clause there.”