BCRTA Advocates to Protect Class Size and Composition

Experienced educators understand the critical importance of maintaining healthy class size in schools, and the significance of understanding the needs of each child. After a long struggle to restore negotiated language on class size and competition was resolved by the Supreme Court of Canada, these standards are once again at risk.

On behalf of members of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association, President Gerry Tiede recently wrote the following letter to BC Premier John Horgan, and addressed this issue. As part of our mandate to champion the cause of public education, the BC Retired Teachers’ Association strongly supports active teachers in their need to maintain workable class sizes with proper support for the needs of students.

100 – 550 WEST 6TH AVENUE  ·  VANCOUVER, BC  · V5Z 4P2

June 19, 2019
The Honourable John Horgan, M.L.A.,
Premier of British Columbia
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA, BC
V8W 9E1

Dear Premier,

I am writing to you today as President of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association, representing over 17,000 retired educators who have spent a lifetime in public education. We understand as well as anyone the conditions in which kids learn and thrive. Our association is working wherever we can to be champions of public education in British Columbia.

So as informed observers, parents and grandparents we are reaching out to you today to express our concern regarding a critical issue that once again seems to be at play in your talks with active teachers: class size and composition.

Class size and composition is not just another line item to discuss – it is the balancing point for all our hopes for effective teaching.

Because we have lived through the changes in public education in recent years, we are especially keen to not see mistakes revisited and to preserve the high goals that we sought in the classroom. In the last quarter century, some important and ambitious standards have been set, including:

  •  More personalized learning for students
  •  Greatly expanded PLOs
  •  Emphasis on better graduation rates, especially for marginalized populations
  •  Adapting to the changing needs of students in a digital-speed environment
  •  Integration of students with special needs into classrooms

We worked hard to make all these improvements possible, and the results have been remarkable. What is the common factor required to effectively address all the trends noted here? Attention. To give quality attention to the needs of students, teachers should not be rushed for prep time, divided in their goals, stressed by the uncertainty of support, or forced to choose which students to neglect.

Please also remember it is public schools where children with the greatest challenges come to learn. Private schools accept public funds much more quickly than they accept students with special needs.

You have been a close observer of the previous government and the real headwinds facing public education over the past few years. Stability and respect for education was in short supply for over a decade. The faulty thinking of that regime was repudiated in fifteen minutes by the Supreme Court of Canada, but the injustice visited upon teachers and students lasted for fifteen years.

Premier, degrading BC’s standards for classroom size and composition would not just be a disservice to teachers but would strike at the hopes for meaningful learning for the children of our province. It seems surreal that we are revisiting this issue. If there is any infrastructure that our society must build and preserve, surely it is the hearts and minds of our young.

Like you, we have set our identity on standing up for the needs of our society. For us, that meant serving those who turned to us for the most essential help there is – an education. BC’s teachers and students have endured uncertainty and mismanagement for decades. What happens next will be pivotal for the next generation of BC students.

Please, don’t fail them now.

Sincerely,

 

Gerry Tiede
President
BC Retired Teachers’ Association

BCRTA Advocacy in Action at Parliament

On June 6, 2019, representatives from BCRTA joined dignitaries from our sister organizations across Canada to attend Parliament and see petitions for pension security presented in the House.

MP Bob Zimmer stood in for MP Mark Warawa who was absent due to cancer. Zimmer presented the ACER-CART e-Petition advocating for pension security. The petition, which attracted 13,720 signatures, is in the top 4% of all e-petitions filed with the House of Commons. 4,107 of those signatures came from BC. Great work, BCRTA!

At the same session MP Julian presented several of BCRTA’s written petitions opposing Bill C-27 and gave credit to the BCRTA as a leading activist. Again, congratulations to the Branches of BCRTA for their diligent and persistent work in support of protecting defined benefit pensions.

Thursday’s pre-AGM afternoon included the orientation of new delegates to ACER-CART and a presentation from the National Association of Federal Retirees (NAFR), who reviewed the basics of non-partisan issues advocacy in elections. Between now and the October federal election, we will be in conversation with candidates about the issues that matter to retired teachers and seniors. This session confirmed the processes we in BC usually use to plan and set up platforms to engage would-be MPs.

Owen Adams, Chief Policy Advisor for the Canadian Medical Association, provided the AGM with the issues deemed by the CMA as important in the upcoming election. The CMA agrees that the most important issue in this election will be Pharmacare. It is their opinion that it is now or never and that every organization that cares about this issue must demand a position from all  candidates. CMA has the same fear as ACER-CART: that the Federal Government will propose a ‘filling the gaps’ approach. Filling the gaps approach is NOT the ACER-CART preferred action.

The second guest speaker was the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minster of Seniors. Minister Tassi is a lawyer who has been intimately involved in education. Minister Tassi thanked delegates for their contribution to education and reviewed the government’s commitment to seniors, especially low income seniors:

  • GIS now has an exemption for the first $5000 of earned income,
  • CPP has been enhanced and now Government is working toward automatic enrollment,
  • OAS application includes GIS,
  • Consultation on Pension Security had 4000 respondents,
  • Healthy Aging has $75,000 for a pilot project in New Brunswick,
  • $50 million has been pinpointed over 5 years for a national dementia study,
  • New Horizons for Seniors grants up to $25,000 are available to seniors’ groups to foster social inclusion and prevent senior isolation.

2019/20 ACER-CART Executive Committee

President – Bill Berryman, Nova Scotia
Vice-President – Gerry Tiede, BCRTA
Regional Rep. East – Margaret Urquhart, NB
Regional Rep. Ontario – Martin Higgs, Ontario
Regional Rep. West – Marilyn Bossert, Alberta
Executive Director – Roger Régimbal, Ottawa

ACER-CART Attendees from BC

Gerry Tiede, President BCRTA
JoAnn Lauber, Special Advisor ACER-CART
Dale Lauber, BCRTA Rep to ACER-CART
Tim Anderson, Executive Director BCRTA.

BCRTA Heritage – Housing

The early days of the Retired Teachers began in Victoria and Vancouver with the two groups of retirees meeting before W.W.II as a part of the BCTF. Eventually they formed their own registered Association. The Retired Teachers Pension Action group came into existence in 1942. The major interests concerned retirees pensions, cost of living and housing.

The Retired Teachers Association of BC became a registered group under the Provincial Act, in May 1955 and was incorporated under the Society Act of BC. By 1956 the RTA had about 1,100 members.

The housing needs of retirees on limited pensions was a grave concern. The President of the Federation, Mr. R. R. Smith, suggested that the retired teachers association should invest their money in Real Estate in Vancouver. This was done successfully, through Mr. Smiths’ real estate knowledge with the co-operation of the Finance and Advisory Committee. The BCTF was also helpful with financing, and was repaid by the retirees. Mr. R. R. Smith spoke about action taken to secure relief for some of the hardships suffered by retired teachers concerned about their housing costs.

At the 1952 BCTF AGM, the Retired Teachers Section had a panel discussion on Housing for Retired Teachers. Dr. Black served as chairman. Mr. Fred Turner described the housing plans for Senior Citizens at present being instituted by the United Church of Canada. Mr. R. R. Smith, President of the Federation, discussed a co-operative Housing Scheme which might be worked out to the advantage of retired teachers on low income. Those interested were asked to write their names and addresses on a slip of paper and hand them in to the secretary at the meeting.

At the 1952 AGM it was moved by Mr. Connor, seconded by Mr. Caulfield that Dr. Black, Mr. G. F. Turner and Mr. R. R. Smith, President of the Federation, become a committee to study the feasibility of a Housing Scheme for Retired Teachers.

This Committee was to report the result of its investigation to the Executive for consideration. Mr. Smith consented to write an article on the subject for the BCTF.

BC Retired Teachers at the BCTF AGM 1953

A meeting of the BC Retired Teachers Section of the BC Teachers’ Federation was held at John Oliver High School at 9:30 am on April 7th, 1953. Mr. Armstrong told the meeting of the purchase of property in Burnaby for a Housing Scheme for Retired Teachers and showed a map of the property.
Mr. Fred Turner spoke on the United Church scheme for Senior Citizens which is proving very successful. Mr. R. R. Smith addressed the retired teachers about the Housing project and described the types of buildings which could be developed on the property.

Since the property in Burnaby had been purchased through the BCTF Federation no further action could be taken until the matter had been discussed at the general meeting.

The annual meeting gave the retired teachers a year in which to show progress in the development of the property. If after a year no progress had been made the property was to be sold by the Federation. In May 1955 the senior executive officers of the BC Retired Teachers officially registered their Association.

Accounts, Retired Teachers’ Housing Project 1954

A. Account with BCTF

Paid by BCTF: purchase of Victory Heights Property$12,750.00
Miscellaneous (architect’s fees, taxes, interest, surveyor’s fees, etc.$1,197.60
Total$13,947.60
Fully refunded by RTA to BCTF$13,847.60

B. Statement re: Victory Heights Property:

Anticipated gross revenue from sale of land$27,175.00
Charges: Purchase Price ( $12,750.00 less refund re services $1,395.62) Total Net purchase price$11,354.38
Architect’s fees$490.00
Taxes$340.22
Clearing$1,655.00
Registration fees$24.00
Total$13,863.60
Anticipated profit from sale of land $13,311.40

C. Statement re: Smith Avenue Property

Total cost -land purchased from Joshua H. Mayer August, 1954$19,000
Charges: Proportion of water rates, taxes, fire insurance, legal fees$226.98
Interest$300.00
Total expenditures$19, 526.98

Having bought the Smith Avenue property, the Retired Teachers Trust Fund indicated donations by Active and Retired Teachers, also donation and a loan from a retired teacher, so that the property could be bought, leaving a balance on hand in December15, 1954 of $153.58.

Having sold the Victory Heights lots with a substantial profit, the more expensive Smith Avenue property was purchased. Both active and retired teachers contributed to the funds to purchase the properties, with total pledges of $7,431.58.

Assets: Smith Avenue property at cost: $19,526.98

Money receivable from cash sale of Victory Heights lots: $13,311.40

Retired Teachers’ Housing Committee Statement of Receipts and Expenditures Dec 15, 1954

Minutes of the BCRTA AGM 1959

Mr. Smith’s report on the Investment situation stated the various investments made on behalf of the Retired Teachers’ Association, including Victory Heights, Smith Avenue, Shaughnessy Residential Club and the West 7th Avenue property.

The West 7th Avenue, Vancouver report-the properties at 1865, 1875, and 1885 West 7 Avenue had been purchased, giving a frontage of 150 feet on West 7 Avenue. The plans call for 32 suites: including 21 Bachelor suites and 11 one-bedroom suites. Tenders will be called during week of early April. Operations should commence about May 1, and completion by end of five months. Moved by Mr. Hill, seconded by Miss Dauphinee for plans to be accepted as read. Carried. Mr. Woodhead spoke in appreciation of Mr. R. R. Smith’s great assistance to the Retired Teachers in this housing project.

In the early years of the Retired Teachers Association, the Finance and Advisory Committee were working with Mr. Willway and his Victoria Committee, as well as Alan Spragge of the BCTF giving his assistance, too.

However in 1967, the Finance and Advisory Committee advised Mr. Graham Bruce and his RTA Executive to sell the Shaughnessy Residential Lodge for retired single teachers on West 41st Avenue. It was costing the RTA $1,600 to maintain over and above the income from the tenants.

These early documents of our BCRTA history indicate concerns about housing, and efforts to build accommodation for retired teachers, taken from the original sources of hand written or typed notes.

Barb Mikulec
Heritage Committee

 

June Finance Updates

June is the month that BCRTA sets our budget, and a time when we review year-to-date results. For the current 2018-2019 fiscal year a projected budget deficit of $33,415 was approved at the 2018 AGM. This year we found that fewer teachers are retiring, so our membership growth was not quite as high as we anticipated. As we reviewed the trends, directors heightened their awareness of spending, without slowing our efforts to serve members through projects in progress and organizational momentum. A detailed review by staff of all business expenditures resulted in some savings. Some directors also found savings by having fewer committee meetings when possible, saving on travel costs. The result is that while income was slightly below projected, expenses were significantly less than budgeted and BCRTA is not in a deficit position for this year.

For the coming year 2019-20, the Finance Committee is taking a cautious but more confident approach to projected revenue and expenses. For clarity of reporting, the expense section of the projected budget will look slightly different. It will enable Directors to easily track committee expenses and will also be more transparent for members. The Board will be recommending a budget with a small deficit of just over $3,000.

To continue to provide and increase services to members, the Board will also be recommending a fee increase to $42 for the following 2020-2021 year, which begins on July 1, 2020. This five percent increase will be the first change to fees in three years, and tracks with inflation.

In May the Finance Committee formed an ad hoc committee to review committee members’ travel and accommodation eligibility. The purpose of the review was to bring clarity, consistency, and standard administrative procedures for handling expense claims. The following changes will be added to expense vouchers and the BCRTA handbook.

  • Hotel accommodation for Metro area members will be provided if they live further than the Surrey/Langley border.
  • In the event a BCRTA Director or member is required to attend multi-day meetings, then he/she may obtain overnight accommodation to facilitate attendance at these meetings.
  • Travel and/or accommodation requests that fall outside of existing policy must have prior approval of the Finance Committee Chairperson.
  • No reimbursement will be made for any unauthorized expenses until authorization has been obtained.
  • In the Guide to BCRTA Zone Meeting Expenses:
  • 5 (c) the rate for hotel accommodation shall be no more than $145.00 plus tax per night.

Please note that travel and/or accommodation requests that fall outside of existing policy will be considered on the basis of time, combined cost (e.g., road + air), weather conditions and disabilities.

Travel reimbursement has been increased to $ .54 per km. This is in keeping with the new BCTF rate.

Grace Wilson
1st VP and Treasurer

Combining My Love for Animals and Children by Volunteering at the BC SPCA

Fifteen years ago, I retired from the VSTA. My entire career was spent in education in many parts of the world. Since my retirement, I have travelled and volunteered extensively. Over the last 10 years, one of my favourite volunteer activities is with the BC SPCA Education Program. It is perfect for me as it combines my love of children and dogs!

Ten years ago, my Standard Poodle, Parker, was 2. At that time, I was volunteering in other areas of the BC SPCA. When I learned about the Education Program and the opportunity to visit schools for classroom presentations, it sounded like the perfect fit for Parker and me. Since then, Teddy, our 5 year old Standard Poodle, has joined our team.

I continue to volunteer with this program as it is very rewarding to watch the children interact with my dogs and I am a huge proponent of what is being taught.

It is very important that children learn how to interact with and treat animals. Many children have had little or no interaction with animals. Teddy and Parker are perfect for this as they are calm, gentle and love the attention! It is a joy to watch how happy the children are when Parker and Teddy are in their classroom. It is even more rewarding to watch the more tentative children interact! The children learn how to safely greet dogs, give them treats and what it takes to care for a dog. To boot, there are often donations given to the SPCA!

This education program is an extremely worthwhile endeavour. If it is something you might be interested in, contact Paula Neuman pneuman@spca.bc.ca for more information. They are looking for volunteers at most of the branches around the province. You do not need a dog to volunteer for this program. They have several different presentations they offer to classrooms. The position is flexible within school hours and days.

Valerie Ramsey is a retired educator, dog lover and BCRTA Member

Exclusive BCRTA offer

Portugal 25 Nights Longstay – Special Offer From BCRTA

$64/night Group Departure – 1st Time Offered!

February 15th – March 11th, 2020

BCRTA and Trip Merchant have teamed up to bring you Portugal in a comprehensive package you won’t find anywhere else, at a price that is hard to beat.

Join BCRTA President Gerry Tiede as he leads this group departure. This exceptional opportunity includes:

  • Arrival and departure airport transfers
  • First night in Lisbon
  • Transfer to Algarve apartments
  • 21 nights at Lunar Miramar Club with different apartment options available
  • Transfer back to Lisbon with 3 more nights, giving you a chance to explore this incredible city

All this for a basic price of just $1,599 CAD per person – that’s just $64 per night per person!

Trip Merchant is also offering airfare from Vancouver at an approximate cost of $1,100 per person.

Use the BCRTA member password BCRTATM18 to see the itinerary, rooms and locations and all options at this special Trip Merchant offer page.

Download the trip brochure here.

MOROCCO BONUS: if you act quickly, you can add 7 nights in exotic Morocco with air travel arranged from Vancouver via Air France. AN EARLY BOOKING WILL GIVE YOU THE BEST PRICE FOR THIS ADD-ON, so book it by June 24. Don’t miss your chance. On the Trip Merchant site, see the option box “Morocco Pre-Extension” at bottom of the page to see the details. Flights, transfers and English-language tours in three unforgettable Morocco locations are included in this extension. Call for details. See the extension offer brochure here.

Act quickly – we expect this group departure to sell out, and this exceptional price is unlikely to be available again.

 

password BCRTATM18

Supporting Children and Grandchildren and Those with Disabilities: Links and Resources

For those who are paying for the care of children or grandchildren, PostScript finance columnist Mike Berton offers links to government resources that may offer help for now and for future needs. Read Mike’s article “Supporting Children and Grandchildren” in the Summer 2019 issue of PostScript.

 

Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC)
https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/forms-publications/publications/rc4065/medical-expenses-2016.html

Disability Tax Credit (DTC)
https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/segments/tax-credits-deductions-persons-disabilities/disability-tax-credit.html

The Canada Caregiver Credit (CCC)
https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/canada-caregiver-amount.html#amount_note

Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP)
https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/disability/savings.html

Pharmacare Advisory Council Reports

The Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare provided an interim report to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance in March of 2019. The full report is expected to be released later this year. The Council was chaired by Dr. Eric Hoskins and convened sixteen roundtables with representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, insurance providers, and health-care providers. The Council also met with patients and patient advocates, and provincial and territorial governments.

The council reports that drug coverage in Canada is neither adequate nor sustainable. Too many Canadians are neglected due to drug costs and the unequal access to medically necessary pharmaceuticals across the country. There was broad agreement across all groups that a national pharmacare plan should provide comprehensive, evidence-based drug coverage in a fair, responsible and sustainable manner.

According to the Council there were varying views on approaches to establishing a national pharmacare program that included:

  • A focus on expensive medications only
  • A fill in the gaps plan targeting the uninsured and vulnerable
  • A single payer public model

There was an agreement among the majority of participants that our progressive income tax system was the preferred source for funding with the recognition that there would be substantial savings to governments if a national pharmacare plan was established. The Council identified three challenges that Canada faces with respect to drug coverage. They are:

  • Too many Canadians cannot afford the prescription medications they need, as many as twenty percent of the population
  • Access to prescription coverage is inconsistent across Canada. There is a patchwork of more than 100 public and 100,000 private insurance plans
  • Spending on prescription drugs is unsustainable with costs increasing from 2.6 billion in 1985 to 34 billion in 2018. It is now the second largest spending in Canadian health care with only hospital services costing more

The Council identified some core principals and foundational elements that can be implemented now regardless of the model government chooses. These core principal recommendations are:

  • All Canadians must have access to prescription drugs based on medical need rather than cost
  • Coverage should be portable across Canada
  • Provide access to a comprehensive evidence-based formulary
  • Be designed in partnership with patients and citizens
  • Founded on a strong partnership between federal, provincial and territorial governments and Indigenous peoples
  • Include a robust pharmaceutical management system that promotes safety, innovation, and cost efficiency and control

The recommended foundational elements are:

  • Creation of a national drug arms-length agency to oversee national pharmacare
  • Develop a comprehensive evidence-based national formulary
  • Invest in drug data and information technology systems with measures to streamline drug approval and lower drug costs

What is needed now is for Canadians to continue to put pressure on our elected officials to establish a universal, national, and single-payer Pharmacare plan that becomes an integral part of our Medicare in Canada and is included in the Canada Health-Care Act. This would be the most efficient and cost effective way to provide a comprehensive, equitable, and affordable Pharmacare plan in Canada for Canadians.

Let us hope this is the recommendation coming forward when the Council completes its final report.

Terry Green
BCRTA Well-Being Committee Chair

National Petition a Success – C-27 Petition Update

Results Far Above Goal of 10,000 Signatures

In the last issue of Connections, we told you about an e-petition launched by The Canadian Association of Retired Teachers (ACER-CART) on the House of Commons website. BCRTA President Gerry Tiede was the petition author, and BCRTA staff created the pensionsecurity.ca website to inform Canadians about the campaign. The petition encouraged government to increase the security of retirement income, to stop attempts to cause seniors to surrender rights to their earned pensions, and also to provide insurance for pensioners when their failed employers cannot or will not fulfill the promises they made.

The drive for signatures was very successful, exceeding our goal for 10,000 signatures. When the petition signing closed on April 9th, there were 13,740 confirmed signatures from across Canada, including 4,107 from British Columbia!

Thanks to all who participated.

Bill C-27 Petitions Update

JoAnn Lauber reports: As of March 24, 2019, fifteen petitions opposing Bill C-27 have been read out in Parliament on behalf of BCRTA Branches. Ten others are promised for presentation; or are already poised for presentation in 2019 by MPs. Five additional petitions have been sent to MP Peter Julian for presentation.

In January, MP Peter Julian affirmed to the BCRTA that our work has had a definite impact. BCRTA’s opposition to Bill C-27, he said, has been noted by Government, and contributed to statements by Finance Minister Morneau’s office that government is not moving forward with Bill C-27. The bill has not yet been withdrawn, however.