A group of teachers who bought tickets to B.C. Liberal fundraiser say they were rejected from attending after concerns about “security,” and that they were unwanted because the social event was not about politics.
On Saturday, the Globe and Mail reported that a secret meeting between B.C. Premier Christy Clark and teachers' union president Jim Iker broke the impasse in contract negotiations.
Members of Clark's Liberal caucus were at a Friday night fundraiser for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing, which was advertised on the party's website. Tickets that cost $1,000 per table were available to purchase online.
Some teachers decided to fundraise enough to buy a table so they could meet face-to-face with Bing, the Liberal MLA for and his caucus colleagues, Scott Susin told The Huffington Post B.C. in an email.
“We had no intention of being militant or crazy, or anything like that. That was part of our strategy also, to debunk that myth about teachers, and at the end of the day, engage in meaningful dialogue,” said Susin, a teacher from Mission.
Melanie Harris, another teacher who had planned to attend Bing's event, said, “Perhaps if we left the politics behind we could see each other as people and find some common ground.”
However, a simultaneous pro-teachers’ rally was also planned for outside Bing’s event at the Meadow Gardens Golf Club, but was subsequently cancelled.
Two days before the fundraiser, Bing’s constituency assistant emailed the person who bought the tickets and asked for the names of everyone attending for “security reasons.”
After Bing’s office received the names, the group was informed via email that they would receive a refund as the gathering was a “social event” for Bing’s supporters, and that they “would be better served” by arranging a meeting with the MLA.
Brent Perry, president of the Maple Ridge-Mission Liberal riding association, told Coquitlam teacher Christi Livingstone: “This is not an issue of politics, this is a social gathering.”
Livingstone tried to convince him the group had no intention of being “rabble rousers" to no avail.
“So you are denying us entry into this social gathering because we are teachers?” she asked him over the phone.
“We are. As the party,” Perry replied, according to Livingstone’s transcript of their conversation.
However, the Liberal party said the group was turned away because of uncertainty over the source of payment for the table.
“I understand that this sizable political contribution may have come through a successful 'crowdfunding' campaign,” Jillian Stead, a party spokeswoman, told HuffPost B.C. in an email Friday night.
“It wasn't us denying entry, but rather a legal issue that we take very seriously. “
The Elections Act prohibits anonymous political contributions, and Stead said some of the crowdfunding donations were from unnamed sources.
“For this reason, I have directed our financial agent to cancel this transaction and refund this prohibited contribution,” she said, adding she apologizes for any “inconvenience this may cause to guests.”
Susin said the fundraiser was an opportunity for Bing to work on “repairing relationships with teachers, just as Christy [Clark] had said her party would do in her press conference this past week…. Unfortunately, he chose to deny us that opportunity and only created more friction between teachers and the government.”
HuffPost B.C.’s request to Bing for comment was deferred to the Liberal party.
Erin Duff, who made a donation towards the teachers’ ticket purchase, sent Bing an email and Facebook comment about her disgust with the group’s rejection. She received a brief email from his constituency assistant: “We have received your email. I will ensure that Dr. Bing has the opportunity to read you comments.”
The province's public schools are finally opening on either Monday or Tuesday, three weeks after its scheduled start.
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