Deconstruction by Design: A visual history of the Liberal attack on education

The following are some of my drawings and whatnot over the past few (okay… 27) years of weathering the BC [neo]Liberal Government’s attack on public education… interspersed with information about the BCTF’s bargaining history. The cartoons I’ve included have all been previously published in my local union newsletter.


I completed the Professional Development Program at SFU and began my teaching career in 1987, the same year that full collective-bargaining rights for teachers were finally achieved.

“…teachers negotiated a full set of terms including: class size, duty-free lunch, fair personnel practice, professional development rights, and a healthy salary increase. In the many negotiations that followed, hundreds of negotiations were concluded without reference to strikes or lockouts. Where necessary, teachers did undertake job action in the face of school boards’ acting unfairly in the negotiating process.” Al Cornes (Teacher Newsmagazine, Volume 13, Number 7, May/June 2001)


"We don't need no education..." Leah Kelley, 2001 (Pink Floyd Brick in the Wall Parody)

“We don’t need no education…” Leah Kelley, 2001 (Pink Floyd Brick in the Wall Parody)

In 2001, the B.C. Liberal Party’s plan to make education an essential service was designed to strip away the right to strike for some of our members and to weaken our collective.

This additionally served to reduce the employer’s incentive to bargain during a labour dispute.

Our contract language was stripped and the conditions and supports that had we had achieved in 1987 were gutted.


"Contract Stripping" Leah Kelley, 200

“Contract Stripping” Leah Kelley, 2001

At that time, Christy Clark (our current Premier) was the Minster of Education

“Lil’ Christy” Leah Kelley, 2002

“Lil’ Christy” Leah Kelley, 2002

Text reads: Lil’ Christy: “Choice, Flexibility, Accountability”

“My goal is to provide a vulture to every school aged child”

Text on packaging includes: “Pull the string to hear the rhetoric.”

“All proceeds to be donated to the Fraser Institute”

Text below image reads: “Purchase your own virtual Minister action figure. It cuts, it chops, and it makes a mockery of teachers and can destroy public education with a single stoke of a pen. Yours to own and control for a mere $200,000,000. (Some assembly required – silver bullet and Vulture System sold separately)”

It was obvious that the government had a corporate agenda for the public education system of British Columbia. There was talk of a voucher system to provide “flexibility” for families wanting to educate their children in the private system.


“I thought you said Vulture!!!” Leah Kelley, 2002


Text reads: “Oh @*!!$!! Gord, I thought you said ‘Vulture’ not ‘Voucher’…”


Text below drawing reads: “After painting them pink and trying to pass them off as short legged flamingos (a pretty bird that all children love) Christy’s Vulture system was ready to be set into action. She longed for the Flexibility achieved by providing a vulture to every school aged child.”



In 2002 H went to his first political rally in support of public education on the shoulders of his daddy. He has a button on his hat  from the BCTF and an additional one that I made for him…

H and Craig at a Supporting Public Education Rally, 2002

“It’s about time… Campbell thought of my future…” H and Craig at a Supporting Public Education Rally, 2002

I didn’t realize at the time that it would be so prophetic a statement. Many children like my son, struggle in our classrooms and schools due to a lack of resources and capacity to meet their needs.

"Its about time... Campbell thought of my future..." H and Craig at a Supporting Public Education Rally, 2002

“It’s about time… Campbell thought of my future…” H and Craig at a Rally Supporting Public Education, 2002

Ultimately, the Liberal Government, reduced the teacher shortage with ‘a single stroke of a pen’  by increasing class sizes and imposing a contract that stripped our agreement of its hard-won gains…

"The Child Centred Classroom" Leah Kelley, 2001 (LOTR Ruination of Isengard Parody)

“The Child Centred Classroom” Leah Kelley, 2002 (LOTR Ruination of Isengard Parody)

Here is a close up from the image above… showing Clark and Campbell (the Premier at that time). My likeness is represented as the primary teacher schooling the masses – sadly like Saruman churning out the ork army. 

"Clark and Campbell in Isengard") Leah Kelley, 2002

“Clark and Campbell in Isengard” Leah Kelley, 2002

Sometime during the next few years the Liberal Provincial Government ended a program where every school library had a grant of $200.00/year to buy books written by British Columbian authors.

"Here's your book - Good Luck" Leah Kelley,

“Here’s your book – Good Luck” Leah Kelley, 2004

This was replaced by a program where a particular book was selected each year and was purchased for every kindergarten child. Yes… every child got the same book. I can imagine that the selected authors likely made a good financial gain for that one year… but school libraries, their young readers, and the unselected BC authors lost a worthwhile program.

In 2005 we were again in contract negotiations…

Things hadn’t gotten better…

Anatomy of a Minister of Education

“Anatomy of a Minister of Education” Leah Kelley, 2003

This poem is from 2005… when the BC Teacher’s Federation strike was deemed illegal by a government who has continued to manipulate the law in their favour and ignore it when it better suits their agenda.

I recall that there was almost a year wait for the court date for the trial of serial murderer, Robert Pickton, yet the Supreme Court was somehow able to convene on the Thanksgiving weekend for the Madam Justice to order the BCTF’s return to work.

We walked out anyway… for 2 weeks… to protect public education and teaching/learning conditions… and to protect our right to bargain a collective agreement.

Since then the government’s actions such as the ripping up of our contracts have been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of British Columbia…

The Law it is a Slippery Thing Leah Kelley

I haven’t done much in the way of cartooning over the past few years. To be honest, I find it disheartening that these drawings are all still so pointedly relevant… and it doesn’t really drive me or inspire me to create anything new…

In the interim, I have shifted my focus to supporting social justice and human rights issues within the disability community, and promoting and amplifying the voices and perspectives of Autistic people to build understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity…

But I am a teacher


I  am  the  BCTF!

And the work we do matters a great deal…

And this is from today…



30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism (2014)

This post is part of the T-21 Down Wit Dat Blog Hop: Click here to enter your link and view the other participants.

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
This entry was posted in Activist, Autism, Christy Clark, Educator, Public Education, social justice, Special Education, Teacher, Visual History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Deconstruction by Design: A visual history of the Liberal attack on education

  1. Scholastica says:

    Reblogged this on Learning and Labor and commented:
    From British Columbia, a lively view of liberal (in Canada, that means right-of-center) attacks on public education.


  2. Pingback: 99 years… Updating Solidarity Forever #thisismystrikepay #BCTF | Thirty Days of Autism

  3. Very interesting. Teachers are constantly finding themselves targets in Ontario as well.


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