Opinion

EDITORIAL: Teachers' strike has a real economic impact in Parksville Qualicum Beach

The teachers' strike continues and it raises more questions about the school year ahead and, perhaps, wider concerns about the local economy.

The Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association is the local arm, if you will, of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, aka the union. Why there needs to be a local association when the BCTF calls all the shots is unclear, but the same argument could be made about the usefulness of local school boards that are bound to decisions made by the provincial government. That, however, is a different discussion for a different time.

The local teachers' association has 325 members working in 13 schools in District 69. The school district is the largest employer, by far, in the region. The average salary of teachers in the province is roughly $75,000 and we have no reason to believe there aren't teachers here making more than that, and teachers making less than that, so we believe it's a fair number to use.

That's more than $24 million in salaries being disbursed here, all of it from taxpayers. Sure, everyone's pay cheque in this country gets chewed up by taxes, and not all teachers who work here live in District 69. However, even if you take one third of that number — $8 million — as what's being spent here out of the pockets of teachers, it's a significant chunk of the economy.

Like everyone else, teachers pay mortgages, shop in grocery stores, go to restaurants, buy fuel. They are entering their third month without a pay cheque.

In Parksville Qualicum Beach, all danger signs for businesses can be easily pushed to the side between Victoria Day and Labour Day. It's a busy time for a region that understandably draws tens of thousands of tourists. By all anecdotal accounts, it's been a great summer for businesses here — restaurants are full and there are more No Vacancy signs on hotels than we've seen in recent years.

This busy season can mask the underlying signs of danger ahead. If this strike drags on deep into September or, heaven forbid, into October, there will be a direct effect on the local economy and our employment rate.

If it's all about the kids, do the teachers and the government understand it's not really good for the kids if their parents aren't working or the family business struggles?

— Editorial by John Harding

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