Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing said he was on a plane from Iceland when local parents protesting the teacher bargaining impasse were trying to reach him on Tuesday morning.
About 12 sign-waving protesters and a similar number of children arrived at Bing’s office near at the intersection of Lougheed Highway and Dewdney Trunk Road to find they were locked out of the office, and none of Bing’s constituency staff spoke with them.
“We expected we’d be able to voice our concerns, talk about some of the issues and ask some questions. Now I’m really upset that they’re not here. Now I’m really angry,” said parent Karen Learmonth.
Bing, in an email, said that he was returning from a family holiday, only arriving back at home that evening.
He said he has reached out to Learmonth personally to explain his absence. He also got in touch with Phillip Gray, who complained in a letter that Bing had declined to meet him after not getting an email response.
Bing told Gray the invitation to meet remains open.
“As you know, I have had a nine-year relationship with the press and the public since I was first elected to office, and I remain open and willing to discuss issues with both whenever it is mutually convenient,” said Bing in his email.
Bing also took to Twitter about the issue on Wednesday night.
“Can’t believe everything u read. Shame on u for spreading unsubstantiated misinformation,” he tweeted.
A message was left for Bing on his cellphone, explaining that constituency members were upset at not being allowed to speak with Bing or his constituency staff, and quoted one of the protesters, who said: “So much for democracy … “
Bing did not return the call.
Reached on Thursday, Bing clarified that the doors to his office are always locked to allow constituency assistants to control potential confrontations. Visitors speak though an intercom, and are “buzzed in.”
In the case of a large group of protestors, they would normally be allowed to enter one or two at a time, he said, to make appointments or drop off a petition.
However, on the day in question, both of his assistants were away, and a temp was covering the phones. The temp did not open the office to the parents.
Bing could not discuss the teachers’ strike, because he was called for ferry boarding when reached on Thursday.
Bing is a first-term MLA, elected to office as a Pitt Meadows city councillor nine years ago.