All Mel Harris wanted to do was connect on a personal level and leave the politicking behind, at least for a night, at B.C. Liberal MLA’s Doug Bing’s fundraiser.
But the Westview secondary teacher and seven others had their $1,000 returned and weren’t allowed to attend the event on Friday.
It’s a lost opportunity at improving relationships, says Harris.
Teachers were trying to be more creative in their relationships with government. With the B.C. Teachers Federation just ratifying the settlement in a bitter five-month long dispute on Thursday, meeting the government MLAs personally, in a different setting, could have soothed raw feelings.
“As long as there is this us-versus-them attitude, we’ll never be able to move forward.”
Scott Susin, a Mission teacher and part of the group, said three of the six teachers were from Maple Ridge, along with two others, comprising the group of eight.
He said teachers saw the event listed on the B.C. Liberal website and registered for the public event. Anyone could have gone, he said.
Crowd-sourcing online raised the $1,000 for the table they purchased. That money was then used to reimburse a colleague for the credit card purchase of the table. Susin said they could have provided all the names of the contributors.
“Our intent was not to go in there yelling and screaming.”
“I don’t think they saw this coming.”
Teachers had also planned a rally outside the fundraiser at the Meadow Gardens Golf Course, he added.
“This is classic backpedaling. I don’t regret what we did here.”
An e-mail from constituency assistant Cheryl Ashlie asked for the names of those who would be attending.
Later, after receiving the names, she told the group the money would be refunded and that it was a social event for supporters of Bing and that it would be better for the teachers to meet the MLA at his office.
Bing thinks the teachers just wanted to crash the party.
“They picked a bad time to do it. The agreement was just barely approved Thursday. Friday they try to crash my party. I mean, really?”
Bing said the constituency office had nothing to do with the fundraiser, saying those are organized by party headquarters.
According to the B.C. Liberals, some contributions for the online fundraising event had been given anonymously.
As a result, under the Election Act, the party couldn’t accept payment for the table and refunded the money.
“We’d like to clarify that this group of individuals wasn’t denied entry to Mr. Bing’s fundraiser on the premise that they’re teachers, but rather because their contribution was not permissible by Elections B.C.,” said Jillian Stead of the B.C. Liberals.