Usually when 200 protestors show up at an MLA's office, the politician
listens politely, then promises to take the upset constituents' concerns back to
But not Graham Steele.
The finance minister wasn't in his constituency office when 200 teachers
showed up on a Friday afternoon to talk about education cuts. TV cameras
recorded the event, and similar protests at the offices of other NDP MLAs.
Steele could have left it at that, but apparently he couldn't resist the
chance to the let the protestors know what he really thinks.
In a long email, dripping with sarcasm, Steele ridicules the idea of 200
people showing up at his constituency office for a "meeting".
Steele writes that his office is a small, one-person office not suitable
for large gatherings.
"The office is so small that my assistant has to close it just
to use the
washroom. So you'll surely excuse me for thinking that an unannounced
meeting with about 200 people doesn't seem
Steele then goes on to talk about his busy schedule especially when the
House of Assembly is sitting. But he does offer a somewhat tongue-in-cheek place
"I could be available on Friday, May 4th, but I was hoping
to use that time
to help set up for the Spring Frolic at my local school. I told
the PTA I'd be
there at 3:30, and stay until the work is done. Wouldn't it be
you could get all 200 people to come and pitch in for a while? Then
have our meeting aftewards, as soon as the work is done."
Steele lectures the protestors, telling them his constituency office is
intended for constituency matters and is not meant to be a "back door" to
government to discuss province-wide issues. As for their concerns, Steele writes
"I don't think it's very helpful for the NSTU to frame a
discussion as being
about "the devastating effects" of "cuts" to education. (I
note that the same
language was used last year, and the year before that.) I
don't think anyone
has yet cornered the market on caring about kids or their
Ouch. Talk about your literary smackdown.
The email is now making its way into hundreds of teachers in-boxes.
NSTU president Alexis Allen says she was "flabbergasted" when she read it. " I just can't believe a minster of the Crown would write such a thing," says Allen, "it's upset a lot of our members."
For his part, Steele confirms he wrote the email, and offers no apologies.
We already knew the finance minister
knows how to crunch numbers. Now we know he has something of a way with words, and isn't afraid to use them.
You can read the full text of the email here: Steele Email.doc