Beyond the Headlines

Graham Steele' s response to the NSTU

Posted: Apr 30, 2012 11:29 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 30, 2012 11:29 AM ET

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 government.
 
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 very......genuine."
 
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 to meet.
 
               "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 awesome if
                you could get all 200 people to come and pitch in for a while? Then we could
                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 future."
 
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
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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