British Columbia

Former UNBC president to mediate B.C. teachers' dispute

Former UNBC president Charles Jago has been appointed as the mediator in the B.C. teachers' contract dispute by the B.C. government.

Concerns raised about past donation to B.C. Liberal Party

Concerns are being raised about the mediator's connection to the B.C. Liberal Party 2:03

Former UNBC president Charles Jago has been appointed as the mediator in the B.C. teachers' contract dispute by the B.C. government, but concerns have already been raised about his donations to the B.C. Liberal party.

Jago is not a member of the Liberal party, but Elections B.C. records show he donated $1000 to the provincial Liberals in recent years.

Jago told CBC News those donations were from participating in golf tourneys and insisted he is independent.

Charles Jago is the former president of the University of Northern British Columbia. (UNBC)

Education Minister George Abbott also said he sees no problem with the mediator being a Liberal party donor, and added the mediators suggested by the BCTF were unavailable.

Jago was not one of two names put forward by the BCTF in response to Abbott's request for possible mediators and admits he faces a challenging task.

"When I was first approached I described this as Mission Impossible," Jago said after the appointment was announced.

BCTF concerned about donations

B.C.Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert said she had not heard of Jago before the announcement on Wednesday morning and also noted he does not appear to have any experience as a mediator.

"I'm sure he is very accomplished person, but I am concerned about his ability to mediate this dispute and his ability to understand the issues that separate both parties."

She said she would meet with Jago, but also expressed concern about the perception of bias because of his donations to the B.C. Liberal Party.

"Of course that would concern me," said Lambert after hearing about the donations from reporters.

"So this is a person who has ties to the Liberal party, doesn't have experience in labour relations, is an academic researcher, has no experience in the public education system, has been commissioned to work for the Liberals before at the Progress Board level and has done a paper," she said.

Net zero mandate remains

Abbott said Jago will have a broad mandate to address all outstanding issues in negotiations between the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, including:

  • "Manner and consequences of class size and composition."
  • "Local-provincial split of bargaining issues."
  • "Effective feedback and evaluation of teachers to promote improvements."
  • "Alignment of professional development with teaching needs."
  • "Scheduling and selection of teachers suited to student needs."

"However, contract proposals or agreements cannot impose net additional costs on the employer," said the statement issued by Abbott on Wednesday morning.

Jago has until the end of June to try to try to reach an agreement and if he can't strike a deal, he'll issue non-binding recommendations and the government has said it will pass legislation to settle the contract dispute.

The B.C. government has appointed a mediator to find a settlement in the BCTF contract dispute with the B.C. School Employers Association. (CBC)

According to the minister's office, Jago is the author of a 2006 report on preparing B.C.'s public education system for the future and the recipient of the Queen's Jubilee Medal and the Order of Canada.

He is also the former president of the University of Northern British Columbia and he has held academic appointments in Canadian universities for over 40 years.

His involvement in major public issues includes service as a commissioner on the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund, chair of the Fraser Basin Council and co-chair of the Premier's Consultation on Northern British Columbia Cancer Care.