The Fainting Couch. Or, the B.C. Liberal Party’s Social Media Strategy

The tweet:

Well, that’s shocking. Even if you are sympathetic to the teachers, there’s no excuse for the BCTF advocating violent intimidation on picket lines and….


…maybe we should read Mr. Sharpe’s cited article first. But even before that, let’s get to know our cast of characters.

Carl Ratsoy: A teacher at Reynold’s Secondary in Esquimalt Saanich (corrected).
Matt Grinder: A teacher at Reynold’s Secondary in Esquimalt Saanich (corrected).

Back to it…

Physics teacher Carl Ratsoy asked for protection from the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association and his colleagues at Saanich’s Reynolds secondary after a fiery email, penned by math teacher Matt Grinder, circulated among teachers there last week warning them not to cross any potential picket line.

Oh my. Still, that’s the actions of an individual teacher. Is it fair to characterize them as the position of the BCTF? Um. No. Does the BCTF have a responsibility to disavow? Maybe we should take a closer look at the Mr. Grinder’s fiery, violently threatening email.

Grinder says any teacher who crosses the picket line would have to be a “real sociopath.”

Oh. Well, that’s not very nice. Personally I don’t think crossing a picket line makes you a sociopath. It makes you a jerk, but not a sociopath. It’s an opinion, nothing more. Surely there’s more to it, though?

“[Crossing the picket line] is wishing horrific fines on your fellow teachers,” Grinder wrote in the email. “I would keep my children away from you, cause you’re evil. And I’ll shout at you.

Heh. Depending on the context and what precisely is said, shouting at someone can be inappropriate and deemed harassment. But not always…or even often. And one would think seeing someone cross a picket line is a socially – and legally – acceptable time to shout at someone. It is, in fact.

But I think it must be a new record for X-Treme spin[tm] to construe Mr. Grinder keeping his children away from Mr. Ratsoy as a violent threat against…Mr. Ratsoy.

Let’s keep in mind this hasn’t actually happened yet. Teachers have not picketed. They may or may not. Mr. Ratsoy has not attempted to cross a picket line. He may or may not. Mr. Grinder has not kept his children away, to my knowledge, from Mr. Ratsoy or shouted at him. He may or may not.

Oh, there’s a pertinent detail I’ve left out:

Carl Ratsoy: A teacher at Reynold’s Secondary in Saanich and B.C. Liberal Party candidate in Esquimalt-Royal Roads in 2009.

Oh…that might have been nice for the Sun to have mentioned [UPDATEThe story has been changed since this morning to reflect this].

Now you may be saying that nowhere in the newspaper article is there talk of “violent threats” and you’d be correct. Mr. Ratsoy himself states he thinks the email falls short of actual harassment. However Mr. Sharpe, the original Tweeter, was adamant.

Now I don’t usually concern myself with someone’s background. It’s the argument that’s important to me and bringing up someone’s credentials all too often veers into dismissing said argument via attacking the messenger. But Mr. Sharpe was quite concerned about my background – which he stated was a BCTF lackey [I have no association with the BCTF. I have friends who are teachers and a friend who is a principal. I’m also a parent].

But, all things being equal…let’s make the final update to our cast of characters:

Geoff Sharpe: On Twitter he’s a Digital strategist. On LinkedIn, however, he’s President of the BC Young Liberals of the BC Liberal Party

Perhaps we should call this the Feinting Couch.



  1. Dana Bjornson (@physicsfuntime)

    Great piece. FYI: Reynolds is geographically in Saanich, but also in the Greater Victoria School District. (Not in Esquimalt, where Mr. Ratsoy was running for the BC Libs)
    As well, Mr. Grinder’s “sociopath” comments were taken somewhat out of context. The line that was omitted refered to people being sociopathic if they crossed the picket lines knowing that their colleagues would face horrific and unprecedented fines. Could Matt have used different langauge to make his point there? Probably. But the rest of his 1500+ word email to his colleagues was passionate, well-thought out and from the heart. Mr. Ratsoy and a handfull of others at Reynolds, crossed the picket line in 2005. Back then, we did not know that he was a soon-to-be Liberal Candidate. It all makes sense now; thank-you for helping us connect-the-dots on this one!

    • danabjornson

      I have to correct myself! The original piece in the Sun did include tying sociopathy to knowing colleagues faced fines.
      Without question, all teachers are having to question the ethics of crossing an illegal picket line. What mixed messages are we sending to our students? How illegal is it, however, if the law itself was created illegally? Ultimately, I am thankful that I live in a country that allows me to decide the answers to these questions without the threat of detainment or execution (“just” monstrous fines!). As the BCTF vote on the Action Plan approaches, I hope we all manage keep respecting one anothers viewpoints. I keep reminding myself that as teachers, though we may not all agree, we all want what is best for our students. Apparently, for some, unlimited class sizes is considered to be part of that belief. Huh. Still can’t quite wrap around my head around that!

  2. spartikus

    The focus of my post was on how this subject was introduced to me on Twitter – by a B.C. Liberal operative feigning to be a concerned member of the public and the truly ridiculous degree to which they are attempting to portray themselves as victims – but there is a lot that could be said about this whole thing, including:

    Why wasn’t Carl Ratsoy immediately identified by the Vancouver Sun as a former B.C. Liberal Party member? I haven’t looked but I presume the uncorrected story appeared in the print version. It seems common sense that a reporter would do at least a cursory Google search into the backgrounds of the subject matter, especially when it’s strongly suggested the email was leaked by Mr. Ratsoy himself.

    As you mention there is the lack of context – Mr. Grinder’s email was not published but rather selectively cited.

    There is the fact that all of this deals with the hypothetical. Why was this newsworthy at this point in time?

    And, of course, there is the ethics of crossing a picket line. I feel it’s equivalent to not accepting the results of a non-fraudulent democratic election for no other reason than you simply did not like the results. If we are disappointed in the results we are supposed to work within the system – employing solid evidence and good arguments – with the goal next time the results will be more to our liking.

    Which is to say there isn’t really a good reason to cross a picket line.

  3. Tara Ehrcke

    The selection of topics by the Vancouver Sun is interesting indeed. There have been hundreds, probably thousands, of letters by teachers describing the reasons for the job action and why they oppose Bill 22 and the Sun rarely picks them up. Yet pretty much every news release and for a while almost every report put out by BCPSEA became a story. There was an interesting article about media coverage of the 2005 strike and the role of media bias (, but I think it is significantly worse this time around. I also think I know why: the BCTF is a threat, contrary to what the right wing press like to say.

    I was intrigued by the story by Michael Smyth about Victoria’s “walk out” leaflet (otherwise known by Mr. Smith as a “manifesto”) in which he concluded that we were playing into Christy’s hand…in fact, as history has shown, labour action typically improves the electability of the opposition party and worsens the polling for the party in power. Mike Harris had one of his worst polling days ever on the day of the Toronto general strike. The Liberals have fallen steadfastly throughout the BCTF job action and strike.

    The Liberals are losing the support of women voters (moms many of them) in droves. I have no doubt this is in part due to their systematic dismantling of our very good public education system. And the damage is being exposed by none other than teachers and their union.

    Thanks for this interesting blog post. Please visit mine: