A politician thinks of the next election.A leader thinks of the next generation ~ James Clarke
If back-pedaling were cardio, by the time next May comes around every BC Liberal in caucus should be able to qualify for the Boston marathon…
Case in point, yesterdays coordinated government press conferences aimed at settling down the growing outrage from parents groups around the province, yet only succeeded in fueling the flames of discontent.
It started a couple of weeks ago in Surrey following a very heated open house held by a developer trying to build a 4 story apartment building and 181 units of townhouses on what used to be government land held for healthcare use.
The government sold that land in 2014 for a song and a dance as ‘surplus’ ,in one of the fastest growing neighbourhoods in Surrey-every school is already over capacity or will be this September.
Parents united with other local residents and red signs started popping up all over the neighbourhood:
Not very good publicity for the developer, Surrey city council or one Marvin Hunt- Liberal MLA for the area who was still sitting as a council member in addition to being the MLA, when said property was sold. He said nothing to stand up for the needs of his riding to stop the sale- I know, because I asked him personally and he said that was the school districts business,not his.
Wham bam and thank you ma’am, within a week of all this outrage Education Minister Mike Bernier was passing out the cash like no ones business, even fast-tracking an addition that was #9 on the list for Surrey, ahead of others with more pressing need.
That school, Sullivan Elementary, happened to be the very school that would be completely swamped by said developers project on that ‘surplus’ government land. Rather convenient for it to suddenly be fast-tracked ahead of others, and that rubbed parents in other districts the wrong way – rightly so.
Parents in New Westminster wanted to know where the new high school is they were promised five years ago is? Parents in Osoyoos protested the closure of their high school. And on… and on… in every corner of this province you can find schools in disrepair, with mold, or with confirmed high lead levels in sitting water. Schools that have not undergone seismic upgrades. Schools that are so overcrowded kids can only use playgrounds on alternate days or sit on the floor in the gym for weeks in September until a new portable can arrive.
Government realized at that point that by fast-tracking items in Surrey well known to be low on the list, they had inadvertently put education funding to the forefront as an election issue. Even parents who are long time Liberal voters have had enough, and that is a lot of votes to risk.
And so was born the idea to graciously give some funds to key outraged districts in the province to try and keep the parents quiet and happy.
Yet somehow, it all went wrong and by 11 am yesterday morning, #BCED was trending on twitter for all the wrong reasons. And let me tell you why.
It really doesn’t matter how savvy the Liberals social media intern army is, when the party they are working for is completely out of touch with reality. The highest Klout score in the world doesn’t mean a thing to the parents who have done their research and know full well yesterdays cash was a fraction of what Premier Clark has ordered districts to find in savings over the past few years. And trust me on this, these parents have done extensive research. No spin doctor can weave dung into gold.
Frankly it was insulting, and thousands of parents,educators and politicians across the province took to twitter to express their frustration and disgust, including myself:
How out of touch is all of this? It’s reactive, and when it comes during an election cycle in the form of crumbs in comparison to whats been stripped, it’s clear that its nothing more than an attempt at buying or at the very least, saving votes. And parents know that. They reacted strongly. That’s what happened yesterday. A press release from Coralee Oakes even tried to turn this disaster back around onto the district and make government look magnanimous.How grand of you Ms.Oakes, for thinking of the poor students now…
Right before an election.
And right after the party tried re-announcing an old press release as new again recently and were called out on that too…
I can tell you now, these little press ops are only pushing votes away, because parents want more. They want to see the funding of public education become a number one priority, not just for their children but for all children.
Education is the cornerstone for a successful society,along with libraries, community centres and yes, our churches and temples of many faiths. These are the places where community gathers to build relationships. Schools are not just for education,they are key locations for early interventions in turning around children impacted by many factors that lead to costly social issues later on if not addressed.
School is where children build social skills, where learning disabilities and special needs are often first really seen and directed for diagnosis. Children with good role models in schools who build relationships and are mentored, can break cycles of family poverty and lift themselves to a better way in life. We’ve all seen movies of how a child overcame poverty or other challenges because he or she was supported and mentored in school.
For me, this is so crystal clear.I have never understood why education is so poorly funded here. Every school should have a full time librarian – libraries are often a refuge for children,books an avenue to avoid bullying,ease anxiety and librarians foster a life long passion for reading that serves all.
It seems to me, that if government invested more in education and supports, we would very likely be spending less later on dealing with kids who fell through cracks that are getting bigger every day. And how much are we spending on youth rehabilitation? Justice services? Anti-gang interventions, poverty reduction,teen pregnancies etc.? Do you see the relationship here?
Yes, I know you do and this is at the heart of why parents have had enough. You can only take so much and push so hard before something gives.
And trust me when I tell you this time, it won’t be the parents giving this time – they are already looking into what else government has messed up.
** Note for readers interested in Site C: Global BC is running ads for a special on the evening news at 6pm today, “Site C: The full Picture”
I’ll be watching to see how full a picture it really is.