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[Not] Protecting Education: The Cutbacks of School District #57

January 20, 2010 D. Collier 2 comments

During the 2009 British Columbia Election campaign, the BC Liberals repeatedly said that despite the hard economic times, they would protect education while in Government.

After getting out of yesterday’s School District #57 (Prince George) special meeting, there is only one thing I can say:

The BC Liberals lied.

At the special meeting, School District #57 administrators presented a “District Sustainably Committee” report, which recommended that the district:

  1. Close down 12 of 47 schools and re-purpose 2 schools to teach different groups of students. To top it off, some of these schools slated to close down are rural elementary schools; therefore elementary students will have to be bused into Prince George;
  2. Increase class sizes;
  3. “Cut district infrastructure” (a.k.a., for the most part, laying off staff).

None of these steps are very conducive to protecting education; however all this is to save $7 million in order to be able to deliver a balanced budget in the 2010-11 school year.

Why does the school district all of a sudden have to save $7 million? Because the BC Liberal government choose to pile more obligations to school boards, such as all-day kindergarten, carbon reduction requirements, and higher MSP Premiums without giving school boards the extra money to pay for them. Because the BC Liberal government choose to take away the Annual Facility Grant used to maintain school buildings. Well, I suppose at least the BC Liberals choose to give school boards a rebate on the HST.

Remember too that this is coming from a school board that had to shut down 14 schools in 2002, during the early Campbell BC Liberal government. Oh, and to make things even worse, the report suggests that School District #57 will have to cut a further $4 million in the future.

So what does this have to do with somebody that is not living in School District #57? Simple. A lot of other BC school boards are facing the same fiscal pressures as School District #57, and might have to take similar action. Heck, it’s already happening in Vancouver.

Of course, the BC Liberals still have time to protect education. They still have time to amend this year’s budget take responsibility for the extra costs that they have added to school boards. They still have time to prove that they didn’t lie during the election.

BC New Democrats Release Platform

April 9, 2009 D. Collier Comments off

Today, the BC New Democrats released their 2009 election platform, entitled “Take Back Your BC”.

Looking at the document as a whole, it balances the fiscal, social, and environmental needs of the province very well.

I am particularly impressed on how the platform adresses the economy, a subject that I think needed to be addressed better by the BC New Democrats for a while now. The BC New Democrats realize that we are in a recession, and that the middle class doesn’t need to have its tax burden increased.  Therefore, the BC New Democrats will be getting rid of the carbon tax that makes the middle class and the North pay while the big polluters get away.  As well, to help small businesses survive these times, the BC New Democrats will give them a one year tax holiday.

Beyond addressing taxes, the platform addresses the economy in other ways. For instance, investing in infrastructure renewal; investing in education and the traders to ensure that British Columbians can better participate in the economy; and investing in wealth creation, which includes restructuring with public consultation the forest tenure system so that smaller companies can access the wood that they need, and the establishment of a Rural Economic Development Fund to support economy diversification in the North.

Of course, the platform also discusses the various social needs of the province.

For instance, the minimum wage will be raised to $10/hour and indexed to inflation. This will help address poverty; the majority of the poor in British Columbia work, and they often work more than one job. Having a $10/minimum wage will make live better for both them and their children. 

In health care, the plan in to make smart investments to reduce waiting times. Examples of such investments would be more efficient specialized surgical centres for high demand operations and encouraging and transmitting new innovated practices. As well, there will be more investment in training medical staff.

In regards to post-secondary education, the BC New Democrats will freeze tuition (and compensating universities for tuition increases lost, which is key to ensure continued quality) and reintroduce need-based grants.

As for the environment, the plan is to create a cap and trade system, give low interest loans to green retrofits to houses, adopt California standards for automobiles, and create a Green Bond in which British Columbians invest for the purpose of making Green investments.

Of course, I’ve sort of skimmed though the document and missed quite a few details, but all in all, I’d say that “Take Back Your BC” is a solid plan for a solid Carole James Premiership.

As for the BC Liberals, well, they will have to stand on their record resort to talking about ancient events that happened during a decade for which the majority of, I spent having a age consisting of a single digit.

Why I Might Have To Grudgingly Support BC-STV

February 16, 2009 D. Collier 7 comments

One of the decisions British Columbians have to make on May 12th is whether or not to adopt BC-STV as BC’s Electoral System.

Now, let me be straight: I’m not a fan of BC-STV, and voted against it last election. The main reason: its a system that works in small, urban countries, which BC is not. BC-STV will give Northerners less proportionality than Southerners.

However, my mind does change when the facts do as well.

Fact #1: Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) is the electoral system that I would like to see British Columbia adopt. However, it hasn’t been very successful as a option in other electoral reform referenda in Canada; both Ontario and Prince Edward Island had a referendum to convert to this system. Both failed miserably. BC-STV, however, has been able to get higher than 50% support in a referedum.

Fact #2: The BC NDP equity mandate, designed to help increase the amount of women and other minority candidates has been passed, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon. While I generally support it, the current electoral system makes the implementation of the equity mandate very awkward – 50% of the population is barred from even thinking of running for BC NDP nomination in 33% of BC’s constituencies. This kinda gives me some reservations. With BC-STV, there would be many MLA’s in a constituency; therefore anybody would be allowed to run at a nomination convention, but the rule in place would be that at least 33% (or whatever) of the candidates running in that constituency for the BC NDP must be women.

So, I’m not sure how I will vote in the referendum. Do I stay with a bad electoral system, or switch to a bad electoral system?

Local Prince George NDP Ad (These Ad Reviews Can’t Be All National)

October 10, 2008 D. Collier Comments off

Check out this NDP local ad done jointly by the Betty Bekkering and Bev Collins campaigns.

The message is simple: average workers have been hit hard by the downturn in the forest industry, and after contributing to the country for years, now need some help.  The local Conservatives MPs, Dick Harris and Jay Hill have been, for the most part, ignoring the problem. By electing the NDP in these ridings, Northern British Columbians will have a strong voice in Ottawa sticking up for them.

Edit: Forget a “Be” in the title.

Carbon Taxes: Needs To Be Done Right

May 21, 2008 D. Collier 2 comments

There has been a lot of talk about carbon taxes lately. Now, I make no secret of my dislike for the BC Liberal carbon tax; however, I’m not against carbon taxes if they are implemented properly.

My biggest beef with the BC and proposed Federal Liberal carbon is this “revenue-neutral” concept, which is where one returns all (or most) of the money raised by the carbon tax to the entities it gathered it from via the use of tax receipts and government payouts. The end result is basically a shell game: you take away money from the consumer when they use energy that creates carbon, then give it back to the consumer so that they can afford to pay the carbon taxes when they buy energy. This doesn’t do much for the environment.

“Ah,” some might respond, “the rise in the price of energy that creates carbon will result in less consumption.” The thing is, however, is that energy is relatively inelastic; that is to say, it is a product that is hard to replace by other products and hard to reduce consumption in the short term. This is why one sees consumers continue to go to the gas pumps, consuming around the same rate, even though prices have risen.

Now, the good thing about a carbon tax is that it places a charge on economic activities that produce negative externalities. For far too long, consumers have been getting products without paying the full price, which would be the damage to the environment.

Therefore, the key is to dump the “revenue-neutral” concept. A portion of the carbon tax needs to go towards projects that will benefit the environment, such as expansion of mass transit, or the creation of programs that allow people to make their homes more environmentally friendly.

Having said that, some money does need to be returned to the entities that pay the tax for a couple of reasons. The first is to allow for corrections for the regressiveness of the tax: for instance, the poor will need a rebate to ensure that they can heat their homes over the winter. The second would be to provide some seed money to allow for environmental-improving choices or innovations on the entity level. While the current BC carbon tax does do this, we do have to remember that in some situations, the ability for a entity to choose an environmentally improved alternative doesn’t exist (ie: taking the non-existent transit system in BC’s North), which is why there must be projects funded by the government to create such choices.

I’ll conclude by saying that a carbon tax – in any form – is not going to improve the environment by itself, and other measures are going to have to be taken.