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Momentum for schools and education leans to needing NDP majority win in 2020

The BC NDP needs more time -- another term or two -- to correct what was shortchanged under the BC Liberals.

Saturday October 10, 2020 ~ VANCOUVER, BC

EDITORIAL INSIGHTS by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends

It’s sounds like a campaign slogan to hear from NDP candidates in this Fall 2020 election that schools and education have been improved and heading in the right direction under the BC NDP government during 2017-2020.

We’re hearing missives about failures in the education system during 2001-2016 (under the BC Liberal government) from NDP leader John Horgan and various incumbent MLAs as well as from new MLA candidates (the latter which may just be touting the party line, but that makes it no less true).

Brenda Bailey, NDP Candidate
NDP candidate Brenda Bailey (Vancouver-False Creek) | NDP photo

Today there was an NDP campaign teleconference from Vancouver about a new school now being planned within the Vancouver-False Creek area in the lower mainland.

Parents living in Vancouver’s Olympic Village neighbourhood have been frustrated with the lack of options when it comes to sending their kids to school in that core area of Vancouver — where the cost of living has been high and for years driving out families, but families are remaining there and raising their children which makes further demands on the provision of local schools instead of bussing or driving to nearby areas.

Speakers at today’s 10 am teleconference held remotely from Athletes Village Housing Cooperative were Brenda Bailey, BC NDP candidate for Vancouver-False Creek (and a tech sector businesswoman) and George Heyman, BC NDP incumbent for Vancouver-Fairview (first elected in 2013 and who served as Environment & Climate Change minister 2017-2020). NDP Leader John Horgan was not at this session (likely taking a day off from the non-stop campaign trail).

In her first foray into provincial politics today Bailey was energetic and articulate.

Rob Fleming not on today’s call:

NDP incumbent Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake)

It should also be noted that NDP incumbent Rob Fleming — who was education minister for 3.5 years, including through the pandemic this year and right up until the writ dropped for this fall 2020 provincial election — has not been all that vocal during the campaign so far (now more than half-way through). He will, though, be participating in an all candidates online town hall over the noon hour on October 20. [See Island Social Trends events page for details.]

Investing in people, families and education:

“We want to invest in people, families, education for our kids and a better future for all British Columbian families,” said Heyman today. “We’ve done a lot in the three years in office, including 4,200 new teachers hired, 102 new schools, investments in seismic upgrading.”

“We know that we’ve done a lot and we’re proud of what we’ve done, but we also know there is a lot more to do,” said Heyman.

The fact that the NDP government’s Environment and Climate Action minister could be so articulate on education does show how well the NDP Cabinet under John Horgan has operated as a team.

Remembering what education was like before 2017:

Today during the media call, Island Social Trends asked Heyman (who served in the 2017-2020 cabinet) a couple of questions, to help our readers remember the challenges to education under the BC Liberals.

Island Social Trends: About education as it was prior to the NDP government… “There are a lot of families and students who lived through the times of education during the BC Liberals who have no idea what education was like before and can be in the future. So when the NDP is presently saying how horrible it was, how better it will be… can you give us a few more details about they have no idea about? What did that generation miss out on?

George Heyman, NDP
NDP candidate George Heyman (Vancouver-Fairview)

George Heyman (NDP incumbent, Vancouver-Fairview): “There was a generation of kids who missed out on up-to-date school materials, the equipment that is so important for kids to learn. I met with PACs who talked about the lack of books and the fact they needed to collect money for books, computers and i-Pads. We had hugely crowded classrooms, we had kids having to travel long distances to schools that weren’t close to them — which isn’t good for the kids and isn’t good for busy parents, and certainly isn’t good for the environment.”

Heyman continued: “What we’ve done in three years is reinvest in our education system. Unlike the BC Liberals who fought in the supreme court to keep class sizes large, we accepted the court decision. We provided the funding for the extra teachers that the court decision entailed. We provided additional money for even more teachers. We built new schools. We’re in the process of seismically upgrading and in some cases replacing schools. Parents are no longer having to fund raise to equip playgrounds.”

Premier John Horgan (fourth from the left) attended the official opening of a new school playground at Ecole Poirier Elementary (June 17, 2020 – SD62 photo)

“What we’re providing and what the future looks like – and we know we have more to do – you can’t fix everything in three years,” said Heyman today. “But we have a plan and we have a program to provide students with the entire gamut of education that is well-equipped, that has the supplies and technology they need to be ready for the future, where child care is integrated into schools which is something we want to do in the future, and where schools are good to have in the community not just for the students but for everyone.”

Why this matters:

Many parents whose children went through the BC public education system during the BC Liberal years will have lived this reality, watching the offerings and opportunities crumble before their eyes in real-time for their kids compared to what had come before 2001-2016 or what they had known in their own educational years before becoming parents.

Children who were educated in BC public schools during the 16-year period prior to the current NDP government cannot possibly know any different. Youth and families were on many levels robbed of a quality education which in turn impacts their full potential for financial success and having a family not damaged by conditions of lack.

Belmont Secondary School, portables, population growth
Three portables behind Belmont Secondary School ahead of the 2019-2020 school year, to help accommodate the burgeoning student population. [West Shore Voice News photo by Mary Brooke – August 2019]

One example of lack of forward momentum for education under the BC Liberals was planning any new schools only for existing populations in local catchment areas, without looking at projections in growing communities. Two cases in point, in SD62 on the west shore of Vancouver Island — where Royal Bay Secondary in the fast-growing Colwood area was already full when it opened in 2015 and required an expansion which just opened last month, and where Belmont Secondary in the fast-growing Langford area was also at capacity in 2015 and this fall has four portables to accommodate the student population.

This sort of lack of attention to educational detail and short-term planning by government showed lack of vision at the time, and served to further shortchange the entire community where structural gaps in the educational environment will have already led to fewer grads going on to post-secondary, many families and students burdened with debt if they tried to amend conditions for themselves, and the trauma upon families which impacted them then and generating impacts into the now. Through the cycle of things this impacts the types of jobs youth and young adults can get, how far they can progress in post-secondary, and the range of social and economic networks they can break into. Businesses and communities by consequence of all this miss out on what could be as well.

Parents, educators and school admin carried the load:

Parents, educators and school administration (as well as school district boards at budget time) carried the decline of education on their backs and many were even motivated by remembering ‘what was’ and helped keep education ‘on the ground’ functional, but the policy-driven devolution of the public education system occurred nonetheless.

teachers, preparation, Belmont Secondary School
COVID-intense custodial services underway ahead of students returning to school, September 9, 2020 at Belmont Secondary School. [Island Social Trends / Mary Brooke]

This is why it matters to have a government with their vision and their heart in the right place. The party behind a government that hobbled an entire generation and left many families harshly impacted is not a party that voters should think twice about having the chance to form government during COVID recovery and beyond.

So it was important today to hear the NDP’s deeper explanation and further articulation. Otherwise, people listening to the speeches and campaign slogans in this 2020 provincial election might think it’s just another sort of political mudslinging against the BC Liberals.

Determining truth during an election campaign:

Sometimes getting out the harsh truth sounds like a rant, especially when aspects of it might sound almost unbelievable to those who weren’t directly impacted or even unaware of what was going on.

As a parent who raised four children in those years through BC public schools, this editor can attest is a summary of those very difficult times and how short-changed students and families became during 2001-2016, leaving a generation of children less well equipped in a deliberate manner and families burdened far too much on many levels (economically as well as through shortfalls in education during those years when the government favoured the agendas of political and business players rather than society at large).

marking ballot, pencil
Voting can be in person (General Voting Day and advance voting), by mail, by phone, and drive-through, says Elections BC.

It’s a travesty of governance to shortchange children on the hopes of their potential future. The deliberate manner in which schools were hobbled — including closing school libraries, and generating shortages of teacher-librarians and school counsellors — should not be forgotten. These details need to be articulated and recorded. It’s a reminder of why it’s important for everyone to vote and be politically attentive in one’s choices.

School land purchases – playing by the rules comes at a cost:

Another thing that has changed under the NDP government as impacts education, is that they are paying market value when they purchase land for schools. Shucks, having to play by the rules, rules that they themselves as the new government instigated.

Under the BC Liberal government land purchases by government for school would sometimes favour developers who supported the government of the day (buying votes for that party). Island Social Trends asked about that. Has the NDP government since 2017 purchased land for schools at regular value or have there been below-market-price situations for developers as under the previous government?

Premier John Horgan, Education Minister Rob Fleming, SD62, land purchase, Latoria
Premier John Horgan (MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca) along with Education Minister Rob Fleming announced the Latoria Road land purchase where a new elementary school will be built in Langford, on Friday July 17, 2020. [BC Government]

“It’s pretty rare to be able to purchase land at below market value,” said Heyman in response to that question. “So we’ve paid what we had to do to ensure that we have the space for schools.” [e.g. land purchase for another SD62 school in Langford, summer 2020.]

“Unfortunately under the BC Liberals, it was not uncommon for wealthy developers who sent very large cheques – when it was still legal to do so – to the BC Liberals, to purchase land that had been designated for schools and hospitals for far below market value, so they could make massive profits in an overheated real estate market.”

For some of the local readers out there who say our posts in social media are ‘too political’, we remind you that most of what happens in society — and to you and your family — is impacted by politics. Keeping one’s head in the sand never made things better for anyone. ~ MPB