Will Polak be sent to the principal's office?

In an interview yesterday, Surrey school board chairman Shawn Wilson confirmed he believes provincial Liberal by-election candidate Mary Polak's organizers used a fabricated quote attributed to him in their campaign literature. But, when Public Eye contacted Ms. Polak earlier today, the Surrey school trustee strongly denied that allegation.

At issue: a pamphlet where Mr. Wilson is quoted as saying, "Last year, the NDP-controlled Vancouver school board ended up with around $19 million in liabilities - in Surrey, Mary Polak put students first - we have no liabilities, we built ten new schools and we bought new textbooks and equipment."

Mr. Wilson denies ever making or even approving the use of that statement.

"I'm a friend of Mary's. She's a pal. And I wouldn't have had any problems with a quote that embellished her positive characteristics." But he says the quote that appeared in the pamphlet, "was an unfair comment...And it put me in a rather uncomfortable position because it would be so out of character for me to slam other people."

"I'm just assuming someone in her campaign made up the quote and used it without my approval, which was not very helpful to me," especially when his school board received a letter from its Vancouver counterpart in early December, asking Mr. Wilson to backup his alleged accusations.

But Ms. Polak told us "My understanding is (that quote) was confirmed with Shawn. I know he says he doesn't have any recollection of that. But that's what I understand."

She says her campaign manager Chris Gardner would likely have been the individual who authored the quote and got it approved by Mr. Wilson.

Ms. Polak then added the whole situation is "unfortunate. But the facts in the quote are accurate."

But the Vancouver school board might have somthing to say about that. According to Mr. Wilson, "If they haven't contacted Mary at this point, I think its only a matter of time before they will. Because I could tell from the letter that this just wasn't general interest on their part. They have bat in hand waiting. And I didn't want to be in the way."

Public Eye was unable to reach Mr. Gardner by publication time. Ms. Polak is currently looking to grab the provincial Liberal nomination in Langley.

7 Comments

The next time Ms Polak considers using Vancouver's education funding woes for political mileage, she should keep in mind that our former Liberal (NPA)-run Vancouver School Board faced an even bigger deficit three years ago--$25 million--thanks to the unfunded teacher's salary increase and other significant costs legislated by the (Liberal) Education Minister at the same time as budgets were frozen.

That's the same reason we've faced further cuts over the last two years under COPE and the same reason that so many school districts across BC are in crisis. Despite the spin doctors' best efforts to blame deficits, axed programs, bursting classrooms, 4-day school weeks and unprecedented school closures solely on declining enrolment and bad management, the per-student provincial funding figures clearly show that these is much more to it than that.

Over the last 10 years, NPA and COPE-run School Boards in Vancouver have had to cut a total of $100 million in services due to provincial underfunding by NDP and Liberal provincial administrations, despite almost stable enrolment for most of that period. Those who've suffered most are our most vulnerable kids--those with special needs, ESL students, at-risk inner city kids and those who for various reasons are just plain struggling and need an extra hand.

As a Surrey trustee, Ms Polak faced the same deficits as Vancouver did, for the same reasons, and she and her colleagues were forced to make deep cuts to vital services like supports for children with special needs to balance their books.

As a Vancouver parent and member of the non-partisan parent group SOS, I deeply appreciate that both our NPA and COPE trustees stood up to support us in protesting the downloading of education costs by the province. Our current Board is doing a great job in raising public awareness of the importance of investing adequately in a healthy public education system that allows all kids to achieve their potential.

Ms. Polak might consider doing the same if she is so keen to get herself elected somewhere. Our children's education is too important to be the subject of anyone's political games.

It is absolutely amazing to see how much people in our rich province in one of the richest countries in the world that spends almost the most money per pupil in the world, and has some of the best academic results in the world, complaining, complaining, complaining, complaining, complaining. And then if someone from the government says that there is room for improvement in the education system, then what do these guys do -- they complain, complain, complain, complain -- saying that we are "trashing the excellent work of our teachers". Quit complaining!!!! Dawn is obviously a professsional complainer -- see all the spin she puts in her trash.

I don't think the issue here is the content of what Chris Gardiner did or didn't say, but Mary Polak's behaviour in not taking responsibility for how statements came to be attributed to Gardiner. If her campaign manager made a mistake, she should take responsibility and not simply "unfortunate".

Sorry, the spin is all yours, "Whiner", but if you'd like some more facts, here goes: Latest StatsCan figures show that in 1996/97, B.C. had the third highest operational spending per student in public elementary and secondary schools of any Canadian province. In 2001/02, we matched the Canadian average. In 2002/03, the latest year for which stats are available, B.C. had dropped to 7th among Canadian provinces in terms of operational expenditure per student. In 2002/03, B.C. also ranked 7th among Canadian provinces in terms of total expenditures in public elementary and secondary schools per capita.

The fact that we've traditionally had an excellent public education system or that there's always room for improvement doesn't discount the growing crisis of underfunding. What exactly do you think is improved when a government imposes a teachers' pay increase and then refuses to fund it? All it did was create instant school board deficits, leading to overcrowded classes, the cancellation of excellent educational programs, 4-day school weeks and closed libraries.

Of course "whining" parents and trustees could keep quiet until we've dropped to Third World standards, or wait and speak at the ballot box, as Ontario parents did, but I somehow I doubt you'd be any less grumpy then.

Thanks for the facts Dawn.

Also helps to explain the relentless onslaught of the smaller, but never ending, charges that we now regularly shell out for; things like textbooks, paper, classroom supplies, gym equipment and library books etc.

Anyone who wants more facts about how important it is to realize that funding levels are not what they once were (ie. that things are not quite as W.A. Whiner suggested) could do worse than visit VSB Trustee Andrea Reimer's site occasionally.

Even in this day and age, when corruption has run rampant and people are continuing to incite strife, we find stories like this one. Does it take a rocket scientist to discover the truth? I personally think it does not. Clearly Shawn Wilson might best be asked about his hidden bank accounts? That just may help clarify where all those missing funds have gone. Children do NOT deserve to have their futures stolen out from under them, in order to line the nest of a person of questionable repute and yet, it happens. What such a person says matters little, it's the actions this type of person commits that harms an entire countrys' youth, prosperity and very fabric. While my remarks may be construed as inflamatory of libelous or defammatory, I dare anyone to argue that truth is not beauty. Wake up and smell the coffee burning people, it's high time big government was down-sized since simple human concerns seem rarely, if ever, the target of politicians. These are the same people who would otherwise be selling used cars, bad insurance policys and womens' shoes and even then, lying to get what they wanted. I bet it is not just me that thinks it is time to send a clear message and dump politics where it belongs, in the sceptic tank. Thank you Shawn Wilson for destroying that last vestige of faith I had in ANY shyster-political thief, you could however see if you truly CAN face your image in the mirror sir and IF you cannot, ask yourself exactly what it is that you gain and what you stand to lose. Self respect is not a commodity nor can ANY amount of money buy you dignity sir. Think you've fooled everyone? Think again Shawn. I am one you have not fooled in the least, I see people like you for what they truly are, not as you may imagine you appear. Snakes are more trustworthy and bankers, less greedy. In closing let me state that I have little doubt that this shan't be posted, truth has it's enemies, after all. Freedom? Yes we are each free to be dumb, if we so chose. Eyes-wide-open however does allow each of us a much clearer view of truths that others deny, obfuscate, missinform away and delegate upon the heads of others. Then again I might be wrong, has Shawn Wilson kept every promise he has ever made? Has he even tried? I for one cry, "NO!", to those last questions. Is that a clue for us all as to his TRUE character? Wasted words of truth will not disapear, much to the dismay of types who would commit such heinous acts of hatred, in the name of greed.

One final note to address the remarks of another who mistakenly feels trust should be thrown away. Since when has spending ever equated quality? Think about that if you dare, preferably without spinning, rationalising or denying it Ms. Steele. Interesting how that name rings true to the core of the real issue at hand.
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Shawn Wilson, well what can I say but tell the truth for a change?

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