The best of intentions

Last month, during his year-end interview with The Canadian Press's Dirk Meissner, Premier Gordon Campbell said "all of what I've tried to do in public life is about children." This, in response to questions about his administration's commitment to protecting and improving the lives of the province's most vulnerable children. But his party isn't yet prepared to discuss what it would to meet that commitment if the Liberals win a third term in government. On January 14, the party declined an opportunity to discuss its platform with members of the First Call Coalition, which represents more than 80 organizations concerned with child welfare issues. The reason: the Liberals are "still in the process of formulating their policy platform for the election."

"We know all the parties are still engaged in formulating their official platforms. But we were offering an opportunity to meet with a very broad table of child and youth experts and advocates who would inform their policy development through dialogue and also give them a chance to test some ideas or tell us what their initial priorities are for children," commented First Call provincial coordinator Adrienne Montani. "We are a non-partisan coalition. There's lot of Liberals in our coalition. And they're looking for a chance to dialogue. So we were quite disappointed they didn't take us up on our offer" - which was accepted by both the New Democrats and the Greens.


Pretty sad!

And I'm still trying to reconcile that comment of the Premier's ("all of what I've tried to do in public life is about children") with the actual record of what I've seen him do since 2001.

I mean how do you assume office and immediately announce plans to cut the budget of the Children's Ministry by 25% - 30% if that's what's top of mind?

How do you sleep at night when you decide to forge ahead with the cuts even after being told it will result in children being left exposed to "moderate sexual abuse"?

Why would you put 16-year old foster kids out on the street on their own to cut costs?

Or eliminate special education funding for all students with learning disabilities, consigning a whole generation of thousands of kids to failure and despair?

How could you live with the shame of BC having the highest child poverty rate in Canada, year after year?

Why fight all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that government should cover the full cost of providing treatment for children with autism?

How can you look yourself in the mirror in this day and age when most Aboriginal children in the Province still never get a high school diploma?

How can you say such things with a straight face when you know that thousands of BC children with special needs are denied access to government-funded services and supports every day because you've chosen to spend our tax dollars instead on Olympic frippery.

You know, I'm quite sure the Premier thinks about and truly wants the best for his own grandchildren, and may even have convinced himself that some of what he's doing will benefit them indirectly in the long run. It's just everyone else's children who are getting run over in the meanwhile who don't seem to matter.

Mr Premier, our children are only children for a preciously short time. There is no second chance for most of the tens of thousands of children whom you've turned your back on these last eight years. But it's never too late to wake up and start doing what you should have been doing all along.

I don't believe it for a minute. If he does everything with the children of BC in mind why do children with mental health concerns get lumped in with child protection services where people without appropriate training can cause far more harm than good. They are trained to consider the facts from the child's point of view to minimize chances that something is missed. I have seen that system go into overdrive in the north and fail miserably in the Lower Mainland among two different families. Sadly some children do suffer from mental illness they deserve to get the help they need.

This is the same premier who continues to shortchange the education of all children in the north. The funding allocation system - outlined in the operating grants manual looks like it covers all the bases to level the playing field. So why does it say that the Prince George school district should get just under 24% more to cover heating costs over a school in Vancouver? I've lived in both places - in my wildest dreams I couldn't manage that between my poorly insulated home in Surrey to my significantly better insulated home in Prince George. It cost me just over 50% more to heat in Prince George. If both places were well insulated the difference would have been more like 70%. Their hallowed funding formula is seriously flawed. It may not seem like much however the amount now received by this one school district is over $700,000. At least this much again is pulled from the funds meant for educating students in order to make the school warm enough for them to use it. That money has to be taken from programs, teachers' aides, supplies and teaching materials. Worse, Prince George isn't hardest hit by this shortfall. There are other districts who,under direction from Prince George's own Shirley Bond, to cheat their children even further because the government has instructed school boards that they must not have a deficit, they cannot discuss problems such as this in the public arena and they live under threat of being replaced by a provincially appointed trustee if they fail to abide by the ministry's conditions.

If early intervention results in better outcomes for childrens' education, why, when the initial flaw was pointed out several years ago did they make only moderate changes instead of properly reviewing the problem? (I believe those changes happened more out of embarrassment - they budgeted for air conditioning equipment in areas subject to extreme heat but didn't allow the money to run the equipment in the operating budget).

If Mr. Campbell truly recognizes that our children are our greatest investment (and his caregivers in his old age) then he should show it and be willing to be transparent about it. The future needs honesty not spin.

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