Taken for granted

Last month, the Campbell administration cancelled annual grants worth approximately $110 million to improve and repair the province's schools. But at least one provincial Liberal backbencher had previously hoped the government would actually increase that funding. In 2008, Jane Thornthwaite was among four North Vancouver school board members who encouraged the BC School Trustees Association to lobby then education minister Shirley Bond for such an increase. This, according to the board's meeting minutes for April 22 of that year.

But, speaking with Public Eye on Tuesday, Ms. Thornthwaite didn't seem to be as gung-ho about boosting that funding.

"This year is different than last year - we're in different economic times," the North Vancouver-Seymour legislator explained.

"The emphasis of the ministry of education was to maintain the money in the classrooms."

As a result, "getting school gyms refurbished for the school year was not classified as a priority."

Nevertheless, when those economic times turnaround, will Ms. Thornthwaite once again advocate for an increase to the annual facilities grants?

"I definitely will support what the school districts have decided with regard to their priorities. I appreciate the expertise they have and only they have," she replied, adding, "They're the best people to make that decision - not me."

British Columbia's school trustees have protested the cancellation of the grants, with the president of their association Connie Denesiuk personally expressing her "extreme unhappiness" to Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid.

2 Comments

Great to see you on the education beat, Sean - we could use your sharp eye with the crazy stuff coming out of Victoria these days.

The difference, with all due respect to Ms. Thornthwaite, seems to come down to who's now controlling her pay scale and political career (Premier Campbell, instead of the folks from her former school district).

The Education Minister is now suggesting (according to CBC) that local School Boards be allowed to borrow money to cover any urgent maintenance. Seriously! Worrying precedents aside, this makes even less sense to me, since the Province can borrow under much more favourable terms than any school board, and since it all gets counted under the same provincial deficit under GAAP, regardless of who actually does the borrowing.

And besides, didn't Ms. Thornthawite's new boss just allocate **$14 billion** in the revised budget for other infrastructure projects, arguing that this "fiscal stimulus" was needed to turn around our economy?

So how is it that tough economic times call for investing in construction jobs to fix bridges while requiring us to cancel construction jobs to fix schools??

I live in Delta South (Tsawwassen & Ladner), where we have just had 2 (possibly 3) schools shut down for questionable reasons. But our local land developers were all in favour of these shut downs. It is clear evidence of privatization in the workings.

We and probably many of you have heard of school boards charging foreign students to attend our public schools, which is fair enough. But where does a line get drawn. At what point does the Liberal gov't say "pay up" to parents, for their children's schools. Afterall, this right wing agenda believes that users must pay. Why should everyone that does not have children in school pay for someone else's children.

Now, school boards are not just required to cut costs, but the Liberal Gov't are being kind enough to offer loans until boards can get their financial houses in order. What's next? When the school boards cannot pay back the loans, you can be sure the Liberal gov't will not bale them out. They'll do what they will do next here in Tsawwassen and Ladner with our now empty schools. Schools will be rented out or sold for a profit.

Privatization is a clearly thought out doctrine and Gordon and his boys know exactly what they are doing.

If it interests anyone, his name was Milton Friedman and I believe he won the nobel prize in Economics. But a book that is more current, and the author someone who debated Friedman before he died, is the "Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein, also the daughter-in-law of Canada's Stephen Lewis, and her brother runs the CCPA here in Vancouver.

What is the term "shock doctrine" supposed to mean? When there is a shock to the economic system, like we have today with the financial crisis, Friedman wrote that this was the best time to implement draconian measures and cut and slash costs and then under the guise of the shock, sell everything to the private sector to pay off the debts incurred.

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