By PETER MILOBAR
MLA, Kamloops-North Thompson
WHEN IT COMES to the NDP’s priorities, our kids seem to be way at the bottom of the list.
First, we heard John Horgan’s announcement of a billion-dollar vanity museum project in his own backyard. Beyond the staggering cost of the facility’s demolition and complete rebuild, people were also shocked to hear the museum would be shut down for nearly a decade. No school visits, family trips or learning opportunities for B.C. children until they’re teenagers or older.
Next, we learned the NDP government has frozen the construction of new schools because they’ve run out of money to pay for their promises.
They’re backtracking on their commitment to build the $87 million replacement of Mission Secondary School that NDP MLAs Pam Alexis and Bob D’Eith campaigned on in 2020.
As word of this deferral got out earlier this week and as NDP staffers frantically tried to fight back against the revelations on social media, even more examples emerged of the government putting off promised school projects.
The Vancouver School District said the government refused to fund any new major capital projects for the coming year and had turned its back on the seismic repairs needed at three schools at the highest risk of collapse in an earthquake.
On the island, the Sooke School District said three new elementary schools for Langford and Colwood and a seismic upgrade of an elementary school in Sooke were not approved. Other communities are facing — or fearing — similar bad news from the NDP.
I do worry that projects in the Kamloops School District could be next. Although the ministry confirmed its support last year for a new elementary school in the Pineview Valley — and its support this year for a new elementary school in Batchelor Heights — no concrete plans or funding details have followed.
Meanwhile, the new list of SD73 capital priorities just came out and it includes an elementary school in Juniper West; two new elementary schools in Aberdeen; a new secondary school in Aberdeen; and a K-12 school in Sun Peaks. The board also feels eight schools in the district are worthy of replacement.
Kamloops is an attractive place to live and raise a family, and enrolment in our schools is only going to grow over the coming years. This week’s revelation that John Horgan and the NDP will prioritize a billion-dollar museum upgrade over our kids’ seismic safety and learning opportunities is extremely troubling.
The government can try to blame the cost pressures on fires and floods, but these are yearly events that we anticipate and that we have contingencies in place to address. In fact, this year’s budget contains literally billions of dollars to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, floods and fires so this excuse does not stand up to scrutiny.
All of this leaves parents, students, and teachers with little faith the NDP will be able to fulfill the many promises they made to the electorate in 2020 — nor address current and emerging issues that should be prioritized over a billion-dollar boondoggle.
Peter Milobar was elected MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson in May 2017, and re-elected in October 2020. He is the Official Opposition Critic for Finance. He previously served as critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and the Official Opposition House Leader.