Many years ago a friend who is a physician told me that when a society turns or neglects its children, the society is in decline.
Harsh words? Very much so. But what is happening in BC? According to the most recent statistics from Stats Canada, BC has the highest rate of child poverty. In a province with the wealth of BC, this is a situation that is indefensible.
The present strike between the government of BC and BCTF continues to highlight the neglect of children. Surely no one can possibly accept the concept that one teacher with no, or limited assistance can teach a class of 30 or more with a spectrum of learning abilities, and/or social and behavioural problems and address the myriad of challenges that such a configuration solicits.
Our premier and education minister maintain that to address these issues is not affordable. The question is really what will happen if we don’t address the needs of children. BC has become a province that has seduced the public with the mantra that low taxes are desirable.
Hand in hand with low taxes comes the acceptance of the fact that low taxes result in service cuts. We are moving from a market economy to a market society that forces the issue that everything must be able to pay for itself.
So what have our “low taxes” bought us in recent years? BC is the only province in Canada that charges its citizens MSP premiums. The premiums are not graduated but rather are constant for the family earning $40,000 and the family earning $200,000. This practice represents a regressive tax structure. Revenues from the MSP premiums exceed the revenues generated by corporate taxes. We have found the money to replace the BC place roof at a cost of $577 million, a $200 million overrun. We built a lovely highway to Whistler at a cost of $2 billion over the original budget.
We have not found money to build day care centres, sufficient housing for seniors, to decrease health wait lines, to offer palliative and hospice facilities.
We cannot find the money to meet the needs of our children. We cannot find the money to address homelessness. We cannot find the money to help the mentally ill. We accept wage raises to government politicians. We accept that we want teachers to teach all children academics regardless of their learning abilities.
We want teachers to teach all children to live in a society void of bullying and yet we tolerate the government’s decision to lock out teachers during their breaks and make them stand on the street in all weather, eat their lunches on the curb and not speak or assist their students.
We want our children to learn respect and yet our teachers are painted as greedy and lazy. What we are witnessing in our schools violates the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Wage increases are negotiable but the resistance to address the needs of our children and grandchildren is not a matter of negotiation. It is a matter of human rights. Our democratic society demands that we strive towards justice and equal opportunity. To achieve such equality requires a departure from the mantra of affordability.
We have much to lose as a society if our education system continues to be corrupted.