Business leaders and community members on Thursday attended a Kelowna visit by the all-party select standing committee on finance and government services, to offer recommendations on the 2019 provincial budget.
The committee is travelling around B.C. this fall, hearing from the public.
“The provincial budget has a direct role in the day-to-day life of British Columbians, and this consultation is a great opportunity to share your ideas, concerns and priorities,” said committee chairperson Bob D’Eith. “We carefully consider the input and suggestions of each individual and organization who participates.”
Celine Thompson, executive director of the Bridge Youth and Family Services, went before the committee to ask the government to partner with the centre in its creation of a 16-bed youth recovery house.
“This partnership would include the provision of land from the B.C. government on which we can build our purpose-built facility, and also a funding commitment for the estimated $1.95-million annual operating budget,” said Thompson. “With the exception of the private funding we intend to bring to the table to construct the building, our proposal is not dissimilar to the investment this government has committed to for the youth treatment plan for the Fraser Health region.”
The need for a youth recovery centre is great in the Interior region, said Thompson.
“Families call our front desk on a weekly basis in distress looking for treatment for their son or daughter, only to be told none exists here,” said Thompson. “The extensive wait-list for the 45 publicly funded spaces in all of British Columbia wastes the small window of opportunity we have with young people who have gathered strength and resolve in that moment to pursue recovery.”
Recovery services are needed for children as young as 12 years old, said Thompson.
“The majority of participants in our adult treatment program will tell you they started their addiction path in their adolescence,” she said. “Youth treatment is a preventative strategy that will have significant positive impacts.”
Representatives of the Okanagan College Students’ Union came before the committee to request additional funding for B.C. post-secondary institutions and investment into open-resource education.
“Students directly experience the underfunding of institutions in their everyday lives on campus,” said Mark Fellhauer, a business student at the college. “A lack of provincial funding means a lack of services for students. It also means institutions need to find ways to make up for the funding shortfall.”
This is often put on students in the form of high tuition, parking costs and the cost of food, he said, adding services such as counselling have been reduced.
“Properly funded institutions would be an important step in breaking the cycle of student debt, and would mean students could access the supports and services they need when attending college or university,” said Jennifer Meyer, a recent business graduate at the college.
Fellhauer and Meyer recommended an additional $200 million of institutional funding for the 2019-2020 year.
They also recommended a one-time investment of $5 million to BC Campus, an organization advocating for open-resource education, to combat the high costs of textbooks.
“This funding would allow BC Campus to create and adapt open textbooks and create systems to maintain those textbooks,” said Meyer.
D’Eith said the committee had heard a number of presentations from students and faculty across the province about open-resource education.
“It seems to be something that everybody on all sides of this equation seem to be supporting,” he said.
He raised a concern that a one-time investment would not address the need for ongoing updates to textbooks.
“The nature of open-education resources is that professors are able to update them . . . so hopefully the maintenance costs would be a lower annual amount, whereas getting the whole system set up so it’s accessible to students and faculty . . . would be a big help,” said Meyer.
Public consultations for the upcoming budget will be held across B.C. until Oct. 11.
Consultation will close on Oct. 15, and the committee must release its report by Nov. 15.