The BC Liberals on Tuesday sent out a press release doubling down on their earlier comments the NDP government has implemented a freeze on education spending.
“Trustees confirm what Horgan won’t: school capital freeze is real,” the Liberal release claimed at 12:56 p.m..
Yet, four hours earlier that morning, we got a news release from the government headlined “Students at Peter Ewart Middle school to get safer, expanded school”
It said: “Students, parents and staff can look forward to a safer, larger school with 11 more classrooms now that funding has been approved to seismically upgrade and expand Peter Ewart Middle school (in Langley).”
How could the government make that announcement when there’s a freeze on?
On July 7, Liberal critic Peter Milobar claimed there was a freeze on education spending.
The Victoria Times Colonist reported the Liberals claiming seven capital projects at schools had been put off by the province, including an $87-million replacement for Mission Secondary.
“The concern has arisen that there appears to be an NDP school freeze here in capital,” said Milobar.
Wednesday’s Liberal release claimed 31 school district board chairs had said their approved budgets either “contained substantial cuts” or required them to dip into reserves.
The release went on at length to claim the proposed new museum was to blame for the cuts elsewhere, even though it’s an unrelated issue.
And now, the museum certainly can’t be blamed after Premier John Horgan halted the project on Wednesday.
Also, it’s not uncommon for school boards to propose all kinds of capital projects and the government to pare them back.
Local school boards send their wish lists in every year and are usually disappointed when the government rejects many of the items.
Since the Liberals claimed a freeze was in place on June 7, the government has issued these releases:
— June 10 – “Selkirk College set for growth in Trail.”
— June 13 – “Seismic upgrades complete at two Surrey schools”
— June 14 – “South Langford families look forward to new elementary school.”
And the $37.8 million announcement on Tuesday.
In Trail, the government is investing $1 million in upgrades to the Kootenay college, which recently purchased the building it had been leasing for 25 years.
In Surrey, $21.4 million in seismic upgrades have been completed at two elementary schools, with several other school projects under construction in the area, the government said.
In Victoria’s big-box suburb of Langford, The province committed $39.6 million to build a 480-seat school.
In February, the government committed $102.7 million to build a new high school in West Kelowna on the George Pringle site.
All that spending tells us there isn’t a freeze going on, as the Liberals claim.
The opposition party can certainly criticize projects that weren’t approved or funded, and the museum project. That’s fair game. But a freeze is not what’s happening.
— City Editor Pat Bulmer