EDITORIAL: Well-timed words are not enough

Provincial government funding announcements come with election looming next spring.

It’s a time-worn tradition for the party in power that, in the months leading up to an election, it gives away money for all types of projects – or simply re-announces money already doled out.

Usually, this pot of gold was accrued through years and years of cutbacks and fee increases.

The timing of the announcements – the next provincial election is set for next May – is such that we’re expected to simply forget about all the negative, instead revelling in the glow of one shiny, newly funded project or another.

Outside of Metro Vancouver, these announcements include the Rural Education Fund – which was created to keep rural school opens. It comes after more than a decade of school closures enforced by the provincial government through strict no-deficit laws that left school boards no choice but to make tough decisions.

On the subject of education, it’s no surprise there have been, in recent weeks, a number of funding announcements from the governing BC Liberals that aim to alleviate Surrey’s lack of schools – a problem that’s only getting worse as development continues unabated.

Late last month, the provincial government announced funding for six new Surrey schools, including an elementary school in north Clayton Heights and a new secondary school in rapidly growing Grandview Heights.

And while the announcement is a welcome one, the timing, as always, is suspect – and too little, too late to help the current crop of students in the city. Surrey School Board chair Shawn Wilson said as much, stating that while all involved were “relieved and happy,” the overcrowded-schools issue should have been dealt with years ago.

“It’s one thing to get the announcement, but if this announcement today had occurred four years ago, we would be opening a new secondary school within months.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, teachers and administrators at rural schools, which for years have faced the possibility of closure – or severe cutbacks, if nothing else – are likely wondering why support for students in some of the province’s more rural regions is only coming now; in April, for example, the local school district voted to close Osoyoos Secondary – the town’s only high school – in order to avoid a deficit.

In any situation – be it Surrey or elsewhere – residents deserve more than just conveniently timed funding announcements.

And it won’t simply be cynicism rearing its head when people take a critical look at any further political pronouncements from now until next spring.

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