Editorial: B.C. Credit rating not the only lofty goal

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By: Korie Marshall, Editor

Financial well-being can be both a lofty and an important goal, but I would argue that it is not the only goal, and certainly not the only measure of good government.

Two members of Valemount Council attended a “Dinner with the Premier” on April 17th, which the Premier did not actually attend, but Finance Minister Mike de Jong did. It sounds like the dinner is some sort of tradition, maybe a fundraiser, and I don’t know how much it cost, but Mayor Jeannette Townsend told Council that her seat was paid for by the Council of Forest Industries. Councillor Peter Reimer said his seat was paid for by the Valemount Community Forest.

At last week’s Council meeting, both Townsend and Reimer said they were impressed with the review of BC’s economy given by Minister de Jong at the dinner.

“We probably live in the best province in Canada, the best part of the world, and our credit rating is the best there is, and things are being done right,” said Reimer.

Townsend made note that BC’s credit rating is triple A, whereas the United States’ is only double A. “That speaks volumes about the efficiency and care that our provincial government gives to our financial well-being in this province. That is significant,” said Townsend.

I agree it is significant, and I agree that we are living in a great part of Canada, which is a great part of the world. But I don’t think that our province’s great credit rating and whatever the Liberal government had to do to get us there is the only measure. Especially not when I look around at some of the declining services and the shortfalls in budgets we are currently dealing with, like what is going on with our local school board right now.

School Board 57 has to cut $3.3 million from its budget this year, and the Trustees, the administrators, the teachers are struggling with how to do that. Especially here in the Robson Valley. Things are already tight; we are already struggling with a funding formula that just doesn’t work for rural schools. That means kids are leaving our schools, which makes the budgets even tighter. We already lost the Dunster Fine Arts School, and it may be hard to imagine that the school board could close another of our schools (they say it’s not on the table this year, but they haven’t ruled it out for future years), but if they just don’t have the money, I can imagine they may not have an option soon. And if we lose any more of our schools, it’s going to be that much harder to keep and attract families here. Without families, there’s no community.

I know a budget is never an easy thing to do, and it always looks good on paper if you can get it balanced. Even better if you can convince lenders to give you money for a while, at reasonable rates of interest. But every time we praise the provincial government for its fiscal prudence, we are condoning the actions they took to get us there – like their cuts to our local education system.

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