by Andru McCracken, Editor

Sometimes you only appreciate something until it’s threatened. For me, I suddenly find myself appreciating the Valemount Learning Centre. Which, we learned before Christmas, will no longer hold the Work BC contract. They had 25 years experience in the business, so somebody better have a very good plan about how they are going to fill the shoes of the Valemount Learning Centre because they are big shoes.

Experienced staff, a location on Valemount’s main drag (that significantly boosts the number of people downtown). They hosted a suite of related programs that have been making Valemount a better place for years: the V-Crew Youth Centre, a strong ESL and Literacy program and CNC college courses. The Work BC contract provided the space for Valemount to have these services. It became an umbrella for so much more.

The Learning Centre was also the rich soil that fostered two amazing projects: Valemount College and the Valemount Affordable Rentals Society.

Both of these projects are amazing because they address the underlying issues facing Valemount as a community. Both projects target deep and long-term economic development.

What other organization is in a position to do this kind of work?

Our community is unlike Prince George. We don’t have millions in government spending to help sustain our community, not like the kind of dollars attracted by a regional hospital, by a university and scads of government jobs. We’ve been through a period of emaciation thanks to 16 years of Liberal rule, now, we get another turn at the hands of the BC NDP I suppose.

Will the new contractor take on a role in housing or support the college? I wonder.

We’re reassured that these two projects are safe. I know technically they are independent of the Learning centre, but let’s not be naive. So much volunteer work has sat on the backs of people who had full time jobs at the centre.

(Other organizations that believe in these projects and the underlying strategy behind them need to step up. I hope that the people who are running the Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Program take a long thoughtful look at applications by the rentals society or the college if they do apply. We need to work together as a community to counter this blow.)

So another group, as yet unveiled, has decided they’ll take on the Work BC role. One hopes they’ll choose to contribute as much, but it’s hard to imagine they can.

There is some other fallout that doesn’t bode well. Will we have a new empty building on 5th Avenue?

Are you prepared to accept the fate the Valemount Learning Centre? I’m not there yet.

I want VLC to be the subcontractor for Work BC for Valemount.”  And the reason is because they are one of the few organizations in this town that have demonstrated how their success can enrich the entire community.

I encourage people with similar concerns to express their dismay to our provincial representative MLA Shirley Bond, the Valemount Learning Centre, and the new contractor. Once again, important services are being cut to the bone and it makes for a poorer community. This is not necessarily fait accompli. I think it’s worthwhile that we let people know our concerns.