Richmond MLA Candidates Speak Out On Education Issues
Published: Oct 22, 2020

With the Provincial Election coming up this weekend, the Richmond Board of Education provided candidates with an opportunity to answer questions relating to current issues in education, with the focus on the following categories: COVID-19 funding, capital expenditures, Indigenous education and mental health and wellness. Each riding was assigned a category, and all MLA candidates within the riding responded to the same question.

Riding: Richmond South Centre (Alexa Loo – Liberal & Henry Yao – NDP)

Category: Covid-19 Funding

Question: This year, many school districts are relying on a combination of utilizing contingency reserves, a special purpose grant from the provincial government and a one-time grant from the federal government to cover the numerous COVID-19 related costs associated with operating safe and healthy schools during this pandemic. The regular operating grants are not enough to cover the costs associated with the extensive health and safety requirements necessary to operate schools during a pandemic.

  • Noting that government is tracking COVID-19 related costs through multiple data points, does your party commit to ensuring that districts will have the funds necessary to fully cover all federal and provincial health and safety requirements as long as COVID-19 remains a public health concern?
  • What policy and/or practical changes would your government put in place to address the loss of student learning time?

Answer: Alexa Loo (Liberals)

Short answer: Yes. 

We know that the early formative years of our kids are critical to their long-term development.  This includes learning in a safe environment with their peers.  My children went back to school in June and again in September in Richmond.  As parents, Ari and I have been impressed with the work done by the board, teachers and staff to welcome, teach and keep our kids safe.  This work must be supported at the Provincial level.  The BC Liberals are committed to ensuring that school districts have the funds necessary to fully cover the federal and provincial health and safety requirements while COVID-19 is a public health concern.

The BC Liberals will ensure consistent options for full-time, regular school in a safe setting during the pandemic.  This includes:  hybrid and online - whether in a public, independent school or via online learning or Independent Distributed Learning.  Richmond has 30%, the highest percentage in the province, of children whose families opted for the transitional learning model.  We need to make sure that all learners are treated equally.  Ensuring that all of our children get the education and the learning time that they deserve is a priority for the BC Liberals.

Answer: Henry Yao (NDP)

COVID-19 is the biggest challenge our schools are facing - but with the support and input of public health officials, parents, teachers, school districts and the staff that work in our schools, we are overcoming the COVID-19 obstacles. $288 million in combined provincial and federal funding is being distributed to districts for the 2020/21 school year for COVID-19 related resource needs. These funds have gone towards technology upgrades, as well as hiring more teachers and support staff to better support alternative learning options. To date more than 600 new teachers have been hired, as well as nearly 100 new education assistants. 

On top of this $288 million in funding for the 2020/21 school year, a re-elected BC NDP government will make an additional investment of $46.2 million for a total of $344.2 million in funding, for districts to use as they see fit. We understand that district needs differ across the province, so through our education partner COVID-19 working group that includes parents, teachers, administrators, trustees and public health professionals, we remain committed to navigating any issues or concerns that arise during this school year and beyond. While we all hope we have seen the worst of the pandemic, we are planning for every eventuality. 

We also believe that open lines of communication and being seated at the table together are integral to working through issues and concerns in a constructive and beneficial manner for all parties and commit to continuing these discussions towards problem-solving. If I'm elected as the MLA for Richmond South Centre, I would be happy to meet with the Richmond Board of Education to discuss all of this in more detail.

Riding: Richmond North Centre (Vernon Wang – Green Party, Teresa Wat – Liberal & Jaeden Dela Torre – NDP)

Category: Capital Expenditures

Question: Considering the need for post COVID-19 economic recovery, will your party commit to a substantial education infrastructure program to:

  • reduce the growing levels of deferred maintenance in public schools,
  • prioritize and accelerate seismic upgrades in school buildings
  • implement clean energy conversions sufficient to achieve provincial energy consumption and emission targets and
  • reduce the number of students attending school in portable classrooms?

Answer: Jaeden Dela Torre (NDP)

We know how difficult times have been since the COVID19 pandemic started, that’s why we’re committed to ensuring education does not suffer because of the pandemic. Since 2017, the BC NDP government has made investments into public education that have given students more opportunities. Although there is still much work that needs to be done, we’re nonetheless on the right path moving forward. We’re committed to ensuring we keep students safe during the pandemic and investing into strengthening our education infrastructure. Our plan is to continue to make classrooms safer through the installation of new ventilation systems, plexiglass barriers in key areas of the school, and comprehensive cleaning stations. As well as planning to fast track improvements to online and remote learning. We have invested a record $2 billion over three years for new schools, expansions, and seismic upgrades. And in Richmond alone, we invested nearly $100 million into seismic upgrades to make schools safe for our children. We are continuing the largest modernization of schools, with the focus on meeting the seismic requirements and climate change and energy efficiency standards set in our CleanBC plan. The BC NDP knows how important education is, and we have prioritized infrastructure spending into ensuring we have the best education system in BC.

Answer: Vernon Wang (Green Party)

BC Green Party is planning to implement:

1.To help support the integration of Early Child Education (ECE) into our public-school system, the BC Greens will:

  • Provide $300 million in new funding 2021/22 to begin the phase-in of up to 25 hours’ free early childhood education programs per week for 3- and 4-year old’s, rising to $550 million as capacity expands;
  • Provide $100 million in new funding to create a new capital program in the Ministry of Education to fund renovation and additions to existing schools to support ECE spaces.

2. To help address affordability, to ensure that no child attends school hungry, and to better integrate nutrition into our curriculum, the BC Greens would create a new $25 million fund for school districts to develop a food program for their schools in their district.

  • Proposals would be developed by the district to ensure local needs are addressed;
  • Funding would be conditional on ensuring the program integrated nutrition into the curriculum and showed how the plan would eliminate the stigma associated with accessing food programming.

3. Work with our education partners on a long-term plan for how BC can improve its per-student funding. This would include:

  • Addressing the continued disparities in wages, class size, and composition between districts;
  • Access to speech-language pathologists and school psychologists, and develop new resources for students with special needs.
  • This starts with the development of a new funding formula that supports a 21st-century education system.

All plans are carried out across the province, but in Richmond, priority can be given according to local conditions, such as deferred maintenance, seismic upgrade of school buildings, implementation of clean energy conversion, and reduction of portable classrooms.

Answer: Teresa Wat (Liberals)

The BC Liberal Party has already announced major new capital commitments as part of an investment of $8 billion in additional infrastructure spending to support pandemic recovery. This includes an explicit commitment to upgrade K-12 facilities and building new schools throughout the province. This will include improvements to the provincial building code to maximize energy efficiency. I anticipate Richmond would also be a beneficiary of these projects and I would advocate on behalf of the district in our areas of highest priority. 

Riding: Richmond-Steveston (Vince Li – Independent, Matt Pitcairn – Liberal & Kelly Greene – NDP)

Category: Indigenous Education

Question: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) call to action recommendation number 57 states: “We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”

  • How will your government work with local boards of education to support and implement the TRC’s call to action number 57?
  • Boards of education across B.C. have worked hard to begin a comprehensive implementation of the B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement (BCTEA) focused on supporting Indigenous student success. How will your government support the continued implementation of this important agreement?

Answer: Matt Pitcairn (Liberals)

  • We strongly believe that success can only be achieved as equal partners working collaboratively towards successful outcomes. 
  • We also know that the early, formative years of our children's lives are critical to their long-term health and success.
  • The BC Liberals will engage with First Nations on a government-to-government basis in order to successfully implement the Declaration Act.
  • That includes education - something our party understands is important to First Nations, especially around areas such as language and culture, and the need to revitalize and preserve both.
  • We are committed to the principles detailed in the B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement and will work collaboratively with all three parties to advance the objectives and support successful education outcomes for all students in BC.

Answer: Kelly Greene (NDP)

When the BC NDP formed government in 2017, each Cabinet Minister received a mandate letter from John Horgan that included a commitment to fully adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The BC NDP carried this value forward with the passing of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.  With that comes a lot of work to ensuring that reconciliation is carried forward, including in our schools.

If re-elected, a BC NDP government will continue to make systemic shifts to support successful educational outcomes for all Indigenous students as called for and guided by the B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement. We will work to expand the number of First Nations languages taught in B.C. schools and invest in Indigenous teacher training curriculum development. We will work to modernize Indigenous content in all curriculum. Guided by the B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement, a BC NDP government will work with FNESC to review legislation to identify necessary legislative changes to achieve systemic shifts to support successful educational outcomes for all Indigenous students.

I’m excited to work together with our local teachers and elected school boards to modernize education and transform our public schools into places of respect and celebration of the history, cultures, and resilience of Indigenous peoples. It will be a lot of hard work - but if I am fortunate enough to be elected in Richmond-Steveston, I will work directly with you to implement these goals and to keep channels of dialogue open between the provincial and local government.

Note.  Our apologies as were unable to find any contact information for Independent candidate Vince Li

Riding: Richmond-Queensborough (Kay Hale – Conservative, Earl Einarson – Green, Jas Johal – Liberal & Aman Singh – NDP)

Category: Mental Health and Wellness

Question: The new K-12 Mental Health in Schools Plan is sound, but the funding and implementation associated with the plan does not go far enough to allow comprehensive implementation across all schools. The current implementation has resulted in a patchwork of foundry services across the province and integrated care teams in just 10 per cent of districts. Does your party commit to the implementation of care teams and a province-wide network of foundry services within the next five years to help meet the mental health and wellness needs of children and youth across the province?

Answer: Kay Hale (Conservatives)

BC’s Conservative MLA’s will work with the Local Government, Municipalities, including support groups – to ensure Mental Health Service  treatments and rehabilitation facilities are put in place, to enhance capacity and access to critical frontline child and youth mental health Services.
 
Hire additional counselling and therapy professionals. Set up easy to access Clinic per School Board to Support families and caregivers of Student Children and Youth with mental health and addictions challenges. 

Conservative BC will expend on, building a mental health and addictions system across the Province where Students and families are fully supported and have access better quality mental health services that would allow our students the opportunity to flourish.

Conservative BC clearly seen the demand for mental health supports for children and youth and we must ensure their needs are being met. 

Answer: Jas Johal (Liberals)

A BCL government, commits to expanding Foundry Centres and Integrated Mobile Crisis Response Teams to respond to mental health-related emergencies.  We will also work towards having psychiatric nurses in every school. 

Answer: Aman Singh (NDP)

As an advocate for the mental health and recovery community, I know how important it is to ensure that young people have access to mental health supports. I am ten years sober, and I know I could not have made it to this point in my life without the work of dedicated professionals who support mental health and wellness in our communities. One of the first things John Horgan did to make mental health supports a priority in 2017 was to appoint a minister of Mental Health and Addictions. In 2019 our government opened a Foundry centre to provide care close to home for young people in Richmond. But there is more work to be done. That's why the BC NDP has committed to our 10-year Pathway to Hope mental health plan, including dedicated mental health teams in school districts, and Foundry youth centres across the province. We are also expanding access to counselling and reducing counselling costs so that all people can have access to care. We are committed to better supporting children and youth so everyone gets the help they need, when they need it. Overall, the BC NDP's healthcare plan includes nearly $378 million more than the BC Liberals in new mental health and addictions spending. 

Note.  Our apologies as we did not receive a reply from Earl Einarson (Green Party)