“While the Royal City Record chose not to print the attached letter to the editor in today’s edition, along with many others it apparently continued to receive on the subject of using Grimston Park for school purposes, I wanted to share it with you, Mr. Ewen, with other candidates seeking office either on the School Board or City Council (having email addresses I could find), and with our MLA.
The unpublished letter follows below.
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 11:48 PM
Subject: Michael Ewen Lacking Education
School Board Trustee and Board Chair Michael Ewen in his letter to the Editor (November 8th edition, “Board chair defends process”) laments the lack of sufficient lands for the required school needs in New Westminster and states: “Now I recognize that this is not an ideal solution, and the city would need to come to the table with cash and support the school and the community in resolving this option [of two schools on the Tweedsmuir site]”. What this illustrates is a profound ignorance of the fact that schools, like hospitals, are NOT the responsibility of this City or any municipality. They are the responsibility of the Province.
Municipalities and cities have a bevy of responsibilities in providing local services to their local residents, businesses and industries. These include police and fire protection, roads, water distribution and sewer collection infrastructure, garbage collection, parks and recreation facilities, libraries, planning services, building permit and inspection services, arts and cultural facilities/services, etcetera. Municipalities and cities choose to provide these services to the extent their electorate is prepared to pay for them, noting their potential for generating the required revenue is largely confined to property taxes. Many municipalities and cities have long complained to the Provincial Government that this limited means of paying for local services is inadequate and not necessarily the most equitable, particularly when compared to the various means available to the Provincial Government for generating revenue for its services (i.e., income tax, sales tax, royalties and other license fees).
The provision of schools and hospitals has not been a municipal/city responsibility for many decades, primarily because the Province saw a compelling need to provide a standard level of these services to all people in the Province. Property owners see a separate “school tax” on their yearly property tax notice but this is collected with your municipal/city taxes only for convenience, as are taxes to support the B.C. Assessment Authority and several other agencies. Schools are not a municipal/city responsibility but a responsibility of the Provincial Government Ministry of Education, with assistance from local School Boards. Mr. Ewen is totally off base in suggesting that the City of New Westminster has any responsibility to provide cash or land (e.g., park land) to relieve the School Board and Ministry of Education of their responsibility to adequately address the educational facility deficit in our City. The City is already lacking in its planning for acquisition of future park space to serve neighbourhoods like the West End that will see population increases in future years. Mr. Ewen needs to go back to school and learn about jurisdictional responsibilities.
Unlike many municipalities and cities now facing declining school enrollments and the difficult decisions regarding school closures, New Westminster is facing continued increases in school aged children and projecting this will continue for several years. Anticipating the future school aged population – whether declining, holding steady or increasing – is not easy, as neither the local School Board or Ministry of Education can readily predict how demographics will change year-to-year. However, that is their challenge. Municipalities and cities have their own challenges in providing the diverse services they are responsible for. To look to a municipality or city to help bail out a local School Board and the Ministry of Education for their failure to adequately plan for the future and provide the required school facilities represents another example of Provincial down-loading that should be resisted at all cost. There are already too many problems being faced by municipalities and cities, such as homelessness, as a consequence of our Provincial Government’s failure to fulfill its obligations, favouring instead to cut taxes to appease those who believe less government is better government.
Mr. Ewen should be directing his attention to our Minister of Education in Victoria, not to our City Council in New Westminster.