B.C. Liberals need to smarten up and keep ESL programs running

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John HorganIn just a few weeks, thousands of students will be left in the lurch as the Clark government shuts down English as a Second Language programs across this province.

These shutdowns are the result of a B.C. Liberal government that says one thing and does another.
Christy Clark has said that training is a priority – but her government is leaving college students in the cold, and striking a blow to our province’s economic future. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk, who immigrated to this country just like my father did, is doing nothing to help this generation of new British Columbians who are trying to build a good life here.
These students depend on these programs to increase their language ability and better their future. And we all benefit when students get the language training they need to enter the workforce, bringing their skills to our job market and developing our province’s economy.
In post-secondary institutions like Vancouver Community College, Douglas College and Camosun College, ESL programs offer ladders of opportunity. They prepare students for productive careers or further post-secondary education – some courses look specifically at the language skills needed in career areas like health science and engineering.
But on Dec. 1, these programs will disappear.
The B.C. Liberals like to blame the federal government for this situation.
But what they are more reluctant to mention is that, before the federal government stepped in, it was the provincial government that paid this portion of funding to ESL programs. Now that the federal funding is scheduled to disappear, the B.C. Liberals refuse to reinstate the previous level of funding to keep these programs running.
They also don’t like to mention that they were in discussions with the federal government prior to these cuts being made, and approved of them at the time. Despite his government endorsing the federal plan, after the cuts were announced Minister Amrik Virk told media that he didn’t know what the cuts would mean. On Monday, Oct. 27, hundreds of ESL college students and their supporters will visit the legislature to tell the government what they think of these cuts – and when they do, I hope Minister Virk will pay attention this time.
I believe that these programs need to be funded – for the future of the students who are enrolled in them, and for our own future as a province.