Christy Clark putting children at risk with political games around seismic upgrades

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John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan Leader of the B.C. New Democrats
John Horgan
Leader of the B.C. New Democrats

Victoria: The safety of B.C. children should never be put at risk in the pursuit of political games. But that is just what Christy Clark is doing by denying seismic upgrades of high risk B.C. schools in areas that the B.C. Liberals have decided not to target for votes.

There are 265 children who go to Shoreline Middle School in Victoria. Last year, there were 453 children at Minnekhada in Port Coquitlam. The schools these children go to are at the highest level of risk of collapsing in an earthquake.

Just like children in Surrey struggling to learn in portables, the children at these schools shouldn’t be spending their days in substandard buildings, let alone dangerous ones. Yet, the seismic upgrades of these schools were cancelled once the Christy Clark Liberals decided their parents’ votes didn’t matter.

Of course, that’s not what Christy Clark told school trustees, parents and kids in Greater Victoria and Port Coquitlam.

Her government told them that the scheduled seismic upgrades at these schools were cancelled because these schools didn’t meet enrollment requirements.

But that simply wasn’t true. B.C. New Democrats obtained documents showing that those enrollment requirements that the Christy Clark government used as an excuse to deny children of safe schools don’t exist. It was pure fabrication. The documents clearly state “there are no capacity targets for seismic upgrades,” and “the 95 per cent threshold… is NOT a seismic target.”

Back when their parents’ votes mattered to Christy Clark, in 2013 just prior to the last election, these children and their families were promised earthquake-safe schools. At the time, Christy Clark told the people in those communities that “absolutely nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe.”

Clearly, Premier Clark doesn’t believe that – because she didn’t keep her promise to these children and these families, and now that she doesn’t want their votes, she never intends to.

British Columbia is an active seismic zone, with researchers suggesting there is a one in three chance that we will have a catastrophic earthquake within the next 50 years. The B.C. Liberals promised that 45 of the highest risk schools in the province would be made safer by now. They haven’t been. That’s bad enough – but deciding which schools will get upgrades based on politics is worse.

Hundreds of children are being put at risk simply because they don’t live in communities where the B.C. Liberal election campaign is trying to make gains. That’s wrong. Our children’s lives are not pawns to be traded for votes.

Decisions about which schools get seismic upgrades should be made based on the danger that they pose to our children, not based on Christy Clark’s election plans.

British Columbians deserve a government and a premier that’s in their corner – no matter what part of the province they live in – a government that doesn’t put the needs of ordinary families and B.C. communities below their election schemes.

Most of all, they deserve a government that is focused on serving the people of this province.

A New Democrat government, led by me, will refocus our province on the needs of the people who live and work here. Because that’s what British Columbians deserve.