Last week, the B.C. Liberal government made two very timely announcements.
On the heels of protests in Richmond for better public education and against the suggested closure of three of our elementary schools, the provincial government finally decided to respond to the education crisis facing our city.
First, the arbitrary 95 per cent capacity requirement for public schools is now removed.
Minister of Education Mike Bernier tried to suggest that Richmondites were somehow misdirected and confused about the capacity requirement.
I would like to point out that the 95 per cent mandate came from the provincial Liberals, not the citizens of Richmond.
The second announcement was that hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into seismic upgrades of schools across the province.
I would like to clarify for Richmond residents that at present, none of the public schools in Richmond are being upgraded.
The provincial Liberals haven’t completed a single seismic upgrading project in Richmond since 2011.
The Province newspaper recently published a list of the most vulnerable schools across the province that will collapse in the event of an earthquake.
The provincial government classifies these schools as H1, the “Most vulnerable structure; at highest risk of widespread damage or structural failure; not repairable after event.”
Thirteen of the 44 schools on the list of H1 schools are in Richmond. Thirty per cent of the most unsafe schools are in Richmond. More than 3,000 Richmond children attend these H1 schools.
Why is Richmond being completely overlooked by the Ministry of Education?
Why don’t our kids deserve safe schools like kids in the rest of the province?
It has nothing to do with declining enrollment and the potential for school closures in Richmond, as Bernier would like you to believe, because schools not on the closure list, such as Cook or Steves, have not been approved for upgrades, despite being classified H1.
The bottom line is that our Richmond MLAs have been MIA when it comes to advocating for our kids, our schools and our community.
Not one of them, John Yap, Teresa Wat nor Linda Reid has stepped up to publicly fight for the safety of our kids.
They have been hiding comfortably behind closed doors, regurgitating the provincial Liberal messages through email.
They have become talking heads, completely detached and complacent.
Is this who we want to advocate for our city?
Even if you do not have school-aged children, your friends, neighbours and family members do. And chances are, you have a connection to a child at one of these schools.
I have a seven-year-old who attends one of these schools. It guts me to think that he spends six hours a day, five days a week on the second floor of such a vulnerable building, while his only defense in an earthquake will be to hide under his little desk.
My message is simple.
Our Richmond MLAs are clearly not doing their job to advocate for our city or the safety of our children. It’s time to stand up or step down Mr. Yap, Ms. Wat and Ms. Reid.
Richmond deserves better.