Election Promises Never Delivered Upon
Dateline BC Election 2005: Then Premier Gordon Campbelll re-announces a $1.5 Billion
commitment to fully address the problem no one wants to talk about: tens of thousands of BC
school children attend school daily in building facilities at elevated, in some cases,
extremely high risk, of structural failure or collapse.
Surely $1.5B could fix all this? It might almost have done, had the funds been actually
spent on school seismic mitigation projects. Surprise: those promises were ethereal and
largely not delivered upon.
Fast Forward To Today
In the spring of 2013, just prior to the May 2013 provincial election, Premier Christy Clark
announced a commitment to spend $545 million dollars on 45 school upgrades where an
"upgrade" project ranges from a simple, low-cost, effort to strap down objects in an
otherwise relatively safe structure, all the way to invasive seismic upgrades of structure to
complete school replacements.
There's a problem with these promises: you can't buy
a cup of coffee with them. Election promises are not the
same thing as signed, Treasury-board funded, project
BC Government Gets "F" On Report Card
How is the current provincial government doing on its commitment to school seismic safety?
Objectively we can't even give the current BC provincial government a "meets" requirements mark.
While a number of projects are underway or have recently been completed, many of these projects
were initiated under the former government led by Gordon Campbell and new project approvals
have been slow to materialize. No project agreement = no progress and kids in unsafe schools for yet another year.
BC Government Spending Priorities Must Change
Looking at the school seismic safety track record of various provincial governments over the years
it becomes clear that the political leaders of our province place spending on highway and bridge projects, convention centres, liquour stores, and sporting arenas over the importance of providing tens of thousands of school-aged children a seismically safe place to learn.
Do the math: 1 over-budget Vancouver convention centre divided by an average elementary school replacement project means 40 (forty!) elementary schools could be built, moving as many as 16,000 students out of harms way into a seismically safe school. Or take 1 retractable BC place statium roof project divided by the average cost for a secondary school upgrade or replacement equals 11 new or upgraded schools and moves a further 15,000 students or more from a dangerous facility to one where they can be expected to survive a major earthquake.
Scope Of The Problem
still have 180 high risk elementary and secondary public schools that require structural upgrading or complete replacement to be
considered safe for children, staff, parents, and other facility users. Here are some sobering statistics from our soon to be published on-line database:
# District Status
34 Abbotsford 6 of 36 schools (17%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
35 Langley 10 of 39 schools (26%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
36 Surrey 9 of 80 schools (11%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
37 Delta 3 of 31 schools (10%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
38 Richmond 5 of 38 schools (13%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
39 Vancouver 69 of 108 schools (64%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
41 Burnaby 16 of 48 schools (33%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
42 Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows
2 of 20 schools (10%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
43 Coquitlam 17 of 54 schools (31%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
44 North Vancouver 8 of 38 schools (21%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
47 Powell River 1 of 8 schools (12%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
61 Greater Victoria 14 of 46 schools (30%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
62 Sooke 6 of 16 schools (38%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
63 Saanich 8 of 18 schools (44%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
68 Nanaimo/Ladysmith 6 of 41 schools (15%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
70 Alberni 1 of 12 schools (8%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
71 Comox Valley 1 of 21 schools (5%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
75 Mission 1 of 15 schools (7%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
78 Fraser-Cascade 1 of 10 schools (10%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
79 Cowichan Valley 4 of 26 schools (15%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
93 Conseil Scolaire Francophone
2 of 9 schools (22%) do not meet structural life safety requirements
Not included in the above tally? Private elementary and secondary schools, post-secondary institutions, private training facilities and other education-related facilities supporting education for tens of thousands of youth and adult learners. Using BCIT (46,000 full and part time students) as an example, as of 2013 twenty-nine of its forty-three campus buildings remain at a high risk of structural failure in the event of a major earthquake. With many tens of thousands of students ranging from kindergarten through university studies at risk, imagine the negative impact a destructive earthquake would have on our primary, secondary, and post-secondary education system.
What Must Be Done
If as a society
we truly value the safety of our most vulnerable segment of the population - our children - there really is
no alternative facing us but to redirect some of our spending to this high priority need.
BC must not wait for a completely preventable tragedy to occur before kicking this effort into high gear. We are not a third world country but an affluent, capable, nation.
What Can YOU Do?
First off, get informed. Find out the seismic safety status of your children's schools by following links
on this site or through contacting your local school district. Private schools do not publish this information as
readily as public schools must so be prepared to be persistent if your children attend a private educational institution.
Secondly, make your voice heard. Attend a school district board meeting; ask to be on the agenda. Write the Minister of Education and your local MLA. Write your local newspapers and call into radio talk shows. Join a Families for School Seismic Safety letter writing and public awareness campaign - we run these on a regular basis. Contact us and volunteer to become an organizer and bring your own energy and drive to see this effort through to completion. We continually need new members working on the problem as families move into and out of the school system as their children grow up. Let's not fail those who come after us through lack of resolve and action today.
Working together we *can* accelerate
the pace of seismic mitigation project approvals and
completions. Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Families for School Seismic Safety is a non-partisan organization dedicated to advancing the cause
of school seismic safety for the benefit of all British Columbia school facility users. Tens of thousands of children, staff, parents, night school students, after school scholastic and sports rental users, day-care and other facility users make use of buildings that are not structurally safe in the event of a major earthquake. We are exposing our most vulnerable to magnified risk. This is not a partisan issue.
The community supporting Bayview Community School has put together
a multi-media plea in support of their call to action to make their school
facility seismically safe and address serious on-going functional facility deficiencies
children and staff are forced to live with every day.
Please view their presentation and show your support for their cause by signing
the petition they have started at Change.org - View and Sign the petition
Bayview PAC are maintaining a seismic-upgrade issues page - check here for more
information about the state of their school facility.
What else can you/we all do?
Write a letter to the editor of local papers. In Vancouver a concise letter
under 200 words will often catch the eye of publishers at the Vancouver Courier,
Vancouver Province, and Vancouver Sun. Remember seismic safety in our schools
is not just a Vancouver problem - many schools in Victoria and other island,
Sunshine Coast, and even in-land mainland schools are at risk.
Especially now in the lead up to the B.C. provincial election it is important to communicate with your polictical representatives. It is their job to listen to constituents and bring forward their concerns to the Legislature. Please take on the responsibility to write or better yet make an appointment to visit your MLA and communicate in person your concerns about seismic safety and school facility needs.
A list of all BC Members of the Legislative Assembly and their constituency
office contact details can be found at http://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm