Maple Ridge MLA Dalton to help in education

Local Liberal MLA named parliamentary secretary for education

He didn’t make it into cabinet, but local MLA Marc Dalton has the next best thing – helping out Education Minister Don McRae with that file.

Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission) was named parliamentary secretary for independent schools this week as Premier Christy Clark re-organized her cabinet following a raft of resignations.

“It’s important. I’ve visited dozens of schools over the past year. There’s such a variety of schools and so many different needs and things they offer. I find every time I go to a place, it’s an education in and of itself,” said Dalton, a former high school and elementary teacher in Maple Ridge.

“I think this position of parliamentary secretary is a reflection of the emphasis the government places on family choice – choice of education.”

He pointed out more than 11 per cent of the student population is enrolled in independent schools, and because tuition fees are paid by parents, the education ministry saves money.

In return for dishing out about $250 million for independent schools, the government saves more than $300-$350 million, Dalton said.

“I’m looking forward to this. It’s something I’ve been doing for a little while, looking to continue this.”

He was previously liaison for independent schools to the minister.

Dalton said the government also showed its commitment to choice by opening boundaries for high school catchment areas, allowing students to attend schools that specialize in certain areas.

Dalton said he knows McRae, formerly agriculture minister, and says he’s a teacher and “a good guy.”

Despite all the resignations, in particular Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom’s resignation a night before Wednesday’s cabinet shuffle, there are only two new members of cabinet, one of those being Ralph Sultan, 79, former Harvard professor and Minister of State for Seniors. The other is Norm Letnick, the new agricultural minister.

Dalton said in the 2009 election, there were nine cabinet ministers who resigned, and this time, as the province readies for an election next May, there were four.

“I would say the majority would be normal attrition.”

Many had been there since early 2000s. While poll results may influence some decisions, he added, most were expected.

Dalton pointed to this week’s Quebec election, in which the governing Liberal party was expected to be wiped out, but won 50 seats.

He says he’s currently working on several local issues, including getting funding for a new school in Albion and increasing the frequency of the West Coast Express.

He said he’s had many conversations about the latter. TransLink started a review of the West Coast Express service a year ago, including the possibility of increasing frequency.

Currently, the Mission-to-Vancouver commuter train runs only five times each morning and night on weekdays.

The current agreement with CP Rail for leasing of track time expires in 2015. More track time allowing more frequent trains would have to be included in a new leasing agreement.

“That’s something I’ve been working on since I was elected,” Dalton said.

The study will also include the yet-to-be-built Evergreen SkyTrain line from Port Coquitlam to Burnaby and how that could complement the West Coast Express.

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