Complaints of provincial downloading to municipalities, and requests for more transit money topped the list of concerns the BC Liberal rural caucus heard Thursday afternoon.
Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton and other panel members met with local politicians and the public at Cedarbrooke Chateau Aug. 4, which saw Mayor James Atebe thanking the government for infrastructure funding, diking upgrades and the Spirit Square, but requesting financial help to cover off services the provincial government used to cover.
The current state of public transit, Atebe said, “is a far cry from meeting the needs of families.”
Not only do buses run too infrequently, he said there are few options for reaching nearby communities like Abbotsford.
But the need for better public transit should not involve joining TransLink, warned Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes, who said rising costs are out of control with the public transportation company and Mission taxpayers can’t afford it.
“If we were to entertain any idea of joining TransLink, we’d spend a tremendous amount of money,” he said.
Atebe also brought up the rising costs of Mission RCMP, stating the district funds about 90 per cent of the local detachment, when historically the province would pay up to 30 per cent.
Coun. Heather Stewart asked the caucus how they would be able to deliver on the premier’s “families first” message when the federal government has made cutbacks to child care.
But Hawes defended the cuts, saying Canada can’t afford to let spending and deficits get out of control like California and the U.S. government.
“Jobs are still the best social program,” he said.
Mission school trustee Pam Alexis raised similar concerns about reductions, saying four schools have had to close in the district because of budget constraints. They are trying to keep rural Deroche elementary, located approximately 20 minutes east of Mission, open for September, despite only 60 students will be enrolled.
Closing this school would negatively affect aboriginal graduation rates, said Alexis, given Deroche’s large First Nations population. The rural site also serves as a drug and alcohol counselling centre.
But Douglas Horne, MLA for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain, disagreed with the characterization that the province has made cuts to education, saying funding for education has never been higher. He blamed the increased costs on teacher salaries, which have claimed almost every funding increase.
The rural caucus is an initiative created by Premier Christy Clark to send a panel to rural and northern B.C. to listen to the issues and opportunities of those communities.