Burns Lake council met with Premier Christy Clark and cabinet ministers to discuss how the recent cutbacks at the College of New Caledonia (CNC) have impacted the Lakes District.
The meeting took place during the 2015 Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) held in Vancouver last week. Mayor Luke Strimbold attended the event along with councillors John Illes and Christopher Beach, and chief administrative officer Sheryl Worthing.
According to village council, the recent changes and cutbacks that took place at College of New Caledonia (CNC) are projected to have a “variety of negative financial and social consequences for the region.”
Council said CNC administration has consolidated control of all programming in the central campus, eliminated a large portion of the programs being offered to rural students, and imposed unsustainable restrictions on social service programs offered locally through the college.
“The elimination of cost-recovery initiatives and family programs will have significant negative impact on child development and family health for the hundreds of parents and children registered locally,” said village council in a press release. “Additionally, the elimination of trades and vocational programs will undercut local workers’ ability to gain training and capitalize on the increase in available jobs created by the influx of industry in the north.”
Mayor Strimbold called the meeting with the premier “productive,” saying it was a good opportunity to inform the premier and ministers of Burns Lake’s current situation.
“The premier and ministers now have a better understanding of our concerns and are very keen on working with our community to find solutions to ensure that we continue to have a successful community college,” said Strimbold.
During the meeting, council proposed the creation of a pilot regional community college to serve the Lakes and Nechako regions. The proposed college would offer post-secondary education, trades training, and family social services. In other words, it would be a rurally focussed community college.
Council did not request any new funds at this time. Instead, the request was for a reallocation of funds from CNC’s rural campus programming to fund a regional community college. According to council, the proposed college would better meet the needs of rural communities, allowing for synergies between the services being offered, rather than the tension that currently exists. Strimbold added that the proposed regional college would utilize the strong partnerships with First Nations, industry and local government that are already in place.
“Existing data suggests this model will be a more efficient way for the ministries to address a variety of community needs at once, and to ensure that the incredible effort put forth in our local campuses will not be lost,” said Strimbold.
From now on, council will be meeting with ministry staff to follow up on this proposal and discuss the idea in more detail.
Among the ministers present at the meeting were Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education; Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs; Mike Bernier, Minister of Education; and John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation.
Another topic discussed during UBCM was Babine Forest Product’s inquest recommendations.
Council met with Shirley Bond, Minister of Jobs, and Suzanne Anton, Minister of Justice, to ensure that recommendations were being implemented.
The inquest into the mill deaths at Babine Forest Products concluded Aug. 31, 2015, with 41 recommendations to improve safety in the industry and prevent similar incidents from happening again.
“The ministers emphasized they are working diligently on the recommendations and they also emphasized the importance of working with the families and workers as they go forward,” said Strimbold.
Almost 2000 delegates participated in this year’s annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention. Through its resolution sessions, the convention provides a platform for local government leaders to establish policy directions for UBCM’s activities over the coming year.