The NPA’s contrary and offensive position on school closures

NPA School Board Trustee Ken Denike thinks that public consulation is a waste of money.

Due to the fact that the NPA continues to stand for nothing, it seems as though the party’s approach to policy-making is to oppose everything endorsed by Vision Vancouver.  The latest developments with the School Board and potential school closures is a perfect example of this approach.

This past Sunday, the Vision Vancouver caucus made a bold decision not to close down the five schools that had been discussed as being on the chopping block.  All of these schools reside in the east side of the city.

This announcement came after “10 meetings where more than 1,600 people registered their attendance and, according to Vision Vancouver, hundreds announced their opinions against school closures.”

According to NPA School Trustee Ken Denike, however, these consultations were a complete waste of money.

First, Denike’s logic is completely nonsensical and very hard to follow.  He states:

“What was the point of going through this costly exercise of speaking to communities if we weren’t going to make any decision. We’ve just wasted over $100,000 on consultations where the decision to avoid closures was a fait accompli.”

First of all, how is deciding to keep schools open not making a decision?  It is a huge move that is obviously going to have great implications on the budgeting for the next year.

Secondly, on what basis is he claiming that avoiding school closures was always a “fait accompli”?  He has designated the consultations with the public as “meaningless,” even though the overwhelming message that the community was not in favour of school closures was what ultimately directed the Vision Vancouver decision.

Denike continues to put his foot in his mouth with this statement:

The fact that we’ve gone through all this public consultation process, and Vision Vancouver is announcing their decision in advance of Tuesday’s presentation of the report shows how little they respect public process. What’s the point in having the public meeting if Vision are already giving it their seal of approval?

Yes, the decision was made in advance of a staff report.  Yet it was made after the extensive consultation process, where Trustees were made well aware of the public sentiment without needing a staff report to confirm what they had already heard with their own ears.

In fact, the opposite could be argued from what Denike is claiming – that the Vision crew showed a lot more respect for the public process by making an announcement based on the public will rather than the recommendations of bureaucrats.

There were parents that talked about how sending their kids going to a school on the other side of the city wasn’t feasible for their situation.  There were members of the Aboriginal community who spoke about how these schools contained a huge First Nations enrollment, and how dispersing kids would be detrimental to their sense of identity and self worth.  There were even children who came and showed their desire to have continuity in their learning experience.

The message sent from a huge majority of those that came out to speak to the Trustees was one which supported the eventual announcement made last Sunday.  From his statements, Ken Denike was clearly the one who wasn’t listening.

To call the money spent to speak to the community a waste is not only inaccurate, but also extremely offensive.  But then again, Denike doesn’t really rely on those on the east side of the city for his base of support, so why would their voices count in his purview?

The NPA was prepared to oppose Vision Vancouver no matter what was decided.  But in this case, not only have they shown themselves to be contrary to the public based on their political games, but they have also demonstrated that the ongoing east-west divide that they perpetrated for so many years while in power continues to guide their manner of representation.

Denike and his colleague Carol Gibson should be ashamed of themselves.

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