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Premier Gordon Campbell’s $240,000, 23-minute primetime televised address last night shows the premier has no real understanding of why the B.C. Liberal government is so deeply unpopular all across the province, CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill said today.

It’s almost comical to see Mr. Campbell descending to the point of trying to entice voters to support the HST with their own tax dollars,” said O’Neill. “With production and airtime costs running at more than $10,000 per minute one might think there would have been more substance.”

O’Neill noted that Campbell’s announcement of an expansion of education services for students with special needs contained no funding details for a sector already struggling to make do with insufficient resources from the government.

After ten years of Mr. Campbell’s leadership, B.C. has consistently had the dubious distinction of having more children in poverty than any other province—as a direct result of B.C. Liberal economic policies,” said O’Neill. “So it’s a bit painful to watch him claim he’s now concerned about the sorry state of early childhood education in B.C.”

O’Neill said that CUPE BC is supportive of the expansion of the StrongStart program, which has been encouraged by the UBC Human Early Learning Partnership evaluation. CUPE estimates that the implementation of Campbell’s promise of 100 new centres will cost B.C. about $5 million.

The Premier just doesn’t get it,” said O’Neill. “There’s a real disconnect here. On the one hand, he says that more help is needed for the 20 per cent of students who are not performing at adequate levels by grade four, but on the other hand his government is forcing school districts to make cuts and close schools, directly impacting the quality of education for the same students he’s now claiming to be focused on.”

We welcome the additional support for these students, but to make the Premier’s commitment real will require a substantial investment. But there was no commitment to provide more Education Assistants, to address the substantial issue of unpaid work of EAs or any other measures to fund more support for students.”

The Premier could have announced these investments at far less cost to taxpayers by simply calling a news conference. But then he would have had to face additional questions he just doesn’t want to answer,” said O’Neill.