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WEST KOOTENAYSChronic under funding of education and health care in rural B.C. has led to a tug of war in which neighbouring communities are forced to compete for scarce provincial dollars, says CUPE BC president Barry ONeill.

ONeill, who is visiting the West Kootenays today, said that school boards such as Kootenay Lake (District 8) have been put in the untenable position of having to either defy the law to submit a balanced budget or make brutal cuts that have already had a negative impact on childrens education.

Kootenay Lake is a prime example of the governments inequitable treatment of rural school districts throughout B.C., said ONeill, commenting on a special advisers report on the districts $3.9 million deficit and repayment plan.

While finances may have been better managed by previous school board administrators, the real culprit here is government under funding of this school district and many other districts throughout B.C.

The CUPE leader said that B.C. Liberal education policy has led to increased class sizes while forcing reductions in custodial and clerical staff, as well as educational assistants who provide much needed one-on-one attention for children with special needs.

If they had been adequately funded over the past three years, they probably wouldnt have been in such a serious deficit position, ONeill added. In the year before this government came to power and announced the funding freeze, the district had finally worked its way out of a deficit.

ONeill said that the governments funding formula has forced rural school districts and health boards to toe the line on austerity and privatization or risk losing their funding. In communities like Nelson and Crestonwhere long-term care facilities have closed and patients have been forced to leave their communities for treatmentpeople have to fight each other for much needed services.

ONeills two-day trip to the West Kootenays, which will include stops in Castlegar, Nelson, Trail and Creston, is the latest leg of a provincial tour in which the CUPE leader is meeting with local union members and presidents as well as speaking with local municipal officials, business representatives, and the media.


Barry ONeill, CUPE BC president (604) 916-8444
Dan Gawthrop, Communications Representative (604) 999-6132.