B.C. government delays some school upgrades due to shortage of capital cash

Click to play video: 'B.C. government delayed new schools, seismic upgrades' B.C. government delayed new schools, seismic upgrades
The province has put several school capital spending projects on hold, including new schools and seismic upgrades. The Ministry of Education blames the financial impacts of the pandemic and says they are prioritizing projects that need immediate attention. As Richard Zussman reports, critics are questioning the government's priorities. – Jun 8, 2022

The B.C. government has deferred at least seven school projects due to a lack of capital cash.

The projects put on hold are a new school in Fernie, seismic upgrades in Vancouver for False Creek Elementary, Killarney Secondary and David Thompson Secondary, an upgrade to Pitt Meadows Secondary, and the building of a new secondary school in Mission.

Read more: Construction to replace Royal BC Museum set to start before next provincial election

“The uncertainty is the deferment,” Mission School Board chair Tracy Loffler said.

“We don’t know if it is a one-year deferment or a 10-year deferment, especially knowing the urgency we need this school built.”

The province says it is spending more than $3.1 billion over the next three years to build and upgrade schools, including nearly $1 billion to fast-track seismic upgrades.

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Click to play video: 'Royal BC Museum CEO discusses $789-million replacement plan' Royal BC Museum CEO discusses $789-million replacement plan
Royal BC Museum CEO discusses $789-million replacement plan – May 26, 2022

But due to the pandemic and last year’s floods, the province has fewer capital funds available than originally expected.

The province recently informed school districts if their projects were deferred or will go ahead.

“There are times where we need to rejig and reprioritize our capital list,” education minister Jennifer Whiteside said.

“These situations come when the priorities change and another project becomes more urgent.”

Click to play video: 'Fiery Royal BC Museum project debate in B.C. legislature' Fiery Royal BC Museum project debate in B.C. legislature
Fiery Royal BC Museum project debate in B.C. legislature – May 17, 2022

But critics are quick to point to the government’s own priorities.

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The province has committed to spending $1 billion on a new Royal BC Museum and Archives building.

The investment only makes up one per cent of the province’s capital investments, but the BC Greens say it is money that could be spent elsewhere.

“What the museum represents is a decision the government made that is out of step with the priorities of British Columbians and what they are feeling,” said Adam Olsen, Saanich North and the Islands MLA.

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