Christy Clark made education a key election issue — finally!

In the 2009 and 2013 election campaigns education was barely mentioned in debates or in news coverage. This election is different.

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The irony that the B.C. Liberals’ record is what created the activists and advocates who are making this a difficult election issue for Christy Clark isn’t lost on Vancouver parent Andrea Sinclair.

“Arguably many parents took to greater advocacy due to the actions of the Liberals,” Sinclair wrote to me in an email. “I'm personally appalled at the spin rationale consistently put forth by the government to 'explain' their actions (or lack thereof).”

Prior to co-founding the Parent Advocacy Network (PAN) in 2015, Sinclair says when her twins started school she got involved in her school parent advisory council (PAC). “I was involved, I liked it and I was good at it,” she says.

She served as PAC chair through some contentious cross-boundary issues and the teachers’ strike and learned enough about how the education system was working to know “it wasn't good.”

“Together with a few other like-minded parents, we founded [PAN] in mid-2015 for two reasons: more advocacy was needed to make changes and we felt there was a void in Vancouver for parent-led advocacy.”

Closures take communities to the brink

Outside the Metro Vancouver-area media spotlight, several communities went through agonizing school closure discussions over the past few years.

The debate over Osoyoos’ only secondary school last year saw the Okanagan-Similkameen school board vote to close the school a year ago, only to reverse that controversial decision in late June, when the Clark government offered some last-minute funding to save the school from closure.

That chaotic and emotional process is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon by parents, students or pretty well anyone in Osoyoos, all whom may be nervous about what will happen to their school if the Liberals win again.

A gift to John Horgan and the NDP

Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals pushed parents and communities too far in what’s been described as a long-running, personal battle against the BCTF. That fight transformed many parents into advocates and activists who’ve driven education onto the election-issue list, making this a gift to John Horgan and the NDP.

Horgan is capitalizing on the Liberals’ dreadful education record and came across as confident and knowledgeable about the issue at a Monday afternoon townhall this week that was broadcast live via Facebook and focused on education.

Will it be enough to get young parents out to vote?

With what looks like a tight race this last week of the campaign is going to come down to which party gets out their supporters on election day. Voter turnout tends to be low among younger people, and busy parents juggling work, family and never-ending errands and tasks can be hard to get out to vote.

That’s unfortunate because they have so much at stake in this election.

The Green party's also causing some heartburn in NDP campaign offices with it having a real chance of gaining the balance of power if neither the NDP or the Liberals win a majority.

While some think that would be a good thing by forcing parties to work together more cooperatively, my experience at the Vancouver School Board (VSB), where the nine seats were split — four to Vision Vancouver, four to the Vancouver Non-Partisan Association and one to the Green party, says otherwise.

It’s not something I’d recommend or like to see at the provincial level.

I’m delighted to see so much focus on education in the election campaign — even if it’s because Christy Clark pushed our education system so far that busy, non-political parents felt compelled to become outspoken activists and advocates.

I hope voters will keep education top of mind as they make their ballot-box decisions. Our kids deserve so much better than they’ve been getting and our public education system has been battered and starved for long enough.

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