A new school for the crowded Albion area is at the top of the Ministry of Education’s list, says the local Member of the Legislative Assembly.
“I have been assured that it’s seen as a priority.” It’s at the top of the ministry’s list of capital projects, said Marc Dalton, who recently talked to ministry staff and Education Minister George Abbott.
“It’s really a question of when, not if,” said Dalton, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission.
Population growth in east Maple Ridge, mainly along 240th Street, has reached the point where the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district has redrawn its catchment boundaries, preventing newcomers from sending their kids to Albion elementary, already overcrowded.
Albion, Alexander Robinson, and Kanaka Creek elementary schools are each currently over capacity, while Webster’s Corner is currently at 64 per cent of capacity, and Blue Mountain is at 71 per cent.
Dalton made his case for the money to build a school on 104th Avenue most recently to Premier Christy Clark, who toured the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot Monday, followed by lunch with local mayors and the school board.
“I did bring forward the issue to the premier as far as the school goes in the Albion area. No announcements now, but I’ll keep banging the drum – but I’m very hopeful,” Dalton said.
Clark toured the depot to mark its 40th anniversary, and had her photo taken with developmentally disabled staff who work there under the supported work program funded by Community Living B.C.
The program was almost cancelled last fall, but was extended by another year as the recycling society and CLBC work out a longer arrangement.
Twenty-nine developmentally disabled workers, along with three support workers, were to be laid off last September after Community Living said it wouldn’t renew the contract.
The government last month announced a revamp of Community Living, giving families more input, along with a $40-million increase in funding.
“Work is what defines who we are. So it’s just as important for people with developmental disabilities to be able to have that opportunity,” Clark said.
She added that those who started recycling in Maple Ridge 40 years ago showed foresight. “Nobody was really thinking of those things. When I grew up in Burnaby, we were not recycling.”
Bill Elder, on the recycling society board, is taking a wait-and-see approach on the program’s future.
“There were so many things that could have happened rather than say we’re just going to cancel it,” he said.
Instead, given that CLBC wanted to kill the program and find the workers jobs in the private sector, someone could have found jobs for them, one by one, so it was proven that was possible,” Elder added.
“We have a year. I just hope they see the advantages and we carry on. That’s what we want to see.”
With House of Commons in Ottawa resuming this week, Clark gave enthusiastic backing to the Conservatives’ omnibus crime bill (Safe Streets and Communities Act), which increases penalties in a range of areas.
“I think we need to be firmer, tougher on criminals out there.” The roots of crime also need to be addressed, but “there are too many areas of criminality where people are likely to get a slap on the wrist and I think Canadians are getting fed up with it,” Clark said.
As for the provision that calls for jailing people who grow more than six marijuana plants for trafficking purposes, Clark said there are some areas where there is a lot of disagreement.
She said B.C. is taking a more diplomatic approach than Ontario, which is asking for $1 billion from the federal government to enhance its prison system because of the tougher laws.
But she said it hasn’t been determined how those extra costs in B.C. will be covered.
She said that her party’s aligning with the right side of the political spectrum is required because the Liberals are a coalition party.
“That’s the only way we can we can defeat the NDP.
“So we need to make sure we have a strong relationship with supporters in all different federal parties.”
British Columbia is also served better when there’s a good relationship with the prime minister, she added.
“The other option is to do what [former NDP premier] Glen Clark did, which was to just fight all the time, which doesn’t get you anywhere.”
Asked about the next election in the two ridings Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge-Mission, Clark said Dalton is doing what she used to as MLA – work hard.
“There is nobody in the legislature who is a better constituent MLA than Marc Dalton.”
During an election, people will look at their MLA and ask, “’Did you do a good job in serving me? And I think the answer in Marc Dalton’s case will be yes.”
Under the Safe Streets and Communities Act, expected to pass by the spring, jail terms will be increased for offences against children as well as the introduction of two new offences.
Youth will also be a major focus of the new crime bill: “Specific deterrence and denunciation” will be added to the principles of sentencing to discourage a particular offender from committing further offences.
As well, the new bill will:
• expand the definition of “violent offence” to include behaviour that endangers the life or safety of others, even if no one was hurt, thus making it easier to jail youth;
• allow jail sentences, where appropriate, on youth who have a pattern of findings of guilt or non-judicial sanctions;
• require the Crown to consider seeking adult sentences for youth convicted of the most serious violent crimes (murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault) – provinces and territories would maintain the discretion to set the age at which this requirement would apply;
• require the courts to consider lifting the publication ban on the names of young offenders convicted of “violent offences,” when youth sentences are given;
• require police to keep records when informal (non-court) measures are used in order to make it easier to identify patterns of re-offending;
• ensure that all young offenders under 18 who are given a custodial sentence will serve it in a youth facility.