Nelson Star Column: Our kids deserve a lot better

Posted: September 4th, 2014

Nelson Star Sept 4

On Tuesday, September 2, I was reading my Facebook news feed, keeping up with the daily posts from many of those whom I represent.

Several posts were from parents talking about how that day was supposed to be the first day of school for their children.

One parent posted the photo that should have been the annual memory for heading back to class. Her daughter was wearing her backpack, new school clothes and a big smile. The only thing missing was a classroom to step into.

The next day, the headlines in most of BC’s local and provincial news focused on parents taking action to support teachers. In Maple Ridge, parents wanted to speak with their MLA, but were locked out of the office.

Similar scenes took place across the province at Liberal MLA offices. Meanwhile, the Premier has posted four tweets and one Facebook messages about the dispute this week.

No official statement to media, no statement to parents and teachers. Nothing to the 500,000 kids who are missing out on their education.

Such absence is ridiculous and irresponsible. The minister of education has shown that he cannot be trusted at the bargaining table, failing to respect the basic premises of fair bargaining and the agreed-upon rules to hammer out a deal.

Meanwhile, the premier and her Liberal MLAs are MIA. The public deserves more than this.

The public deserves more than a government that took six weeks to respond to the teachers’ request for mediation over the summer, then saying they’d meet for only one day.

Our kids deserve classrooms with the resources they need to succeed. Two months ago, I wrote in the Nelson Star about how kids are missing out because teachers are overstretched and under-resourced in classrooms with too many kids, more of whom require the special attention that they just can’t get.

Over 12 years ago, teachers thought they fixed this problem when they negotiated a deal that recognized the importance of class size and composition. Then, enter the Liberals with Christy Clark as education minister, and those provisions were illegally stripped.

Who lost out by this decision?

Our kids.

Today, teachers continue to press for those resources. At the top of the list of resources they need to do the best job they can is their time and attention for each student. If all the research and pedagogical analysis isn’t good enough to persuade Christy Clark that class size and composition are critical issues for the success of our students, I suggest she use some common sense.

Kids do better when they can ask their questions, seek one-on-one help, talk out their ideas and challenges, and feel understood by the person instructing them.

Smaller class sizes allow for that to happen. Enough educational assistants facilitate the one-on-one time needed for all kids, especially children with special needs.

These resources are essential, and our 500,000 kids in the public system deserve them. The Liberal government’s suggestion that they don’t by originally stripping these provisions from teachers’ contracts and now fighting in the courts to keep them away is simply 19th century thinking.

A good education should not be the reserve of the rich.

Teachers and parents who want an excellent education for our kids, I’m with you. So is every New Democrat MLA and our leader, John Horgan.

For months, we’ve been calling on Christy Clark to stop tweeting and start meeting; to put class size and composition on the table and get a deal for our kids.

With the first day of school come and gone without students enlivening school halls, let’s hope we can get to the table soon, negotiate in good faith and get a deal for the future kids deserve.

 

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Nelson Star Column: Someone has to stand up for education

Posted: July 3rd, 2014

Nelson Star July 3, 2014

With Canada Day celebrations at a close, summer is here. Another tradition often marks the beginning of summer – the beginning of holidays, time for relaxing on the beach, boating on Kootenay Lake and barbecuing with friends and family.

But one tradition didn’t happen this year. Instead of helping their students pack up desks and lockers, tidying up classrooms and enjoying last day of school celebrations on June 26, our teachers were on the picket lines.

With some summer strawberries in hand, I stopped by a few of the lines in our region to see how our teachers were doing.

Not surprisingly, they were feeling dejected. They would rather be in the classrooms than on the lines.

Each teacher told me that they missed having this last day to see their students off to the next stage of their lives.

At South Nelson School, a kindergarten teacher said she pulled together a graduation ceremony before the full-scale strike and lock-out so that her young students could celebrate as previous years’ classes have done.

Remembering my own kindergarten graduation, I knew that her students would be grateful well into their adulthoods.

Along with missing their students, they were feeling sad for education.

For 12 years, they have been doing the best they could with limited resources. Since their contracts for class size and composition were first illegally stripped by the Liberals when Christy Clark was Education Minister, teachers have not been able to teach to the best of their abilities and our kids have paid the price.

I can only imagine what it is like for our teachers — to know they are overstretched, to know more could be done for a student in need, but not have the time and resources to do it.

They know our community’s children and see everyday how we could be better meeting their needs. They know that they negotiated for those needed classroom resources more than 12 years ago and the reason we don’t have them now is because the Liberal government illegally and unconstitutionally took them away while also cutting $2 billion in tax revenue from the wealthiest and largest corporations.

It is enraging and clearly shows that Premier Clark’s slogans like “families first” are all talk.

And now the government is playing games at the bargaining table when it comes to class size and composition.

Like you, I can empathize with our teachers. We value education, we value educators, so why doesn’t our government?

With all its focus on resource development, it is as though the Liberal Premier, ministers and backbenchers forgot that children remain the most important investment. They can bend over backwards with tax breaks for multinational corporations but can’t negotiate a fair deal with teachers?

That’s not right. Someone has to stand up for education.

Someone is standing up for education. Each teacher on the line is standing up for education. They are educators; they know the system day in and day out, and they know improvements are overdue.

But it isn’t easy to take those stands. If you believe that our children should have the best education, keep supporting our teachers. The future of our province deserves no less.

 

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Mungall’s Annual Bend the MLA’s Ear Tour Set for Next Week

Posted: June 30th, 2014

Nelson – Next week MLA Michelle Mungall will mixing up a big batch of iced tea to share as she hears from locals during her annual Bend the MLA’s Ear Tour.  This year’s tour takes place July 7-9 and will include stops in 10 small communities from the north end of Kootenay Lake to the Creston Valley.

The Bend the MLA’s Ear Tour is a tradition that Mungall started in 2009 shortly after she was first elected to represent the Nelson-Creston riding.  Mungall extends an open invitation to everyone to visit one of her tour stops and ‘bend her ear’.

“Conversations on the Bend the MLA’s Ear Tour cover a wide range of topics” says Mungall. “Whatever people want to talk about, whether it’s current community events, the issues I’ve been raising in Victoria, or roller derby. ”

This year the The Bend the MLA’s Tour includes stops  in Ymir, Yahk, Canyon, Kitchener, Proctor, Crawford Bay, Riondel, Kaslo, Argenta and Meadow Creek – a full list of dates and times can be found below or at MichelleMungall.ca.

“This tour is great way to stay connected with the many communities in the region,” says Mungall. “I really enjoy hearing from those I represent and spending time seeing the beauty of the Kootenays.”

 

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Mungall Named Deputy House Leader

Posted: June 23rd, 2014

Nelson –Michelle Mungall’s tenacity and tact in standing up for Kootenay priorities has not gone unnoticed.  On Friday, John Horgan, the new Leader of the Official Opposition, named Mungall Deputy House Leader.

“Our team has the benefit of tremendous energy and innovation from many young MLAs,” said Horgan. “Michelle Mungall is a young leader with a strong record of standing up to the B.C. Liberals for policies that hurt hard-working British Columbians.”

As Deputy House Leader, Mungall will work with the House Leader, Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth to manage the strategies and activities of the Official Opposition during legislative sessions. Both Farnworth and Mungall are known for their no holds barred approach to challenging BC Liberal policies that are bad for the province, such as breaking up of the ALR and the clawback of child support payments.

Mungall, who will continue to serve as Opposition Critic for Social Development, is prepared for her new challenge. “I am thrilled to be adding this new role to my responsibilities and that the leader has shown such confidence in me. I look forward to working closely with one of our best MLAs, Mike Farnworth as we provide leadership to our team in the Legislature.”

 

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Mungall Continues ALR fight in Legislature, asks Government to Listen to the Public

Posted: May 15th, 2014

Nelson – Wednesday in Victoria MLA Michelle Mungall continued to stand up against the Liberal Government’s unpopular Bill 24 that would break up the ALR.  Mungall took the concerns of Kootenay residents and farmers opposed to the bill directly to the Minister of Agriculture and proposed an amendment to the bill that would mean that the BC public would be fully consulted in a transparent manner.

Mungall referenced the hundreds of emails she has received and the thousands of names on petitions from across the province in support of the ALR as need for government to undertake a comprehensive consultation process before making any changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“Bill 24 was not developed in a transparent way, the Liberal government made no effort to consult the public before proposing to destroy something as important as the ALR” said Mungall “The motion I put forward would allow the people of BC to have input into the future of the province’s food security and sustainability.”

Calls for transparent consultation before any changes to the ALR have come from the BC Agricultural Council, local government associations, food sustainability groups, and farmers from all across the province.  Despite this, Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick indicated on Wednesday the government was not likely to support Mungall’s motion to have a transparent public consultation.

“Every day I hear from more and more people in Nelson-Creston who are outraged that the government would even think about breaking up the ALR” said Mungall. “The government has a responsibility to listen to the people of this province, they have a responsibility to consult with farmers, to consult with the people of the Kootenays, and to consult with people who eat.  To force Bill 24 through without doing so would be reckless and irresponsible.”

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New Democrats offer the province a path out of poverty

Posted: May 6th, 2014

VICTORIAWhile B.C. Liberal policies are directly increasing and deepening poverty for many families, New Democrats are offering British Columbians a path out of poverty with the introduction of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Inclusion Act.

“B.C. has had the highest rate of overall poverty in Canada for 13 years and the highest child poverty rate for 10 years. The time for action is long overdue,” said New Democrat social development critic Michelle Mungall.

“New Democrats are offering British Columbians a path out of poverty with the Poverty Reduction and Economic Inclusion Act. This legislation will help identify and change bad policies that intensify poverty while also developing real programs that help people access training and jobs to better their lives.”

British Columbia remains one of only two provinces in Canada without a legislated plan to tackle poverty. At the same time, child poverty rates in the province have been an average of 34 per cent higher thanthe national rate for more than a decade.

“Sky-high poverty rates are directly tied to B.C. Liberal policies such as the child support clawback that takes money from B.C.’s poorest children. The government could begin reducing poverty immediately by allowing children of single parents receiving income assistance to keep their child support,” said New Democrat leader John Horgan.

Faith in Action, a multi-faith organization devoted to addressing the root causes of poverty in B.C. supports this approach.

“Government policies can ease poverty or make it worse,” said Peggy Wilmot of Faith in Action. “That’s why Faith in Action supports a poverty reduction plan for British Columbia as the first step towards a government that recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of all citizens.”

Watch the video transcript and related videos on my Youtube Channel

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Stop Smirking Premier says Mungall

Posted: April 14th, 2014

Nelson BC – Child poverty is a serious issue in British Columbia and MLA Michelle Mungall is becoming increasingly more frustrated that the Liberal Government is not taking it seriously.

On Thursday, Mungall caused a stir in the Legislature when she told Christy Clark to stop smirking. Mungall made the comment while she was asking the Premier to stop clawing back child support payments from children simply because their single parent receives income supports.  This was the same issue that Mungall had grilled the Premier on the day before when single mothers were at the Legislature asking government to end the clawback of their children’s child support payments. Responding to Mungall’s questions on Wednesday, the Premier was dismissive and failed to address the clawback in her response.  The smirk was the only acknowledgment Mungall got from the Premier to her question on Thursday as she deferred the answer to the Minister of Social Development who also made no commitments to stop the clawback. 

Each month, the government enforces child support payments by non-custodial parents only to claw it back dollar for dollar once received by the custodial parents, most often single mothers, because they are on income assistance. Last year $17 million in child support payments was clawed back from single parents on income supports in British Columbia. The province has had the highest rate of child poverty in the country for the last 10 years. Mungall has been calling on the government to end the clawback and to give BC’s poorest kids their money back.

 

“I am joining single mothers in standing up for some of the BC’s poorest kids and the Premier thinks it is some kind of joke” said Mungall.  “Clawing back $17 million from children who desperately need it is wrong. Instead of just smirking about it the Premier needs to do the right thing and take action to reduce child poverty.”

 

To watch Wednesday’s Question Period exchange click here for Thursday’s click here


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Why is Bill Bennett so Full of Hay? Asks Mungall in BC’s Legislature

Posted: April 4th, 2014

Nelson –For the third time this week MLA Michelle Mungall took a Liberal Cabinet Minister to task in question period about government decisions that are hurting people in the Kootenays.  Her target Thursday morning was Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.

Last week when Bennett was discussing the government’s legislation that would break apart the provinces Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) he was quoted saying “I get a kick out of the hundred-mile diet except, where I live, you’d have to eat hay.”

As the representative for the Creston Valley Mungall took exception to that comment and used question period as an opportunity to give Minister Bennett a lesson in geography and agriculture. Mungall reminded him that he had been to Creston “so he should know that there is much more than hay growing within 50 miles of his house. There are apples, cherries, strawberries, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, peas, pork, poultry, beef, wheat, barley, oats. They all grow on prime agricultural ALR land.”

Mungall went on to quote Nadine Harris a farmer from the Creston Valley who said “the ALR must be kept intact to ensure the viability of her family’s business,” and asked the Minister who he consulted when drafting the legislation that would break up the ALR.

Minister Bennett acknowledged that Mungall was correct about what grew in the area, but did not address the question of who was consulted in the preparation of the legislation and re-affirmed his support for dividing the ALR.

“Not only is Minister Bennett belittling the importance of agriculture in the Kootenay’s, his government is pushing through legislation that will destroy the livelihood of hardworking and innovative Kootenay farmers,” said Mungall. “While he is standing with a government who is only looking out for themselves, I will be standing up with farmers working to save the ALR.”

Watch the video transcript HERE.

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One Million dollars for Jumbo, Nothing for Real Kootenay Priorities – Mungall Outraged

Posted: April 2nd, 2014

Nelson, BC – MLA Michelle Mungall did not hide her frustration with the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development during question period Monday. Mungall was asking why the Liberal government has committed one million dollars to a town with no residents, instead of investing in the healthcare and education priorities of Kootenay communities.

“The government found $1 million for this fake municipality without a single resident, said Mungall referring to Jumbo. She then listed Kootenay priorities she has raised in the Legislature that the Liberals have ignored. “The government said that they could not afford $1 million to help victims of the Johnson’s Landing mudslide with a buyout program similar to the one offered to North Vancouver residents in 2005. They also said that they have no money to run the CT scanner at Kootenay Lake Hospital 24/7 or literacy programs in the region or for Trafalgar School and Selkirk College.”

Mungall’s concerns about the Liberal’s priorities were echoed by fellow Kootenay MLA Norm Macdonald.  Neither had their concerns addressed by Minister Cora Lee Oakes who appeared to be laughing about Mungall and MacDonald’s questions as she responded.

This government has time and again ignored requests from our region to increase investment in education and healthcare, instead they invest in a fake municipality,” says Mungall. “I will continue to stand up for the real priorities of the Kootenays.”

The question period exchange can be viewed here.

                                     JUMBO GLACIER RESORT MUNICIPALITY
 
N. Macdonald: Jumbo resort municipality is a 6,000-hectare wilderness with no people and not one building. The mayor and council have already spent $250,000 of taxpayers’ money, and they have accomplished nothing. And it’s not surprising, since there is no investor, and there has not been an investor for the past decade.
The question is…. We now see that the fake municipality is being potentially funded by taxpayers to the tune of a million dollars over the next five years. We’re asking for money for dialysis in my area. We’re asking for money so that the TransCanada has a highway rescue vehicle. Does the minister not see the absurdity of then giving $1.25 million for a mayor and council of a town with no people, no building and no investors?
 
Hon. C. Oakes: Our government believes that 20 years is long enough and that this project should be going forward, because this side of the House believes in growing the economy. And let me tell you about what this economic piece…. The plan: a $450 million resort will ultimately include 5,500-bed units, and a 104-hectare resort base area. It will provide approximately 3,750 person-years of construction employment and create 750 to 800 permanent, full-time jobs. We believe in jobs. We believe in growing the economy. And this project is good for B.C.
 
Madame Speaker: Columbia River–Revelstoke on a supplemental.
 
N. Macdonald: I mean, like, wow. It blows you away, right?
So you, at some point, need an investor before you get that outcome. I’m sure the minister knows that. All right.
We have real needs. The minister intends to spend a million dollars over the next five years, having wasted $250,000. There are real needs for that money. We’ve asked for dialysis service. No, there’s no provincial money for that. We asked for an abattoir. No provincial money for that. We ask for a rescue truck so that people on the TransCanada who are injured can actually be saved. No money for that. But the minister still seriously says it’s a wise investment to spend a million dollars over the next five years for a mayor and council that has no people, no buildings, and no investor. How does that make sense at all?
 
Hon. C. Oakes: Well, the citizens of British Columbia spoke up, and they said that we pay for these types of items that are so crucial, so important, for people by growing the economy. And let me stand correct. The member opposite was in estimates last week, where they know full well that the $200,000 that was provided, which we provide to all start-up municipalities or provide to infrastructure investment…. Every community of both sides can apply from local government to implement infrastructure pieces, start-up money for its infrastructure.
The $200,000 that the member opposite was talking about is money that all local governments — can put their application for it forward. But let me ask the member opposite: when Whistler was formed, when Sun Peaks was formed…. These are good investments for the province of British Columbia. Tourism is important for the province of British Columbia. And we are committed to growing the economy of British Columbia.
 
M. Mungall: No one in the Kootenays voted for a government to spend $1 million on a fake municipality without a single resident, without a single pub, without a hospital, without a school, without a house. There isn’t even a street there. If she would take the time to drive up there, she would know that.
While this government and the minister seem to be very proud of this, found $1 million for this fake municipality without a single resident, they said that they could not afford $1 million to help victims of the Johnsons Landing mudslide with a buyout program similar to the one offered to North Vancouver residents in 2005. They also said that they have no money to run the CT scanner at Kootenay Lake Hospital 24/7 or literacy programs in the region or for Trafalgar School and Selkirk College. They have money for a fake municipality that is run by the Minister of Energy’s buddies, that is only invested by the Minister of Energy’s buddies…
 
Madame Speaker: Pose your question.
 
M. Mungall: …but they don’t have $1 million for real people in the Kootenays.
To the minister for local government: how do you find $1 million for a fake municipality, but the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education can’t find a cent for the real projects that help real people in the Kootenays?
 
Hon. C. Oakes: Again, I wish the members opposite would listen to the fact during estimates, of which you sat through, that $200,000 was provided for the start-up of the municipality.
Small community grants are available to local governments to assist them in providing services and hiring qualified staff. Grants are based on a formula that factors in the base amount and other information. In 2013 Invermere received $280,402 through this, Radium Hot Springs received $182,758, and Quesnel Flats received $204,679.
But the final thing: in 1975, by an NDP government, Whistler was formed in just the same way.
Madame Speaker, we’re going to grow this economy. We’re going to provide jobs and make sure we can provide the services that are so important to British Columbians across the province of British Columbia.
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Mungall and Karagianis play “Wanna Bet?”

Posted: April 1st, 2014

When the Victoria Cougars travel to Nelson for the Cyclone Taylor Cup in a few days, there will be more on the line besides the claim to B.C. junior hockey supremacy. Esquimalt-Royal Roads MLA Maurine Karagianis has challenged Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall to a friendly wager on the outcome

The Cougars, who won their third-straight Vancouver Island Junior Hockey Championship on Friday night, will compete in the tournament with the Nelson Leafs, the host team, and two others from B.C.

“Today I am challenging my colleague from Nelson-Creston to a friendly bet,” Karagianis said in the Legislature. “Whichever of our teams wins, the losing MLA, with the Speaker’s approval, will sport the opposing team’s jersey in the Legislature and do a two-minute statement admitting defeat and praising the winning team.”

“I accept the bet gladly,” Mungall said. “The Nelson Leafs aren’t just great hosts, they are also an exceptional Junior B team, and I am confident in the outcome.”

Of course, there is always the chance that neither team will win, and the title will go to the champs from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League or the Pacific Junior Hockey League.

“Not going to happen,” Karagianis said.

“Not a chance,” added Mungall.

The Cyclone Taylor Cup runs April 10th through the 13th at the Nelson & District Community Complex.

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