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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 2, November/December 2003

Questioning Campbell difficult

by Emma Wallace

I attend City School, which is an alternative program that focusses on, among other things, using the resources of our city as a learning tool. In lay terms, we go on field trips a lot. However, when our social studies teacher, Donna Lee, told us that we would be going to the opening of AchieveBC and that Gordon Campbell would be attending, it was a shock and an uneasy thought to some.

As class work, each of us was to come up with one question to ask the premier. Most of the questions were about education or health. Mine, like a majority of others, was about educational funding. Donna Lee had also encouraged us to try to express our opinion through visuals, since getting the premier to answer our rather controversial questions might not be easily accomplished—it wasn’t.

After arriving at the Vancouver Public Library. I found my classmates and stood anxiously until the premier arrived. He gave a short speech about AchieveBC after which pictures with students were taken. It took me a few minutes and a lot of help before I had enough courage to call out for his attention. I was ignored. I called out again and again. I was still ignored. Some of my classmates pushed me toward the premier. At that point I was right behind him and still I received no response.

It was now time for the premier to answer questions. "Finally, I thought, he is obligated to answer my question." I began calling "Mr. Premier!" again. That time, I wasn’t ignored. I was stopped, I was told by a Mr. Sauer, the Liberal’s communications director of education, that this was for media questions only. Now I was annoyed. "I have a question though," I said. "What is your question?" Of course, I didn’t tell him my question. I said it was simply about education. I was now being handed a card and told that something would be set up. I didn’t want a set up, though. So, when the premier was done with his media-only questions, I went right up and tapped him. I asked:

"You stated on April 21, 2001, on CBC that education funding would not be cut. You said, and I quote, ‘you can count on it, you can guarantee it, it’s not going to happen.’

However, public education funding has been cut and, in Vancouver alone, 400 teachers have been laid off in 2002. In fact, in February, public education funding was cut by $15 million, while the premier’s office received $7 million. So, were you lying at the beginning of your campaign? Why has education funding been cut while your own office’s funding was raised?"

He responded by saying that educational funding had not been cut and, in fact, it had been raised (he didn’t comment on the funding of his office). I retorted by asking if that was true, why were there fewer teachers and more students in each class? I was ignored. Everything after that point is quite blurry to me. I was bombarded by the media. They asked my name, my age, my school, my question, his response, my thoughts on the program, etc. I went home thinking that I had made a statement.

The truth reached very few. There was little media coverage on the incident. Perhaps though, that is the statement. Very few realize how much control the Liberals have over the media and how easy it is for them to lie to the public. After all, it’s politics, and not many would want to oppose a political force that makes up such a majority. To be frank, I find that sad. The government is supposed to help us and our economy. Instead, the B.C. government seems to help itself by taking money out of our education funding and putting it in its pocket.

Emma Wallace is a student at City School, Vancouver.

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