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October 28, 2017 4:31 am

Former School Board Chair Weighs in on Autonomy Debate

Sunday, May 3, 2015 @ 9:39 AM

Prince George, B.C. – A former chair of the Prince George School Board has weighed in on the issue of autonomy for local governments.

Bill Christie was a trustee in Nelson from 1970-1980, in Prince George from 1995-2008 (6 years as chair) and in Red Deer, 2010-present.

Bill Christie

Bill Christie

250 News contacted him amidst the furor caused by Bill 11, an education bill tabled by the provincial government, which would give Victoria more power over school boards and teachers’ professional development.

The education bill has caused such an uproar that last week the B.C. School Trustees Association called on boards to write a letter to the Ministry of Education to rescind it (The Prince George School complied, see story here).

“I love being a trustee, but what I don’t like about it, and it doesn’t matter which province you live in, is the erosion of local autonomy and the centralization of control with bureaucrats,” says Christie. “The best government really, is the government that is closer to the people – local governments, like city councils and school boards.”

While he hasn’t been following the debate surrounding Bill 11, he believes decisions should be made locally, not by bureaucrats in Victoria.

“A bureaucrat that may or may not be from B.C., but has a degree, and obtained a job in Victoria and could be from another country, another province, or even the United States, it doesn’t matter,” says Christie. “You don’t know where that bureaucrat is from and they’re telling people who have been elected locally to make decisions on their behalf what to do, and to me that’s wrong.”

He says the erosion of local autonomy has been gradual, noting “when I was on the Nelson School Board we had taxation authority, so we could set our budget, look at the mill rate, talk to the city and then raise taxes for the year.”

Christie says that all changed by the time he was elected as a trustee in Prince George.

“When I got elected I said to the secretary treasurer, we can do this, this, and this and he said Bill, you’ve been out of the system for too long, those things are now controlled by Victoria.”

Is it then the job of boards to become overly political and actively lobby governments for change?

“Well, if you look at what is a trustee in the first place, the trustee is elected, right? So that is politics.”

He concludes the loss of local autonomy combined with budgetary pressures, be it in B.C., or in Alberta, has made the job of trustees tougher over the years.

“What governments do, and it’s not just B.C., they may come and say we’re going to give you a 1.2% increase to your budget, but then underneath they’ll make cuts to your grants that may equate to what the increase was. That undermines the whole system.”


I always really liked Bill. It’s too bad he didn’t run for higher office. I met him when he was a bureaucrat for the BC Service Center in PG and helped me a lot with some small business issues I had. He went above and beyond what can be expected of a government bureaucrat and I admired his commitment to the community for his efforts.

Lately I have been wondering why we have school trustees. Most of the important decisions around education seem to be made elsewhere. Province-wide bargaining with teachers, provincial curriculum, budget allocations. Local decisions seem to be only the ones Victoria doesn’t want to make, like where to cut and which facilities to close. With direction from the Ministry of Education in key areas, and a full bureaucracy at the school district level to implement decisions, is it worth having local elected school trustees? I know these people don’t get much in the way of remuneration, and most trustees are dedicated to improving the education system.

Sure glad they don’t have “taxation authority” anymore

Dictatorships don’t need trustees ..they just need minions..

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