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October 27, 2017 6:43 pm

PG School Board Chair ‘Hoping’ for Decision on Regional Rep Soon

Wednesday, March 1, 2017 @ 5:50 AM

District of Mackenzie Councillor Joan Atkinson and Mayor Pat Crook at Tuesday night’s meeting – photo 250News

Prince George, B.C. – The District of Mackenzie made its case for regional representation at last night’s Prince George School Board meeting.

The district wants the current at-large voting system shifted to a ward system whereby five of the district’s trustees would be elected in Prince George, one in Mackenzie and another in the Robson Valley.

Mayor Pat Crook sent a letter to the Ministry of Education requesting a variation in the order of which School District 57 trustees are to be elected under section 30 of the School Act last month (the final decision rests solely with Minister Mike Bernier, in consultation with the school board).

The letter noted more than 1,000 of the students in the district (just shy of seven per cent) are attending classes outside Prince George and nearly half (28) of the 60 school districts in B.C. have provisions for geographic representation.

The proposal has the support of the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer. 599 Mackenzie residents have also signed a petition in favour of the change along with 92 residents in McBride.

But Tim Bennett, chair of the Prince George School Board, says the Board is reserving judgement for now.

“We’re waiting to hear from the minister. So, while individual trustees may have their opinions, the corporate board has not offered a decision one way or another regarding this. We’re waiting for the minister to execute his process.”

However, he is hopeful the minister will decide soon.

“The application has gone into the minister. Minister Bernier is a busy man but I’m hoping this can occur before the writ is dropped in April.”

(Writ day in B.C. will be April 11. A writ is the day an election is officially called. B.C.’s election will take place May 9).

250News contacted the ministry regarding a timeline for Bernier’s decision and received the following response:

“The important date is the municipal election date of October 28, 2018. The Ministry is working with the District of Mackenzie to make sure the Minister has all of the necessary information to make a decision, consistent with the Ministry Trustee Variation Guidelines, which are available here. We aren’t in a position to speculate about the timing of the Minister’s decision.”


While there might be merit in a ward system, the proposed change would result in one trustee per 500 rural students (1000 as specified in the article ) and then the remaining 12,000 students would be split into the remaining 5 (12,000 / 5 is one trustee for 2,400 students ). There are important issues concerning rural education and a person could have ran from Mckenzie and be on the board. Other boards around the province have people who drive an hour or more to get to the board office. The extra travel, hotels and related expenses though would just take away what few dollars they might be able to shift to the rural schools.

In my opinion rural areas need rural representation, as they are the ones who are closer to any problems, etc; It might be easier to run everything from Prince George, however that does not make it the **right** thing to do.

We need to be supporting our rural areas, especially when it comes to services etc; This idea of having everything done in the larger areas sounds good if you say it fast, however it does nothing for those people in McBride, MacKenzie, etc; who want to have some say in how things are done.

There is no shortage of money in British Columbia, what we have is an inefficient way of distributing money and the bulk of it gets spent in the lower mainland.

Time to start building up North Central BC so that it becomes an attractive place for people to live.

If you want to see neglect of smaller towns and villages, just take a drive between Tete Jaune and PG. Prince Rupert and PG. Cache Creek and BC. These areas have been neglected for years, and its time they got some of the money that is floating around this Province.

Correction: “The district wants the current at-large voting system shifted to a ward system whereby five of the district’s trustees would be elected in Prince George, one in Mackenzie and another in the Robson Valley (currently all seven are elected in Prince George).” – currently all seven are elected at large, although all seven were living in the Prince George area when elected.

Question: how many people have run for the position of school trustee, who live in Mackenzie, McBride, or Valemount, over the last several elections?

I agree completely and thoroughly with Palopu. It would have assisted Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount’s application to Education Minister Mike Bernier greatly if the School Board had submitted a letter of support, like MP Bob Zimmer did. But that would take a School Board that actually cared, would it not?

    This board cares deeply. They are not in it for the money.

      Incognito, if your comment was made under the “Trustees Vote Themselves a Raise” news story, I would agree with your comment, but not on the subject of their lack of support for a ward system of school district governance.

      Like MP Bob Zimmer, the School Board could have submitted a letter supporting the rural communities application for a ward system, but they chose not to… why?

      In my experience with this Board, I can definitely say they do not care deeply. My personal experience was that they prefer very little contact with the parents of children in the District. I found that not one of them expressed concern or empathy in a particular situation, one in which it would have been very appropriate to do so even if their decision was against what was requested. Not one of them showed that they cared.

      I will not vote for any one of them in the next election.

57,000 eligible voters in PG versus 2,800 in Mackenzie means a trustee can be elected (in the proposed ward system) with a few hundred votes? I’m not sure I like that.

    Kamloops is a bigger city that Prince George, they have nine (9) school board seats with only five (5) of those seats being allocated for the City of Kamloops, the other four (4) seats are allocated to outlying areas.

    This is from that school boards website; “The Board is comprised of nine Trustees, five elected at large from within the City of Kamloops and one each from TNRD Areas A and B and the District of Clearwater; TNRD Area O and the District of Barriere; TNRD Areas L and P, the Village of Chase and the Resort Municipality of Sun Peaks; and, TNRD Area J and the District of Logan Lake.”

    Here the Mayor of MacKenzie is only asking that two of the seven School Board seats be allocated to rural areas; one for Mackenzie and District, the other for the Robson Valley District the other five seats would be for Prince George.

The rural areas have their own mayor and city council, it makes sense that they have a trustee sitting on the board. That being said; however, the current board has the needs of the rural district front and center. They are bound by strict financial constraints, and have their hands tied in a lot of areas. I don’t believe having a trustee that physically lives in those districts will help to meet the needs to any greater extent because the constraints are still in place. If a trustee from those districts were to be elected, and with video conferencing, there is no need for travel expenses to be incurred. Face to face is always nice, but a luxury that cannot be afforded.

    After reading and re-reading your comment, I still have no idea where you stand on this issue. You makes points both for and against the ward system to such an extent that what ever point you are trying to make becomes convoluted.

    I believe you are more against the ward system of School District governance than for it, that being the case is this not an example of someone from Prince George telling elected leaders of rural communities what is best for their communities? If other School Districts, like Kamloops / Thompson, can accommodate rural communities and areas on their School Boards, why can’t this School District? The smaller rural communities in the District seem to want it, so why not give it to them?

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