Mackenzie Starts Petition Drive for Regional Representation
Mackenzie, B.C. – Roughly 75% of communities elect their school trustees through regional representation in British Columbia, so why not Mackenzie?
That from Joan Atkinson, deputy mayor of Mackenzie, who says the district will launch a petition drive aiming to change things starting in November.
“We have no voice on what happens in our schools,” she says. “When you look at the statistics the way some of the school districts in the province are run like in Terrace for example. Terrace has seven trustees in their school district – only two in Terrace. The rest are from surrounding areas like Hazelton and Kitwanga, so why is our area being robbed of that right?”
She says the goal is to have the at-large voting system in the district changed to a ward system in which one trustee would be elected in the Mackenzie area, another in the Robson Valley, and the rest elected in Prince George.
(She says they decided on an petition drive after a request to fill out online surveys was met with a lukewarm response)
Atkinson says the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George is supportive of the change along with the districts of Valemount and McBride. Currently all six trustees in the Prince George School District are elected out of Prince George.
But she says the school board hasn’t been supportive of their request although it outlined the steps required to achieve regional representation last spring. The change would require a Ministerial Order from Education Minister Mike Bernier. If successful, she hopes the change would be ready in time for local elections in 2018.
In the meantime, petitions will be placed throughout the community starting next month until December 15. Atkinson says 500 signatures from her community “would be good,” and 1,000 “would be great.” She estimates there are somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 adults living in Mackenzie.
Atkinson says the next step would be to present their signatures to the school board in January before landing on minister Bernier’s desk shortly after that.
“Minister Bernier is well aware that our communities are working on this,” says Atkinson. “And the community of Dawson Creek, the community he hails from, has regional representation.”
She says a similar petition drive will likely start soon in the Robson Valley as well. Atkinson says school’s trustees promised a ward system during an all-candidates meeting in Mackenzie in the lead up to the 2014 local elections.