Last week two B.C. columnists touched on issues that, on the face of it, don’t seem to be related. I think they are.
Commenting on Premier Clark’s plans for dealing with bullies following the recent suicide of a bullied teenager, Black Press columnist Tom Fletcher wondered why she wasn’t as concerned about the number of youth in the care of B.C.’s Ministry for Children and Family who kill themselves (15 in the last four years). Others are so despondent they repeatedly injure themselves. Incidentally, B.C. ranks second worst in Canada in terms of child poverty but that’s another story.
Over to Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer, who is bemused by the amount of money Ms. Clark has spent, or is spending, on the advertising blitz touting her government’s economic strategy. He says she spent $34.5 million last year, and has budgeted $29.5 million for this year.
I can’t help wondering what that money could do if it went to help children at risk. The children’s ministry has too few staff to deal with the caseloads so youngsters fall through the cracks. There is a hiring freeze even though there are 29 vacancies. Children and Youth Advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been pointing to the ministry’s shortcomings for a number of years but there have been problems for decades under six or seven premiers of different political stripes. In spite of the monumental deficit, Ms. Clark says education and health will be protected. So apparently will be the money budgeted for the self-congratulatory government ads. We fuss and fume about youth gangs and young criminals, the high cost of policing, yada yada, but how many of these people are products of our dysfunctional childcare system? We focus on the wrong end of the problem.
At the other end of the age spectrum, whatever happened about the appointment of a seniors advocate?
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.