May 10, 2017
For Immediate Release

Why Did the Premier and Cabinet Cancel the New Middle School that the School Board Recommended and the Region Needs?

Keith Hutchings, MHA for Ferryland, said Premier Dwight Ball misinformed people on Facebook Live on Tuesday night when he said the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board had made the decision to cancel the new intermediate school for the region, which the previous administration announced in Budget 2015.

Under questioning in the House on Wednesday, Education Minister Dale Kirby contradicted the Premier by stating once again – as he had done on April 4 – that it was the Premier and Cabinet, not the Board, who made the decision soon after coming to office in 2015 to cancel the new middle school project that the previous administration had approved in Budget 2015.

In fact, the Chair of the English School Board wrote a letter on March 22, restating their position that the new school needs to proceed. Their recommendation was based on an extensive study undertaken by the Board, which provided evidence about the projected pace of growth in the region.

Hutchings said, “The Liberal Cabinet chose instead to fund a school extension, an option that is not adequate, not cost-effective and not practical to meet the growing needs. With the tight boundary lines, the contractor has had to make multiple attempts to provide a design that would accommodate the needs. An Access to Information response proves that the project is already 30 per cent over budget – even before the final design, traffic study, septic review and electrical upgrade have been completed – and it is three to four months behind schedule, meaning it will not like be ready to meet the need in September 2018 as required. The Liberal government is spending millions on a makeshift fix instead of spending responsibly to meet the needs effectively. And come 2021, when the Mobile school is out of space with nowhere left to expand, there is no contingency plan to handle the demand. This represents dismal planning on the part of the Premier, Education Minister and Cabinet.”

Hutchings said, “The Liberal government is uninformed. Despite the false statement the Premier made to the people of the province to try and distance himself from his own decision, the English School Board has never wavered in its recommendation that the new school for the region needs to be built now to address the mounting need for additional classroom capacity in this rapidly growing region.”

“When recently surveyed, the people of the region overwhelmingly recognized the need for a new school. The region is experiencing a very high pace of growth. That’s the reason the new school was approved, and the Cabinet’s makeshift ‘school extension’ approach will not be adequate to meet the education needs of the children of the region. The Board recognizes that, but the Premier and his Cabinet are not listening to the Board and do not care about the impact on children.”

“Will the Premier explain to the parents and children of the region why their education needs do not matter to him? Tell them the real story. Why did he cancel their new school?” Hutchings asked.

Hutchings said, “The previous government invested hundreds of millions of dollars in school infrastructure throughout the province over the course of a decade, based on needs, not politics. The new school was approved in 2015 based on need, but it appears Premier Ball is motivated by factors other than the needs of children, and has resorted to playing politics with education – even in the House today – instead of focusing on impacts their decisions will have on children.”
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Media Contact: Heather MacLean, Director of Operations and Communications, Office of the Official Opposition
(709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca