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October 1, 2012

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UBCM Votes for Democracy in Cowichan School District

VICTORIA—The Union of BC Municipalities has voted for a democratic by-election in the Cowichan Valley.  UBCM delegates passed a resolution late Friday calling for a vote to be held to elect school trustees in the district.

The nine-member board of trustees in School District 79 was fired by the provincial government after it filed a needs based budget in May. The BC Liberals have mandated that school district budgets must be “balanced” regardless of the needs of schools or students.

The Cowichan Valley School District Board of Trustees submitted a budget with a $3.7-million deficit, explaining its duty was to protect and restore services for students after years of government cuts. The board called for vital school services such as adequate hours of work for education assistants, custodial time, technology courses and bus service.

Lake Cowichan deputy mayor Tim McGonigle, who spearheaded the UBCM motion, said the only democratic option is to hold a by-election. Former Minister of Education George Abbott had said he saw no need to address the situation before the next municipal elections in 2015.  An outside trustee has been appointed by the ministry to oversee the district until those elections. 

BC Education Minister Don McRae, who replaced Abbott, issued a statement on Friday saying his government would review the resolution and hold discussions with the appointed trustee.

Momentum has been growing for a by-election with a petition under the name Let Cowichan Decide saying that “qualified voters and taxpayers in School District 79 should be represented by an elected Board of School Trustees” and “taxation without representation is unacceptable.”

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