MLA: Where is the programming money?

North Island MLA Claire Trevena says the $13.5-million funding announcement earlier this week for North Island College’s (NIC) amalgamation of facilities and renovations is certainly welcome but it won’t benefit students if the government continues to underfund the programming at the school.

“People, I think, were aware that there was going to be an announcement soon about Vigar Road and some kind of more coherent and combined trades training facility, but the thing that gets me – I mean, I wasn’t there because I’m up on the North Island today,” Trevena told the Mirror by phone after Tuesday’s announcement, “but I read what was included in their release – and what I got from it is that, yes, we’ve got the money for the facilities but not for the programming.”

Trevena says she is constantly let down by the government when she asks about NIC’s operational funding, and this announcement doesn’t really alleviate that disappointment.

“Every year we get to our budget and I ask the minister of advanced education about investment in North Island College, because we are one of the lowest funded colleges in the province per student,” Trevena continues. “We get really low funding. And I didn’t see any reference at all to that. The fact is that, while it’s great to have the facility, unless you have the money to put on the courses being held there, it’s not going to be great for the students. You can have the most wonderful facilities that there are, but you need the money for programming and it needs to be ongoing money for programming. Everyone is aware that trades training is extremely expensive and you really need to have a serious investment, which is something I just don’t see this government doing.”

Trevena also isn’t surprised that all of this money is suddenly being made available to fund major projects.

On Jan. 20, the government announced a similar funding partnership that sees them putting $16.5 million towards a $39.9-million Health and Science Centre at Vancouver Island University.

The day before, they announced a $5.73 million contribution towards the creation of a $21.5-million Centre for Environmental Science and International Partnerships at Royal Roads University. They have also committed $31 million of the $48.5 million needed for a new health sciences centre at Camosun.

“It’s coming from the magic pre-election pot, I think,” she says. “We have an election coming, and so there’s a great amount of largesse. Basically, you’ve got two things happening here. You’ve got the province wanting to look as though they care – but again, I can’t see how they can justify that they care if they’re not putting money into programming – and you’ve got the feds who have put money into it, which is where much of where this money is coming from.”

Construction on the NIC project is expected to start soon, with the majority of the project completed by spring of next year.