A trio of Surrey MLAs are criticizing the NDP for failing to act on a promise to eliminate portables in the Surrey School District. (File photo)

NDP portables-elimination pledge ‘a hollow promise’: Surrey MLAs

Redies, Cadieux, Hunt criticize government inaction

South Surrey’s Opposition MLAs are calling on the provincial NDP government to “step up” with more funding for Surrey schools.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday morning – 2½ weeks after Surrey Board of Education’s vice-chair expressed frustration with the growing use of portables – BC Liberal MLAs Tracy Redies (Surrey-White Rock), Marvin Hunt (Surrey-Cloverdale) and Stephanie Cadieux (Surrey South) criticize B.C. leaders for failing to keep an election promise to eliminate portables in the city.

The trio describe the campaign pledge – without funding to back it up – as “little more than a hollow promise.”

“By 2041, Surrey is projected to surpass Vancouver to become British Columbia’s largest city. As our city continues to grow, so too will capacity pressures on schools. Given the space pressures we are already facing – as well as the expectations for future growth – there is no time to waste in tackling this issue,” the MLAs write.

Surrey School District officials have confirmed that there are now 333 portables in use at the city’s public schools. The total includes 14 new ones that arrived for the 2018-19 school year – an addition board of education vice-chair Terry Allen has said is “probably not going to be enough.”

READ MORE: Surrey school district’s portable count rises to 333: Allen

(Allen had initally told Black Press Media that the district had 347 portables now, however, that total was later attributed to “unclear information” around the district’s purchase of the 14 new units.)

“I started to think that as much as the new provincial government has OK’d new schools and everything, unless they change the system we’re never going to get ahead of this,” Allen told Black Press Media last month. “We can’t put in for schools until we actually do the head counts. The kids are already there. It’s absolutely ridiculous. We’ll always be moving portables, purchasing portables, we’re chasing our own tail.”

The MLAs claim the former Liberal government recognized the need for action and “had a plan in place to reduce the number of portables in Surrey.”

“But despite a promise to eliminate portables in Surrey within four years, we’ve seen the NDP government spending less on building schools throughout the province than our former government had budgeted,” the MLAs state.

Education Minister Rob Fleming, however, told Black Press Media last month that his government was trying to get a handle on “the backlog that we inherited from the previous government.” He noted that portable use went up by 50 per cent under the Liberals’ reign.

The NDP plan, Fleming said, is to “start eliminating portables aggressively in Surrey” by 2021.

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