Poll shows gap between public’s priorities and actions of Campbell government

Results of a mid-August poll by Ipsos Reid, done on behalf of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, a number of public sector unions and the BC Federation of Labour, show strong support for budget measures that help BC families weather the current economic downturn.  “This poll has got to be a wake-up call to Mr. Hansen and the entire BC Liberal caucus,” said Cindy Oliver, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators.  “He’s tabling a budget next week and we need to see different priorities that close the gap between what the government has been doing over the last three months and what British Columbians believe are more sensible priorities,” Oliver added.

“We have seen cuts in areas like tourism, health care, post-secondary education, environmental protection, and this poll tells us that over two-thirds of respondents think those cuts are the wrong way to go,” Oliver noted.

“Mr. Hansen would like people to believe that he is protecting public services, but the facts tell us a different story.  Just ask heath authorities or Board members of the now-defunct Tourism BC.  This government is poised to repeat the chaos it created in 2001.  The vast majority of British Columbians don’t want them to do that,” said Oliver.

“When it comes to post-secondary education, we’re losing valuable programs every day.  We just got word about more cuts to adult literacy programs.  These were the programs that were supposed to deliver on the Premier’s promise of BC becoming the most literate jurisdiction in North America.  He may have forgotten that promise, but thousands of adult learners who accessed these literacy programs have not,” Oliver said.

“We’re also losing important student support programs in post-secondary education.  We were told last week that Langara College had funding for its Advanced Education Media Acquisition program cancelled.  This program provided media acquisition services for the entire post-secondary system and saved the provincial treasury millions in the process, but it was axed because of budget cutbacks in Victoria.  All of these program cuts come on the heels of a 2.6% cut in operating grants to institutions that happened last year and that cut has never been restored,” Oliver stressed.

“Adding to our problem is that the Ministry of Advanced Education is underestimating the demand to post-secondary.  Last year they budgeted for an increase of 1.6% increase in student spaces, but enrolments increased by almost double that figure, leaving colleges and universities scrambling to do more with less,” Oliver said.  

“The polling numbers tell us that 79% of respondents see affordability, namely de-regulated tuition fees, as a huge barrier.  We are becoming a place where access to post-secondary education is more of a privilege than a right.  That’s closing the door on thousands of students who want and need a post-secondary education.  We will be in Victoria for the budget presentation on September 1st.  Hopefully, the priorities reflected in these polling numbers will be reflected in what the Finance Minster tables in the Legislature.  British Columbians deserve nothing less,” Oliver concluded.  

The Ipsos Reid poll canvassed the views of 801 British Columbians during the week of August 8-12, 2009.  The poll found strong support for a variety of budget measures:

* 75% supported raising the minimum wage from $8/hour to $10/hour.
* 86% supported investing in more public services like post-secondary education and re-training programs for unemployed workers.
* 75% opposed cuts to services like child protection, legal aid and provincial parks to balance the budget.
* 61% opposed cuts to spending on environmental protections and enforcement to balance the budget.
* 84% supported increased funding for local health authorities to prevent cuts to health services.
* 85% supported new initiatives to protect and create jobs in British Columbia.
* 76% supported creating a new child care program to help working families.

The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.5%, 19 out of 20 times.

A copy of the complete poll results can be found here.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.