Martyn Brown raises an interesting point about the NDP pledge to kill a really stupid piece of public policy the Campbell government put in place in 2007.
The Children’s Education Fund never made any sense. The Liberals said the government would put $1,000 for every child born in the province into a fund. Beginning in 2025, when the a teen graduated from high school, he or she would get the money, plus interest, for postsecondary training or education. Figure $2,200.
It was a goofy policy, pulled out of thin air when Gordon Campbell needed something to announce at the party’s 2006 convention.
And there have been suggestions for a couple of years - OK, perhaps just by me - to get rid of it.
In 2011, I wrote that the government was committing $47 million to the fund that year, money that was needed for services.
“There’s no logical basis for the government to decide that a tuition subsidy for students starting school in 2025 is a priority today — more important than caring for the disabled, improving health care or offering a tax cut to encourage employment growth," I wrote then.
“In fact, the notion that the government can predict the needs of students two decades in the future is dubious. Imagine the outgoing Socreds trying to come up with a tuition plan that would work for students in 2011.
“The amount, for example, could be a pittance compared to the cost of education more than a decade from now.
“Or alternately, a future government, given the need for skilled British Columbians, could have decided post-secondary education should be free to some qualifying students, or even all students. That’s not an outlandish notion, given the shift to a knowledge-based economy in the province....
“Why not take the $47 million and address today’s needs, through scholarships or education credits or tax breaks, or target First Nations’ high school graduation rates, or address other educational needs?
“It’s also bizarre that the fund makes no distinctions based on the needs of either the province, or the students.
“A multimillionaire’s child will get $2,000; so will a youth coming out of care, living on income assistance and trying to get an education.
“A smart program would target bright students who couldn’t afford an education, and be based on merit and need. Or it could support education for students entering fields that were critical to the province’s future.”
By 2025, I noted, the government would have stashed more than $1 billion in the fund.
The government changed the plan this year, pledging to give parents a cheque for every child on their sixth birthdays, to put into an RESP.
Brown’s point is that parents who had babies between 2007 and today had a right to count on the money and taking it away violates a “social contract.” (And he acknowledges, implicitly, the irony of the argument, given his role in the Campbell government’s illegal ripping up of contracts with pubic sector unions.)
The programs needs to be axed.
But perhaps there was a commitment here, at least to the parents of children born since in 2007. It might be right to preserve the program in its original form for those families. After all, the money has been set aside.
Even stupid commitments probably should be honoured.