Christy Clark Warns Against NDP Education Grants Cuts

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CHRISTY CLARK
British Columbia Premier and Liberal Leader Christy Clark, right, stops to talk to young girls drawing on the sidewalk with chalk after a provincial election campaign stop at the house next door in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday May 5, 2013. British Columbians go to the polls for a provincial election May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck | CP

VANCOUVER - Preschoolers, pipelines, professional skills training and pixie all came up as the provincial election campaign entered its last full week on Sunday.

Premier Christy Clark spent part of the morning on her knees with six-year-olds, as she chalked up the sidewalks of an East Vancouver neighbourhood and warned of NDP cuts to education grants for children that would add "uncertainty" for B.C. families.

The NDP would nix her Liberal government's plan to provide a one-time $1,200 Registered Education Savings Plan grant, Clark said — funding currently promised by government to families with kids born after 2007.

Clark says parents best know how to spend the grants to suit their childrens' post-secondary education needs and she accused NDP leader Adrian Dix of thinking government knows better.

Her sentiments were well received by Liberal supporters, Otto and Karin Schaffer, who hosted Clark at their home for a campaign event on Sunday morning.

Adopting a motherly tone, Clark spoke with the couple's four-year-old daughter Stella, who presented the premier with a rainbow drawing and then hid her face against her parents' legs, requesting a juice box.

"We're visiting the Schaffers because Stella's education is at stake," Clark said.

"The NDP believe that they can make better decisions with your money, with your children's money, than you can," Clark added later.

Clark said the NDP would use the $300 million it "takes from children" to pay for grandiose election promises, a stark contrast to what she called the Liberals' far-sighted approach.

Since the grant was initiated by the Liberals nearly five years ago, the government says it has put aside $1,000 in a government-managed education savings fund for every child born in B.C.

Former NDP leader Carole James called Clark's statements "unbelievable," adding the Liberal party is better known for cuts to education and childcare initiatives than fostering development.

"The last twelve years, this has been a government that has cut education, that cut support for ministry for children and families — the most vulnerable children. (It) didn't put money into childcare and has failed children," James said in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon.

"And now the premier says, 'Don't worry, we have resources put away for your child for 18 years from now' — the government's not trustworthy."

But childcare and education weren't the only hot-button issues of the day.

Clark also responded to questions about her stance on oil tanker traffic along B.C.'s coast, as well as the proposed Kinder Morgan and Enbridge pipeline projects — a stance Dix has said was unclear.

"My position has been clear on this, it has not changed," Clark said, accusing Dix of flip-flopping on the issue — first stating he wouldn't form an opinion until Kinder Morgan had filed an application to expand its trans-mountain pipeline, then voicing staunch opposition about the increased tanker traffic the project would bring.

"There are five conditions that need to be met before there can be any expansion of any movement of heavy oil through British Columbia," Clark reiterated.

"None of them are in a position to even be considered at the moment."

Clark said Dix's call for more environmental reviews before projects go ahead will create unneeded bureaucracy and project delays.

After Clark answered reporters' questions at the campaign event, she crashed a birthday party next door and kneeled to draw a chalk figure of her striped cat Pixie for the celebrating girls.

Meanwhile the NDP leader was campaigning in Cranbrook to talk about skills training.

After stopping off at a local coffee shop, Dix headed to Canfor's Elko sawmill where he called the Liberal approach to skills training "backwards" and "dismal."

"Under the BC Liberals, our apprenticeship system is getting worse, not better," Dix said. "This is a key issue for our economic future."

Dix outlined his party's plan to address the skills shortages in the forestry, mining, agriculture and other industries.

"We (must) take specific steps to improve completion rates, that we improve standards in programs, that we ensure that our young people are working on modern equipment," he said.

"The NDP says yes to jobs in forestry, yes to jobs in mining, yes jobs in LNG (liquified natural gas) and natural gas, yes to jobs in high tech, and yes to jobs in agriculture."

Voters go to the polls May 14.

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