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UCP decision to cut nutrition funding short-sighted

Posted on July 18, 2019 by Vauxhall Advance

Enjoy your breakfast?

Care for an extra slice of toast? More coffee?

That morning energy boost is an important part of life for most Canadians. Indeed, if our routine blood test requisition says “fast for 12 hours,” we’re anxious to get an early morning laboratory booking so we can grab something to eat as we head to work.

We know how difficult it can be to concentrate on our job, with an empty stomach.

Yet that’s the reality facing hundreds of Taber and Vauxhall area children and they are the ones to suffer as a result.

And that’s why our educators, backed by several community organizations, have organized nutrition programs in schools across the city. It’s been proven: when they’re not feeling hunger pains, children can concentrate more on their school work.

And frankly, this is not an issue in just a few parts of town.

Some students in our public school system – in the junior highs as well as elementary grades and high schools in Horizon division – depend on that nutritional assist to get them through their day.

So it’s terribly misguided, to say the least, for the United Conservative government to stop supporting those food programs as one of its first budget cuts.

Fortunately, our schools haven’t relied solely on provincial funding to cover this need.

A truly negative impact, educators say, would be created by a freeze in Alberta’s education budget at a time when our province’s population – and the number of school-aged children – continues to grow. What’s making the situation still more difficult for school boards, unfortunately, is the uncertainty created by Premier Jason Kenney’s decision to delay the fall legislature sitting until late October.

That means school trustees won’t learn what the provincial budget says until months after classes resume.

So let’s face the facts. There is little justification for cuts to our public education, in a province that still has too many teenaged dropouts. Our high school graduation rate is among the lowest in the nation.

Indeed, it appears the only reason for the new government’s promised and mooted cuts to public services is political ideology, based on the curious suggestion that everyone would be better off if we had lower taxes coupled with cuts to public services.

Economists remind us Alberta has by far the nation’s lowest debt per capita, as well as many of the highest income earners in the nation.

Along with that, we also have the biggest gap between the well-off and those who really rely on food banks and school nutrition programs.

We’re obviously a “have” province.

And when we’re ready to bite the bullet and collect a provincial sales tax like every other province, we’ll be able to pay down the debt while helping all Albertans – including our school children – live healthier and more productive lives.

If paying an extra dime for your morning coffee could help those kids succeed, it would be money well spent.

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