After much expectation from community leaders, the ministry has finally made a decision regarding which agencies will take over the contracts of the family programs.
Last week we found out that the contracts were awarded to two organizations from out of town. I don’t think anyone doubts that these are competent and respectful organizations. The Prince George branch of the Elizabeth Fry Society, for example, was established in 1979 and has already been providing services to the Burns Lake area.
But in a town that took over 25 years to develop a successful hub model of service, the decision to award the contracts to organizations from out of town didn’t sound like great news to many.
With the successful hub model of services dismantled and the family programs being transferred (well, at least the ones that didn’t stop being funded such as healthier babies brighter futures), community leaders were hoping that the contracts would be awarded to local organizations such as the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society.
But what has left many disappointed wasn’t simply the decision to award the contracts to organizations from out of town – the entire process has been disappointing.
First it was the decision by the CNC board to transfer these programs without consulting with the community. I mean, sure, there were a couple of consultation meetings held in Burns Lake in the last few months, but many felt that they were simply being told what was going to happen as opposed to actually being consulted (and some people even walked out of one of these meetings). Since the CNC board has decided to move away from what it calls social programming to refocus on education, the Burns Lake council has made several attempts to convince the board that the family programs do not go against the college’s focus on education. But community leaders in Burns Lake are not the only ones disappointed with the CNC board. Last week we also found out that the Faculty Association of the College of New Caledonia had passed motions of non-confidence in senior administrators after repeated efforts to engage them over concerns with the erosion of programs and courses.
In addition, North Central Local Government Association president Brian Frenkel spoke out against the CNC executive saying that community engagements in the region didn’t feel as consultations, and that this current CNC executive has been a lot more difficult to work with than the previous college administration.
To top it all off, the college recently announced the appointment of two new members to its board of directors and one administrative representative – including a current and former deputy minister – to “support the college in its current direction.”
It is still unclear if their appointment had anything to do with the complaints that CNC has been receiving. Furthermore, community leaders have also expressed disappointment with the ministry’s lack of engagement.
The B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development, the primary funder of the CNC family programs, has been overseeing the transfer of the family programs.
As a reporter, even getting enough information from the ministry about this selection process has been difficult and even frustrating at times.
Last week Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold said he was “extremely disappointed” in the lack of community engagement by the ministry in the identification of program needs, the cancellation of programs, and the decision to award the contracts.
Strimbold said he hopes the ministry will work hard to rebuild respect in our community.