Sunday, September 08, 2013

Can We Really Afford Our Education & Healthcare?

As a society we pride ourselves on making education and healthcare two of our pillars, both of which over time have taken on practically sacred status. Both educators and healthcare workers have enjoyed incomes that for the most part well exceed the norm with the exception of course of the civil service on pretty much all levels.

Whether, as a nation we can afford to maintain the standards we have come to expect is a debate, we as a society need to honestly have and should not be conducted by our elected officials who will pretty much promise anything, if it secures their election. To date, nationally we have spent nearly $700 billion of future generations monies to maintain the standards of living we seem to feel entitled to. Sound economics?

Right here in little old Nanaimo, the matter of what is affordable in our education system, our health care delivery systems and the level of taxation needed to support our own army of civil servants are hot topics in coffee shops everywhere.

While the tainted Ipsos Reid survey which in some ways seems to contradict itself, is used by the local politicos as some sort of overwhelming endorsement that planned levels of taxation are quite acceptable, it seems to contradict the chatter over coffee around town.

We are looking at likely a 20% tax increase over the next five years, a 25% increase in water rates and a 12.5% increase in sewer rates in addition to the 20% property tax increase. Those city councillors who keep spending, spending, spending seem of the opinion that there is no end to the tax increases Nanaimo residents can support.

The School District has been the subject of much public debate these past years, as the reality of just how many tax dollars are available to keep pumping into the system keeps challenging those we elect. Teachers threatening strikes for more wages, smaller classrooms, more aides bring one level of pressure to the problem. Aging buildings, changing demographics and limited funding brings another dimension to the debate. Closing schools, expanding other schools and building completely new ones all are issues leaders are struggling with as we attempt to deliver the type of education we think our children deserve.

The quality of education, and how well prepared modern day students are to face the world is also fodder for heated discussion in some circles. But regardless of where you stand on many of these education issues, there is no denying the current system has pretty much hit the wall in terms of how many dollars are available to be spent.

In the area of hospital care, we have just recently heard serious concerns from the Nurses Union regards changes VIHA has made in the area of staffing in hospitals on Vancouver Island. The unions claim the changes will put more patients at risk and bring greater levels of stress to those tasked with caring for our sick. I personally know of a person who has worked in the system for a long time and still has many years before retirement; who has  chosen to leave hospital employment claiming the increased stress, is just not worth it.

Are we really able to afford our current health and education systems or is this another one of our 'financial buses' that is about to hit the wall and those of use driving are leaving the results of the wreck to our kids and their kids?


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