REALITY CHECK: B.C. Liberals misleading British Columbians about dismantling ESL in universities and colleges

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VICTORIA- For the past two days, Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk has been telling British Columbians he doesn’t know what it will mean when changes to federal government funding for English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are implemented in the spring. But this morning the federal minister in charge revealed that the B.C. government is fully on board with the changes.

Minister Virk needs to explain why he didn’t tell the public the B.C. Liberal government supports the federal government’s plan to take ESL funding from B.C. universities and colleges.

Here’s what Minister Virk and the federal immigration minister have been saying about the changes:

Amrik Virk, B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Eduation: “As a province we felt that the status quo and the way that we were delivering it was the best model.” – CBC radio, Dec. 11, 2013

Federal Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander: “We’ve actually done it with the agreement of the provincial government. I’ve been working very closely with Shirley Bond on this transition, she supports it, the premier supports it, the government endorses it.” – CBC radio, Dec. 12

Minister Virk needs to explain why he’s telling British Columbians one thing while the premier and the jobs minister are saying something else to the federal government.

Is the real reason the B.C. Liberals support dismantling the current ESL system because they plan to drop their commitment to offer free ESL courses to domestic students at B.C.’s colleges and universities, which they announced just last year?

“This investment will help Canadian citizens and Canadian-born residents whose first language is not English improve their English language skills in order to move on to higher levels of education, skills and trades training and employment.”- Naomi Yamamoto, former B.C. Liberal advanced education minister, April 5, 2012, in a news release promising tuition free ESL for domestic students.

Quote from B.C. New Democrat Advanced Education critic David Eby:

“The B.C. Liberal government continues to demonstrate it can’t be trusted to stand up for the services that British Columbians rely on. Not only have they misled the public about their support for the federal plan to dismantle ESL programs at colleges and universities, they have failed to explain their plan to keep their promise to offer free ESL courses to domestic students.”