With an anti-HST sign hanging from her neck, Lorrie Forseth declared that she is opposed to “all the cuts” being made by Premier Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government.
The Burnaby mother of two told the Straight today (April 10) that she is particularly concerned about funding cuts to education and the effect the harmonized sales tax will have on those already struggling to get by. She’s also not happy about the impact these measures could have on her daughters.
“Their haircuts, their school supplies, everything’s going to be taxed,” said Forseth, standing next to her 11-year-old, Harmony. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they taxed even little things like bubblegum and stuff like that. I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I don’t think it’s fair. It’s not fair at all.”
Forseth was one of hundreds of people—many of them also sporting anti-HST signs—who attended a rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Organized by the Coalition to Build a Better B.C.—composed of 30 groups, from the Alliance for Arts and Culture to the Wilderness Committee—the protest saw several speakers criticize provincial budget cuts and their effect on the arts, children, education, seniors, women, and other areas.
Fazeela Jiwa, a 26-year-old rape crisis line and transition house worker with Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, was one of those speakers.
“Women all, in general, are disproportionately affected by all funding cuts,” Jiwa told the Straight before the rally kicked off. “I think that it’s important for the government, if they plan to be democratic, to fund equality-seeking groups. Otherwise, without equality, you can’t have democracy.”
Denise Moffatt, president of the Surrey Teachers’ Association, told the Straight she attended the rally to raise awareness of the impact of cuts to the public school system.
The secondary-school teacher noted the Surrey school district is facing a $12-million deficit while dealing with an increasing student population, and that means cuts to staff and programs are on the way.
“We’re also seeing cuts to career coordinators in secondary schools, and more students will be in portables because we don’t have money to build new schools,” Moffatt said.
She carried one of several signs at the rally depicting Campbell riding a zip line and an Olympic cauldron burning money while a crowd of protesters calls for support for schools.
“When we can replace the roof on B.C. Place Stadium, when we can afford to put on the Olympics, we do have money in B.C. and we’re just not putting it in the right places right now,” Moffatt said. “We need to redirect that money to the people of British Columbia and into our students in particular.”
At the back of the rally, people signed postcards against education cutbacks and letters demanding action on seniors’ care.
One protest banner called for a general strike.
Asked what she thought of that banner, Forseth said, “Go for it. It’s got to wake Gordon Campbell up somehow. He needs to wake up. Enough is enough.”
Shamus Reid, B.C. chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, tells the crowd about the impact of budget cuts on postsecondary education.
Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, says the province is failing many of its children and families.
After the rally, Patti Bacchus, chair of the Vancouver school board, calls on the provincial government to take action to prevent education cuts.
You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.