If there’s a hat trick in politics, Old Massett’s Chief Ken Rea just pulled one off.
Since 2006 his council has struggled with the federal government’s failed intent to expand Chief Matthews Elementary with more classrooms and a dedicated gymnasium.
But through a partnership with three branches of government, the Old Massett Village Council, the Province of B.C. and Ottawa, that expansion may finally—finally—see a start date.
Usually the more levels of government you add to a problem, or a project, the more likely the moving parts will jam.
But somehow this project seems to be showing all the right signs for success. Ottawa was backlogged with First Nations’ school projects, but if someone else—the province—could kick in a little money, it might inspire the bookkeepers to expedite the process. Think what we will about the federal government’s obligations to First Nations, but at greater issue was the needs of children, and Mr. Rea really must be acknowledged for taking the lead and getting something done.
At the funding announcement for a feasibility study last week, Premier Christy Clark made several references to Mr. Rea’s dedication. Later asked by the Observer why she herself travelled to Haida Gwaii, rather than send a deputy minister, or minister as one would expect, she replied: “Ken Rea is one of the most tenacious First Nations leaders in the province. He told me I had to come, and that’s why I came. I wanted to honour the community and honour him by being a part of this today.”
Yes, she quite generous with her compliments, but the takeaway is there: Mr. Rae was the spearhead in this partnership, and it earned him significant respect in the process.
As we’re all too aware, life on Haida Gwaii often requires compromise one day and unique solutions to common needs the next.
It’s easy to look at the Premier’s attendance as an important political appearance in an NDP stronghold, but we’re withholding skepticism as the words accompanying this visit hit the right notes: “The lawyers and the bureaucrats are always worried about who’s responsible for these things,” she said. “What I think about is, how do we improve outcomes for the kids? This is a great school and we want to invest in that.”
Chief Matthews Elementary went from 28th on a long list of schools awaiting funding, to the number one position overnight.
Mr. Rea certainly found his solution, but without compromising any of the school’s needs.