I read with interest the recent announcement by Mark Strahl of a huge generous grant of our federal tax dollars for local Youth at Risk. Initially my response was positive believing that my money will be well spent addressing this perceived need. After considering it further some questions came to mind and I would like answers as I’m sure many Chilliwack tax payers would.
1. If Mark Strahl truly represents our community, did he seek meaningful input from all of the agencies in Chilliwack currently serving “at risk youth?” These would include Chilliwack Restorative Justice, Chilliwack Community Services, Ann Davis Transition Services, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Local Child and Youth Committee and the Youth Matters sub-committee. If so, why were they not at the funding announcement?
2. Was there no local, not for profit agency with a “Chilliwack Board” that could handle this project? Why must Chilliwack always look outside Chilliwack for answers and expertise? Don’t we have it here? I believe we do.
3. Were other local agencies given opportunity to bid on this grant?
4. Given that this is taxpayer money, did Mark Strahl do his due diligence and establish the scientific basis for this approach? Will this $1.8 million be well spent and get proven results?
5. Are there other, less costly means to respond to the needs of “at risk youth” that could build on the services we currently have?
In my view this recent grant announcement by Mark Strahl of almost 2 million tax payer dollars for “at risk youth” demonstrated how out of touch he and the Conservation government are about what really happens in communities. Rather than talk with community members and gain a broad consensus on what the needs are and what should be done, he parachuted in a politically well timed solution. For some unknown reason his government gave it to the Surrey based “Pacific Community Resources,” ignoring Chilliwack based agencies such as Chilliwack Community Services, Ann Davis Transition Services and Chilliwack Restorative Justice, all who serve “at risk youth”. Likely our MP was banking on the fact that most people in Chilliwack would support the idea of improving opportunities for “at risk youth”. Hopefully he has underestimated our ability to see his cynical use of that good will to further his own ambitions in this an election year.
Having volunteered my time and experience on local boards working with local youth, I am saddened to learn that these local organizations were overlooked in the awarding of this grant.