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Province pushed ahead with TCM school despite doubts: FOI

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

Acupuncture needles for TCM treatments. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

Acupuncture needles for TCM treatments. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

Low demand and the presence of other established traditional Chinese medicine schools concerned bureaucrats within the Ministry of Advanced Education, but that didn’t stop it from pursuing opening a new one at a public institution, documents reveal.

The nearly 200 pages of documents were requested by the BC New Democrats and available through B.C.’s open information site. They show government communications related to starting a public TCM school, eventually granted to Kwantlen Polytechnic.

“Questions may be asked about why government is undertaking the commitment given the labour market analysis shows there is not a huge demand for a profession on the lower pay scale,” said one communication. “Currently there are six private career training institutions, so the need for a public one may be questioned.”

Another email characterized a key challenge would be “showing the value” of such a program and “trying to convince the system that this is such a worthwhile project that resources could be spent on.”

Advanced Education critic for the NDP David Eby had some questions Wednesday.

There is no funding from B.C. going toward the school and Eby said the province is essentially creating a competitor for the province’s six private TCM schools, despite low demand.

“For some reason the government’s commitment was to deliver a private program through a public school,” Eby said. “The only person who’s getting any government funding for this is Richard Lee, who’s the parliamentary secretary for traditional Chinese medicine, he gets a raise cause he’s a parliamentary secretary now.”

Eby said the fact such schools have been rejected by public institutions in the past, and what he said is a “lack of a business plan,” shows the school’s purpose appears mostly political.

The documents show a strategy to engage the Chinese media, offering private roundtables and interviews with ministers, and aiming to spark discussion in the Chinese community. The project was announced around the same time as the “quick wins” ethnic-vote scandal broke.

In January, Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk told 24 hours the school is “something the public wants.”

“It’s increasingly popular in B.C., we have six private schools and we want to make sure we have a public one,” he said.

Virk offered a statement to 24 hours yesterday, but would not grant an interview.  

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