Our View: Human infrastructure as vital as buildings

Police, nurses, and teachers are key parts of our social infrastructure

Students head back to school next week, here in Langley and around the province. And yet again, we’re worried if there are enough teachers.

This province has been good at building infrastructure. We can complain about the rate of building of public works, but picture Langley 20 years ago, and consider all that’s been added since then – multiple major overpasses, the Golden Ears Bridge, widened highways, schools, and now expansions at Langley Memorial Hospital at last underway.

But where B.C., and many other parts of Canada, faltered is when it comes to human infrastructure.

You can build all the new classrooms and operating rooms you want, but if there aren’t nurses and teachers to staff those facilities, they’re useless.

We’re now facing a crunch as the education system has to massively increase its staff of teachers after years of neglect. The Supreme Court of Canada decision on class sizes means thousands of new teachers have been hired – and it still isn’t enough.

There isn’t much of an immediate solution, either. More teachers are being trained, hired, and imported from other provinces.

It’s more of an object lesson.

When physical infrastructure is neglected, we can see it. Roads develop potholes that aren’t fixed, street lights burn out, playground equipment becomes shabby.

When it’s human infrastructure – police, firefighters, paramedics, social workers, teachers, nurses – the humans involved work harder to try to take up the slack.

Until, eventually, they burn out, retire, or just quit. And then we’re in trouble.

Governments at all levels need to pay attention to maintaining human infrastructure.

–M.C.

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