School trustee needed public funds to access his email

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


The Vice-Chair of New Westminster's school board chair used $2,600 in public funds to buy himself a new computer to access his email

As 2009 draws to a close, there appears to be no shortage of controversial issues bubbling up to the surface for our municipal officials. The latest incident comes from my home community of New Westminster where it was revealed that trustee Michael Ewen, former Chair of the NW School Board, used $2,600 in public funds to buy himself a new MacBook Pro. Ewen has been a teacher in the Surrey School District for many years.

The Record newspaper was the first media outlet to break the story. Ewen defended his purchase by stating:

I had to buy a new computer. My computer had died. If I didn't have it, I wouldn't be able to receive e-mails.

Huh? Does he want us to believe that without the tax payers of New Westminster stepping in to the picture, he would be unable to send or receive email? Who is he kidding? Ewen made a total of $78,784 as a school teacher in the Surrey School District last year. In addition, he also earns a trustee salary of $21,514 from the New Wesminster School District. When you combine this with his spouse's income (she is a teacher with the District of New Westminster and earned $77,940.10 in 2008/09), he has a household income of at least $178,000. Therefore, given the grim fiscal situation facing the New Westminster School Board these days, the purchase of this computer can only be described as offensive.

The vast majority of New Westminster residents are not given tax dollars to purchase a computer, yet somehow they seem capable of accessing their email accounts? However, even if you do buy Ewen's argument that he needed a new computer in order to access his email, why did he need to spend $2,600 bucks on a Cadillac iMac system?

A cursory check of the Internet provides hundreds of lower cost options for personal computers.  A basic Lenovo Thinkpad starts at $299 + tax. This is considerably less than what Ewen dished out for his Mac.

Ewen's trustee colleague Lisa Graham also purchased $2,456 worth of computer and technological equipment last year. Each trustee is afforded up to $1,000 per year over three years to purchase technology to help support their role as an elected official.Current policy allows for the annual allotment to be spent in one lump sum up to $3,000.

Kudos to Niki Hope for breaking this story earlier this week. Let's hope that Ewen and Graham are having second thoughts about their purchase now that the Record has helped so shed a bit of light on their expense claims. We're not holding our breath.

UPDATE CORRECTION: We have been advised by one of our readers that Michael McQuillan at the New Westminster Newsleader broke this story, not the Record as we originally reported.

- Post by Daniel


This is what happens whenever you give someone from from the NDP access to the public purse. They open it up and shake it down for everything they can.

Guys like Ewen have been milking New Westminster's puny city-state school district like this for decades. And they've been getting away with it.

Maybe people in New Westminster will wake up one day and put a stop to this kind of stuff.

It's one thing to have tech support allotment, but was there no purchasing policy attached to it? Wouldn't the New West school board have approved vendors for computers at bulk prices? Also, then the computers would belong to the district and simply be on loan for the trustees to use while doing school board business.

Thanks for hi-lighting this. You guys have merely hit the surface when it comes to Ewen's sense of entitlement. He spent one grand of public money on a phone calls last year. Almost a grand in teacher replacement at his workplace in Surrey, so that he could attend meetings. His stepson is/was on staff in New West. So is his one-time step-daughter. So is his wife. This guy declared a conflict of interest for the first time recently, but only because he was under duress from the community.
This guy's expenses were more than those of all other Trustees put together. Same thing the previous year.

All of this while the District had to make massive cuts to avoid a $3M. deficit (the deficit was $1m. the previous year).

In addition, he is a Director on the New Westminster School District Business Company, which has piled up losses of $850,000. The Company at one time hired political stable-mate Linda Baron as E.D. Cozy eh?

Lets see, nepotism, cronyism, a whacked out sense of entitlement, incompetence, the list goes on. Wonderful service to the community.

This guy is obviously not very bright. Maybe that is why he is a school teacher. Who would be dumb enough to pay well over $2,000 for a web browsing computer, when a $600.00 machine would be adequate? He could even buy an iPod Touch for $400 that accesses email perfectly well.

Hey, folks, Welcome to the New Westminster School District, home of the Hyacks, small town nepotism, inbred "president-for-life" despotism, petty piggies-at-the-trough "entitlements" all melded together with ineptitude, incompetence and flat-earth, labour movement fundamentalism...

I can't even begin to count the number of people who've asked me why the minister of education doesn't put a stop to these guys. Unfortunately, apathy seems to work in favour of those who've held control of the New Westminster School District over the past several decades. I would love to see the Minister shut these guys down too.

In my opinion there really isn't any need for a New Westminster School District... or at least any need for an elected New Westminster school board. Superintendent John Woudzia could run this entire district in conjunction with the school principals and representative PACs. And he could do it very well based on my close observations over the past decade (a very qualified individual and educator).

If the diseased tissue and continual interference of the school board (which also suffers from numerous well-known conflicts of interests) was removed, Woudzia would undoubtedly be able to nurse the district to good health, get things on course and achieve what the school district is supposed to be achieving--namely, improving student achievement.

I don't know what things are like in most other BC school districts, but they can't possibly be as bad as they are here in New Westminster.

Maybe it's time to move away from the archaic school district model in BC and set up a smaller number of regional education authorities with appointed boards qualified to guide the education system. From what I can see, the current system has allowed a very bad situation to take root in New Westminster with the school system being run more like a personal medieval fiefdom than a publicly accountable organ of society.

The Supreme Court of BC found in Wynja v. Halsey-Brandt et al. that it is a clear conflict of interest for a teacher to serve as a trustee. That is why the government bargains provincially, not on a district-by-district basis.
The fact that BCTF has ignored this ruling and continued to infiltrate Boards with their spies proves conclusively that the school-board system has become hopelessly politicized.
It should be pointed out that Mr. Ewen and teachers like him are making nearly $80K/yr for working 185 days/yr. That's 37 thirty-hour weeks (with just 20 hours/wk spent in direct classroom instruction). Most taxpayers work at least 50 forty-hour weeks for an average $32K.
Yet again we see that the first priority of K-12 education in BC is highly-paid jobs for adults, not student achievement.

That's what I was thinking. A MacBook Pro? Why not just buy a Cray XT5 supercomputer?

Call a spade a spade.

This is Ewen's fourth or fifth computer paid for by the school district over the past number of years. What proof do we have that Ewen's other laptop(s) no longer work? Shouldn't he have to turn over his "broken" Macs and Mac laptops to the district to confirm they no longer work?

You could have bought 3 or 4 classroom computers for what this Michael Ewen person spent on his MAC. And he's not the only one who did this.
I guess there aren't any needy classrooms in New Westminster if they have money to spend on perks like top of the line MAC computers for their trustees.

Based on what I've been reading here and elsewhere, I take it Mr. Ewen is tight with the unions and the NDP. That figures. Has anyone checked to see if any Royal City school board members have acquired new sundecks recently. Does anyone remember the Greek word for sundeck?

Business school in China fiasco - re-elected

Millions wasted on a new high school that never got built - re-elected

I think this says more about the stupidity of the New Westminster voters than about Mr. Ewen.

Isn't it amazing how these class warfare types like Ewen and his union exec brothers and sisters are the first to profit when there is some money around or a position of power to be had?

How very Orwellian. Oink.

The Smelly Thought of the Evening
"Politicians are like shit flies. They circle the pile while is hot and sticky. They have to make the best of it during a short lived window of opportunity. It doesn’t matter if they are from New West, Vancouver or Victoria...they are the shreep flies.”


Child poverty in BC, number ONE in the past SIX years, and counting!

School fund-raising for lack of Grants or Grant cuts (with these School Boards doing NOTHING but informing the parents of the new fee increases) day, poinsettia sales, cookie sales, overpriced Calendars and educational kits; parent’s becoming an Olympic sport.

Hey, minimum wage in BC at $8/hour and $6/hour if in TRAINING (by the way, did it ever occurred to any of you that a new elected politician with no prior “in office” experience should start with IN TRAINING wages?

The NDP has established themselves as an incubator for future Liberals, provincially and federally; at least the apathy is there! As for the teachers, during their last labour conflict they pathetically pretended to be doing it for the kids, ladies and gentlemen, for the kids! Nope, they did it for the money, there, I said it! I don’t buy the “legalise” behind their collective agreements and entitlements.
Come spring, we all may need a couple of Zappers; it’s an old but effective way to destroy parasites.

They’ll show up, don’t you worry about that, they always do.

That's what I was thinking. A MacBook Pro? Why not just buy a Cray XT5 supercomputer?

Call a spade a spade.
John replied to comment from Bob H | December 27, 2009 1:34 PM

Hey Daniel,

What's up with editing my comment above? That's NOT what I posted.

There's no point in writing a comment on CC if it's just going to be doctored the way you see fit.

Just keep posting your own fake comments if you want a guaranteed spin.

John, we do not allow crude remarks. We state it pretty clearly in our About page. It's very rare when we have to edit/remove, but it's our judgment call.

This guy adds new meaning to "special needs teachers."

Shouln't the unions that fund Ewen's election be paying for Ewen's new computers? The unions spent a lavish quarter of a million dollars getting Ewen and his cronies elected last year. The unions should be able to spring for a $2,600 computer too.

What an incredible breach of trust.
This money needs to be returned.
Great job City Caucus staff!!!
Now, please run an informed piece on the ongoing conflicts of interest in this District. They are numerous, and make the ones in your article on Vancouver City Hall look child's play.
It seems like the local press has moved on.

Ewen needs voters continuing to believe he's related to the cannery owner, Alexander Ewen, and his May Queen daughters.

Only in New West would someone like cheesy, demented and knock-kneed Michael Ewen achieve this kind of weird "star" status and bogus association in order to score over the past thirty years.

Rock on fancy pants.


Might I suggest next time you just delete the entire comment instead of doctoring it the way you see fit? That might show better faith in terms of trying to spin things your way.

In future I'll bite my tongue when I'm thinking "crude" thoughts. It's just that, with this subject matter, it's a natural tendency.


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