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Ontario Hansard - 03-December2019

EDUCATION FUNDING


Ms. Andrea Horwath: My first question is to the Premier. Parents and students are nervously awaiting news about which schools will be closed tomorrow, and hoping for news that will avoid job action.

Can the Premier tell us what steps he has taken over the 120 hours since job action was first announced to avoid a shutdown of schools tomorrow?


Hon. Doug Ford: Minister of Education.

Hon. Stephen Lecce: For 204 consecutive days, the teachers unions have made absolutely no moves at the bargaining table, notwithstanding that the government of Ontario has made significant moves to classroom sizes from 28 to 25, to online learning from four to two.

We are listening to those we are serving; however, every single entity at the table must be reasonable in order to ensure we keep kids in class both Wednesday and every day thereafter. Our government is focused on getting deals because the parents of this province deserve predictability and children deserve educational stability on Wednesday and every day thereafter.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary question?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: The government doesn’t get credit for not cutting even deeper. Parents don’t want them to cut at all; that’s the problem.

To parents and students wondering what’s going to happen to the school year, it looks like the Premier has been doing very little to fix the mess that he has created. For months, the Premier did his utmost to pick a fight with teachers in the classroom and ignore the concerns of parents and students who said his cuts would hurt the quality of our kids’ education and create conflict.

Now that we’re on the verge of school closures across Ontario, is the Premier ready to actually show some leadership, de-escalate this situation and reverse the reckless cuts?


Hon. Stephen Lecce: The Premier has demonstrated his firm commitment in the defence of public education by increasing expenditure to the highest levels ever recorded in this province’s history.

Every member of our team is committed to keeping kids in class. We demonstrated this consistent, student-centric focus at the table with CUPE, and with CUPE we got a deal—a good deal for all parties. We seek to do that again for the teachers in Ontario.

What is constant through the process and what is frustrating for observers is that irrespective of the Premier and who’s in the chair, the bottom line is teachers unions escalate against the government. That is unacceptable for parents. It’s what unites Bob Rae, former Premier McGuinty and now Doug Ford. The unity there is that they all faced escalation by unions, and I think parents are frustrated and sick and tired of it. What they want is every party to be reasonable.

We’re going to continue to invest in education, getting a good deal that keeps kids in class.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): The final supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Well, I guess the minister doesn’t get it, but cuts and rollbacks are escalations. Protecting our public education. That’s the way the government should be going. That’s what parents are saying anyway.

I don’t know what the minister is looking at, but here’s what parents see:

—a Premier who spent months calling teachers thugs and blaming them when he was booed at public events;

—a Minister of Education who literally delayed bargaining so he could hold a press conference about the lack of bargaining; and

—a government that is still defending classroom cuts that mean larger class sizes, cancelled courses and mandatory online learning.

If the Premier wants to keep kids in the classroom, he could de-escalate this situation today by reversing his cuts. The question is simple: Why doesn’t he?

Interjections.


The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Members, please take their seats.

Minister of Education.


Hon. Stephen Lecce: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has demonstrated a firm commitment to improving education by putting more money in the system than ever before. He’s committed to that, because we’ve doubled the mental health envelope in this province. We’ve invested more to improve schools—a $550-million renewal to build new schools and improve existing schools. We’re putting in a $200-million math strategy to lift math scores after they were being firmly held at a low rate for 10 consecutive years. They’ve essentially stagnated.

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Mr. Speaker, the government is investing in our children. What we’re also doing is asking every party at the table to be reasonable. Students should be in class tomorrow. The government stands with them. The question for the member opposite is: Do you oppose escalation by teachers unions who are keeping kids out of class tomorrow?

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