36th Parliament, 1st Session

L238b - Tue 30 Sep 1997 / Mar 30 Sep 1997



The House met at 1830.



Resuming the adjourned debate on the motion for second reading of Bill 160, An Act to reform the education system, protect classroom funding, and enhance accountability, and make other improvements consistent with the government's education quality agenda, including improved student achievement and regulated class size / Projet de loi 160, Loi visant à réformer le système scolaire, à protéger le financement des classes, à accroître l'obligation de rendre compte et à apporter d'autres améliorations compatibles avec la politique du gouvernement en matière de qualité de l'éducation, y compris l'amélioration du rendement des élèves et la réglementation de l'effectif des classes.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I don't believe there is a quorum.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Algoma.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): I would like to conclude my remarks on Bill 160 by making a couple of observations about the circumstance that we find ourselves in with regard to the possible disruption of education for the students of the province. I think all of us would agree that our children should not be used as political pawns. All of us understand that, yet the Conservative government doesn't seem to understand that or doesn't seem to care. The reactions in question period today from the members of the government party indicate that they don't believe there's anything seriously wrong and that everything's going along just fine with regard to the education of students in Ontario.

I believe, though, that the Harris government is playing a dangerous game and putting our children's education at risk. I believe this government is intentionally attempting to force a confrontation with teachers. The Minister of Education and his colleagues want parents to believe that schools will be better places for the students of the province once the teachers are completely demoralized and powerless.

I can't understand this. I don't understand how any government can believe that the very people who must deliver the education for the students of Ontario can do so if they're completely demoralized and angry at the government that is setting educational policy.

The government continually says that teachers are overpaid and underworked, that they're inefficient, that they have too much time off, and implies that somehow they're not really interested in the welfare of students, in the quality of education for pupils in Ontario. No wonder the teachers are unhappy and angry.

The government continually argues that education funding is much too high in this province, that we're spending far too much on education, that in some ways we're wasting money in the education system, and yet the educational cost per student in Ontario is among the lowest of 63 jurisdictions in North America. Of course, Ontario teachers face some of the most culturally diverse and difficult teaching environments in Canada and they do a tremendous job in that.

The Conservative government has already taken $800 million on an annualized basis out of classroom education in this province despite their commitments during the 1995 election campaign. Many of our school boards can't afford to keep libraries open or fund junior kindergarten or hire special education teachers or carry out counselling programs and special programs for students with special needs. In many cases they can't afford textbooks and crayons or even wood for the workshop, art supplies, and musical instruments for the music program.

The government continues to try to paint teachers as the bad guys in education. With the criticism of teachers and by trying to isolate teachers, the government thinks it will somehow distract the public from the fact that the Conservative government intends to take another $1 billion out of education in the classroom, take another $1 billion from the students of this province.

Parents are going to be faced, I think, with having to pay for textbooks for their kids, paying for their art supplies, paying for their musical instruments, paying for extra tutoring for their children, and I guess they're going to get a tax cut. The tax cut is certainly not going to compensate for the increased expenditures they are going to have to make for their kids, for their kids' education on a private basis, or for the increased municipal taxes as a result of the download that is justified by the changes in education funding that this government is proposing.

Bill 160 is going to force a confrontation between the teachers and the government. This can only produce a disruption in education for the students of this province. A government that really cares about the quality of education for students would be trying to work things out with the teachers, not forcing a strike.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr John R. Baird (Nepean): I think it's important to put on record in response to my colleague from Algoma what the motive is. The motive is very simple; it's higher student achievement. We think we have a good system but that we can make it better, that our students can perform better. I know all of us are concerned when we look at the Canadian test scores and Ontario isn't at the top of the pack. We want Ontario to be at the head of the class.

The member for Algoma mentioned the whole issue of prep time. When we look at our primary school teachers, they're at the national average. When we look at our secondary school teachers, they're 10th out of 10 in terms of the amount of time they spend in the classroom with students.

The Education Improvement Commission, chaired by the former New Democratic Party Minister of Education, Dave Cooke, so spanning all political parties, said in a recent report that there's a direct correlation between student achievement and the amount of time that teachers spend in the classroom. We think that by having teachers spend more time in the classroom, it will lead to higher student achievement. One of the ways we did that is with prep time. Another area is asking secondary school students to spend three weeks longer in the classroom and primary school students an extra two weeks in the classroom, and that's important. We also do that by capping class size.

We look at the expense. In my part of the province, the Carleton Roman Catholic Separate School Board does an excellent job, does even better on some standardized tests, but spends 30% or 40% less than the Ottawa public board does on the other side of the street. So we know from firsthand experience that money is not the sole determinant in how student achievement goes.

I would mention to the member for Algoma that what is concerning a number of teachers in my constituencies is, they phoned up the teacher federation office and they asked when they are going to get to vote on whether they're going on an illegal strike; when is the strike vote going to take place? Do you know what they've been told? They've been told there's going to be no vote, that the union leaders will decide when the strike will be. I think that is very, very unfortunate.


Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): I do want to use my two minutes to reflect on the comments that have been made by the member for Algoma, but I cannot resist responding to the member for Nepean.

First of all, 6,000 teachers in Ottawa told you how Ottawa teachers feel about your government's educational policy last night, I say to the member for Nepean. I say to the member for Nepean that the numbers you're using on national average of preparation time are simply wrong. Finally, I say to you that having fewer teachers teaching more classes will not improve student performance; it can only lower it.

I want to go back to the beginning of the comments that the member for Algoma made. I think it was yesterday, or maybe two days ago as we count sessional days around here. He began his comments by saying that this government wants to say that teachers aren't actually upset, that teachers like what this government is doing.

I want to say to the government, to the Minister of Education and to Mike Harris what the member for Algoma said: What world are they living in? What teachers are they talking to? Because the teachers he's talking to and the teachers I'm talking to are demoralized. They are at a breaking point. They feel that for the last two years they have been beaten up, they have been demeaned by their own minister, supposedly, their own Minister of Education, and their work has been devalued by that very minister. This minister does not indicate that he values the work of professional teachers, although, as the member for Algoma said, he uses words as tools and sometimes he may say one thing one day that he says something quite different about the next.

I remember when his friend Mr Paroian did a study that said teachers only work four hours a day. It's no coincidence then that when the minister came out with his background document to Bill 160, he said he wants to take up the contact time between teachers and students to beyond that four hours a day. If that's not confirmation that this minister does not place any value at all on the work that is done and the time that is spent between teachers and students outside the regular classroom, I don't know what more evidence we need. And quite clearly, a minister who is prepared to see non-certified teachers in the classroom does not value the work of professional teachers.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I agree with my colleague from Algoma when he says very clearly and succinctly that this bill is no more and no less than a grab at money that's in the education system. It's a smokescreen that at the end of the day will see $1 billion less being spent on education in this province and it's an attack on teachers.

Some of the most professional, most caring, most committed professionals in this province are being attacked by this government in a way that is unconscionable. I ask myself, and I think all of you need to ask yourselves, who are these people you're attacking? Who are these men and women you think so little of that you would make the kind of scathing remarks you have not just in this bill but building up to this bill over the last two and a half years?

These are the people who take your children and my children into their care for the bigger part of a day and treat them with the kind of respect that you would treat them with yourself. I remember the first day my kids, particularly my older daughter, arrived at the school that she attended. The kindergarten teacher literally came out on to the road and met us as we opened the van and let her out, and hugged her and brought her in and made her feel so at home that we knew her education was going to be the best it could possibly be.

These are the people you're attacking. You are taking money away from those people in their attempt to do the best job possible for our kids, for your kids and my kids, for the kids of the families who make up this wonderful province we call Ontario.

Our schools can't afford to keep libraries open, fund junior kindergarten, hire special education teachers, student counsellors or social workers, or supply classrooms even the way it is now, and you're going to take more out.

Mr Steve Gilchrist (Scarborough East): I am indeed pleased to respond to the comments made by the member for Algoma. He posed some interesting questions in the four minutes that carried over from the last day just a few minutes ago here. He asked who were the bad guys in education and he suggested that we somehow thought it was the teachers. It's far from the teachers.

I say to the member opposite, the bad guys in education are those people who have increased administrative costs while decreasing classroom spending. I suggest to him that boards, when offered the chance to be partners with us in the sort of re-engineering that would guarantee more dollars in the classroom, more commitment to quality education, more commitment to standards and improving the lot of our children and guaranteeing better jobs for them because they'll have greater literacy and greater numeracy skills, instead decided to spend more money on administration.

In particular you have a number of boards, such as the Metro separate school board, whose response coming out of the social contract, which we would all agree was an odious piece of legislation, in the face of requests from the teachers who said, "We want more money," was to sit down and bargain larger class size. That's how they responded. It was a dollars-and-cents issue, at least as far as the board and the teachers were concerned, back in the union negotiations just for this last contract.

The other bad guys, I would submit to you, are the union leaders who are placing ads on the radio stations in Toronto: inflammatory, dishonest advertisements that have made a number of insinuations. They pose the question: "Are the people of Ontario stupid?" Sorry -- "Are we stupid?" is the way they phrase their ad. No, they're just plain dishonest.

There has not been $1 billion taken out of education. In fact, education spending in Ontario increased last year at the same time as enrolment declined. And there is no plan to do anything other than bring up the standards of Ontario education to a world-class system whose students get better funding than anywhere else in the world.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The member for Algoma.

Mr Wildman: I'd like to thank my colleagues from Nepean, Fort William, Sault Ste Marie and Scarborough East for their intervention and comments.

I would just say that I agree with the member for Nepean that money is not the main determinant for the quality of education. Good teachers with dedication and high morale are the most important thing for good quality education.

This government, as the member for Fort William has said, has done everything it can to demoralize teachers. We have a terrible situation in the province today because teachers are indeed very demoralized. As she said, 6,000 teachers in Ottawa told the member for Nepean what they think about this government's program and Bill 160.

As the member for Sault Ste Marie said, yes indeed, $1 billion has been taken out of education for Ontario's students and this government continually attacks teachers. In doing that, in taking the money out and attacking teachers, they're attacking students. They don't care about the qualify of education for students.

The member for Scarborough East says the bad guys are the people who decreased classroom spending. Then he must include his own minister, who did indeed take $800 million on an annualized basis out of education for students in this province last year.

Nobody wants an illegal strike. Nobody wants a disruption of education for the students of Ontario. Nobody wants that. If we're going to avoid it, the Premier must intervene and carry out the commitment he made last week to meet with the representatives of the teachers' federation to discuss their concerns, to deal with the issues they're concerned about: the quality of education for Ontario students, their rights to free collective bargaining, and how we can properly fund education in this province. Otherwise, we're going to have a disruption of education for Ontario students.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr David Tilson (Dufferin-Peel): I hope the member for Algoma is right that nobody wants an illegal strike or nobody wants a strike at all with respect to the system. I hope that is the case, although I must say we've heard the Minister of Education and we've heard the Premier say they are prepared to call the union leaders, talk to the union leaders with respect to this whole issue that's being raised with respect to Bill 160. Then I hear almost all of the union leaders -- I read this morning, for example, that Frances Gladstone, who is the president of the Toronto Teachers' Federation, said her members are on alert and ready to walk off the job whenever second reading is through.

That's pretty antagonistic language for a group that's trying to mediate this whole issue with the government. I believe the Premier, and I believe Minister Snobelen when he says he's prepared to talk. Nobody wants the teachers to go out. Everybody's going to lose if the teachers of this province go out on an illegal-legal strike, if they leave the classrooms. I'll tell you that the public will lose, the students will lose, the educational system will lose, the government will lose, everyone will lose, no matter what your political belief is, in his whole exercise, because the government is not going to withdraw Bill 160.

But if the parties are prepared to negotiate, the minister has indicated he's prepared to speak and to hear what the unions have to say.



Mr Tilson: In response to the member for Algoma, both the Premier and the Minister of Education have indicated they've tried to contact the union leaders but they won't call them back.

This whole issue has certainly become most polarized. I could pick up articles at random that speak on both sides of the fence with respect to this issue. There's one from the Hamilton Spectator from September, a piece by Gina Monaco, who says, "Teachers Should Support Educational Change." She says in this column: "Of all the institutions in our society, the educational system and the quality of teaching causes the most controversy, and it should. Our future depends on it being strong and relevant."

Anyone in our society today who says the status quo of education should remain the same should have another look at it.

Mr Wildman: I didn't say that.

Mr Tilson: I'll tell you, that's the impression I'm getting from the opposition, that the status quo should remain. I credit the Minister of Education and the Premier for bringing this bill forward to talk about these very controversial issues. The teachers are certainly annoyed with the whole issue of preparation time and the other issue of certification and these other types of issues. There's no question they're concerned with that.

But I can't believe that when all the members in this place go out into their communities, these issues aren't talked about by members of the public, by the parents of the children who attend our schools and are concerned about professional development days and what goes on in those days and the number of days, and the comparing of our educational system to other systems around this country and in fact the world.

I believe these issues cry out to be dealt with, and I hope the teachers won't simply respond by taking to the streets, because it will not solve the problem. The problem will not go away. It has to be dealt with. It cries out to be dealt with.

I have an article, as I indicated, from Gina Monaco, and she says, "Of all the institutions in our society, the education system should be the most receptive to change."

Mr Wildman: Hear, hear.

Mr Tilson: It isn't, member for Algoma. Members of the opposition and some of the teaching profession -- not all the people in the teaching profession -- are not prepared to take this position. Many of the teachers in our society acknowledge that there should be change. That isn't want I hear when the member for Algoma -- you're right, Madam Speaker, I should be addressing my comments to you. The members of the opposition stand up and say, "Do away with Bill 160, withdraw it," but you're not prepared to talk about how you're going to deal with these issues. You're in opposition and you should be putting forward constructive opposition theories, and you're not.


The Acting Speaker: Order, please.

Mr Tilson: Ms Monaco continues, "It should, at minimum, reflect the current trends in society through a curriculum that is dynamic and evolving. Ideally, our educational system should be on the leading edge of change, not only at the post-secondary level, but at the elementary level, preparing students for the next century. Woefully, it meets none of these criteria." That's what she says.

I know someone could pull a news clipping from some other newspaper that says the opposite, but I believe she's got a lot of merit. If you're honest with us in this place, you'll go back to your constituents and many of your constituents are saying the same thing. That's what the Minister of Education is trying to do with respect to Bill 160, so don't simply dismiss Bill 160. Be prepared to debate some of the issues of preparation time, some of the issues that have been listed in the debates thus far, as opposed to simply saying, "Do away with it."

She continues: "Ontario is an important centre for manufacturing and entrepreneurship in this country and should have an educational system benefiting its stature. Indeed, we have schools where levels of learning lag behind other provinces and other countries, where many kids enter university without the ability to write coherently and where teaching the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic is a lost art. So the Harris government has decided to do something about it, and instead of embracing change, teachers and parents" -- and I add members of the opposition -- "should listen to them, not resist it."

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Madam Chair: The member is making such an interesting presentation, I hope there are enough people here to hear him. Could you check if there is a quorum?

The Acting Speaker: Clerk, is there a quorum?

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is not present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker ordered the bells rung.

Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr Tilson: Ms Monaco continues: "Interestingly, Snobelen's changes are met with resistance and whining. It seems the teachers should be the first to embrace these changes." I'd like you to listen to these next words. "For years, they have bemoaned their working conditions, large class sizes and irrelevant curriculum, yet these are some of the items that Snobelen is attempting to change."

I haven't heard any discussion on this. If you don't like these things, will you put forward some suggestions to improve the conditions in the classroom, the conditions of teachers, the conditions of our academic system, instead of simply whining and saying, "Withdraw the bill"?

She continues: "Perhaps the changes are too quick, giving teachers little time to prepare. But in the past teachers have complained that `Nothing ever changes around here' or `It takes forever to get something changed.' Those are common phrases in institutions that have become dinosaurean, top-heavy and out of touch. But the world moves quickly, and students must learn to adapt at the same pace."

I quite agree with her, and she has a number of other interesting articles. It's in one of the sets of clippings. I'd recommend that members read her column because she puts forward what I believe is the thrust of why Minister Snobelen is proceeding with respect to this bill.

The system cries out for change simply to keep up in a system that is moving very fast, not only around the province but around the country, around the world. To keep up and to compete with others around this country, this world, we have to provide a good educational system. That's what the minister is trying to do, to improve that system.

There's another column in the September 30 clippings, by Mark Bonokoski.

Mr Alex Cullen (Ottawa West): This is impartial.

Mr Tilson: You can say it's impartial, but I think I'm going to read it to you.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Ottawa West, come to order.

Mr Tilson: He says that the teachers say to their critics that if they "spent a day with them in their classrooms, they would immediately change their tune and begin recognizing teachers as overstressed, overworked and underpaid grunts who are sorely misunderstood by the public and, in particular, by the media.

"Theirs are tales of woe. Not enough prep time, too many students per classroom, too many undisciplined charges."

I've heard those types of criticisms, and I think we have an obligation to listen to teachers about some of these concerns. I spoke last week to a young teacher who teaches English, and she showed me the many exams she marks, the many tests she marks, and the time and the hours she puts in. I appreciate that. But we need to sit down and talk about whether, for example, with the issue of preparation time, do librarians or guidance teachers need all the preparation time that's being allotted to them? Do they need that?


The Acting Speaker: Member for Algoma, come to order.


Mr Tilson: Well, if they don't want to hear that, we'll read something else.

"Despite the fact that statistics do not bear out their anxieties, this is none the less the line often given to those who question their motives to entertain a notion of going out on an illegal strike, shutting down every school in Ontario and setting such a fine example for their students."

That's the talk going on. They are saying, "If these issues can't be resolved, we're going to close down all the schools in the province." What a fine example for the students of this province. I don't believe all teachers want that. I believe that many teachers want to solve some of the problems, but not all teachers are prepared to sit with --


Mr Tilson: There's a lot of yapping going on in here, Madam Speaker. I hope you can hear me.

The Acting Speaker: Order, please, from all sides of the House. Come to order.

Mr Tilson: Many people in my riding talk about how there has been downsizing going on, changes in the private sector. In the government there have been changes going on. Why not look at the educational system? Why not look at ways of doing things better? Why not look at the issue of teachers being able to prepare? Why not look at the issues of certification? For example, teachers tell me they've got to go out in the halls and monitor. Why are we paying $50,000 to teachers to go out and monitor halls? There must be other ways of doing that sort of thing.

Mr Wildman: Bring in the cops.

Mr Tilson: You can say, "Bring in the cops," but I don't think that's a constructive way of doing it. I'm simply saying there are better ways of monitoring the halls than using very highly paid and qualified teachers to do that sort of work.

The article continues: "[W]ith all sectors of private and public industry still going through downsizing...re-evaluation of business plans and budget reassessment, there is nary an individual with a paycheque who is not overstressed, overworked and therefore underpaid. Yet teachers don't recognize this."

I understand teachers are stressed. They've got a tough job. That's a really tough job. There aren't too many people who can do that type of work. But everyone is stressed out. The opposition is continually telling us how they're overstressed. I can guarantee you that all walks of our society are overstressed, and we all have to look at that. The teachers think they're alone, and they're not alone.

"They think the small business person has it made, that retail is a licence to print money, that construction workers have jobs coming out their ears, that white-collar employees in the federal and provincial governments can rest easy now that the majority of the cuts have been implemented."

That's the difficulty. We have a polarization of some people who think the teachers have it too soft, and we have some of the teachers who think they are overworked. All of these issues need to be dealt with. I think that this Bill 160 is the appropriate place to deal with that sort of thing, and I would hope that members of the opposition, rather than crying out that the bill be withdrawn, would be prepared to enter into the debate on those very, very important issues as to how to improve the educational system. Mr Bonokoski continues by saying with respect to teachers:

"Perhaps they should walk a day in the shoes of the man who pumps gas for a living, or the masters graduate who waits on tables, or the salesman who has to make a dozen calls a day to keep his job alive, or the shopkeeper forced to stay open for 24 hours to keep the wolves from the door, or the government employee who makes $20,000 less than a grade 3 teacher after 15 years on the job, or the assembly line worker on the night shift who has two kids in school and therefore barely sees them."

These are the types of conversations we hear in the riding. I certainly have teachers who come to me and tell me that they are concerned with the direction in which Bill 160 is going, concerned, with respect to preparation time, that it's going to cause grief with respect to the preparation of their lessons.

I understand that type of thinking, but I'm saying that if you think we're going to withdraw Bill 160, we're not going to do that.


Mr Tilson: I encourage the opposition, including the member yapping up there, to put forward some sensible alternatives instead of just barking out heckles that mean nothing. You should come forward as a constructive opposition and put forward these types of amendments, and I encourage you to do that.

The minister has spent a great deal of time studying all these issues. A commission has been going around talking about these types of things, and recommendations have come from this commission. We are putting forward most of those recommendations in this bill. We believe the Education Quality Improvement Act will ensure that over two million elementary and secondary school children will spend more time with their teachers in the classroom learning, and that alone is good reason to support this bill.

Preparation time will be officially recognized. It is not now, and we will officially recognize it, but it will be limited to teachers spending more time in the class. The bill will allow the government, for the first time, to limit class sizes. One of the biggest complaints of teachers in this province is the ever-increasing size of classes. This bill will limit class sizes. That is a topic on which I would like to hear some comments from the opposition. Are you saying that we should continue to allow the size of classes to increase? I hope not. I hope you're prepared to put forward suggestions to improve that type of problem we have had, which has been increasing over the last decade. The debate should be about students, not about teachers. That's the problem with respect to the rhetoric that has been coming from the opposition benches.

Today the most important right is of our young students to have an education, and that should be the prime interest of what we are trying to do in this province. I hope the opposition will therefore support us with respect to Bill 160, with respect to the proposals being put forward.

We know that in many ways teachers will be more interested in these changes than anyone else, because their working lives will change considerably.

Mr Wildman: Because they care about students.

Mr Tilson: Well, they say that, but I'm not so certain that some of them are caring about that.

I encourage members, if they are going to direct comments to Bill 160, to provide constructive comments to all these issues being raised as opposed to simply saying, "Let's withdraw the bill," because we're not going to withdraw the bill.

I encourage members of the House to support this bill. It's for the benefit of the students, for the benefit of the education system, for the benefit of our society, and I believe it's a good bill to be supported by all members of the House.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): The real purpose of the bill, and I wish the government would simply spell it out, is to take another $1 billion out of the education system. That's the purpose of the legislation. If the government members would simply be upfront and admit that was the case, I would say at least they're being honest about it. But when I hear you on the other side say you have several other goals -- everyone knows you're trying to provoke a confrontation with members of the teaching profession, that you're looking for some target. You have done a full retreat -- I understand that -- in the face of the public service unions. I could hear the beepers going as the truck backed up. The white flag was waving. The bugle of retreat was being sounded. I understand all that, and I really hope that's what you do on this bill.

If you want to bluster, if you want to make a lot of noise, if you want to attack, I guess we have to tolerate that, but at least I hope that in the end you will be putting your tail between your legs and heading in the opposite direction.

The member asked for solutions. I listened to a member this afternoon who said, "The opposition parties want to spend like drunken sailors." I want to tell my friend the member for Kitchener that I've received several telephone calls from sailors this afternoon, from their wives, from their families, from their neighbours, and they were deeply offended that they would be characterized in this way. I'm sure the member for Kitchener didn't mean to do that. I'm going to tell you, the sailors support the teachers in this province because they understand that those who are on the front line are most cognizant of the needs of the students, and those are the people being attacked in this legislation.


Mr Wildman: I listened very carefully to the member for Dufferin-Peel's presentation. I think it's important to recognize that of the total 20 minutes of his presentation, it took him until the last two minutes to mention students. He went on and on at great length about teachers.

Mr Gary Fox (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings): It was better than you; you never did.

Mr Wildman: My presentation dealt with the quality of education for students throughout.

I really wish that the member for Dufferin-Peel had actually read the bill, because then he might have been able to talk more authoritatively about its contents. The bill is 219 pages. It's very complex and it deals with many, many changes in education, but central to those changes are the effects it's going to have on the ability of teachers to deliver quality education to the students of this province.

The member for Dufferin-Peel said, very sarcastically, something to the effect that some teachers are concerned about the quality of education for students. The implication was that most teachers aren't, I guess. That's the problem with this government and with the members of the party opposite, that they genuinely appear to believe that teachers don't care about kids, don't care about learning, don't care about the learning environment, don't care about how students achieve in this province. Why on earth would they become teachers unless they cared about those things? Why would they be involved in teaching unless they cared about those things?


The Acting Speaker: I have to remind the people in the gallery that our rules are very clear. You are not allowed to applaud, or make any noise whatsoever, as a matter of fact, so I would ask you to please restrain yourselves. Thank you.

Mr Wildman: I understand, Speaker, that I had 20 seconds when you got up to speak.

The Acting Speaker: Your time is up. Further questions or comments?

Mr Michael Gravelle (Port Arthur): It's interesting that the government members don't even want to respond to that clear call for support for the teachers in our province.

It's really interesting to listen to the member for Dufferin-Peel. I'm going to read a petition I've got here, one that actually was read some time ago. It says:

"The provincial government is jeopardizing the future of Ontario's most precious resource, our children. Our children have a right to a good education, but without sufficient resources the schools cannot give them what they need in order to become healthy, happy and productive adults who will contribute to the quality of life in Ontario.

"Cuts in provincial payments to the school boards mean student-teacher ratios that are unacceptably high, loss of support for students with special needs, outdated science, technology and computer resources, the loss of music, art and outdoor education programs, and school closures.

"It's not too late to undo the damage. Please stop the cuts now."

The date was May 5, 1996, when the $533 million was being ripped out of the system. This Bill 160 is simply another way of taking a big chunk of money out of the system. There's no doubt about it. It's a $1.1-billion further cut being shrouded in deceptive language. The fact is that this bill is going to do a great deal of harm to our students.

Also, the parents in our communities are very strongly supportive of what the teachers and what all of us are fighting for, which is to maintain the standards and fight for the standards for the children. As we speak, right now there is a Prospect Avenue school parents' association meeting in Thunder Bay. They are right behind those of us in the Legislature who are trying to stop this bill and trying to stop the people who are really responsible for this bill, the backroom boys in the Premier's office, John Toogood, Guy Giorno, Tom Long, the guys who sit down and manipulate the process and get what they want to have put forward. It's not even the Minister of Education. It's these backroom boys who are putting this bill together. We've got to support the education system in our province, and we're going to do it here tonight.

Mr Martin: I find it passing strange to hear the member for Dufferin-Peel make the argument that the fact that classroom sizes in this province will not increase or will perhaps decrease is the one good thing in this bill. It's the only thing they're putting out that might be supportable if it were what is going to happen in the end.

This bill is not about increasing or decreasing class size or maintaining it. This bill is not about improving education. This bill is not about students. This bill is about taking money out of the system. This bill is about removing $1 billion from the system, along with the $800 million they've already pulled out, to turn it over to the richest people in the province, who don't need a tax cut, so they can have a little more money to spend on their vacations or to invest in some offshore investments.

This bill is about beating up on teachers. This bill is about beating up on trustees. I was amazed to hear the member for Scarborough West a few minutes ago take a run at the trustees of the province: Ann Vanstone, who's on the implementation committee. Trustees have served in this province over a long number of years in ways some of you will never understand: the hours they put in, the time and energy, the money spent by themselves personally to travel to meetings and make the education system in Ontario the productive and positive system it is for our kids.

It's shameful that the member for Dufferin-Peel comes in here tonight, knowing how damaging this bill is going to be and what this is all about, and pretends for a second that it's about maintaining or decreasing class size.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Dufferin-Peel for his response.

Mr Bert Johnson (Perth): Madam Speaker, a point of order: Have there been four two-minute responses?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Perth, in explanation, what has happened is that your party, the government side, missed one of its turns, so it appears to be off a bit.

Okay, member for Dufferin-Peel.

Mr Tilson: I thank the members who have provided some sort of intervention with respect to my comments, particularly the member for Sault Ste Marie; it's unfortunate that the rhetoric continues.

These issues are most important. All of these issues with respect to improving the education system are important. I hope the members take the items in this bill seriously and debate those particular items.

The leaders of the unions have threatened, regrettably, a strike with respect to this bill once second reading takes place -- I don't know if it's when second reading starts or when second reading is finished -- and I think that's regrettable. As I said at the outset of my comments, the minister has indicated that he's prepared to talk to the unions. He has indicated that he's phoned the unions and that they're not prepared to respond. Hopefully, those negotiations will continue. There's always room to change or modify particular bills. The minister has indicated that. I hope that a strike will not take place, that debate will continue on this very important topic.


The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Cochrane North, come to order.

Mr Tilson: We all know that a strike will hurt the very people the teachers are trying to help: the students. I hope they do not go on strike and that they exhaust every remedy with respect to talking to the minister, talking to members of the government and trying to resolve this issue without an impasse.


The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): In working on this and drawing up some of the key points I wanted to make, I tried to arrive at a title that would be fitting to the debate this evening. I suggest that our title should be "Education is Our Future." Because Bill 160 is viewed as a numbers bill, a bill which withdraws $1.1 billion from the education system, I thought it would be important for the people across the way, but for all members in the House, to remember a very simple equation: To teach is to touch a life forever. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that's the essence and the substance which we should be debating this evening.

Obviously, you know because of my background that there's probably a little bit of bias because of my passionate love for students and for the learning process, as well as for the partners in education: the dedicated parents, the hardworking students and the very dedicated and hardworking teachers of this province.

The first message I'd like to get across is the message that a teacher's working conditions are truly the students' learning conditions. I want to look at some of those working conditions that are going to be affected by Bill 160.

The first working condition I'd like to address is the class size issue. Bill 160 pays lip-service to class size. It says it's going to limit class size. It doesn't speak of how it's going to limit class size and it never speaks about protecting class sizes.

As a teacher on leave, I'm most concerned that limiting class sizes isn't the problem. What has to be done is the protection of class sizes. No additional money is allocated through this bill to ensuring that class size is protected. The minister simply talks about limiting class size, but doesn't say how, doesn't say what the numbers are going to be, doesn't say what the implementation strategies are going to be. In fact, he says nothing about truly protecting class size. However, as Mr Tilson alluded to, he wants ideas.

With regard to class size, over a year ago I gave the government an idea, Bill 110. So far, the government has refused to call the bill. Bill 110 protects class sizes and ensures that students will learn in an environment conducive to learning because of the limits it has imposed with regard to numbers in individual classrooms. It doesn't pay lip-service to limiting; it talks about protection. I consider that to be a fundamental difference and certainly an idea that the government would want to explore.

I want to talk a little about preparation time. I believe that "preparation time" is a misnomer. That time, which teachers have negotiated for, if you wanted to try to find out the true essence and flavour of that time, should be called non-teaching time. Teachers use that for a variety of reasons. They correct, they grade and they record marks for students. They make anecdotal records of students and they chart the general path or the general progress of students. That takes an enormous amount of time. No non-teaching time can ever provide the amount of time that's needed, but certainly it's an opportunity for teachers to use some of that non-teaching time to do that.

They use that non-teaching time to ready their classrooms, to ready their labs, to ready the gymnasium for physical education, to ready the shop, to prepare the computer equipment for computer classes and the facilities that are used for students, so when students come in they can maximize the amount of time they have in productive and constructive learning.

Teachers, during their non-teaching time, perform administrative work associated with extracurricular sports, with clubs, with field trips, with band, with involving students in the student council, on the telephone arranging for those intermural games that require busing, that require referees, that require supervision -- all the very time-consuming things that the teacher can't do during his or her teaching time because they are, during that time, charged with interacting with the pupils on a one-to-one or one-to-group basis.

They use that non-teaching time for advising and counselling students and for contacting parents. In this different milieu we find ourselves in, not only in our province but in our country, you know that's very time-consuming.

They use that time to meet with parents, to meet with other teachers, to meet with administrators, to meet with consultants, to meet with co-op ed employers in order to arrange out-of-school experiences for the students, to meet with suppliers of materials in the learning process.

They prepare their courses and they prepare their programs and they prepare for their professional reading and for their consulting and for their own individual learning. They do all that in their non-teaching time. Besides that, they assist other teachers, other students, parents and administrators in ensuring that the environment and the area students learn in is a safe and productive one.

That's what teachers really do in their non-teaching time. "Preparation time" is a misnomer. When we were negotiating back in Sudbury, I said that's the wrong term to use because it sends out a negative message. We must always remember -- and I hope the members in the House understand that -- that non-teaching time is a very important time for teachers to prepare more adequately for their students and to meet and fulfil the needs of their students to a higher degree. That does have a bearing on the results that students will achieve.

Another message that we might want to get across this evening besides the message that education is our future is the message that you can't improve achievement by lowering standards. I want to talk for a few minutes about the government's suggestion to use non-qualified personnel instead of certified teachers.

First of all, the government members, all the members in the House, must understand that there is more to education and more to the development of a child than the academic learning. One has to be concerned about the social, emotional, mental and physical growth of the child as well as the academic or the subject matter area. These are important and sophisticated areas which require training and an understanding of how a child grows and how a student matures in the learning process. Ladies and gentlemen in the House, that is not an easy task and it only is done after years of professional training, years of professional experience and years of dedication. I suggest to you that we lower the standards when we take away certified from the process.


I think when you move to a non-qualified staff, you lose a little bit in the cross-curricular perspectives when you deliver programs and curriculum and in learning strategies. For those of us who aren't involved in education, we might find that's a little bit difficult to comprehend. But you have to understand that learning is integrated, and as you approach the learning process and as you nurture the child or the student, depending on the age level, it is very, very important to chart and map that progress from a variety of areas. I don't think the use of non-certified teachers will meet the goal that each one of us, as elected officials, should have for the children of Ontario. Very devastatingly, I think there's going to be a decrease in the ability to assess the level of student ability because of the emphasis on integrated learning and the non-qualified person's lack of training in being able to make that assessment.

I don't say that as a condemnation of those people. I say that in fact the other way, that it's very critical for teachers over the long term to become very familiar with the different evaluative tools that he or she must use on a daily basis in an integrated setting. I think independent study components at the senior level will be very affected because of the use of non-certified staff.

I'd like to address for just one second the suggestion that professional development time is a waste of time, as was alluded to earlier. In my several years in teaching, the vast majority of teachers made very valuable use of that time. They do that for two simple reasons: (1) to ensure that their students are better for the teacher's professional development and (2) to ensure that they keep themselves up to date with new strategies, new techniques and new and innovative ways of getting children in Ontario to maximize their potential.

I would suggest to you that wise use of professional development activities is in fact very beneficial to the students of Ontario and I would suggest to you further that the teachers of Ontario expect from themselves and their peers that they will use that time wisely during professional activity days.

The third message that I think is important that we leave with the government is that we cannot allow the government to bankrupt Ontario's education system. That clearly is the intent that people understand.

I'm not just talking about teachers here. Parents believe that. Students believe that. It is so rare in my 31 years in teaching to have seen what we've seen over the course of the last two weeks, where we've seen students from all over the province decide that they have to take a stand. They don't appreciate it, they don't want to do it, they know it's not allowed, but they believe they have to take that opportunity, that dramatic action to ensure that their Ontario government understands the severity of the cuts.

Let's look at the cuts so far, very briefly: $533 million so far has been cut. That's affected junior kindergarten programs, special education programs, adult education programs, literacy programs. There's been a reduction in staffing at both the elementary and secondary school levels; there's been a reduction in library services; there's been a reduction in transportation services. Ladies and gentlemen, I suggest to you that this affects the quality of learning in Ontario.

Some people may say, "Well, it's the board initiative," or "It's the board's prerogative to cut junior kindergarten." If you don't know, this government, your government, cut $145 million out of junior kindergarten funding or early childhood education funding, so you forced -- it wasn't the boards who decided. They were forced, and that's in fact the truth. You can read it in your own literature.

I also wanted to just for a second --

Mr W. Leo Jordan (Lanark-Renfrew): They could have taken it out of administration.

Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and The Islands): Oh, come on. Get serious.

The Speaker: Order, members for Lanark-Renfrew and Kingston and The Islands.

Mr Bartolucci: I also want to talk for a little while on the reinvestment strategies, because this is what this bill is all about. This bill is all about withdrawing money from education.

I believe as an individual, as a parent certainly first, as a teacher, that we should be looking at reinvesting money in education, not removing funding from education. If we believe that education is our future, our future is worth investing in. So I believe that this government should listen to the recommendation of the EIC when they suggest that any savings that this government can find should be reinvested in the educational process or in the education system. I would suggest to you that to not accept that recommendation sends a very bad message to the people of Ontario. It tells them, whether it be parent, student or teacher, that you really don't care about education as being the cornerstone to our future.

I think it's very, very important that you understand as well that the teachers of Ontario, the parents of Ontario and the students of Ontario do not want and will not allow our futures to be sacrificed for a tax cut. I think it's very important for you to understand that all the polling that anybody will ever do, and I don't care which party does it, the people of Ontario want our education system to be enshrined.

Here are some of the options that the member spoke about that they don't hear from the opposition. Let me give you some alternatives.

First of all, I think you should call Bill 110. I think it meets the needs of the teachers, students and parents of Ontario. I believe you should make a profound reinvestment in education. I don't believe you should send out the message that you want to withdraw more money from education. You've already withdrawn too much. I would suggest that, yes, it is very, very important to reinvest in the education system of Ontario.

I think it's critical that you offer an early retirement package with an 85 factor to those older teachers. I believe some of the goals of the government and certainly those goals of the federations can be reached if this government is serious about sitting down and working out a retirement package that is acceptable, suitable and meaningful to the teachers of Ontario.

I believe it's very, very imperative for this government to appreciate the complex job which teaching is and to remember that the teachers' working conditions are the students' learning conditions, and I repeat that, because there's no working condition that wasn't bargained in the interests of the enhancement of student education.

Finally, I think this government should be very, very sensitive to the individual needs of students and disregard the direction towards non-qualified personnel replacing teachers. I believe you send out a message to Ontario, that's one fraught with mistrust about the process we have right now. I think the process is good.

People spoke earlier about wanting change. Teachers, parents and students have been involved in change in education for as long as the education system has existed. They continue to strive with that change and they will continue to strive with that change. They won't agree with it. But I want to tell you, up until this government they were always a part of it. They always felt that they were a part of it and I don't know the reason why they don't feel they're a part of it this time. Maybe it's because of the messages that are sent out always by this government with regard to the communication with teachers, in partnership with them for the good of students.

If time permitted, I would have read "I Am a Teacher," but under the new rules I can't read this. But I would suggest to you that the people on the government side get a copy of "I Am a Teacher" and read it, because what it does is outline the complex roles that teachers have to fill on a daily basis. If you were to do that, I think at the very end of the day, after reading this and after looking at this legislation, you might want to change it, because then I think you would firmly believe that teachers affect eternity. One can never tell where their influence ends.

The teachers of Ontario do not want to go out. There isn't a teacher in Ontario who wants to go out. The teachers of Ontario feel they are being forced out. Only you on the government side can change that perception, because that perception now is reality.



The Speaker: Folks in the galleries, you can't applaud.

Mr Bradley: You don't want them removed, do you?


The Speaker: I don't care. There's just none of that at all, please, or I'll clear the galleries.

Questions and comments?

Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre): I want to compliment my colleague from Sudbury. Every day that he's in here he shows us the compassion and the caring that he brings not only to the people he represents but to all of Ontario. The fact that in this instance he speaks from experience as well as the heart in terms of being a teacher himself should have the government members paying a lot more attention than they did, in my opinion, to what he has to say.

I want to add to his comments by pointing out that the minister who said he needed to create a phoney crisis, the Minister of Education, is here in the House, not paying particular attention to much that's happening around him. I want to say to him very clearly that in my experience of travelling the province on Bill 99, where this government is attacking injured workers, and on Bill 136, where you attempted to pay for your municipal downloading on the backs of public sector workers, I heard one thing loud and clear from teachers all across this province: Minister, this is no phoney crisis. This is the real thing.

You have put the quality of our education on the line in this province. As a result of your direct attack on teachers and the involvement of trustees and the support people who are in those schools, you have put us on the brink, the same brink we were on with 136. Things have not quieted down, things have not gone away; they have merely shifted gears.

The same people in our communities who aren't directly affected but who care about this province and were prepared to back those public sector workers are going to back our teachers and they're going to back our school trustees and they're going to back our communities, because like me, who has a five-year-old daughter heading into school this year, we care about that education system, and you're not going to kill it.

Mrs Brenda Elliott (Guelph): I rise to voice my support for the bill we are debating tonight. I think I can speak with some confidence on this particular issue. I have been a teacher myself, I have been a teacher-librarian, I am the parent of four children in the school system and I have been an involved parent volunteer in my children's school for many, many years. Of course, I can't do that right now with my legislative responsibilities, but I became involved in and have been part of the system for a long time.

It's curious when we stand in this House and talk about the feelings and the messages that come to us from our various constituencies, and we're always interested to hear what different people think their constituencies are saying to them. I can tell you that in the city of Guelph, which also has the University of Guelph, of course, and I've risen in the House on more than one occasion to say how well it's doing, the subject of education is very, very important to the people of my city. That extends to our elementary and to our public schools as well.

The message I hear loud and clear from my parents, from my taxpayers and from my teachers, many of whom are personal friends, is: Change is needed in the system. With the changes we are bringing out in this bill, with the changes we have already enacted as far as curriculum reform, the standards we are trying to elevate in this province are sorely needed and have been needed for many, many years. The teachers in my riding are telling me that they are very pleased with the changes we are bringing forward. They are good teachers, they are responsible professionals and they are caught in a system that needs change. I am proud our government has the strength to undertake the changes that should have been taken --

The Speaker: Thank you. Statements. The member for Algoma-Manitoulin.

Mr Michael Brown: I want to congratulate the member for Sudbury on his presentation. I know I've been with Rick Bartolucci as we worked in his constituency and in mine. This is a man who knows about education. He's been there. He's done it. He understands. He understands what it's really all about.

What it's all about is Megan Bagley, Alison Bagley, Paula Brown, Katie Brown, Josh Brown, Jordan Brown, Patrick Stoesser, Elizabth Stoesser and Marianne Stoesser, who just happen to be either my children or my nieces and nephews. That's what this bill is about. It's very personal for me. This has to improve their education. It has to help them achieve their goals in life and to be productive citizens. And every message we get is that they will be casualties of this revolution.

I have teachers in my riding who I know well and know intimately because I've worked with them with my children. They spend countless hours after school with my kids and other kids doing extracurricular activities and helping them, people like Angela Becks, Jim Stringer, Charles Adams, Murray McDonald, Laurie Addison and an endless number of these folks, and it is insulting for a government to spend most of its time kicking sand in their face. That's what is going on today in Ontario, and I don't think, as a parent or grandparent, that we can afford to have this happen in Ontario.

I think the government would do very well to back off, take some time, talk to the people you need to talk to, and let's get on with really improving education in the province.

Mr Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): I too want to compliment the member for Sudbury on his comments this evening. He does come to this topic particularly with a fair amount of not just interest but also expertise as a former teacher and principal.

I want to say, and I know the member would agree with me, that the attention that is being paid not just by the public but by members in this House to this bill is a little bit stronger than we see on most bills that go through this place. I want to say to you, I think that's just the beginning. I think before this bill is finished there will be an incredible awareness among the public of Ontario, not just those who are most directly involved in education, our teachers and parents -- they are beginning to more and more clearly understand what this government's agenda is all about -- but I suspect that before this is over, members of the government will also understand that they will have to make a very clear choice.

That choice will be to either continue to support the Minister of Education and the Premier of the province as they continue in their very clear agenda to take $1 billion out of the school system of this province, which will do nothing to improve the quality of education no matter how strong the rhetoric from the other side -- if this was about improving education, we would not have a Minister of Education continuing to talk about taking more money out of the system. We would not have a Minister of Education talking about reducing prep time as opposed to taking some of those resources and putting them back into the classroom.

He's not talking about shifting resources. That's a discussion we could have. We might still disagree, but we could see some logic to that. But what we have here is a discussion and a piece of legislation that has as its object to cut; not to refocus but to cut the resources we now have in the classroom by another $1 billion. That's going to make our system much worse than it is today.


Mr Bartolucci: I'd like to thank the members for Hamilton Centre, Guelph, Algoma-Manitoulin and Dovercourt for their very kind comments. If I could summarize what I've said and what they've said with just a little quote from this passage, "I Am a Teacher," I would use this one:

"Throughout the course of a day I have been called upon to be an actor, friend, nurse and doctor, coach, finder of lost articles, money lender, taxi driver, psychologist, substitute parent, salesman, politician and a keeper of the faith.

"Despite the maps, charts, formulas, verbs, stories and books, I have really had nothing to teach, for my students really have only themselves to learn, and I know it takes the whole world to tell you who you are."

Ladies and gentlemen, I think it's extremely important that you help tell the students of Ontario who they are. In order to do that, you and we collectively have to ensure that they have the best opportunities for growth.

The direction of Bill 160, the removal of $1.1 billion, is wrong. It is the wrong direction; it is the wrong message. It will give you inferior results. We will be left with an education system that we must rebuild because the principles guiding the reform in education have nothing to do with education but have more to do with a tax break.

I might tell you that education is our future. We, as elected representatives of the people of Ontario, must protect that future. You as a government have a mandate not only to govern; you have a greater mandate to listen to what the parents, students and teachers of Ontario are telling you.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Ms Marilyn Churley (Riverdale): It's my pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to this bill tonight. I'm going to begin by mentioning that because of the rule changes, I only have 20 minutes tonight to speak to this bill. This is a very important bill, and I --

Mr Jordan: Don't waste it.

Ms Churley: Don't tell me how to use my time. I will remind you time and time again that you have cut down on my ability to speak to important bills in this House, and I want to remind you of that once again.

I, like many people in this room, have had children in the system. Some of you still do. I, like many of you, feel that I have a lot at stake here, that my expertise and my knowledge should be able to, as an opposition member in this House, play a role, and that the government should at least attempt to pretend to be listening to what the opposition has to say. Instead, they get up and they're very arrogant. They tut, tut, shake their heads and do not listen to one word we have to say. There is this general arrogance that they know it all. Well, Speaker, I want to tell you that they don't know it all. Once again, they are not listening to anybody. They are ignoring people, they are moving ahead, and we all know why.

We have always said that change is needed. They like to point out, "The opposition, the Liberals and the NDP, just want to keep the status quo." I'm sure the teachers who are here tonight and who may be watching will recognize that when we were the government there were a few problems from time to time. We had our disagreements with teachers from time to time because we recognized that the status quo was not --


Ms Churley: I'm teasing the bears here.

Mr R. Gary Stewart (Peterborough): No, I liked the problems that you caused.

Ms Churley: I am not even talking about that. The status quo was not acceptable, and we still believe that. I also think firmly that the teachers do not believe the status quo is acceptable.

I can tell you about the teachers in my riding of Riverdale, who are the ones I know best. They work very, very hard. I know about their prep time. I have a very good friend -- her name is Leslie -- who is a high school teacher. She lives in Riverdale; she actually teaches in Peel. I go to visit her on the weekend. I constantly find her sitting at her computer preparing lessons for her classes during the week. She gets up at 5 or 5:30 in the morning to drive to her school. She spends hour after hour after hour teaching those kids, preparing. She cares. She doesn't have to do that, I suppose. She could go in and not really know what she's talking about and give the kids a second-class kind of education, but like all of the other teachers I know, she cares. That's why she became a teacher.

People don't choose to become teachers just because it's something to do. All of the teachers I know thought about it. They got into teaching because they like kids and they understand how important the education system is. They also understand that education, teaching our kids, is not just about bricks and mortar.

I want to talk to you a bit about the teachers in my riding of Riverdale. Riverdale is an inner-city area. We have schools in Riverdale, as there are all across the GTA area but particularly in the inner city, that deal with kids from all walks of life. We have schools in Riverdale where up to 90% of the children in some of those classes are ESL students. They are students who come from war-torn countries, suffering from trauma; they are students who have special needs; they are students trying to deal with extreme poverty. We have in my riding of Riverdale two adult learning centres where you see, again, people from all walks of life, all ages -- new Canadians, elderly people who dropped out, middle-aged people, single moms, all going back to school so that they can do what this government says they'd like them to do: get a good education and then try to get a job.

This government is cutting back in every area that I mentioned. They are going to the lowest common denominator. When they talk about, "It's not fair that the city of Toronto has more money in the system than a northern or another community," I would say that's not fair either. But let's not reduce everybody, including the city of Toronto, to the lowest common denominator, and that is what for sure is going to happen.

The minister talks about special grants for some of this, but when I asked him in the House if he could guarantee that at least the same amount of funding would be available to those schools in the future, he could not guarantee that, and we all know why. This government has had to retreat in so many areas lately. They're having trouble coming up with the money despite the fact that revenues are up, because they said they'd balance the budget, but let's not forget their tax cut. They are now, and this is truly despicable, going to give that tax cut to the richest people in the province -- who, by the way, can afford to send their kids to private schools -- on the backs of our kids and quality education for them. That is what's happening.

When the minister first went into his new ministry -- he came from the business sector -- a little video got leaked into the public. We cannot talk about this bill out of context. We all know what's happening here. That's what is so incredible. The minister told the world, inadvertently, that he was going to create a crisis, that they needed to find the money but the system actually is not in that bad a shape; some changes were needed. But no, he says, "If the crisis isn't there, let's go out and create one." Then he starts to create a crisis. We saw it every day. He's badmouthing teachers, then he's badmouthing students, then he's badmouthing school boards, and it goes on and on and on.

Yes, he did create a crisis. He created a crisis that he has no idea about, because the kind of crisis that he created, I feel in my riding. When I go to the schools there, when I talk to the parents -- and I have to congratulate and thank the parents of Riverdale, who have been very active in Toronto. They are involved in an organization called Metro Parent Network and some of those parents led the way. They got involved very early on. They've been analysing and keeping track of everything that's been happening, trying to get meetings with the minister and making other parents in the area aware of the implications of these changes.

The government has had to retreat now. They had to give up taking out some of the money they were going to from hospitals. They gave up on the doctors; they didn't take as much money away. They recently had to back down on Bill 136. They're getting worried. I think they deliberately decided that the teachers were an easy target, that they're the ones they're going to pick on, because they have by now created a big enough crisis. The whole plan has been to pit parents against teachers and give the general idea out there that the teachers don't need this prep time. They just sit around drinking coffee. They don't need all that time. All of this pitting school boards against each other and against teachers, and all this stuff; that's what's going on.


I think the government actually wants this fight with the teachers. They're determined to get the money out and I believe they've been doing polls -- I don't know if their polls are showing them anything, but obviously their polls showed them that they couldn't win on Bill 136. Maybe they think they can on this, but I can assure you that I believe the parents are wise to what's going on. When you have a minister who tells the world what he's up to, you can't ignore that. He said, "I'm going to create a crisis," and here we are in the middle of it.

What this government is doing is exploiting the desire of parents, teachers and students to have the best education system possible. That's what we want. We want changes to make that happen. What they're doing, what this is all about is using the language of change and progress as a smokescreen for one of the most regressive moves a government can make, and that is trying to take more money out, $1 billion. And for what? For this tax cut.

The bill is all about centralizing control of Ontario's school system and our children's education in the Ministry of Education and Training. This is very surprising. I, like the minister, am surprised. In fact, I'm shocked. I'm shocked because this is a government that came into power saying they wanted to get out of people's faces and that they believed in local control.

What do they do in education? They take it away. They disband most of the boards; then they start taking over almost everything that boards used to negotiate with the teachers. They've taken away many of the issues that are very important to the way the kids are taught and dealt with in the school. Now the government decides that. It is an incredible step, and I can only think, once again, that it's all about saving money.

Because I just have a short time left, I want to read you something from parents who wrote a long letter, and I believe the minister may have met with these people by now, the Metro Parent Network. They gave a very good analysis, the best they could in a short time, shortly after the meagre information was given out to the public. One of the things in the letter, and I advise the minister to read it, really struck me, because it was my experience as a single mom years ago, on a very low income, that the school which my daughter attended was very important to me and to her, far beyond what she was learning, from junior kindergarten on up.

I'm going to read you this because I think it'll resonate with a lot of people. The heading is, "Schools are integral parts of our communities."

"Our schools are an integral part of our communities. We are concerned that, in an attempt to pare education spending down to the bare bones, too much attention will be paid to the parts and not enough attention will be paid to the whole. Schools are not mere 8:30 am o 4 pm operations. They provide a focus for community activity, with evening and weekend events for students and their families, such as school concerts and plays, athletic competitions, science fairs and author teas. They provide an after school study place for students who do not have space at home to do homework and study. They provide supplementary instruction after school, evenings and weekends and after-four programs, heritage language programs and continuing education classes. They are host to school council meetings, other community meetings and independent groups, such as the boy scouts and girl guides, and they are a major supplier of day care facilities. All these many functions and an overall sense of the place of each school in a respective community must be kept in mind when making decisions which will affect Ontario's school. "

I think that's a work of art. I think that paragraph says it all. I believe that besides this government's main objective, which is to find the money, it has lost sight of the role which the school in our community plays in the lives of the students and of the parents. It really is the hub in many communities. The government has lost sight of that. We know fundamentally that if this bill is passed, we're going to lose most of that.

I see some members shake their head, and I strongly advise them to read the bill and look at other analyses besides the minister's, because he's wrong about this. This is very, very serious. This is a terrible legacy that you will be leaving to our kids in this province. It seems to me that most of the members are not aware of the implications of this bill.

I strongly advise you to find out more about it, because if these things are eliminated -- and I recall back many years ago, I guess one of the things that led me into politics -- because I never dreamed I would be -- was that I was a single mother, and I needed child care in my community. There wasn't any; so what's changed? I noticed at Withrow school, where my daughter attended junior kindergarten, that there were all these empty rooms, and I remember going to the principal and saying: "We need a day care centre. Why can't we use one of these rooms?"

We started negotiating with the boards. This was a fairly new concept at the time, and it took a couple of years, maybe three years. I would not give up. It took several years, and by the time we got the day care at Withrow school, I didn't need it any more. But I was very happy to see that it was there for other children. In fact, at Withrow school, there are two day care programs now. Interestingly enough, my grandchild just started going -- the circle is being completed here -- to Withrow school in junior kindergarten. He's not in the day care there because of the waiting list, so he has to be shipped to junior kindergarten and then back to the day care, because it's part-time.

Since that time, there are day cares right throughout our school system. There are waiting lists now, as we know, all over the Metro area -- for children all over Ontario, but I'm speaking more specifically about my own area tonight -- and if those day cares in those schools are to be closed and not funded, and if we can't have new day cares within schools, then we're going to have a fairly major crisis. I would certainly hope, again, that the members here tonight who are concerned about that speak to the minister about it. Look at what the bill says. If you're not happy with it, then you have the opportunity to make some changes.

I would say to the members of the opposition that this bill -- not to suggest for a moment that most of the bills which have gone through this place have not had a rather profound effect on certain segments in our society; they have -- but I want to say to the members that, if you don't pay attention to this bill and if you only listen to what the minister and his notes are telling you, you've got a problem.

The member for Guelph said, and other members say: "Hey, I'm talking to the teachers in my riding. They like this." Well, I find that kind of strange because I don't know any teachers who like this. There might be few out there, but the majority of teachers don't like it. Why should they? It's not just about their careers; it's not just about their prep time. They care about the kids. That's part of what they do. They're trying to tell the government something: They do not want to go out on strike.

May I say to the minister and the government members, when you try to hold it up that this is just the big union bosses, it's not the run-of-the-mill teacher, the ordinary teacher, these ordinary teachers are the people who vote the heads of their unions in, just like we're elected by our constituents. We come here to represent them. The teachers can turf out their representatives -- just like we can be -- if they don't like them. My understanding, from talking to teachers in my riding and around the province, is that they don't like this bill for a lot of reasons. They want to be part of the process. They've been left out of the process. They have some good ideas. They have said that they agree that the status quo is not acceptable. Times have changed; we're in a different era. We have all kinds of different problems in our society to deal with. It makes sense to look at ways to save money. Nobody is denying that.

This is an opportunity for the government to say to the teachers, for the backbenchers to rise up on this one -- I would like to see it happen, for you to pick this one and say, "This one is about our kids; it's going to affect our kids." I'm sorry that the member for Guelph finds that funny. I'm sorry that I cannot somehow convey to the members that this indeed is a very serious matter.

I would say to the government tonight to withdraw this bill, withdraw it completely. Start all over again. Talk to the parents, talk to the children, and yes, speak to the teachers, because if anybody has experience in this area, they know what the problems are, they know where the money can be saved and they know, most of all, what our children need. You have an opportunity tonight to not just mouth the words you've been given in your briefing notes but to stand up for the kids in your communities and the kids of this province.


The Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mr Wayne Wettlaufer (Kitchener): The member for Riverdale says it's time for the backbenchers to stand up. All right, I'll stand up, and I'll tell her I am speaking on behalf of our children and our grandchildren. This is not about saving money. The teachers don't want to go on strike? Good. I'm glad to hear it, because we don't want them to go on strike either. Did they vote to go on strike? No, they didn't vote to go on strike. It will be an illegal strike.


The Speaker: Sir, please leave; just leave. Sir, if you don't leave I'm going to clear the gallery.

Reset the clock.

Mr Wettlaufer: The accusations I have heard by the teachers' union leaders and by members of the opposition constantly in this House and outside of the House that the Minister of Education is lambasting teachers, is demoralizing teachers -- that is a crock. I have spent weeks going through Hansard, and I have not found one instance, not one, of the minister lambasting teachers; not one. Repeatedly, in Hansard, the minister has said, "We have the best teachers in Canada; we have the best teachers in North America; we have the best teachers in the world." I echo that. He said it again yesterday, that we have the best teachers in the world.

The member for Riverdale said that the teachers realize that reform of the education system is necessary. That is what this bill is all about. The teachers recognize it and so did the former NDP minister, the member for Windsor-Riverside. David Cooke recognized that. I recognize that and our government recognizes that. That's what this bill is all about: reform. It's for the betterment of our students, and I hope the teachers and we can sit down and work this out together.

Mr Richard Patten (Ottawa Centre): I want to compliment the member for Riverdale. She speaks with her usual passion and experience and does her homework.

To the member for Kitchener, I would say that if it's not a money bill, I don't know what it is. It's certainly not a bill that adds any educational programs. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen one bill that added anything, other than a small computer program for more computers -- not one thing. They've taken away learning programs for kids; kids with special needs; adult education; junior kindergarten, even though all the research says that the earlier you can provide an opportunity for children to learn about the educational environment and deal with their biological development, the better opportunity you have to help them be a wholesome, healthy youngster as it goes on.

The other night I saw the minister on CBC news. He was asked by Suhana Meharchand, the anchorwoman, "I hear you're expected to take $1 billion out of education." This minister is not stupid. He's very sly, he's very slippery, and I think he's unwise, but he's not stupid. His answer was: "We're starting over. We're going to build the best educational system you could ever see, step by step by step. We're going to have equality for all the kids throughout Ontario. We'll have the best program; we'll fund it adequately." It's step by step all right; he's building a staircase right to the cellar. Just as this province is the worst supporter of post-secondary college and university students in all of Canada, we are now headed in exactly the same direction for high school and elementary. Isn't that something to be proud of?

If he isn't after extra money, why doesn't he come out and say so? Why you don't come out and say, "I will not take any money out" or "any changes will go back into the classroom"?

Mr Martin: I want to go on the record tonight as supporting the comments of the member for Riverdale and comment on one piece of her presentation, the fact that people are beginning to see what this government is about, are beginning to recognize the very hurtful initiatives they're introducing and, in this instance, the education bill, are beginning to respond.

I met in my office last Friday with a group of students from the high schools of Sault Ste Marie who talked to me about this bill, talked to me about the effect it will on them and the environment in which they have to learn. I was very impressed with their understanding and the sincerity with which they did that.

I want to share with the House, in the couple of minutes I have, a few of the letters I'm now beginning to receive into my office from people in my community about this bill. Here's one from a Ms Wilkinson:

"Dear Mr Martin,

"As an educator with 30 years of teaching experience and dedicated service to my profession, I must ask you to represent the students and teachers of Ontario. This government has an agenda that is dangerous to education in this province. It is also uninformed, insulting and immoral."

Here's another letter from a Bonnie Yurick in Sault Ste Marie, to Mr Snobelen, if he wants to listen for a second:

"I am writing concerning your new Education Act. I am concerned because with this new Education Act, our children's education is at risk. What you are presenting to the media and what you are actually planning are two different agendas.

"You have constantly refused to talk to educators to find out the `real concerns' or what the schools are really about. It's a sad commentary when the Minister of Education is so little informed or educated that he feels destroying the educational system is a justified whim."

I have other letters and I will read them at another time.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): If any government ever in this province took money out of the system, it was the New Democratic government through the social contract. You can talk to any of the teachers in our province and they understand exactly what happened with the social contract.

The thing I can't understand -- first of all, the opposition parties are doing their normal thing, which is playing the role of opposition, and I understand that. What I don't understand is why you think we have any opinion of our professional teachers in this province other than that. That's what they are. They are excellent professional teachers. There is nothing in this bill that criticizes our teachers.


But there is something that I find very interesting in this whole debate. The member for Riverdale spoke as a mother and a grandmother; I can do the same thing. I can speak as a mother and a grandmother whose children went all through their education in public schools in this province. How interesting that they went through two additional years of education in this province compared to every other child in the other provinces across Canada. I've never been able to understand the difference between children in Ontario and children in other provinces, which for many years never had kindergarten, never mind junior kindergarten, and still don't have grade 13.

I happen to have employed in my office here at Queen's Park two graduates from the school system in British Columbia, equally as bright and well educated as any student graduating in Ontario. They went to school for two years less.

If you really believe in your argument about more time spent with the teachers at an early age, that's exactly what we are saying, more time --

The Speaker: The member's time has expired. Response, member for Riverdale?

Ms Churley: Thanks to all the members who responded to my speech.

I believe the member for Kitchener misunderstood my meaning of standing up. That wasn't quite what I had in mind, but that's fine, I got his point: He doesn't agree with me.

The member for Ottawa Centre, on the issue of the money, I agree that we have given the Minister of Education every opportunity to say he won't take out that $1 billion or whatever. We don't want any more taken out. A whole bunch has been taken out. He won't give us that assurance. If the backbenchers can do anything to help with that, we'd all feel a certain level of comfort.

To the member for Sault Ste Marie, the letters he read out from his community reflect a lot of the same kinds of things I'm hearing from teachers in my community.

To the member for Mississauga South, first of all I'd ask her to please try not to be so patronizing. Everything I said tonight was put in the context that "Oh, that's the opposition over there just doing their opposition thing." She's been in opposition before, and if anybody should understand -- I watched her impassioned speeches at times when she was on this side of the House when she cared about certain issues. I remember one in particular. We do not just stand here all the time and oppose for the sake of opposition. What I said tonight I feel very strongly about, and I believe my concerns are shared by thousands and thousands of teachers across the province. It's not just me talking. That's the important point you have to get tonight. I know you're not going to listen to me. Your comments made that very clear. That's part of the problem here, isn't it, that we're seen as simply opposition. But at least listen to the teachers, the students and parents.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton): It certainly is a pleasure for me to stand in the House tonight to speak on Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act. This bill ensures that our students will have access to higher-quality education in the province of Ontario and it will be provided in a cost-effective manner. I don't think anyone would have any difficulty in buying that message.

Some of the debate tonight has been quite heated, quite emotional. I understand that change is difficult to swallow at times, difficult to accept. However, as some of the members have pointed out, the concerns are not about the teachers. The concern is with the process and the system.

There's an article in today's Toronto Sun headlined, "Teachers, Walk a Mile in our Shoes." The last part of the article states:

"It is empty rhetoric and therefore deceitful. But, as teachers often say when critical of the press, why let the facts stand in the way of a good story?

"As a sidebar to all this, it might be quite different if our children were receiving the education they deserve and that bang for the buck was worth every penny.

"But they're not, and it isn't.

"The cost to the taxpayer in Ontario, per student, is the highest in the world yet the standard of education is far from the top."


The Speaker: Order. I'm telling you, if another person in the gallery breaks in, I'm clearing the gallery. Understand that in the gallery. The next person who interrupts, the gallery is being cleared. The opposition members should come to order as well.

Mr Beaubien: I'm sorry that some of our dedicated teachers in the gallery tonight are upset. I did not write this. This is the observation of Mark Bonokoski.


The Speaker: Clear the galleries. Stop the clock, please.

Member for Lambton?

Mr Beaubien: I'm sorry for the disruption. I was just quoting from a writer. However, I'll finish the article.

"This is not rhetoric. This is fact.... If there is a Fat City, it's within the education community. If it were a private enterprise, it would have gone belly-up long ago, and justifiably so.

"Our teachers have been so spoiled over the years that they cannot see the reality for the trees. They feel hard done by. But it's a crock."

I have an awful lot of respect for the teachers. Most of them, the large majority, are very dedicated, very knowledgeable and hardworking. However, as I pointed out earlier in my speech, change is sometimes difficult to accept.

I want to take you back to 1995, when we campaigned in the last election. We spoke about education, and we spoke in this manner:

"Classroom funding for education will be guaranteed.

"That does not mean than savings cannot be found elsewhere in the education system. Too much money is now being spent on consultants, bureaucracy and administration. Not enough is being invested in students directly.

"Our principle of `classroom-based budgeting' will help ensure that this essential service is protected and, indeed, that excellence in education and training is enhanced."

Nowhere do we talk about teachers. We talk about the system.

This bill we're talking about here tonight, Bill 160, will promote a high-quality education system by limiting class sizes. This bill would, for the first time in the province of Ontario, prevent school boards from increasing class sizes.

At the present time, school boards and unions can make an agreement that increases class sizes. That is no longer acceptable. I cite a board in the region of Halton, whereby after the social contract, that particular board negotiated a 5% wage increase with the teachers. However, the PTR was increased and that was negotiated between the board and the teachers. Is that fair to the students? It is certainly not fair to the students. However, certainly in my riding, I still hear teachers' concerns about the PTR ratio, and rightfully so. They should be concerned about it. But this government is finally going to do something about it. We are going to address that problem.


Another thing the bill will do is to focus teachers' expertise in the classroom. The more time teachers spend with students, the better students perform. I'm not an expert on education like the member for Sudbury but I am sure he would agree with that statement. High school teachers in Ontario currently spend as much as 20% less time than teachers in other jurisdictions. Is that fair to our students? I think the answer is very evident: It certainly is not.

According to the Education Improvement Commission high school teachers in Ontario, on average, spend 3.75 hours of their working day teaching students compared to the national average of 4.5 hours per day. If we ask teachers to spend a little bit more time in the classroom, I don't think that's going overboard.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what happened in my constituency today. I received two calls. One was a parent complaining that a teacher was on the PA system announcing to the students that there would be a strike, that this strike would last three weeks and that the government would cave in, or if the government did not cave in, they would be legislated back to work.

Where did this come from? Where is that in Bill 160? Can anyone on the other side of the room tell me this is in 160? That's fearmongering.

Let me tell you about another one. This is a high school in my riding. Today they decided they would jam the fax in yours truly's constituency: 400 faxes of the same sheet. I don't mind receiving faxes. I would gladly pick them up at the high school and I would gladly sit down with the students and the teachers to discuss Bill 160. However, someone decided it would be cute and fuzzy to send 400 faxes to our office today. Think about the cost involved in this. How many hours could we provide for child care or junior kindergarten or maybe a football uniform as opposed to spending time and material sending useless faxes?

This bill would allow the province to set standards for the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom, as I said. Certainly the bill would also provide more time for learning. The average number of classroom instructional days in Ontario is 185 days for elementary grades and 170 days for secondary grades, compared to more than 200 days in Switzerland and 192 and 191 days in England and Scotland respectively.

Let me tell you that I have a little bit of experience with regard to school days in Switzerland because I happen to have a daughter who spent six months in their school system. Not only do they go on Fridays, sometimes they end up going on Saturday mornings. Their school day started at 8 o'clock in the morning and it ended at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. There is no doubt she was surprised at the length of time they spent in school, but if we look at the performance of students in Switzerland, I think they fare quite well.

The Education Improvement Commission has recommended that the school year for elementary students be increased by two weeks and for secondary school students by three weeks.

As I pointed out, students in other jurisdictions have a longer school year, have longer hours, and I'm sure that is a palatable suggestion.

Students should have access to specialists.

In many jurisdictions, professionals work with teachers in the school. I remember in my days as a general insurance broker spending probably six to eight hours every school year at the high school talking about insurance. I didn't get paid for it, but I thought it was important to teach young people who will buy insurance in the near future as to the dos and don'ts and the whys and the why nots and why your insurance sometimes is sky-high. I think they deserve an explanation. You can't expect teachers to know everything about insurance. However, I think the system made access to professionals in that field.

What about a football coach? If we don't have a person who can coach in the high school, what's wrong with taking a former pro or a former junior player? What's wrong with that?

Also, the bill would provide a greater role for parents through advisory school councils.

An advisory school council would be established in every school to increase opportunities for parents and the community to become involved in the education of their children. It is really difficult to speak against that. I'm sure most of us in this House have had the experience of having kids go through the system at one level or another, at one time or another. The council would also advise the principal on matters such as student discipline, student safety and local priorities.

I think if you talk to teachers today, one of the major concerns they have is the difficulty they have in handling the classes. It's about time we had parents taking more of an important and active role in the education of their students. You're going to say, They're doing that now. Well, I say to you they could do a better job, and I think we're going to encourage people to do that.

Another one I would like to speak on tonight is a simpler, fairer funding system. The province, not the school boards, would be responsible for setting all education property tax rates. Taxes will stay in the community where they are raised.

I look at the situation in my own riding where some municipalities do not have a high industrial assessment base and compare them to other municipalities which may have a high agricultural assessment base. Why should a student in one part of my riding not be able to receive the same quality education as someone somewhere else in the province or sometimes even in the riding or close to the riding?

I think it's about time the funding followed the students so that every student in Ontario receives the same level of funding. Granted, there will have to be some adjustment because there are some unique situations in different parts of the province.

A more effective and fair funding system would focus resources on the classroom and fund all students according to their needs. Students would have access to the same high-quality education regardless of where they live.

If we look at taxes -- we've heard about taxes tonight -- many municipalities in Ontario in the past 10 or 12 years, and I'm talking about the municipal levy, have not raised their municipal tax levy. However, when we look at the county or the regional or the school levy, there have been some tremendous increases, especially with the school board assessments. I think that by having a fair funding formula we will eliminate those peaks and valleys.

Education would require a review of the funding system to ensure standards of fairness are being met.

Another point I would like to talk about tonight is recognizing the needs of growing communities. We have changing demographics in Ontario. In my area at the present time young people are leaving the area because the employment situation is not very rosy. For instance, the Lambton public school board last year lost 600 students. Of course we're going to lose teachers in the region. However, there are regions in the province where the opposite applies, and I think we have to be able to cater to this in an effective, cost-effective manner. When we look at new schools with a whole number of portables, it's not the most suitable situation to have 15 to 20 classes and then have 10 or 12 portables.


One situation I would like to talk about tonight -- I'd like to refer to an organization in my riding, the Otter Swim Club. I'd like to refer to their instructor, their coach, Rema Abdhu. Rema was an Olympian in the 1988 Olympics in Los Angeles. My two daughters swam competitively during the early 1990s, and I remember that they had a banner in the pool for the 1992 Olympics in Spain. The banner stated, "No pain, no gain, no Spain." Those kids realized that if there was no pain there would be no gain so that you could get to Spain. They had a goal, they had a vision.

When this government was elected, we had a goal, we had a vision. Who said there would be no pain? Nobody said that. There has to be pain in order to have some gain so that at the end of the day we can all benefit from sensible economic policies that relate to education, health care and other situations.

The exercise we are going through right now is not easy and it is painful in some cases, but it's worth it. If we look at what's happened in Alberta and what's happening in Ottawa, but especially Alberta, they have a nice problem. They have $1-billion surplus, and they're waiting to get some input from their constituents as to where they want to spend that money. I think the same can be duplicated in the province of Ontario, as opposed to having the legacy that was left by the previous governments, including Conservative governments.

At the end of this fiscal year, we will have a debt of $108.5 billion. I look at the NDP. They're always talking about the little guy, caring for the students and the little guy. They spent $1 billion a month more than they took in for every month they were in power. That's $33 million per day and $1.25 million per hour more, every hour you were in power. What kind of legacy is that, that you left to the young people of this province?

Don't tell me that you care about kids. Sometimes I wonder whether you've got blood running in your veins. Sometimes I think you've got ethylene glycol. It's nice to say you care about the kids, but you had a short-term vision, and look at the long-term plan you left.

Let me tell you in closing that we all took a role in getting into this mess we're in today, and we all have to take a role in getting out of the mess we're in today.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Cullen: I rise in response to the remarks made by the member for Lambton. The member for Lambton and the member for Dufferin-Peel both referred to an article written by a certain Mark Bonokoski that appeared in the Toronto Sun. Mark Bonokoski happens to be an editor with the Ottawa Sun. Of course we all accept that editors are founts of wisdom.

During the recent by-election in Ottawa West -- remember that by-election that was just held over the summer? I know not too many of you were paying attention, but we did have one in Ottawa West and Oriole and Windsor-Riverside. During that by-election, all the candidates were called to CFRA, where Mark Bonokoski has a radio show called Off the Record. Of course it was on the record; it was very public. We were assembled around the table, and in my opening remarks I happened to mention that I believe the PC government led by Mike Harris is really a Reform Party in PC blue clothing. Mark Bonokoski's rejoinder was, "I wish."

In the course of the debate we talked about education and education costs. Just to show you his grasp of these educational issues, which of course the members opposite cling to as the fount of wisdom, we happened to speak about the Ottawa Board of Education per pupil cost, which is slightly over $8,000 a pupil; the provincial average was just about $6,000. In the course of the discussion I said: "All right, folks, tell me how much of this $8,000 goes to administration. Just tell me." There was utter silence. Not Mr Bonokoski, not the Conservative candidate, a certain Chris Thompson, could understand that only $800 of that $8,000 went to administration.

You tell me that there's so much money to cut from fat within education. I can tell you, after the two years of this Harris government, after so much money being cut, after school boards having to sweat over the kinds of programs they can deliver for their students, they don't have any more money to cut. You want to take another $1 billion out? Shame on you.


The Speaker: Are you guys done over there? Many thanks. Further questions and comments?

Mr Silipo: I listened with more than passing interest to the comments of the member for Lambton. I have to say that I found a couple of contradictions, but I was struck by how strongly he seems to believe that what this bill will do and what his Minister of Education's intent is is to live up to the guarantee provided in the Common Sense Revolution that classroom spending will be guaranteed; that what's going to happen through this bill, when the minister talks about capping class size, is that class size won't get any bigger; and that focusing teacher attention in the classroom by reducing prep time is what he wants to do.

Those are all laudable goals. I just find it really striking that that's what a member of the government caucus believes, because obviously he's not looking at the same bill I am. I want to say to him and to all members opposite that one of the things that will come about as a result of this bill passing is that you will actually have to finally take responsibility for the funding decisions made in our school system, because one of the things that flows from taking complete control of the funding formula is that when class size then goes up, when classroom spending is reduced, you'll no longer be able to hide behind the school boards. You will have gutted the powers of the school boards and we'll only have the minister and the government to blame for the deterioration of our school system.

If this was about refocusing the resources, if this was about refocusing the spending within education, we could have a discussion about that at a more serious level, but this is about taking money out of the system. You can't convince me or anybody else that it's not about that.

Mr Baird: I'd like to congratulate the member for Lambton on some excellent, well-researched remarks. He pointed out, when talking about spending on education -- some of the members across laughed, but we have a very good example in Ottawa-Carleton. On one side of the street they spend the second-highest amount of any board in the province. On the other side of Baseline Road, they spend almost 40% less, at the Carleton Roman Catholic school board. You'd expect to see the results to be, the way some members talk, 40% less. The member for Lambton will be interested to know that the results in many of the indicators are actually better. Retention rate is among the highest in the province. Some might say, "Well, the Carleton Roman Catholic school board is a small board," but they are the fourth-largest Roman Catholic board in the province. Their retention rates are high and on standardized testing they do extremely well, and they do it by spending 30% or 40% less.

It's funny that the only areas where there are extraordinary needs for costs just happen to be the areas where there's a rich property tax assessment base. I would agree with the member for Lambton that the best way to fund an education system isn't necessarily based on the value of the properties around the schools in that education system.

The goal of increasing student achievement is an extremely important one. I can tell the member for Lambton, my constituents feel very strongly that reducing the number of PD days will be good; having students in the secondary level spend three more weeks in the school system will be a good thing; two more weeks for primary school students will be a good thing. We all know from the Education Improvement Commission's report that when teachers spend more time with the children in the class, they get better results. That's not John Baird or John Snobelen or Mike Harris saying that; Dave Cooke, the former NDP Minister of Education, has said that. That's obviously good news, because we have a good system in the province of Ontario. But I think we can make it better.

Through Bill 160, we can build on the strengths of that system and get better student performance. That's the bottom line. I would certainly agree with the member for Lambton in that respect.


Mrs McLeod: The member for Lambton began his remarks by saying that the problem wasn't with teachers, the problem is with the system. I think he was following on the indignation of the member for London South saying that there's nothing the Minister of Education has ever said which is demeaning of teachers. I would suggest to the members that they read Bill 160. The entire bill is a teacher-bashing bill. When the Minister of Education says that all the time that teachers spend outside the classroom --

Mr Wettlaufer: You are obviously a product of the Ontario English system.

The Speaker: Member for Kitchener, come to order, please. Thank you. I don't want to warn you again.

Mrs McLeod: Mr Speaker, it was the member for Kitchener who got quite indignant before. I will apologize to the member for London South.

I say again to all of them that when the Minister of Education wants to take away teacher preparation time on the grounds that any time spent outside the classroom, even when it is with students, is a waste of time, he is demeaning the work of teachers.

When the Minister of Education says, as he says in this bill, that non-certified teachers, untrained individuals, can replace professional teachers in the classroom, he is very clearly demeaning the work teachers do.

When the Minister of Education says, as he did on Monday, that Ontario is the caboose at the end of the education train, he is demeaning the work of teachers.

He is calling our students failures. The member for Sudbury said, "We have to tell our students what they are." This Minister of Education wants to tell our students that they are failures. How does he reconcile his need to prove that the system is broken with the fact that the Durham board won an international award for excellence? How does he reconcile it with the story that's in today's Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal that the Red Lake school up in northern Ontario was recognized by the Reader's Digest international contest as the outstanding leader in education?

No, I say to the member for Nepean, it wasn't because they are a rich board, not the little Red Lake board. It's very clearly because of the teachers, because of the quality of teaching. The system is not broken. Everything the Minister of Education says to persuade people that it's broken and needs to be changed is demeaning to the work and the success of Ontario teachers.

The Speaker: Response.

Mr Beaubien: I appreciate hearing the comments from the members for Ottawa West, Dovercourt, Nepean and certainly the last member who spoke, Fort William.

With regard to comments from the member for Ottawa West, I'm not qualified to comment on the cost of administration in your jurisdiction. However, upon hearing some of the comments from the member for Nepean, I would suggest you check your figures.

Member for Dovercourt, yes, this bill's about limiting class sizes. You mentioned gutting the power of the school boards. I look in my own constituency, about the only one I can really quote on, and I think it's about time we amalgamated the boards between Lambton and Kent. I think it can be effective; they're certainly going to be more cost-effective. Sometimes I wonder about the amount of money we spend in administration. A lot of teachers wonder about the amount of money, why we have so many superintendents and so many of this and so many of that. It's about time. If you consider that or classify that as taking money out of the system, I don't have a quarrel with you on that particular point

With regard to the comments of the member for Fort William that this bill is a teacher-bashing bill, that's exactly what is wrong. I know your role as opposition members is that you have to get the press and you have to get in front of the cameras and you have to get that one quick quote. "Teacher-bashing bill" sounds very good in the Fort William press. However, are you doing justice to your constituents? I don't think so.

The reason I say that is that I just finished a talk show tonight before I came in the House. When I hear people saying, "You're going to take teachers' rights and you're going to do this and you're going to do that" -- people are so misinformed because of the information you're feeding out to the press back home. People are very confused.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr David Caplan (Oriole): I'm delighted to rise this evening and speak about Bill 160, the so-called Education Quality Improvement Act. It really is with a heavy heart. There's no fooling the people of Ontario, I say to all the members, what the true intent of this bill is about. This bill is about taking $1 billion away from our kids, about a reduction to their education, about neutering teachers and showing who's in control. Education is not a matter of "I'm in charge." You will say it's a matter that together we're working to educate children, but that's something this government has not shown any commitment to.

There have been a lot of comments this evening by their members. The previous speaker talked about wanting to get some advice and some knowledge. I suggest he speak to the member for Mississauga South, a former trustee herself. He could speak to his Premier, a former president of the Northern Ontario School Trustees' Association. He could speak to the Minister of Labour or the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. He could speak to all these members in his own caucus who have some experience with school boards.

If he is saying that these are the individuals who've created a mess -- those are his own words -- I would say that those individuals would take great exception to those comments because they are just not factual. I would submit that it is a campaign of misinformation on behalf of this government, on behalf of this minister particularly, to implement certain changes he feels that are necessary to take $1 billion out of education to meet targets, to fund a tax cut. This is why he is doing it.

This is not the first time that our Minister of Education, John Snobelen, has raided our classrooms. He stole $533 million out of our classrooms already. He's admitted that it has reached the classrooms, that it has affected the quality of education. That is shameful.

His actions to date -- let's review them. He has made junior kindergarten non-mandatory; 24 boards of education in the province dropped junior kindergarten because he downgraded it, because he took it from a class 1 grant to class 3 grant, essentially from full funding to 10% of the funding. He wants to say, "I didn't do it; I didn't cut junior kindergarten." He most certainly did, and he and this government must stand accountable for those actions.

If you read the report of the royal commission on education -- in fact, the gentleman who asked for that report and who helped to frame it is now one of his education experts on the Education Improvement Commission; that's Dave Cooke, along with Ann Vanstone, former chair of the Metropolitan Toronto School Board. I would say to the members opposite, if education has been run so badly, why has the minister appointed these two individuals as his lead advisers and experts in education? Why? It's absolute nonsense. It is just not the reality of the situation today. I would use much stronger language, except that the Speaker wouldn't let me do that.

This bill is about power. This bill is all about who controls education. I would refer you to the words of former trustee Mike Harris, who said that he shudders to think what would happen under provincial control of education, that he knows it's a recipe for disaster for education and for kids in this province. That was when he was president of the Northern Ontario School Trustees' Association, and it is true today as well.

Under this provision of Bill 160, John Snobelen and Mike Harris will have unprecedented powers over education. They will be able to hire and fire teachers. They will be able -- they have given themselves the power -- to remove the right to strike for teachers. In section 58 -- now, they've clouded the issue; they've put it under a different section of the bill, but if you look at the words of Justice Archie Campbell when he was reviewing Bill 104, he said that the government used extraordinary powers, order-in-council powers, in an inappropriate way; that this government has a track record of using provisions in other pieces of legislation in extraordinary ways to achieve their ends. It is no different and it is not by accident that the Minister of Education has included this clause. It allows cabinet to make regulations to prevent the disruption of education of pupils. What that means is that the cabinet can now remove the right to strike from teachers. It is beyond belief that anyone would feel that this minister has any credibility.


I should tell you, by the way, that this particular Minister of Education is the only one in the history of the province who has twice had to retract his words in this House when he made claims that were refuted by physical evidence. Twice. The two cases, by the way, for the members opposite, were the case of the Kirwans and Gordie Kirwan, raised by our leader, and the case of a deal he had made with the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, which he had denied originally and later had to own up to.

One of the great flaws of this bill is it removes the democratic rights of this Legislature and the people of Ontario to know what's going to happen in education, to have some input into local decisions. In fact, by making all of the decisions through regulation, the government and John Snobelen and Mike Harris have effectively removed any positive, any constructive input, and any consultation. Any semblance of the democracy that we have they have removed entirely from education.

The other part of this bill which has not received any attention because it's not there -- although in section 257 the minister does grant himself the powers of the funding formula, but there are no details. Why did the minister promise that we would have a funding formula in March of this year? Why did he reiterate that promise that we would have it in May of this year? Why did he say a third time that we would have it in September of this year? Now we're supposed to trust that he's going to have it in November? My God, is there no plan?

Will we know what the designs of this government for the provision of education for our children are? Why are they so afraid to tell us? Why do they keep saying to the people of Ontario, "Trust us, take a leap of faith," when their track record has been broken promises, has been flip-flops, has been the absolute admission of wanting to cause the system to become bankrupt and to create a crisis in that system? There is no trust. There is no credibility. We are not buying what this minister is saying.

The minister is making it up as he goes along: a new curriculum, which I might add is not really so terrible. In fact it's a virtual copy of something that was implemented in my neighbourhood in North York over five years ago. It's a good start. It's not the end product. We need to go further. But the minister seems to think he can misdirect and confuse the public by dropping some of these things. Standardized testing, three grades -- in North York, I should tell the members, we have nine grades of standardized testing. Why are we being forced to accept less? Because the minister has no plan. He's just making it up. He doesn't know where he wants to go with this, except that he wants to get $1 billion from our kids and from education. By the way, half of that has been earmarked from Metropolitan Toronto and that is going to have a serious detriment on kids in my neighbourhood.

The provisions in this bill, which are extraordinary, are telling teachers, telling the public that you can no longer negotiate, you can no longer have a conversation. "We're going to control the purse-strings but you can no longer make any kind of local determination about the types of programs, about the needs of the local community." That's absolutely unconscionable. When the government says, "We will reduce preparation time," in other words, they are eliminating the numbers of teachers: 6,000 teachers in Ontario is the result of a reduction of 50% of secondary school preparation time. Six thousand teachers and, by the way, that's a conservative estimate. The federations are predicting upwards of 10,000.


Mr Caplan: That is not a funny matter, I would say to my friend the member for Perth: 6,000 teachers is not going to lower the class sizes. It's interesting, when the minister talks about class size and he's now going to have the power to regulate it, he uses some very interesting language. He says we have a 17 to 1 pupil-teacher ratio and an average class size of 25 in the province, and he's wondering why the difference. Where is the difference? He would know, and I hope all members would know, that we have a very progressive policy that was introduced by a prior Conservative government. It was called special education.

We have class sizes of 8 to 1; we have class sizes of 12 to 1. It is good legislation. We support it. I know that all members in this House support it. If you want to know where those teachers are, go to those classrooms. You will find them working with very special children, children who deserve the kind of education and the kind of support that is going to enable them to reach their potential.

It seems that the minister is caught up in this numbers game. He just wants to say, for whatever purposes -- we know the purpose, which is to take dollars out -- "Where are the teachers? They are not being productive." By bashing teachers, by vilifying a very dedicated group of professionals, he is using that in a machiavellian way to try to sell the public, to get them on his side. It's not working. It does a disservice to him, it does a disservice to the profession, and I really wish he would stop and admit the fine work that teachers are doing in our schools.

The minister unveiled this announcement with great fanfare. He talked about extending the school year. We would have a longer school year. It took about 48 hours and he said, "My rural colleagues told me that this was a great problem because children are a source of cheap labour." That wasn't the real reason.

The minister, as Her Worship Hazel McCallion has said about the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing -- they have just not done their homework. When they started to run the numbers, they found it was going to cost more. Gee, when people go to work earlier, you've got to open the buildings. You've got to clean the buildings, you've got to staff the buildings. You've got to have the teachers there. You have extra heating and lighting and other costs. It costs more, and that's not what this government is about. They're looking for ways to remove, to extract money, to steal money away from our kids. That is why the Minister of Education said we are not going to have a longer school year.

It's very interesting in the information that was quoted earlier that we have 185 school days. The minister would know, as well as his predecessor, that in fact we have 194 days of school. It is up to the minister to determine the number of days that exist right now. He could make it longer. He doesn't need this piece of legislation to do it. In fact, it is the minister who sanctions that and has, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

I must tell you that this question of professional development days -- I'm a parent and I've been a member of the public, but in my role as a school trustee I attended professional development sessions for teachers. I can tell you that the work that was being done was in mathematics, was in literacy, was about improving student performance and achievement, was about evaluation and assessment instruments and different methodologies. It was about kids. The teachers were there, they were learning, and they were taking those lessons back to the classrooms and they were using it to improve their lessons and they were using it for the betterment of students.

For this minister or any member to get up and suggest that the training and the time spent on making our teachers better teachers and helping them and equipping them with the latest pedagogy and having an opportunity to share information with fellow teachers is a bad thing goes against absolutely every shred of educational research, goes against every shred of research in the private sector, which says that moneys and dollars you spend on training your staff returns manyfold in terms of productivity and in terms of results.


I'm absolutely shocked and dismayed at the impression that members opposite are leaving when they make these statements that teachers will now be in front of the students more and somehow this will be better. When the teachers are in front of the students, it is because they have the knowledge, the experience and are armed with every tool at their disposal. The way you do that, I say to all members, is through professional development. We require a great deal more commitment to it, not less.

As I had said, the minister set up his expert panels, with the two individuals I've named, but they recommended that any savings found through any of these initiatives be reinvested back in the classroom. That's not a radical statement. In fact, in health care the minister has stood up and said if he finds any savings, he will reinvest them back in hospitals.

Why can't the Minister of Education, why can't the Premier stand up and follow the expert advice that he has gone out and sought and commit today that he will invest any dollars that are found through his exercise in savings into education, into our schools? It doesn't take much. All he has to do is say yes. But he refuses to. Is it any wonder why there is no confidence in this government? Is it any wonder why people do not believe that John Snobelen and Mike Harris have the best interests of children at heart? It's because they will not make that very simple commitment. Commit today.

There was another recommendation from the Education Improvement Commission that preparation time be reduced 25%. He has gone further. He doesn't follow the advice of his experts; he merely tries to use that as a buffer to achieve his own ends and his own goals.

I am absolutely shocked that the minister would not be up front. He has said this bill will make him and make the government more accountable. If anything does that, I certainly applaud it, but I don't believe it, because this government refuses to be held accountable for their previous cuts to education, for their future planned cuts to education, for dropping junior kindergarten, adult education, for reduced support to special education, for all these things and quite a bit more: for the crisis that the minister said he wanted to create and in fact has created. He is accountable. He must be held accountable and he will be held accountable.

Earlier this evening I was at Don Valley Junior High School. This is the agenda from their meeting. A group of about 30 parents were there. This was their first meeting as a school advisory council. They asked me to come and talk, but more important, they asked me to come and listen. There was not one parent who said they thought the minister had any credibility. There was not one parent who said they had any confidence in this government to look after the interests of their children.

They wanted a very direct message to go to Mike Harris and to John Snobelen: Stop now. Commit now that you will not remove $1 billion from their kids and from their education. Commit now that there will be no more reductions to special education. Enough is enough. You've gone too far already. It's time to pull back. Our education system is not a mess. We've done a great job. It can be improved, but work with them, don't work against them. That is the message from the school advisory council at Don Valley junior high.

I'm very pleased to have had this opportunity to speak to Bill 160 and I look forward to the very insightful comments of my colleagues.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Wildman: I just want to congratulate the member for Oriole on his presentation on Bill 160 and take this opportunity, since it's the first time I've had an opportunity to respond to him, to congratulate him on his success in the by-election and to wish him well in his duties representing his constituents here in this House.

Obviously, he is concerned about the future of education for the students in his constituency and across the province. He raises a very important point when he quotes the parents' council of Don Valley Junior High School, when he talks about what the cuts have meant already for the education of those students and what it will mean if another $1 billion is taken out of education.

He asks for a commitment from the minister and from the Premier, from the government that if more money is to be saved, they make a commitment that it not be taken out of education but it be reinvested in education so it will benefit the students who are the central reason for the whole education system. I think that's a very good point. I call on the minister, along with my friend from Oriole, to make that commitment tonight, that if there are any further savings from the measures he's taking with regard to the school system, they will be reinvested in the education of students.

I also call on the minister to ensure that he does not treat education as a way of getting money out and giving it to the Treasurer. I call on the minister most of all to contact the teachers, to talk to the teachers to ensure that we don't have a disruption of education in this province, to work with them for the betterment of education for students, to quit attacking them and through them attacking the students of Ontario.

Mr Stewart: I have to stand and make a comment about the member for Oriole and one of the comments he made when he referred to rural farm people as getting cheap child labour. I take great offence at that, representing a rural riding and being from a farm family. The families of farmers work side by side to improve this province. If he suggests that the farm people in this province are suggesting that they get cheap child labour, I have real difficulty with that.

I also have difficulty when I hear the rhetoric of the Liberals suggesting there are 6,000 teachers going to be laid off. The NDP says 10,000. Why don't you prove what you're talking about? You're using this type of rhetoric. Nobody is telling it the way it is.


Mr Stewart: We must have hit a note, because you're reacting. That is great. You know you cannot back it up.

One of the things we have in that bill is a 10-day exam time. The Peterborough Board of Education has gone to a 10-day exam time, and I applaud them for that. I suggest to them they should stand up and tell everybody, because it does work, it does create efficiencies, and I can tell you they're a perfect example of trying to make things better, with the amount of resistance we seem to be getting on a continual basis.

Again I have to go back to the criticism that the member for Oriole made about the farm families of this province. They do not have cheap child labour. They work side by side to create a tremendous rural family element in this province.

Mr Bartolucci: First of all, I'd like to thank the member for Oriole for his very insightful words. What he did was summarize Bill 160 very succinctly but very exactly as well. It's all about removing money to pay for Mike Harris's tax cut. There's absolutely no question about that. We're going to sacrifice another $1.1 billion to ensure that we deliver on the tax cut promise. We don't care what it does to the education system; we're only concerned with the withdrawal of money. That's the government thinking and speaking. We say on this side of the House that that's the wrong direction for you to go in, in education. That's what the member for Oriole was saying.


He's also saying that's an enormous power grab for the minister and for Premier Mike Harris. That's what this bill is all about as well. It's all about removing any power at all from the local people, and you know what? If an education system is going to be successful, it has to reflect the local needs and the local requirements in order to teach the children at a local level. This bill takes all that power away.

What the member for Oriole is saying as well is that the students and the parents of Ontario are willing to stand up for teachers. They're ready to defend teachers and they're able to work with teachers and all the partners in education to ensure we have a system of education that is the best in the world. All the partners in education are also saying that this is the wrong direction, but they're also telling you, and I hope you're listening, that they won't back down. They don't want to be forced to do something they don't feel good about, but they won't back down. They want you to change.

Mr Silipo: I want to congratulate the member for Oriole on his speech this evening. Although I know he has spoken in this House on prior occasions, it's the first time I've had the chance to listen to him here in the House. I've caught snippets of his comments earlier on in the week on television but I want to congratulate him for intervening in this particular debate and in focusing, as he has done, on the impact the cuts to education that are going to come as a result of this bill and the other actions that the government is taking will have.

He also mentioned, as a member from the Metropolitan Toronto area, the impact this is going to have on schools here in Metro. Some $500 million of the $1 billion in cuts are expected to come out of the Toronto school systems. It used to be that there was some thinking that went along among the government members, and indeed even some people out in the educational community, that the money that was going to come out of Toronto was going to somehow be spread out among the rest of the system.

Then we discovered, as the minister has people coming together with the different funding formulas, that because of the $1 billion they need to take out, none of that money is going anywhere else except to the coffers of the Minister of Finance. In fact, the money is going to come right out of the system and we're going to see, whether you're Catholic boards or public boards, whether you're in public schools or Catholic schools, that what we're going to have at the end of the day is less money being spent in our classrooms.

One thing that becomes more and more clear to me, and I think it's becoming clearer out there, is that as the minister continues with his rage to take away virtually every significant power that school boards have, at the end of the day parents and people in the community will know that whatever cuts happened are going to land on his doorstep and on the doorstep of the Premier of this province, and they won't be able to hide behind school boards any longer.

The Speaker: Response?

Mr Caplan: I'd like to thank the members for Algoma, Peterborough and Dovercourt for their comments earlier.

I'd like to focus on the member for Peterborough. He throws some numbers out and asks us to back them up. I would challenge him if we can, and we certainly can: Will you vote against Bill 160? Will you commit to that, sir? I suspect the answer is no. In fact, the member for Peterborough thinks it's right to eliminate 6,000 teachers in the province.


The Speaker: Order, member for Peterborough.

Mr Caplan: We've heard it all. In his comments he said he can't understand the amount of resistance they're having. Perhaps he has no further to look than to the Minister of Education, who has no credibility with parents, no credibility with students, no credibility with teachers. When the minister says, "Trust me, this is for your benefit," no one believes him. When the minister will not commit to investing any savings found through these exercises back into classrooms in Ontario, why should we trust him? Why should anyone in the province trust him? I think even the member for Peterborough knows he shouldn't trust the Minister of Education because the minister does not have the best interests of children at heart.

This is a very passionate matter for me. I am a father. I want the best education for my son and for all children in Ontario. The $1 billion, on top of the half a billion already cut will not provide that, and the minister could and should take appropriate action.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Silipo: I'm glad to have the opportunity to at least begin some comments this evening and hope to be here to continue whenever this debate resumes, because I believe that regardless of how the ebb and flow of this debate goes -- and we've seen tonight the various moments of sometimes loud, sometimes quieter, sometimes impassioned, sometimes just thoughtful rationale -- however we express our views, it's fair to say that what is envisaged in Bill 160 and what Bill 160 represents is part of a significant discussion about where we believe the school system of this province should go.

I come at this, as all of us do, with a particular bias. I want to tell you, Speaker, the word "bias" as I use it is meant in its most positive of terms. I recall one grade 9 teacher of mine reminding us when he put that word up on the board and went on to describe it that "bias" means all that makes each and every one of us in our thinking and all the experiences we've had, and therefore the points of view and the perspective we bring to things. The perspective I bring to this discussion is yes, as a politician, having been involved as a member of this House, in government as Minister of Education for a few years, in opposition now, as a former school trustee, but probably the most significant perspective I can bring is that of a parent.

I think others in this House can speak equally to that issue from that perspective as parents and grandparents, as we've already heard tonight. I don't expect that whatever our perspective is, even if we all speak to this issue as parents, we would agree. Part of the process is accepting that there is disagreement.

What bothers me as I follow this debate and now as I have a chance to say a few words in the course of this debate is how much the debate is really focusing around perceptions that are so different, and how we come at this with a perspective that is so fast and so polarized. I have to say to the Minister of Education that he needs to take responsibility for a great part of that polarization.

I think one of the media scribes, Thomas Walkom, actually hit it on the head today in his comments in his column. I think he's written some brilliant columns and I think he's missed the point entirely on a couple of issues, but on this one today I think he's dead on.

Mr Wettlaufer: Why don't you get somebody who is objective?

Mr Silipo: The member here says, "Why don't you get somebody who's objective?" We can quote whoever we want, and as I said, I don't always agree with what Thomas Walkom has to say, but I think this column today reflects very clearly what I believe this government is up to. The confrontation we are virtually on the eve of seeing is not coming about by accident; it is a well-calculated move.

I don't say this is by all the members of the government caucus. I would say with all due respect to them that most of them don't have a clue as to what strategy Premier Harris and his cohorts have on this. They wouldn't dare tell them that the strategy behind all this is to seek out a confrontation with the teachers of this province, to try to make the teachers of this province the scapegoats for the fundamental changes in the school system that this minister and this Premier want to bring about.

Yes, that fundamental change has something to do with focusing the system. Of course it does. There is always a little bit of truth in what the minister says, a tiny bit of truth, but none the less there is a little bit of truth in what the minister says. When he talks about some of the things we began as a government and that he's continuing in terms of focusing the resources on having a clearer reporting system to parents, on having clearer standards, on ensuring that we know what is being taught in our schools, that parents understand what their children are learning, that teachers know that we do expect more of them, all those things are good and useful things. But that's not what Bill 160 is about.

Bill 160 is not about making the system better, because if you were interested in making the system better, you would not begin from the premise that we are spending too much money on education. You might want to talk about how you'd refocus the spending in the system; you might want to talk about how you can take some money out of administration and put it back into the classroom, but that's not what you're doing.

Mr Wettlaufer: Who says we're spending too much money in the classroom?

Mr Silipo: I hear, "Who says that's what we're doing?"

The Speaker: Member for Kitchener, I've warned you three or four times. There's one minute left. I suggest you come to order.

Mr Silipo: I'm glad I have their attention. Any time I get the attention of the government backbenchers it elates me, because I feel we're getting somewhere maybe.

I want to say to the minister and to the members of the government caucus, if this was about making the system better, then you would have your minister stand up on the myriad of occasions we give him every single day and say: "You know what? I don't want to take $1 billion out of the system. That's not my intent."


Mr Silipo: No, he has not said that, and we have given him every opportunity possible. He will continue to get those opportunities day in and day out. But he doesn't say that. You know that better than I. He's not even talking about redirecting any of the resources, any of the moneys he's going to save from whatever number of thousands of teachers who are going to come out of the system; they're going to come out the system.

You see, if he was interested in improving the quality of education, then he would be saying, "Those teachers are going to go back into the classroom," but that's not what he's doing. He's talking about how to take teachers out of the system. That's not going to improve the system one bit. If my comments are hurried, it's not just because time is running out this evening; it's because I feel very strongly that this minister and this Premier are dismantling the school system in this province and taking one big, giant step towards privatizing the school system in this province. That's their ultimate agenda. Most of their backbenchers haven't even clued in that this is just step number one in that big jump Mike Harris and John Snobelen want to take us to.

I'd like to adjourn the debate, Speaker, and would like the opportunity to resume.

The Speaker: It being 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until 1:30 of the clock tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2132.