36th Parliament, 1st Session

L239b - Wed 1 Oct 1997 / Mer 1er Oct 1997



The House met at 1831.


Hon Elizabeth Witmer (Minister of Labour): Madam Speaker, the 37th order.


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 Tony Silipo (Dovercourt): As I resume my time from last night, I want to start by making two comments. The first is, I want to express my appreciation to the member for Mississauga South for being here so punctually. I know she wants to hear what I have to say. And I have to say that when the Minister of Labour got up to call the order, I thought maybe I was in the wrong session, because I know the House leader was also here and eager to call the order.

That aside, we are resuming what I guess is the third day of debate or the third evening of debate on Bill 160. I had the chance to say a few things about this last night and I have a few more minutes left on the clock which I do want to use to point out, particularly to the members of the government -- because my sense is that more and more, people in the public are understanding the agenda this government has on education.

As I listened to the debate last night and as I heard a number of Tory members speak to this bill, I have to say that I came away with some surprise about how strongly they feel that what they are doing is so completely different than what is being understood out there in the school system among parents, teachers and anyone who is in any way connected with the school system with respect to the impact of Bill 160 and the other actions the government is taking within the field of education, let alone the rest of the agenda that we could talk about.

It seems to me more and more clearly that people are understanding that when the Minister of Education said some time ago that the way he was going to bring about change in the school system was by inventing a crisis, there is now a fairly broad consensus of understanding that he has done just that. Probably the one thing that can be said positively about the current Minister of Education is that he at least, although I'm not sure he meant to do it, had the decency to tell people what he was going to do.

The truth of the matter is that he has created a crisis. He's created a crisis not by bringing about change -- and I want to say to government members opposite, I know a little bit about change. In fact, I also ran into a bit of trouble when I was Minister of Education because I tried to bring about some change. Ironically enough, I want to say that some of the trouble I ran into was with some of the teachers and the teacher groups. I want to be very clear about that. It's because I also have that understanding that I want to say that it's not the issue of change that is the problem.

I haven't heard anyone who has any kind of sense of what our school system needs say that the status quo is what we need to maintain. I, for one, believe we have a very good school system. I believe that in many cases it's actually excellent. But I also believe now, as I have believed for some time, that there are changes that need to be made to our system.

I think our system has for some time yearned for a more focused approach that, yes, puts resources more into the classroom. I know people mean different things on this, but by that I mean that we focus our attention on what we do with students. It doesn't mean, in my view, that you forget about what happens outside of the classroom in the rest of the school environment. It doesn't mean that you pretend that all the learning goes on inside the four walls of the classroom. It means, though, that you focus the attention and the resources on what goes on in the learning process of the child and the student. That involves a number of important things.

It's easy for all of us to say: "The student is the most important part of the system. That's the reason why teachers are there. It's the reason why any of us have anything to do with the system." Of course it is. But the telling is in the pudding, as they say. The telling is in what we do, not just in what we say.

If we went by the rhetoric that came out of the mouth of the current Minister of Education, we would have to believe that he has the best of intentions and that every single step he has taken and intends to take will make the system better. If you look, on the other hand, at not just what we anticipate is going to happen but at what has already happened as a result of the actions -- not the words but the actions -- of the current Minister of Education and the Tory government, then I at least draw a very different conclusion. The conclusion that I come to is that while the minister continues to talk about improving the quality of education, what he is doing is attacking the quality of education. He's diluting the quality of education. He's in the process of dismantling those things in the system which work.

He's doing that by putting in jeopardy programs that provide not just for the needs of every single child and every single student in the system, but also the programs that provide, for example, for people who are trying, as adults, to learn English as a second language, for people who believe that learning other languages is actually part of the learning process and is a very useful thing, for people who believe that there is a natural link between junior kindergarten and the kindergarten programs as a whole and the years even prior to that, so that there is a natural link between child care and junior kindergarten.

The actions of this government speak volumes certainly on those things. They tell us very clearly that what we have here is a government that has already, by the changes they have made to the funding formula, forced many boards to abandon junior kindergarten. The very specific actions that they are taking now in Bill 160 will mean that they will do away with child care centres in schools.

Coming from a city like Toronto, from a school system that has been at the forefront of putting child care centres in what was at the time empty school space, I can tell you that that is one of the travesties of what this government is doing: failing to understand that one of the key ways in which you invest in the education system is by putting a clear emphasis on what we do and how we support our young people right from those very early years before they even get to the kindergarten ages, when they need child care, because in fact that's the first entry, not just as a good service that needs to be provided to working parents but as a first entry into the learning process.

We could talk on the pedagogy and on the social value of our system for a long time, but the point I want to stress is that what I see in what the government is doing is the complete opposite of the rhetoric that the minister and members of the Tory caucus continue to speak.

I heard one member last night say it's about better student achievement. Well, I wish it were. But you see, it can't be about better student achievement. What you are doing cannot be about improving student achievement if what you also are doing is taking $1 billion out of the system.


It's been really fascinating to see the kind of back and forth that we now are getting from the government around this question of the ensuing cuts. We know there have been already about $500 million of cuts that this government's action has brought about so far.

When the Minister of Education stands up and expresses surprise, when the Premier stands up, as he did again today, and expresses surprise at where it is that those of us in opposition have got this notion of $1 billion, I heard it again this morning on the radio. Where we got it was from Mr Snobelen, the current Minister of Education, who, as you will recall, about a year ago mused about the fact that in his view the system in Ontario was spending on average about $1 billion more than other systems across the country. He said that he wanted to bring the spending of the system closer to that average, and hence to take about $1 billion out of the system.

If he's changed his mind on that, there would be nobody happier in this House than I. If he has changed his mind on that, there would be many people across this province who will be delighted. But isn't it interesting that in all the opportunities that the current minister has been given and in all of the opportunities that the Premier has been given as they get on a day-to-day basis questions in this House, as they get questions out there in the press scrums, as they get questions as they go across the province, as people are seeing that we are on the eve of teachers walking out of the school system because they see that as the last way they have to impress upon this government that they object to the serious attack they are launching on the school system, isn't it interesting that with all of those opportunities, we have yet to see the Minister of Education stand up and say, "We will not take $1 billion out of the system."

Mr Peter L. Preston (Brant-Haldimand): He said it this morning.

Mr Silipo: He didn't say that this morning. Sorry. I don't know what he said this morning, but I heard what he said today in the House when my colleague the member for Algoma asked him the question, and he had a great opportunity to say, "We will not take $1 billion."

Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): When did he say he would take it out of the system? Never. Never.

The Acting Speaker (Ms Marilyn Churley): Come to order, member for Northumberland.

Mr Silipo: He was asked specifically, "Will you commit to reinvesting any money that you find through these changes back into the system?" What was the answer? It wasn't, "Yes, we will."

Mr Galt: When did he say that?

Mr Silipo: I find this really fascinating when I see the government members getting so excited about this point, because it tells me one of two things is going on. Either the Minister of Education is really continuing to do a major snow job on them, let alone the rest of the province, or maybe, maybe, maybe they know something or they hope they know something that the rest of us don't, and at some point during this process John Snobelen will stand up and finally say, "Yes, we don't intend to take $1 billion out of the system." As I say, I will be the first one to stand up and say, "I'm glad that's your position now."

Mr Galt: When did he ever say it? When?

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

Mr Silipo: But until they do that, we can only go on what the current minister has said so far, and what he has said so far is that that is his intention. So long as that is his intention, you can see why people are so upset. You can see why people are concerned about the fact that those cuts of $1 billion will mean anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 to 10,000 teachers out of the system, depending on which figures you want to look at, but even if it's 4,000 to 6,000, that's a lot of teachers out of the system.

What is that going to mean? It's going to mean that the big line that these people are carrying about capping class sizes is not going to do one iota of difference. It's not going to mean reduced class size. They may cap it, but what's the point of capping it if you're capping it at 40 students? This is what we need to get at. It's nice to have these code words that they like to use, but again, when they talk about capping class size as one of the big things they are going to do, have you ever heard the Minister of Education or the Premier say that they're going to actually lower class size? No, they're just going to cap it. At what amount? At what number? "Well, we'll see. We'll see. Who knows?"

Why is that we don't have the funding formula, which is at the end of the day going to tell us what's going to happen, in place? I tell you why. Because the marching orders that have been given to the bureaucrats who are putting those together have been that they've got to find $1 billion in the process. When they come back on the basis of those marching orders and they tell the Minister of Education, "Minister, the only way we can do that is by cutting the budget of every single school board except the 25 poorest school boards in the province," the minister says: "Oh, that's not what we want. Go around and figure out the numbers again."

But you see, that's what it comes to. You can't mesh $1 billion more in cuts with improving the quality of our education. If the minister wants to improve it, he has to stand up and commit to no more cuts. Then we can talk about what changes to make.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments? The member for Cochrane --


The Acting Speaker: Sorry. I didn't see you. Relax. Member for Middlesex.

Mr Bruce Smith (Middlesex): Thank you, Madam Speaker. I'm pleased to have a few minutes to respond to the member for Dovercourt. I couldn't agree with him more that more and more the public fully understands the agenda for education reform in this province. I say that not from a negative perspective, the one that he has presented this evening, albeit, in fairness to the member for Dovercourt, I believe he's presented a balanced and articulate position with respect to his experiences in education.

I would say that the minister has clearly told the people of Ontario what he intends to do with education, and that intention was to bring a leaner governance structure to education, a stronger curriculum and a new funding model for students across this province. I think that's the very focused approach that Ontarians are expecting and fully understand. So I fully agree with the member for Dovercourt that this viewpoint is understood and recognized.

The Minister of Education has clearly recognized that there will be some challenges during this transition period, challenges that will be difficult at times. But he has met that difficulty by responding and indicating that he's freezing the expenditures of up to $14 billion in recognition of the challenges that we expect to experience during this process. The talk of $1 billion, dollar amounts here, dollar amounts there -- we have tried very strongly to reassure school boards in this province that there will be some stability as they move through this difficult period.

The member for Dovercourt spoke about change. I think he would know, as a former Minister of Education, of the 24 reviews that we've seen in this particular portfolio since 1950. Simply, the government is saying today that it's time to move ahead, it's time to act, it's time to bring students into greater teacher contact, provide them with greater instructional time, and to recognize the parental opportunities of increased involvement that they have in our school system. As PA, I've had a chance to travel the province and realize that parents are prepared to act.

Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I'd like to thank the member for Dovercourt for his excellent words and the wisdom he showed in his presentation. Member for Dovercourt, you should be very proud. You got the government heckling you, trying to discredit you in the House. You must have been telling the truth.

I think that's reinforced by the message that's out there. This is a letter I received today, and it's from the teachers and staff of Pius XII Elementary School. It says:

"We...congratulate you," the opposition, "in your daily representation against Bill 160 which everyone knows is a $1-billion-plus cut to the educational future of our children. We understand that this educational cut is to satisfy the government's promise of a tax cut and no moneys will be reinvested into educational improvement. We know that upwards of 10,000 qualified teachers will be removed from our elementary and secondary schools," which will further crowd already overcrowded classrooms. "Allowing unqualified instructors into our classrooms to try their hand at teaching our children is frightening.

"Stop Bill 160. We won't back down."

It's signed by everyone from Pius XII Elementary School.

I would suggest to you that the staff and the teachers at Pius XII Elementary School reflect what the staff and teachers and students and parents all over Ontario are thinking. They agree with the members of the opposition, they agree with the member for Dovercourt, that your direction is wrong. It's all about bankrupting the educational system to provide a tax cut.

I'll tell you, if you gave the people of Ontario the choice, they would rather you reinvest in education as opposed to reducing funding and diminishing the quality of education which parents, teachers and students have worked so hard at improving and continually work hard to improve.


Mr Len Wood (Cochrane North): I want to take a couple of minutes to congratulate the member for Dovercourt. Being a former Minister of Education in the NDP government, he knows what he's talking about when he explains how sad we are on this side that the first comments that John Snobelen made when he became Minister of Education were: "We have to create a crisis. We have to create a crisis in education in order to extract dollars out of it." They took out on an annual basis $800 million last year and the plan is to take out $1 billion in the future. The way of taking that out is to eliminate the amount of preparation time the teachers have at the secondary level and to fire or lay off up to 10,000 teachers in the education system.

We know that Bill 160 is a continuation of Bill 104, when they eliminated the school boards in the province of Ontario and created new boundaries and did everything they could to cause confusion throughout this province with parents, teachers and school workers.

They might think that they're succeeding, but the teachers and the parents and the students out there have caught on to their tactics. I'm sure that if Bill 160 is not withdrawn or watered down where the students will not be hurt and the parents will be able to have a good education, we're headed for a province-wide strike in this province within weeks, maybe days or weeks. It's going to happen.

It's a sad thing when you think that today the Minister of Education or Mike Harris could have committed himself, "We want to take $1 billion out of education but we'll reinvest it as we lay off the teachers and get rid of a number of staff." But they didn't say that. They haven't denied that they want to take $1 billion out of education. As a result, the education system is going to be destroyed in this province.

Mr John O'Toole (Durham East): In my two minutes I'd like to respond to the member for Dovercourt, but I was more taken by the statements made by the member for Middlesex.

First, I want to start by saying my wife is a teacher, I have five children and I firmly believe that this government supports all teachers who are committed to students. We support the teachers who want quality education.

I think if you look at the actions taken by this government, it is clearly on record, first of all, as trying to eliminate all of the opportunities for waste and duplication. I think the previous government went a long way -- the formation of the College of Teachers -- in strengthening the school system. If you look at the Sweeney report, our implementation was a reasonable implementation. Reducing the number of schools boards, those are expenditures that are outside the classroom. Those are the dollars that this government is trying to eliminate.

We're committed in the CSR, the Common Sense document, to funding in the classroom, and I think we can't lose focus on the student or lose track of the importance of the changes to emphasize the quality of education. One particular aspect I want to mention is limiting class size. I visit schools in my riding, as I'm sure all members from all parties do, on invitation, and I can't believe sometimes the complex situations that teachers are dealing with, with over 30 students in the class, with many different learning levels, many different social needs.

Mr Rosario Marchese (Fort York): What about Bill 160?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York.

Mr O'Toole: It's almost multitasking in a single classroom.

I think if our minister can solve one problem and sort of cap the class size and improve the teacher contact with students, we'll have gone a long way to improve the quality of education. Clearly the reports support that.

Mr Marchese: How are you going to bring it down?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, come to order.

Mr O'Toole: Clearly this government supports the needs of education. The next most important commitment is to teachers, and next to parents.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Member for Dovercourt.

Mr Silipo: This is truly one of those times where I genuinely wish there was more time to be able to respond adequately to some of the comments. But I do appreciate the comments, and respecting, as I have to, the time that we have, let me just say this.

When members opposite talk about wanting to make change, as I said earlier, I can't but agree with the need to make some change. But there is a difference between change and chaos. What I see happening is that what the minister said he would do a year or two years ago, that is, to create a crisis, is exactly what the government is in the process of doing. What they are doing --

Mr O'Toole: What does Dave Cooke say?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Durham East, come to order.

Mr Silipo: There is no doubt that in this whole mix there are actually some positive things that are happening, but the basic direction the government is taking is fundamentally wrong because the basic direction is not based on a notion that says, "We're going to save some money here and we're going to reinvest that money back into the classroom." The problem with the premise on which they are working is that they believe they can actually spend less money in our school system and do more with that, and it just is not going to work. It is not going to work if the objective is to deliver a better quality of education.

You can redirect resources, and if you were doing that we could have a more constructive discussion. But what you are in the process of doing is creating a crisis, setting up a fight with the teachers, hoping to have the teachers, particularly the teachers' federation leadership, as a scapegoat in this fight, and pretending all along that you agree with and support the teachers. If you agree with and support the teachers, then please listen to what they are telling you, because they speak not just for themselves but for the interests of students that they are now in the process of representing and on the front line of which fight they now are engaged in.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Galt: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on Bill 160, but before I really get into it, I'd like to respond a little bit to the member for Dovercourt and also the member for Cochrane North, saying some very disparaging remarks about the minister.

Let me tell you, this is one of the finest ministers that education has ever seen. He has been into my riding to schools on two occasions. He went to St Mary's school where they were desperately wanting a new school. The opposition kept promising it in their term but never came through with that new school. This government has and this minister has. While discussing that school, he had time for students from that school to come to his office on three different occasions. On one occasion he had an hour set aside for them. They were three quarters of an hour late. He still had an hour for those students.

He's a consultative minister, and I can tell you that you're dead wrong in all of the comments that you were making earlier.

Mr Marchese: Hear, hear.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, come to order.

Mr Galt: I'm glad you recognize it.

Now to get down to serious business about this bill. There's no question that education in Ontario is in need of reform, and it goes back quite a way. It's probably been in need of reform ever since the Hall-Dennis report came in back in the late 1960s, and my, that report sounded good. It just sounded like everybody would be flexible and be able to do their own thing, including the teachers, but that old pendulum swung way over to flexibility and do your own thing, and it went way too far. Going some of the distance might have been in order, because we had the old departmental grade 13 exams, we had the entrance exams that were very specific and all hung on one particular examination.

Mr Bartolucci: That's what the teachers say. The Conservatives didn't listen to us at that time either.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Sudbury.

Mr Galt: But since this Hall-Dennis report, we've been returning to development of curriculum, first at the school level, and at the time I was on the school board in the late 1970s that was moving to the school board level.

Certainly the public and the parents have been very concerned about education. We hear complaints about vague reporting, we hear concerns about low academic expectations and we hear concerns about lack of meaningful involvement in some of the school decision-making that is totally out of the hands of parents. Ratepayers, since I was on the school board 20 years ago, have been at the verge of a tax revolt, and this has been going on for some time.

Just to stir up that pot, back in May when the Northumberland and Clarington board was getting together with the Peterborough board and they were deciding there would be one less board director and fewer superintendents, what did they do with the money saved? They divvied it up among the remaining superintendents and the director of education, giving a significant salary hike to the director of education. No wonder the taxpayers are upset and yelling and screaming.

Ontario happens to be, regardless of how you shake your finger, the world's highest in what they pay for education on a per student basis. In the Saturday Sun, just as one example, it said in Ontario we pay $644 more a year per student than the Canadian average. I hear the opposition talking about this $1 billion, which has never been stated was going to be taken away. However, if you calculate it out on a per student basis, we are spending $1 billion more than the average across Canada.

Mr Len Wood: Mike Harris did not deny it today.

The Acting Speaker: Member for Cochrane North.


Mr Galt: If you look at the results, students are falling behind students around the Pacific Rim and Europe, and to bring that closer to home, in Ontario they are below the Canadian average in areas of math and science, based on the third international testing program. Indeed, these are reasons for reform here in Ontario.

In this article from the Sunday Sun, Richmond Hill teacher John Taylor is quoted: "`I will cross the picket line if the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation goes on strike.' He went on: `I am truly fed up with the leftists who continue to advance their political agenda at the expense of the real educational issues -- a meaningful curriculum, real assessment of teachers etc.' My comment: Don't be fooled by the propaganda." That was in an article by Linda Leatherdale.

Closer to home, in a Port Hope secondary school, an article written by Ian Elliott back about a year ago: "I don't remember the exact figures, but a significant number of those going into grade 9 required remediation in math or language. Most unfortunate." That was given, I gather, to that reporter by the teachers of that school.

Post-secondary instructors are telling us too many lack in the prerequisite skills of literacy, critical thinking, communications and problem-solving. Businesses tell us graduates are unprepared to challenge the working world.

We in Ontario, at the same time, are reducing our instructional hours while other provinces, which are really our competitors, are increasing the rigour in the levels of curriculum. The results are, our graduates are disadvantaged in the global economy. Indeed, good reasons for reform that's necessary.

Today's baby-boomers, the baby-boomer parents, richer than maybe some in the past, are very demanding. They're more demanding than ever and they want a world-class education. They have fewer children and smaller families. A quote from the economist David Foot, who wrote Boom, Bust and Echo: "The newest wave of parents are people with all their eggs in one basket and they can't afford to drop it."

More parents are looking to private schools. Why are they looking at private schools? They're looking for top-quality education for their children. Some are demanding charter schools, alternative schools in our public system, for example, the R. H. King Academy in Scarborough. These schools are in hot demand whenever they're open. As a matter of fact, parents will stay up all night just to have a position in the line to get a space in those schools. More evidence that something is wrong in the system.

Society today is asking a lot of schools and many are finding them wanting, from what they're telling us, and this isn't Doug Galt saying this.

Mr Marchese: Where do you find it in the bill?

The Acting Speaker: Member for Fort York, come to order.

Mr Galt: Let me make some comments and quotes reflected in the royal commission which your party commissioned. It was called For the Love of Learning and it states, and I'm sure you'll be interested, "We believe that students can complete secondary school with a great deal more academic excellence, more rigorous analytical capacity, more genuine understanding and power of problem-solving."

I'm sure you'll also be interested in another quote in there: "One complaint we heard repeatedly is that the public education system no longer seems responsible to the public. There exists widespread unease that schools have become kingdoms unto themselves with little need to report to parents or the world at large what they are doing with our kids or whether or not they are doing it successfully."

We have many excellent teachers, consultants, principals; certainly there is no question. I worked with them back in the late 1970s when I was on school board. I have a daughter who teaches in the Durham board, a very dedicated teacher, literally works 24 hours a day, seven days a week at it. My mother is a retired teacher, my mother-in-law is a retired teacher, all very dedicated people in the profession, and I think they're just examples of many other teachers who are in that profession. But today they're caught in a bad system, a system that is broken, a system that needs repair.

The opposition over here wants us to believe that this bill is about teacher-bashing, and there could be absolutely nothing further from the truth. I hear from teachers who are very frustrated with the system and they're being told by their union the problem is lack of money, the problem is that the government is at fault. Very misleading information indeed from their union.

There are many barriers to increased performance such as the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy opposes change. The bureaucracy stresses conformity and they want the status quo. The bureaucracy insists that we continue with process and they really don't seem to be worried much about outcomes. Collective agreements are all about serving the needs of adults, not students. For example, in my board, the Northumberland and Clarington Board of Education, from 1995-96 to 1996-97, in the elementary panel the pupil-teacher ratio was increased from 16.5 to 1 to 17 to 1; in the secondary panel the same ratio was increased from 14.9 to 1 to 15.2 to 1. You might ask why this happened. It happened because the union wanted more money and they sacrificed the pupil-teacher ratio and increased class size. That was because of the union.

Last spring I was at the Murray Centennial School and they were asking me: "Why in grade 8 are there 45 students? The pupil-teacher ratio is 17 to 1." I said to them: "Where are the teachers? Is it important to have consultants, is it important to have vice-principals, is it important to have all these principals and administrators and coordinators, or is it more important to have teachers in the classroom?" I have not received an answer on that question since.

The unions are opposed to measures of performance and they're opposed to incentives for excellence. There is competition for resources and control in education. There's a provincial department of education, there are school boards, there's administration, there are teachers' unions, there are taxpayers of Ontario, not to mention parents. This is indeed a struggle that has created considerable concern.

Recently I had a phone call from a retired principal in Port Hope angry that this government might back down on our Bill 160, telling us to hold in there. Last weekend, touring various places in the riding, the message was over and over and over again to hold the line, don't back down. Yes, I ran into two parents who were concerned about their students and what would happen with a strike. I heard in a parade one teacher saying, "No, no, I can't wave to him because I'm a teacher." Imagine the kind of propaganda that poor teacher has been getting from their union.

In my office, correspondence and calls of support on this particular bill are running at least 2 to 1. I've never seen this kind of concern over any other bill that we've had in this House.

This indeed is a struggle for unions because these unions are very concerned about the $1,000 or so that teachers are giving to them in dues. Those dues just happen to be tax-free that you that I end up supporting. It supports headquarters that look like a Taj Mahal. The art on the walls is second to none, I'm told.

I just happen to have an article here about their salaries and I'm sure people would be interested. The president of OTF, $102,000 plus all the perks. Marshall Jarvis, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, a nice even $100,000 plus cars and all the rest. Phyllis Benedict, president of the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation, $124,000. Then M. Sadem-Thompson, of the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario, they tell me she gets more than that but she wouldn't admit to what her salary is: so maybe, I don't know, $150,000 or so. Can you imagine how upset Earl Manners must be because he's only making $98,000 plus all the perks? How embarrassing for him. Maybe he has a couple of jets to go along with it.

It's very strange that we have a profession looking at union status and also professional status. Most professions, for example, physicians, dentists, lawyers, veterinarians, have a college that's a self-regulating body and then they have a lobby group that is voluntary as to whether you join or not. By the way, those dues are taxable. You don't get any tax-free money.


I can see why the union leaders are absolutely petrified of this scenario. They may lose their six-figure salaries and they may lose their perks and they may lose their power. It's understandable why they'd be concerned. If I was them, I'd be in there telling the teachers all kinds of stories too. But it's a struggle and it's created a real educational gridlock. Time and time again innovative solutions have been given for school problems and they've run afoul of inflexible contracts, red tape, cumbersome bureaucracy and restrictive policies.

Let me draw a comparison for a moment, and I'd like to do that with the writing of prescriptions. Any one regulation or any one thing that the union has lobbied for in itself probably is okay, but when you put it all together, it's just too cumbersome and a mess. A physician gives a prescription, maybe for a heart problem, maybe for high blood pressure, or both, one after the other. Then they have arthritis and they give medicine for the arthritis. That irritates the stomach, so they get medicine for their stomach problem. Then a few more prescriptions come along and they go back because of another heart problem. The next thing, we have a senior with 15 to 20 prescriptions and they're literally toxic from all of these various prescriptions. What do they do? They take them off and they start all over again. What we really have now is a need to detoxify an educational patient that's in serious trouble. That's what this reform is all about: students and education trying to solve the struggle that's been going on.

Management guru Peter Drucker said when it comes to bureaucracy, if you keep track of the results, you can dispense with a lot of red tape. That indeed is what Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act, is really all about, what education reform is all about. It's about giving control to parents by entrenching parent councils. Yes, there are some out there, but there are also some schools without them. It's about setting standards for quality and tracking school results. It's about improving governance of schools and school boards. It's about simplifying the financing of the education system. It's about establishing consistent, province-wide curriculum and province-wide testing systems. We're doing this by reducing the bureaucracy and removing an awful lot of the waste and duplications.

One of the problems we have is that the school system is deeply rooted into a monopoly that is enjoyed by the boards where they're the only ones who supply a school system. The result is a school system that really isn't very accountable to its customers, whether it be students, parents or ratepayers, and at any whim programs can be changed.

Essentially today there are no published statistics on how students perform or how different schools perform or how different boards perform, but we're changing that. The result is that there's really no relationship between supply and demand.

This bill will be changing and will be bringing in a funding framework, moving at least half of the education tax off the property tax, something the taxpayers have been pleading for for years and years. This particular area has been mentioned by many other speakers, but it is all about accountability.

In closing, this bill is about creating a world-class public school system in Ontario. We must be prepared to take up the challenge of continuous improvement of our education system, something that hasn't been done by previous governments for years and years. It's about accountability. It will focus the school system on achievement. By focusing on achievement of students, we will win back the public confidence in the schools in Ontario.

We will ensure through this bill that resources are in fact directed to students, who need the help the most. Through accountability it's a matter of enhancing efforts of legions of dedicated teachers and principals and parents who work so hard in the education system.

In a result-based system we will clarify who is responsible for what. We're looking at a very top-heavy, tangled governance system that desperately needs to be streamlined. With rigorous testing we will ensure that parents will finally know what their children are doing, what the educational approaches will be and where the best results will be found, which school children should be going to and which school will give the best results. That is what this bill and education reform are all about.

I can assure you it's not about unions and their demands. It's not about unions and their perks. It's not about unions and their benefits. It's not about unions and the $1,000 or so they collect in dues and it's not about the salaries of union leaders and their Taj Mahals that they have for office buildings.

It's about quality education, how to achieve educational goals. It's about students and classrooms. It's about preparing our young people for the challenges that lie ahead. Let's keep this in mind as we continue debating this particular bill.

The Acting Speaker: Questions or comments?

Mrs Lyn McLeod (Fort William): The member for Northumberland has certainly delivered in an uncritical fashion but a rather disturbingly convincing fashion the government's communications spin.

When it talks about the achievement of students or, in his words, lack of achievement of students on the international tests in the member's notes, I wonder whether it has in the notes that Ontario's students scored higher than the national average for grades 7 and 8 mathematics and data representation analysis and probability and at the national average overall for mathematics; that Ontario students performed at the international average for grade 6 science and above the international average for grade 7 science; that Ontario students scored higher than the international average in grade 8 environmental issues and the nature of science and physics; that Ontario grade 7 students scored above the national average in those areas and also scored higher in life sciences; these achievements despite the fact that we insist on testing our entire group of students and not an élite, streamed group.

I wonder whether or not the member would have been interested in knowing that one of the areas of difficulty for our students was on the verbal components of the mathematics problems, not the solutions, and whether that might possibly raise the question in his mind of whether that has some relationship to the fact that a full 30% of our students do not have English as the language spoken at home. I wonder if that kind of question might have raised some questions about what happens to English-as-a-second-language programs when we get into the kinds of cuts that this government is looking at.

I wonder if the member would be interested in knowing the most recently reported data, which was that Ontario grade 4 students came second among a handful of jurisdictions that met the international test standards for that particular grade. I wonder how well our students have to do before somebody over there is prepared to acknowledge that the system is not broken.

But in fact it is a communications spin. I go back to a story of January 1996, when it was very clear that the Ontario government was working on a plan to dump 10,000 teachers and all they needed to put together was the communications plan to sell it to the public.

Mr Marchese: I think this is particularly relevant because I have a definition here of the word "deception" and here is the definition. "Deception: calculated deception, subterfuge, snow job, song and dance, fallaciousness, fallacy, self-deception, fond illusion, wishful thinking, wilful misconception, vision, hallucination, phantasm, mirage, will-o'-the-wisp, delusiveness" --

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Member for Fort York, can I ask about what it is you're reading from, please?

Mr Marchese: This is not a prop.

The Speaker: It's directly out of order.

Mr Marchese: Why would the words be out of order, Speaker? Just explain it to me.

The Speaker: I just asked you. I didn't hear the beginning. If they're being used as charges against the government, they're out of order.

Mr Marchese: It's the definition of "deception," Speaker.

The Speaker: Okay, continue.

Mr Marchese: I'm just taking another minute to continue with that, sir.

"Befooling, tricking, kidding or putting on, spoofing or spoofery, bluffing, circumvention, overreaching, outwitting, ensnarement, entrapment and" --

The Speaker: I'm troubled by this. Are you responding to someone's speech?

Mr Marchese: Yes, I am.

The Speaker: I don't understand the relevance of this then.

Mr Marchese: The people up there --

The Speaker: Member for Fort York, it has nothing to do with the people up there. I'm seeking some relevance to the comments you're making and I can't find any.


Mr Marchese: This was a response to le monsieur le membre du Northumberland, who spoke of nothing except using such words as bureaucracy, achievement, accountability, unions, improving, Reform Party, propaganda and the like. That's all he spoke about.

The Speaker: Further comments and questions?

Mr Jack Carroll (Chatham-Kent): I'd like to take a couple of minutes just to comment on the speech by the member for Northumberland. My concern with this issue lies in the fact that our teachers, our parents and our children seem to be content with hearing one side. I have here a piece of paper called the Teachers' Political Protest, faxed to me by a constituent of mine, brought home by her eight-year-old daughter. It contains some comments like:

"Dear Parent:

"It is difficult to know what is going on with regard to government plans for education when Snobelen changes his mind on a daily basis." I've had two teachers, the grand total of two teachers, come and ask me, "Could you tell us what the government's perspective is?"

This goes on to say: "Why are teachers going on a political protest about Bill 160? It is our final resort due to drastic government interference in education. The government legislation will dismantle publicly funded education." Brought home by an eight-year-old, sent by a teacher.

"Why it is important that only teachers teach in our schools." This is a really interesting argument. They compare themselves to doctors, and that's all well and good. The thing that they don't talk about is the fact that all medical care is not delivered by doctors. We have another category called nurses. We have lab technicians. We have all kinds of professionals in health care. Why can't we have all kinds of professionals in education?

Then they go on to say, "If the Harris government takes any more money out, education in Ontario will go the way of the dinosaur." What kind of incredible fearmongering is this to be sent home with an eight-year-old student to her parents only to hear one side of the story?

I would like to suggest that the teachers take an opportunity to hear the other side of the story before they make their decision.

Mr Bartolucci: I'd like to comment on a few of the things the member for Northumberland said. First of all, this has nothing to do with enhancing the student's opportunity to learn. This is everything about diminishing the quality of learning because of the imposition you're going to be putting on the teachers and the students of this province. You are not going to be affecting class sizes in a positive way. You are going to be affecting them only in a negative way.

I'd like the member for Northumberland to explain to the people of Ontario why, over the course of the last two years, class sizes in Ontario have mushroomed. The greatest increase in class sizes over the course of the last two years has been the responsibility of this government.

I'd like the member for Northumberland to also explain to the people of Ontario why this government has withdrawn more money from education, $533 million, than any other government in the history of Ontario. I'd like him to explain why his government is doing that when they say they're trying to enhance the quality of education.

I would like to know from the member for Northumberland why his government is proposing to substitute certified, qualified, highly trained teachers with unqualified personnel who will try to do the job of a teacher and won't be able to. Why are they hell-bent on improving the quality of education by increasing class sizes, withdrawing $1.1 billion from education and including non-qualified personnel in the teaching profession?

I'd like the government to explain to the teachers, to the students and to the parents of Ontario how that's going to enhance education in Sudbury, Toronto or anywhere else in northern Ontario and Ontario.

The Speaker: Response, member for Northumberland.

Mr Galt: First to the member for Sudbury, why are class sizes going up? Unions negotiated. It has happened right in my own board. Class size has gone up because of negotiations.

The member for Fort William -- unfortunately she has left -- talked about average. That's not good enough in Ontario. I want Ontario to be the best. The Premier stated, "We'll have a world-class education here and we'll spend what it takes to have it." This is an issue not about money; it's an issue about quality education.

Just to continue for the member for Fort William from her red book: "create a core program that all students will be expected to study, set clear standards...make sure our schools prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow by stressing math and science."

"Setting high standards," "Getting ready for tomorrow's jobs," "Supporting local school councils," "proceed with the creation of a College of Teachers" -- done that. "Spending less on administration," "Zero tolerance for school violence."

"Spending less on administration: Sixteen cents out of every provincial dollar and an average of 55% of property taxes are spent on education and training. We must make sure that we are getting value for our dollar." That's what this bill's all about. "As much as possible our education dollars must be spent on classroom learning rather than administration."

What have we been talking about in this bill? Exactly what the member for Fort William, the leader of the party at that time, put in her red book. "As much as possible our education dollars must be spent on classroom learning rather than administration."

This province will have world-class education regardless of what the member for Fort William says but basically because of what is in her red book and our platform.

The Speaker: Further debate?


Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew North): Thank you, Margaret. I want to join the debate on the second reading of Bill 160. I do so with some trepidation because I don't believe anyone who has ever been Minister of Education can approach this subject with the kind of balance and equanimity that we would expect from people who have not been as involved as former ministers must necessarily have been.

I was struck by the previous speaker, Dr Galt. John Snobelen, he said, would go down as one of the great ministers of education. George Ross, Canon Cody, Duncan McArthur, Bill Davis, that's a pantheon of greatness to which the current minister will not, under any circumstances of objective analysis, gain entry. I am not like many who would argue that the current minister is not a bright fellow. It is because he has a substantial intelligence that his crackpot ideas are as troubling as they are.

The Speaker: Order. I just want to caution the galleries. You're there to observe and observe only. Thank you.

Mr Conway: I have watched for several --


The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, I ask you to come to order because you're here at this point in time to observe as well.

Mr Conway: I have listened for several months --


The Speaker: Members for Cochrane North and Durham Centre, come to order. I don't have a lot of patience tonight, so it's not going to be going --


The Speaker: Cochrane South. I'm sorry.

Mr Conway: I have listened for several months now as this minister, aided and abetted by his Premier, has provoked a fight that they have long wanted and the war has now come.

I spent this evening looking at the provincial press in the library and every front page across the province tells the story. "Ontario teeters on the brink of a massive disruption of our public school system." I listened carefully today, as I did yesterday, to the unvarnished, unalloyed provocation of the first minister who went out of his way, as the Minister of Labour would know better than most, to pick the fight that he has wanted for several months now. The war came and it is upon us.

Let me say in all candour, I understand the frustration of members of the government when they are faced with some of the pressures they have encountered. I chuckle, quite frankly, when I hear people like the member from Chatham and the member for Northumberland complain loudly about what their constituents are reporting from school rooms and from school yards. Yes, there are 125,000 teachers in this province and they are highly and well organized. No one knows that better than I and, unlike Mike Harris, I have been neither teacher nor trustee. For Harris to carry on as he has, knowing what some of us know about his past as both chair of a public school board and a member of a teaching staff, is to really have to hold our tongues.


It's 20 years ago in North Bay that Mike Harris was on a school board that thought not too long about substantially increasing its pay, and who was leader of the pack? Mike Harris. It's a little hard for some of us who know something of Mr Harris's past now to listen to this Sermon on the Mount. Is he all wrong? Of course not. There is a lot of concern in the community as there has always been.

Forty-three years ago, there was published in Canada a famous book I suspect none of you has read, but you might go up because --

Mr Gilles Bisson (Cochrane South): They don't even know where to find the library.

Mr Conway: I'll be returning this to the library later this evening. One of this country's most distinguished academics, Hilda Neatby by name, wrote in 1953 a famous and controversial book called So Little for the Mind, a scathing indictment of the state of public schooling across Canada the year after I was born. Her suggestion was that if you were born and raised in the 1920s and educated in the 1930s and 1940s, you didn't know very much. In 1943, one of the most distinguished American academics wrote in the New York Times about the appalling illiteracy of American college graduates. That was in 1943. Each and every generation has had something to say about the woeful incompetence of the public schools of a preceding generation. Ours will be no different.

Don't stand here today and say, "Isn't it all terrible?" because there's nothing new in that analysis. Of course there are problems, but I want to tell you that what concerns me about Bill 160 and the policy that informs it is that the real agenda of this Harris government is nothing less than the destruction of our common school. That I will not countenance and that this Legislature must not abide.

It has been the view of the American right wing for several years now that the common school, the public school, is to be done away with, and the Canadian right-wingers have joined the cause. Conrad Black's Ottawa Citizen opines daily now about the privatization of education. Oh, they're cute and they're clever. They talk in code. They talk about vouchers, they talk about other things. But make no mistake about it --

Mr Gilles Pouliot (Lake Nipigon): Charter.

Mr Conway: Charter schools -- the real agenda here in Bill 160 is the destruction of our public schools, and that's why I'll be voting against this bill.

Let me just say --


Mr Conway: Just as Bill Farlinger, the Premier's good friend, wants to destroy Ontario Hydro, just as Preston Manning wants to destroy the public health care system that our parents' generation built, I honestly believe that John Snobelen's and Mike Harris's real agenda is the destruction of the common school.


Mr Conway: Dr Hastings says I'm out to lunch. All I know is what I hear and what I see. There has been nothing but a Niagara of abuse coming forward from this minister and this Premier on the public schools since they took office two years and three months ago.

I recall that day a year or so ago when the Minister of Education went down to the Enoch Turner school and gave that speech. Quite frankly, I remember hearing that speech and thinking, "How do Liz Witmer and Dianne Cunningham stay in that cabinet?" That pup from Mississauga saying what he was saying, wilful misrepresentation of much good work that people like Liz Witmer and Dianne Cunningham had accomplished --

The Speaker: Order. "Wilful misrepresentation" is out of order.

Mr Conway: I take that back if it's unparliamentary, Mr Speaker.

But I can't imagine being a minister in a collective cabinet and saying the things that Snobelen said about the work and the accomplishments of people like Liz Witmer and Dianne Cunningham. I thought, "I'd like to be in that cabinet room." It's one thing to pick on the teacher union leadership, but to trash people who've given the kind of commitment that Liz Witmer gave to the Waterloo board of education over 15 years, for that character, that crackpot cultist to say the things --

The Speaker: It's unparliamentary and out of order. I ask you to withdraw.

Mr Conway: I withdraw, Mr Speaker, but I'm telling you, I ask my colleagues to read the speech and read some of the other things Snobelen has had to say. If that isn't cultism, I don't know what it is. Oh, the would-be Attorney General shakes his head. Let him shake his head because I suspect that Liz Witmer shook more than her head when she read the text.

The war has come. The fight is now joined. Yes, the acolytes, the ministerial wannabes are all out there saying, "Isn't it terrible that we are now being resisted by the teaching profession?" Why wouldn't you be? If you think in a free and democratic society you're going to get away with the kind of -- what can I say, Mr Speaker, that would be parliamentary?


Mr Conway: It is no laughing matter, and I don't think the teachers should feel put upon because this right-wing crowd from New Jersey and Texas are not only anti-intellectual, they're proud of it. I mean think about it for a moment, and I guess I'll get close to the line here. Can you imagine a sophisticated province like Ontario in 1997 getting a lecture on educational rigour and intellectuality from Mike Harris and John Snobelen? Can you imagine? That would be like Conway from Renfrew giving a speech about the value of brevity.


Mr Conway: You ought to laugh. You ought to howl. Think about it. As Stephen Lewis would say, "Chutzpah. Snobelen and Harris on intellectual and educational rigour."

Harris's and Snobelen's parents should be brought to a committee to give testimony as to what went wrong, what could we learn from two people who have clearly got lots of brains and lots of ability. But what went wrong, I ask, because these are the people who have ascended the pulpit to lecture the rest of us about educational rigour and intellectual discipline.

I just ask people to reflect for a moment. Yes, there are problems. Let me be frank. There are aspects of the government plan that I support and I appreciate. There's no measure that's going to come to this House that is all bad. What is bad about this is the underlining ethic and justification, the anti-common school, the anti-public school, the attack on the teachers of this province that is so wrongheaded. If we are going to make progress, we are going to have to do it as a community. If anybody thinks that we can just constantly vilify and heap abuse on the 125,000 people who on a daily basis are going to interact with two million students, I ask you on what planet you are resident.

If I've learned anything from growing up in this province, it is the value of trying to build a consensus. The difficulty with education is that it's such an obvious target for politics, and we've all done it, myself included. We've all played the politics of education. I suppose there's no surprise in that. Education has been the opportunity index for the middle class. When I think of the opportunities afforded me because Bill Davis had the guts to do the things he did in the 1960s that I certainly didn't appreciate at the time, and my parents didn't really approve of, boy, I'm eternally grateful.

It was, I think, in 1959 or 1960 that John Robarts as Minister of Education went to a graduation in Grey county, and he was astonished at how few boys were graduating from high school. Out of that experience apparently came the Robarts plan. Basically, what Robarts found that night in Owen Sound or wherever was that the plan that we were offering a lot of the farm boys of the 1950s was irrelevant. Why would you stay in school to study Latin and Shakespeare if you could go to Kitchener, Oakville or Talbotville and get a good job in the industrial plants? It was out of that analysis and experience that John Robarts developed a plan that concerned itself with a very real problem, namely relevance.


I liked Latin and I liked Shakespeare, but most of my friends didn't. When we look at what the common school tries to do in a multifaith, multifaceted, multicultural society -- Metropolitan Toronto, 1997 -- compared to the world that Canon Cody or Duncan McArthur faced 60 or 70 years ago, it's a totally different reality.

When I go to Mississauga or Waterloo and look at what's there today compared to what was in Waterloo when I went to school there 25 years ago, it is fundamentally different. The challenge that is before the public schools, the common school, is enormous, but it is at the core, I submit, of our liberal, democratic society and we destroy it, we undermine it at our peril.

If we've got anything to learn from the great American republic, it is exactly that. How much of the American middle class has now left the common school? A great deal of it. If that starts to happen in the rural Ottawa Valley or if it starts to happen in downtown Ottawa, in Thunder Bay, in Clarkson, in Port Credit or in New Dundee, I'm telling you, we are going to pay a very heavy price.

I say to the teacher leadership, listen carefully to what the people are saying. You don't have to be Albert Einstein to know, as many in the government have rightly observed, that there is an ongoing anxiety about much of what's happening. Interesting it is. As usual, most people have a high degree of anxiety about the system as a whole and have a much more comfortable feeling about their school and their teachers.

I have my concerns and my complaints. One place where I think the government is absolutely right, I think the monopoly of the teaching profession on counselling ought to end. We have not done a good job. We have to do a much better job in counselling the young people growing up in my part of the province and elsewhere as to what's out there and what's going to be required to get into those kinds of jobs and what kind of educational experiences are going to be necessary. The educational monopoly on counselling at the secondary level must end. That is not to say that teachers and people in formal education will not and should not have an important role to play. That must continue. But we've got to think a lot more creatively about how we can meet those needs in the community, and not just for economic but for social reasons.

We have to seriously think about the way in which we bring people into the teaching profession, the way we support them once they're there. I'm not happy, quite frankly, about the state of affairs at some of our faculties of education. I think it's a very uneven world. Some of them do a very good job; others, I think, are less successful.

When I think back to my four years as minister, I spent altogether too much time on the issues of educational finance and governance and very little time on issues like teacher recruitment, teacher training, teacher support. We need to be much, much more thoughtful and creative on that subject.

When I think back, and I'm sure most members will agree with me, what is it that produces the result we all want in terms of educational achievement? Let me tell you what all the research tells us, and it hasn't changed much over the decades: a student who comes from a home environment in which the learning experience is cherished and nurtured, a school environment where the teacher at the front of the class or in the resource centre or in the schoolyard is a very creative and committed person and a community that cares about education for its own sake. If those ingredients are present, you can get by with not much of a gym and not much of a resource centre. You can have the best building in the world and if you don't have the home support, the teacher commitment and the community involvement, you will not get the result you want, we all want.

Some of the most serious challenges this society faces have much less to do with school than they do with home and community. This is very thin ice and the hour is late, but thoughtful observers make that point on a daily basis. If you want to see an X-ray of trouble in the community, I can take you there very easily, and the Minister of Labour could do so perhaps even more so.

Are there troubles? Yes. Is there an opportunity to move forward? Yes. But we will not do so if our agenda is to attack and to abuse some of the key people without whose commitment and support we cannot move forward. I say again very seriously, I oppose Bill 160 because I honestly and truly believe that the real agenda of the Snobelen-Harris approach is to literally destroy the common school in Ontario.

The Speaker: Comments?

Mr Pouliot: Always a pleasure indeed to respond in the short time allocated to our best orator in this House, the member for Renfrew North.

You profess, members of the government, that all is wrong with the education system and yet our houses of excellence are recognized the world over. I only wish following the remarks of our distinguished friend and colleague that you would look at the education system the way the world looks at it. You are a product of that system and you will admit to yourselves and to others that you've done very well by the system. But you have chosen to invent, to provoke a crisis, and two members of prominence, the Minister of Education and the bedmate, the Premier, dimmed the light one day, scared one another and said, "We must take them on; they must make our day."

It's all engineered. It's all architecture. This is not the way you bring the best out of anyone. This is all about money -- nothing else. It's about the city of Toronto, both hands in the cookie jar. It's about Ottawa. It's about putting the teachers back in line. You should have to carry the guilt. You're dealing with the human dimension of the most importance, that of our future, and you will be judged very harshly. When you make a deal with the doctors because they're more fortunate and you trust they belong to the strongest union, and then you go nudge, nudge, wink, wink with the police because you need the protection, what about those who prepare society for tomorrow? Think about it.

Hon Cameron Jackson (Minister without Portfolio [Seniors Issues]): I want to compliment the member for Renfrew North for again a most eloquent and moving rendition. However, again noticeably absent is what he and his party would do differently. I have yet to hear from anyone on that side of the House what they would do differently, especially from the member for Renfrew North, who was himself a former education minister in this province.

I recall vividly sitting on that side of the House, raising issues of concern, but I'll tell you several things that minister was responsible for in this province. He now talks about how he would make contributions to education in Ontario, but during his five-year period, what did we have to show for it? Yes, we implemented full funding for separate school funding, something which this government paid a very heavy price 12 years ago for bringing in. But it was none the less the right thing to do in this province, and the member opposite was largely responsible for its full implementation.

But I'll tell you that we had a funding formula in this province which clearly distinguished the dollars that went to elementary schools, the dollars that went to special education and the dollars that went to secondary schools. It was the Liberal government and the minister in question who blended all of those together into one transfer grant. For years we'd worked hard to create, to upset the imbalance, to destroy the inequity between elementary and secondary teachers in this province, and under his reign we saw the widening of that gap and less accountability.

Sure, there was a conversion on the road to Damascus from the then Leader of the Opposition and her red book is filled with rhetorical comments, many of which are being implemented in this bill, incidentally. But I want to remind the member that the unprecedented attack on the teachers' pension plan in this province, something that they've worked hard for, deserve and should be getting --

The Speaker: Thank you. Questions or comments?


Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): I want to commend the member for Renfrew North on an outstanding speech in the Legislature this evening. If I could draw from one thing he said that I think is of great significance, it is the tradition we have in this province of trying to build a consensus.

I know you think that perhaps when the previous Conservative government was in power, we weren't as effusive in our praise of that government at the time, and that is true. But I must tell you that the people I look back at, ministers of education in the past such as Bob Welch and Tom Wells, and Bill Davis and John Robarts tried to build that consensus. It's very attractive. It's extremely attractive, particularly when the polls aren't what you would like them to be, when the government seems to be under fire, to find an enemy, to pick on a group in society that the brain trust in the Premier's office believes perhaps some people resent. But you really don't build the kind of consensus you need to make a province work when you do that.

The people who are on the front line have a sense of morale now which is as low as I've ever seen it. I know many of these people on a personal basis and the challenges they're facing daily in the classrooms in the schools of the province are indeed very difficult challenges. I'm sure most of them would like to work together with legislators, with members of government to make the education system the kind of system all of us would really like to see, but when we have the Premier picking a fight with them, saying as he did in the newspaper yesterday, "We're saying school boards and unions are not trusted to deliver quality education," when you make that kind of statement, that truly does not pay tribute to the trustees who have worked very hard in the past to bring about good education, our various boards and the teachers who have delivered that service on the front line.

Mr Marchese: I too congratulate the member for Renfrew and agree with 90% of what he said. I have some points of disagreement and I'll mention those as quickly as I can.

I agree that M. Harris, with M. Snobelen, has done a great deal to destabilize the educational system, has done a great deal to demoralize the teachers, has done a great deal to punish trustees and to blame them for some of the problems we have and has indeed confused the parents a whole lot.

On the whole issue the member for Renfrew talks about, the elimination of the educational monopoly on counselling and that it must end: I do not agree with that. That's one serious point of disagreement. If counsellors are not doing an effective job, then we need to help the principal and those teachers to perhaps do it better, but to say they have a monopoly or to suggest that somehow there is a problem in that regard, I have a serious point of disagreement in that regard.

On the matter of research, let me add some thoughts to that. Effective learning: Research shows that where you have a principal who is a good curriculum leader, an effective leader in terms of understanding how children learn, a school where teachers are excited about teaching in that school, a school which involves parents in the learning, that school will produce results unlike any other school. That is the research on effective learning and that research means you must involve teachers in that educational change. If you are not involving the teachers, then you've got it all wrong.

That's why I tell you Bill 160 moves in the wrong direction. It does not speak to the quality of education because you have effectively shut out the teachers in that process, and without them, the people you do not trust to do the job, it will not succeed.

The Speaker: Response?

Mr Conway: I want to begin by agreeing with the previous speaker. There will not be change in this system if the teaching profession is not part of it. Teachers are absolutely critical. You cannot abuse them and attack them and condemn them one day and expect that the next day they're going to be part of a brave, new and better world. There can be no disagreement on that.

I want to agree with some of the observations made by Mr Jackson about my failures as minister. I could have added a few to the list. There's no doubt that when I look back on my experience, the difficulties we had implementing minority language education and, most especially, the extended funding to the separate school system were much greater than any of us ever imagined. It was more complicated, more time-consuming and certainly much more expensive than the architects imagined.

I look at the current government's policy on education and what is it basically? It's about concentrating more power at the centre, in this case at the department of education, and having larger units of organization. God, did we learn nothing from the 1960s? One of the big, unintended consequences of some of those reforms a generation ago is that that kind of consolidation gave the following results that nobody wanted: more bureaucracy, more centralization, more separation between parent, child and the system, and higher costs. So we are now embracing the very things we ought not to be embracing.

Mr Bud Wildman (Algoma): Centralizing everything at Queen's Park.

The Speaker: Member for Algoma.

Mr Conway: Of course. I'm not saying that the status quo is perfect. Nobody is, but have we learned nothing from the mistakes of the past or, put more charitably, the unintended results of the consolidation of the late 1960s and early 1970s?

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bisson: I have a mere 10 minutes because of the new rules of this assembly to try to sum --


Mr Bisson: Well, it's the truth. You guys have muzzled the opposition, you're trying to muzzle our teachers, you're muzzling --

The Speaker: Order, member for Cochrane South. Members of the government, please come to order. Member for Scarborough Centre. Thank you.

Mr Bisson: To make the point, they even try to bully people when it comes to being able to express their views. But in 10 minutes I will try to bring this debate to what I think is a crucial point.

I want members of this assembly and parents who are members of this assembly to think of what was happening in the classroom but two years ago, what was happening in the classroom five years ago. When I went into the riding in the communities I represent and I went into the classrooms, I saw teachers who were engaged in education and for the largest part children who wanted to learn. You saw people who were concerned about how we can work together to make sure that education happens in our schools in a way that's conducive to good education and a healthy atmosphere. People were less concerned back then, students, teachers, parents, trustees, secretaries and custodians, about what was going to happen when it came to the government and the kind of attack we're seeing today.

Two years later, as we walk into those schools, as I go into Flora MacDonald school in Timmins or I go into St Anne school or whatever school it might be in my riding, what do I see? I see students who are concerned about what this government is doing to education and what it threatens to do by way of its policies. I see teachers who are worried about what it means to their ability to teach children. I see principals, trustees and administrators who worry about how they're going to be able to provide the education that is needed for the children of Ontario to build the economy of tomorrow.

Why? Because this Conservative government, the Mike Harris government of Ontario, has decided they're going to have a war, and that war is going to be in the education system, and particularly it's going to be with teachers, because some people have decided in the Premier's office, according to the polls they're doing, that they can take teachers on and in some way polarize politics in Ontario for their particular need.

I say to you, government members, shame on you, because the pawn in this game is not the teachers, it's not the parents; it's the kids we're supposed to be here to represent and teach, and that's what you guys are up to. I would bow my head in shame if I were a member of a government that undertakes that kind of agenda.


You think I'm making this up, but let's back up to two years ago. I remember the Minister of Education, on being appointed, meeting with the bureaucrats within the Ministry of Education and having the gall to tape it because he wanted to show this to all the educators and bureaucrats who were working within the Ministry of Education, and what did he have to say? "I want to create a crisis in education so that I can implement the kinds of change that I and my party want to impose on Ontario in its education system."

I say to the Minister of Education and to this government, you're wrong and you're going dead in the wrong direction, because what our system of education is about, and I bring it back to the point, is making sure the people in our education system and our students are in an atmosphere where they're able to learn. That's what this is all about.

When I see a Minister of Education undergo the kind of language he uses to describe our system of education and when I see him and other ministers of the government and the Premier make comments such as, "Teachers and boards of education cannot be trusted to run our system of education," I worry about what it means to my children and I worry about what it means to the Ontario we're going to be leaving them. If we can't trust teachers and we can't trust the trustees to run the system, what the heck does that say about this government and what does it say about our system of education? I say you have it wrong.

The people who run for boards and the people who teach in our schools are there primarily because they want to make sure our kids have the quality education they need to be able to grow, to be able to learn and then later to get into the workforce and compete in this new economy we have today.

What really galls me is that this government is exploiting the language of change and progress as a smokescreen to do two things. The first thing is to take $1 billion out of our system of education -- that's what you're up to -- on top of the $800 million you've already taken out, because if you can create the crisis, if you can make the kinds of accusations you make about all people in education and make the erroneous comment that our system of education is broken and doesn't work, you're then able to go under the smokescreen of saying that you're going to make changes and pull $1 billion out of the system of education.

What is of even more concern to me that was touched on earlier by the previous speaker is that this government, under the smokescreen of exploiting the language of change and progress, is trying to implement a right-wing agenda when it comes to our system of education. That, simply put, is my kids, the kids of the average working people in this province who over the years to come are going to have two choices: You go to a system of public education that is underfunded, that is under attack and that is besieged and you get less education; or if you've got the bucks, if you're the friend of Mike Harris, of Elizabeth Witmer and the rest of this gang, you're going to be able to send your kids off to some private school that will have more dollars to provide for the education.

I say to you that is wrong. We have built this nation and this province on the premise that each kid going into school has the same opportunity as much as is humanly possible, that through the development of education and through the learning process they can compete equally with their peers so that when they come out of the education system at the other end, at least they've gotten a fair shot. But if you deliver a system of education that basically says that you've only got a good system if you've got the bucks and you've got a lesser system if you're in the public system, you're shutting out the very people we need to assist to be able to make our economy work.

I want to remind this government of something when they talk about this whole notion that this system of education is broken and it needs to be fixed. The United Nations for how many years running has said that Canada and Ontario are the best places in the world to live? Do you think that doesn't happen with a good system of education? Do you think you can build the kind of economy -- you think that's funny, but it ain't funny. How do you build a modern economy, how do you develop the kinds of people who are necessary to compete in our economy and make us productive and make us world leaders when it comes to trade and export if we don't have a system of education that prepares our kids and puts them on an equal footing and allows them to go out into the marketplace to compete? By God, if somebody understands that, I hope it's the Conservative Party, or should I say the Reform Party, of Ontario? But no, you guys believe in quite the opposite: one system of education for those kids who have the bucks, whose parents are rich, and another system of education for the rest of us. I say you're totally wrong when you're going in that direction.

In the two minutes I have left I ask, what is this government trying to do now? They're trying to provoke a confrontation with teachers to polarize their system. In the end, whom are you hurting? You're hurting the kids who are in the system we're supposed to be there to serve. If you do that, you're not letting down teachers, you're not letting down parents; you're letting down the kids. If you were elected here to do one thing, it's to make sure that our kids in our Ontario are able to grow up and live in the same kind of province that we've got and not some kind of Ontario that in the future will be somewhat less than what we had growing up as children.

If I have a responsibility as a legislator and as a social democrat, it's to ensure that my kids tomorrow inherit the Ontario I was born into, the Ontario I grew up in, the Ontario in which I had a public system of education that allowed me to get the development and the skills needed so that one day I could compete in the workplace, so that one day I could participate in the economy, and by God, yes, so that one day I could come into this Legislature and represent the people of Cochrane South, represent the views and aspirations of the working men and women of that riding.

When you deny children the opportunity to develop their education, when you deny children the opportunity to participate, you're saying to many children in the future, "You're not going to have the same opportunity that Gilles and other people had before you," because Mike Harris of Ontario wants to leave to our children an Ontario that is less than the one I inherited as I grew up in this province.

The Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr Tom Froese (St Catharines-Brock): I'd like to make comments on the member for Cochrane South. When we talk about education changes in our province, everybody wants to lay blame on everybody else. We want to blame successive governments, parents blame the system, students blame the teachers, teachers blame their union bosses, the union bosses blame the government; it's all one big circle.

I wish, when we discuss education, all of us could just get rid of the rhetoric. There were comments earlier about studies that were made. We've actually studied this whole thing to death. There are studies upon studies that the education system needs to change. In the last election, in 1995, the Common Sense Revolution was there, the Liberal red book was there, and before that the NDP Royal Commission on Learning. If you look at the documents, they all say the same thing. Then we have the Education Improvement Commission and it repeats the same thing.

Repeatedly, we have said as a government that it has been studied to death and now it's time to act. I'm challenging the opposition, I'm challenging the Liberals and the NDPs, I'm challenging the teachers and the parents. I'd like to challenge everyone to give input on how you make those changes instead of just sitting there and saying all the rhetoric. Give some recommendations. Why don't you come forward and put into print your recommendations from your red book? I'm sick and tired of listening to all the rhetoric. Put forward recommendations. We've repeatedly said that we wanted recommendations and that we would act on them.

Mrs McLeod: Stable funding. No cuts, Tom. It's easy.

Mr Pouliot: The minister wants to steal the money.

The Speaker: Member for Lake Nipigon, would you please come to order, as well as the member for Fort William.

Mrs McLeod: I've already been out once today.

The Speaker: Well, apparently you were out once yesterday.

Mrs McLeod: Yesterday, that's right. That's why that --

The Speaker: That's right. Questions or comments?

Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'd like to congratulate my colleague from Cochrane South for his impassioned speech in defence of the education system and necessary changes that are required. I'd like to address a point that I think teachers are being unduly criticized for, and this is what I would call non-teaching time.

It's interesting, when we get up here and make a 20-minute speech or a five-minute speech, that we expect teachers to somehow be up in front of a class six, seven, eight hours a day without preparation time, without all the resources we have in our offices. When we do a 20-minute speech we have staff resources galore, personal and in our caucuses and in our research bureaus, to help us. Yet we expect our teachers, and now without very much preparation time at all, to come out before 25, 30, 35, 36, maybe 37 children, very exuberant and energetic children, and teach a whole day and bring them into the world of knowledge.

This government had better re-examine what it's trying to do here and really try to understand the importance of education and the importance of preparation that a teacher requires.


We also have our professional development time. You seem to be down on teachers for their professional development. Every profession needs to grow and succeed. We do that in our business with our various retreats a couple of times a year. Every profession needs that time to renew. I don't know why the officials of this government want to somehow just pick on teachers, people who are so dedicated.

My eldest daughter just got her first teaching job a few weeks ago and she's working very hard at it. I'm very proud that she picked a profession that is going to pass on the collective wisdom of humankind to our next generation. It's an important job and all of us in this House should be supporting our teachers.


The Speaker: There is no applauding in the galleries. Questions and comments?

Mr Marchese: Would that it would be the case that we all had an equal amount of preparation time around here, because the Tories have unlimited resources for preparation time, the Liberals have less and we have a whole lot less. We pass papers on to each other to assist each other. Would that were the case.

I want to tell you, on the whole issue of preparation time, part of what my colleague said has to do with the desire for this government to take money out of the system. That's what it's about. We believe it's $1 billion. Preparation time is your one area to do so. I am convinced that some of these people on the other side understand preparation time is a critical part of learning. I'm convinced some of them understand it. But it needs to be subsumed under the desire to take money out of the system. When you get rid of 50% of the preparation time of high school teachers, what does it mean? It means $225 million and the firing of possibly 6,000 teachers, give or take. That's what it means. How does firing 6,000 teachers help you to improve the quality of education? It doesn't, other than taking approximately $225 million to $250 million. That's what it's about. That's the game. We understand it.

Part of the game, Speaker, that I'm afraid you understand too, is that with the desire of this government to undermine the public school system, what it is doing is to eliminate the confidence that people have in the public system, thereby running to a private system because if you underfund it, if you eviscerate the funding of public schools, they inevitably will have to go to private schools. That, I believe, is what underpins part of the agenda of that Tory government right there.

Mr Carroll: I appreciate the opportunity to make a few comments on the member for Cochrane South. It's interesting he mentioned that if he were a member of this caucus he would hang his head in shame. I guess what he's suggesting then is that their system of arbitrarily going in and whacking 5% out in the social contract is the fair way to do things. Quite frankly, we disagree with that. We think that's very unfair, so we've changed it, and we're going to do it a little different way.

When you sit in the opposition benches in this place you can say absolutely anything you want, it doesn't have to be factual, and you're not held responsible for it. The member from Cochrane said that our intention is to take $1 billion out of education. Neither the Premier nor the Minister of Education has ever said that. However, the teachers' unions have decided they want to believe what the opposition says and they have written home to the parents and said, "They intend to cut another $1 billion out of education no matter what." The only place teachers' unions could have heard that was from the opposition, of course, who do not have to be held responsible for that.

The member for Renfrew South said it's important we get this right, and I agree with him. It is important that we sit down and discuss it. I would implore the teachers to remember that their unions have a motivation to collect dues and to keep their membership up. Why don't they sit down, talk with their members --


The Speaker: Stop the clock. I don't want to tell the galleries again. If there's any noise, I will clear the galleries. You're here to observe and it's a privilege to be here, not a right. I will not warn you again.

Mr Carroll: I invite all the teachers to sit down with their members of Parliament and get the other side of the story so they can understand our motivation.

The Speaker: Response?

Mr Bisson: To the member for Chatham-Kent, what hogwash. I can tell you what we're doing. We're sitting down and meeting with teachers. I wish you'd try to do the same in your own ridings. From what I understand from discussions that I had with teachers across this province, you do everything to run away and not to listen to what teachers, parents and others have to say about what's happening to this system.

To the members for Fort York and Timiskaming, a good point in regard to preparation time and it's something I think is well taken.

To the member for St Catharines-Brock, for him to stand and to say that the royal commission had as its goal to take $1 billion out of education is the largest misrepresentation and the largest stretch -- I won't go any further than that, Speaker.

Mr Froese:I never said that. Come on, be fair.

The Speaker: Withdraw.

Mr Bisson: I withdraw "stretch." You know what I was getting at. Let your mind wander that way. But the point I'm --

The Speaker: Member for Cochrane South, I don't find that humorous. I just want you to withdraw it. I'm not here to have a debate with you.

Mr Bisson: I withdraw, Speaker. I apologize, I withdraw.

The point is that the royal commission talked about reinvesting and putting money into education. That's what the royal commission talked about because it recognized that to prepare our kids for the economy of tomorrow and to make sure they have a place in it, you have to invest in the early years and you have to invest in a system of education to make sure they get there.

I just want to -- on one of the things, I didn't get the opportunity in the 10 minutes, and it was touched on by the member for Chatham-Kent -- touch on the comments the Premier himself made about the system of education. This really says everything about where this government is coming from. This is a quote from Mike Harris himself: "Premier Mike Harris has charged Ontario has a mediocre system of education and neither teachers, unions nor school boards can be trusted to improve it." I'll tell you something. I will trust teachers, I will trust trustees, I will trust parents and others before I trust the Mike Harris government any day when it comes to reforming the system of education and making it work for the people of Ontario.

The Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs Julia Munro (Durham-York): I rise tonight and I welcome the opportunity to comment briefly on Bill 160. I have a rather unique position in this House because I believe I am the only member, certainly on this side of the House, who has come directly from the high school system. I come as a graduate of the Ontario school system and a teacher in the Ontario school system of approximately 25 years. I think it's important to look at that in the context then of the discussion this evening.

My experience as a classroom teacher and as a member of this political party frankly drove me to make the decision to run as a candidate. I served as a member of the policy council on education because it became very clear to me, as it has to many others, that there are significant problems with the way in which education has been run in the last few years. So it is with that kind of a context and that kind of background that I come this evening to make a few comments.

It's very clear to me, as it is to others, that we have an extremely important challenge before us. It's quite clear to those of us in my generation who grew up in an Ontario that was the most prosperous province in what is clearly, by the measurement of many, the greatest country in the world. It becomes very clear to us that it is important to ensure a future in this province that is as bright and prosperous and as full of hope for our children as the Ontario that we have known. That, quite frankly, is the challenge that we all recognize. That is why, when we look at this legislation and the commitment of this government, it is our focus to look at changing the system. It is the system that is failing. We are simply not getting enough dollars and support into the classroom to support our teachers.


The need for reform is very clear. It has been outlined in 24 separate reviews of the system since 1950. There have been two royal commissions, 10 commissions and committees, two fact-finding reports, two panels and innumerable meetings of parents and educators across the province.

What comes out of that is that we have some very clear strengths in recognizing those problems; first of all, the kind of teachers that we have produced. Many of the speakers this evening have referenced the particular quality, the leadership that those teachers have provided regardless of who was in political office at the time. It's very clear that teachers have provided the kind of leadership, the dedication and the expertise that has given our children in this province the kind of footing they needed. It's also very clear that the students of this province are also our strength. They're a strength in establishing the opportunities for tomorrow as well.

The third strength is that of the commitment. It was very clear in the election of 1995 that our commitment was to classroom education and to review the kinds of difficulties that the system had provided for teachers and for students. It was very clear that governance, finance and the system were the problems that needed addressing. In governance we have looked at Bill 104, and in finance we're looking at a per-student allocation that clearly identifies a problem that has existed for many, many years when you look at the inequities that financing in the previous method provided.

This legislation that we are looking at today provides fair funding of school boards and establishes the authority for the province to control education tax rates. Taxes will stay in the community where they are raised. The minister has committed to stable funding throughout the transition process, but we intend to change education funding to meet the needs of students. Everyone who has studied education funding in this province has come to the same conclusion: By basing education funding on inequitable property taxes, we have not provided every child in the province the same chance to receive a first-class education.

Currently, property taxes do not bear any direct relation to the cost of educating children in each community. In communities where property assessments and taxes are higher, education is funded more richly than it is in much of rural Ontario, where property assessments tend to be lower. In recognition of the need to change education funding to reflect the needs of students, the minister is proposing to take a greater responsibility for education funding at the provincial level.


The Acting Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): Order. Order. I'll not warn you again.

Mrs Munro: While property owners will pay less for education through their municipal taxes, the province will pay more through grants to school boards.

At the same time the minister has said he wants to assume responsibility for more education funding, the government is responding to the report recommendation of the Education Improvement Commission to limit class size. It's rather interesting that so many people have always referred to class size as an important feature, important in terms of delivery of the best education. In this way, we can ensure that resources go directly to the classroom, where they can increase student achievement.

One of the important aspects of this allocation model is that we are going to build an education budget from the bottom up that will include dedicated funding for classroom expenditures, including the costs of teachers and educational assistants, preparation time, texts, learning materials, computers, guidance, libraries, school-based administration, and professional supports such as school psychologists. This foundation grant will be supplemented by seven special-purpose grants to recognize the different circumstances faced by students and school boards, and a school building grant to pay for the cost of heating, lighting, maintaining and constructing schools.

We know that our education system is one that needs addressing. We know that we have the resources. We know that we have the staff. We know that we have the dedication of those people who have given their professional lives to helping our students. This is the challenge for all of us in the next century. We must work together, then, to be able to provide the support for this kind of opportunity for our children.

It becomes very clear when you look at the fact that we must change our focus. It must be on changing the system; it must be on providing the dollars and support into the classroom to support our teachers.

The need for reform and how to make it happen has widely been discussed for decades. It is now time to act on that. We have a very straightforward goal: to have the highest level of student achievement in Canada. It makes it very clear for us that our students come first.

M. Bernard Grandmaître (Ottawa-Est) : Tout le monde est d'accord ce soir. Même les membres du gouvernement disent qu'une réforme du système d'éducation en Ontario est nécessaire. Alors, je me pose la question en tant que francophone : si une réforme est nécessaire, pourquoi est-ce que le gouvernement ne parle pas aux professeurs, aux conseillers scolaires et à la population de l'Ontario ?

Moi, comme francophone, j'ai toujours subi les coups du gouvernement, et je parle des coups durs. On parle maintenant du financement de 12 conseils de langue française additionnels en Ontario. Dans la loi 160, est-ce que vous parlez du financement de ces 12 conseils additionnels ? Pas un mot. C'est une promesse vide.

Qu'est-ce que vous voulez ? Vous voulez encercler tout le pouvoir de l'éducation en Ontario et vous satisfaire en coupant des argents, couper un milliard additionnel. Si les gens de l'Ontario ne sont pas aveugles, et j'en suis sûr, ils voient très clair que M. Harris et M. Snobelen ont un agenda tout à fait spécial. C'est de ruiner le système en place et de mettre en place leur système et l'appauvrir au niveau public aussi bien que séparé. Alors, j'implore M. Snobelen et M. Harris de se réveiller.

I want to finish in English so you'll understand. I want to tell your minister and I want to tell your Premier to smarten up, because the people of Ontario are much smarter than you think they are.

Mr Wildman: I want to respond to the comments of the member for Durham-York, who spoke as a former teacher and someone who obviously is concerned about education. I don't understand, though, how she can support a government whose Minister of Education and Training continually attacks the very people who have to implement the reform in order to benefit the students in the province. How is it that she believes that by demoralizing the teaching profession we can improve the quality of education in this province? It's completely ridiculous; it's counterproductive. The member says that we must put more money into education. If that is the case, why is it that the minister and the Premier of this province will not commit -- today they refused to make a guarantee that any savings that accrued from restructuring of the education system and school boards would be reinvested in education. Why is it that the Premier would not make that commitment today? Why is it that he would not guarantee that he will not take more money out of the classroom and out of the school system?


Bill 104, which he mentioned, was an attack on the trustees and on school boards. What Bill 160 is about is concentrating power, control over the education system, here at Queen's Park, taking away from local control over education and local accountability. The member says we must have a funding formula that meets the needs of the students, but we do not yet have that funding formula. We don't know what the government is going to say in terms of how much money they're actually going to take out of education or put into it to benefit our students in this province. We should know that before this bill passes.

The member talked about limiting class size, but she forgets that the Education Improvement Commission recommended that all the money saved from restructuring should be reinvested in education. You can't do this by cutting prep time and laying off teachers. You are out to save money, and that's your main raison d'être.

Mr Dan Newman (Scarborough Centre): It's my pleasure to rise in response to the member for Durham-York, who brings a very unique perspective on education to this House from the government side. I want to say what a pleasure it has been to have been able to sit beside her for the last two years and to discuss many issues, including education. I appreciate the perspective she brings to it.

In my riding of Scarborough Centre, yes, there are teachers, yes, there are vice-principals and, yes, there are principals who are opposed to this bill. But let me tell you about the teachers and vice-principals and principals who are in favour of this bill, who have come to my office and spoken to me about being in favour of the reforms this government is bringing forward.

Mr Bisson: All those in favour, please stand up. What planet did you visit?

The Acting Speaker: Order. I'll not warn you again.

Mr Newman: What's important to keep in mind is that every single member of this House has the same goal: a quality education system. I think teachers feel the same way; I feel every member of this Legislature feels the same way. What differs is in how we get there. The opposition feels that the more money you spend, the better education system you have.

Mr Bisson: You think investing in education is bad.

Mr Newman: That's the way they feel. Coming from the NDP, who spent $50 billion more than they took in in revenue during their five years of terror in this province, they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The goal is the same. We've brought forward reforms that have reduced the number of trustees, have reduced the number of school boards, have brought forward the College of Teachers and Education Quality and Accountability Office.

When you listen to the opposition, you would think we were in an education utopia, that the education system was working.

Mr Bisson: It is working. Look at the kids who are graduating. What system did you come out of?

Mr Newman: Well, let me tell you, in the 1995 election, people said loud and clear to me, in Scarborough Centre, that the education system was not working.


Mr Newman: I just want to close by saying that we do have the greatest teachers in the world teaching in Ontario, and I want to let them know that.

The Acting Speaker: I am naming the member, Mr Bisson, from Cochrane North.

Mr Bisson: I'm from Cochrane South.

The Acting Speaker: I would ask the member to leave.

Mr Bisson was escorted from the chamber.

Mr Wildman: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member across the way, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade, made a comment which was completely unacceptable in this House and must withdraw. He suggested that the member for Cochrane South --

The Acting Speaker: Please take your seat.

Mr Wildman: I'm allowed to continue and complete what I have to say.

The Acting Speaker: No, I'm sorry, you're not. Please take your seat.

You've asked me to make a ruling on your point of order. I didn't hear any comment, but if the minister said something he shouldn't have, I'm giving him this opportunity to withdraw it.

Hon William Saunderson (Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism): If it was unparliamentary, I withdraw.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Fort William.

Mrs McLeod: I rather wish that the beliefs of the member for Durham-York had some relevance to her government's agenda rather than being wishful thinking. She has suggested tonight that the government is going to be putting more money into education.

The fact is that at the present time, the funding formula is shown to generate $1.1 billion less for education. That's on top of the $1 billion that's already been taken out. If there is any member opposite who does not believe that is the case, they should ask their Minister of Education and their Premier to make a commitment today to no further cuts in education. You will not get that commitment, because $1.1 billion is the goal of this government for cost reduction in education.

The member for Durham-York has given us some views, refreshing from the other side, on the quality of teacher leadership. I'm glad to at least hear her saying that after what the Premier has said in the most incredibly provocative way in the last 24 hours, his statement that you cannot trust teachers or trustees to provide a quality of education. I have found it appalling that the Minister of Education, the Premier and now members tonight, who are reading the briefing provided to them by the minister, will say that the reason we have higher class sizes is because teachers have negotiated them. It's an incredible statement.

The Premier used the example of the Lakehead board. I want it on record tonight that the Lakehead Board of Education teachers, elementary and secondary, have had no salary increases for five years, no benefit increases for five years. Was there an increase in grades 3 to 8 of one person per class? Yes, there was. Why was that negotiated? Because it was the only way to save junior kindergarten after the $145 million in cuts to JK from this government.

That is exactly what's going to happen when this government gets total and absolute control of education. We will have more cuts; we will not have smaller class sizes; we will have the loss of virtually all outside-the-classroom support for students, because that will be the only way that they can deal with the cuts this government is bringing in.

Mrs Margaret Marland (Mississauga South): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: It has just been alleged that the Premier said he was opposed to teachers and trustees. He said unions and --

The Acting Speaker: Member for Mississauga South, please take your seat. That is not a point of order.

The Chair recognizes the member for Durham-York for her two-minute response.

Mrs Munro: I want to respond to a couple of the points that were made. The first one I would like to respond to is the fact that we are looking at 12 French-language district school boards, which will replace the existing four French-language boards.

I also want to refer to the comment made by the member for Algoma. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that it is from the opposition that we hear the numbers. The Premier has made it very clear on a number of occasions, and so has the minister, that our commitment is to the quality of education and that it will be what is necessary. That is the commitment that has been made by both of these people.

As for the power he referred to in the area of Queen's Park, I have to speak as a classroom teacher who watched the proliferation of boards and the kinds of things that were done because of the fact that each board had to reinvent all their curriculum outlines, all their work. That's the kind of duplication that I think all of us would suggest is unnecessary.


The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Bradley: I begin by indicating my great disappointment that the change in the procedural rules of this House has confined members at this point in the debate to only 10 minutes to deal with a bill which has 219 pages, with a lot of detail and a lot of measures which will have a profound impact on Ontario.

I have indicated in this House on many occasions that despite the fact there are very significant bills that have implications for our province, the most important legislative measure undertaken by this government was to change the rules in the middle of the game; that is, to change the procedural rules to severely restrict debate on any piece of legislation and thereby transfer power from elected members of the Legislature who are accountable to the people who elect us, to the unelected people, largely the backroom advisers in the Office of the Premier. This will be important not only for this Parliament and this government but also for future parliaments and future governments. We have reduced the importance of elected members of this Legislature. We have seen an attack on democracy, with that power being concentrated in the hands of unelected people. That of course affects not only those of us on this side but members of the government side as well.

This bill in itself demonstrates that by the fact that it allows so many changes to be made by regulation; that is, changes that are not approved by this House but are simply done behind closed doors in the rooms of the cabinet and ultimately signed by the Premier of this province. In a healthy democracy, as many as possible of the decisions we make should be made in this Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately, under the rule changes and under the provisions of this bill, that cannot happen.

What I am most disappointed about is the strategy of the government to divide and conquer at a time when we should be trying to develop consensus in this province. There is an effort now to divide members of the teaching profession from those who are in the public sector who are not part of the teaching profession.

There was a full government retreat on Bill 136, a retreat which I applaud, because I think the government was wrong in the first place in including the provisions it did in that piece of legislation. But clearly now the government wishes to divide that group from those who are in the teaching profession. They have decided, when there's difficulty for the government, when they're in a state of panic, when they appear to be without a direction, that they have to find an enemy and start a war. That is essentially what is happening with this legislation and with the rhetoric we're hearing from the Premier of the province and the Minister of Education.

I look at the fact that in years gone by, some of the members of this House who have served as trustees have made a significant contribution to this province; some who are members of the teaching profession have made a direct contribution in the classrooms of Ontario. Yet we are now seeing the government turning trustees, in some cases, against teachers, when of course the common enemy, if you will, is the provincial government, which is severely withdrawing funds from the education system.

The minister said it best in terms of revealing the government agenda when he said the government was out to create a crisis in education so it could make drastic and radical changes to the education system, changes which do not reflect a consensus in the province but, rather, reflect a narrow, very right-wing agenda which can be found easily in many states south of the border in the United States.

The government is determined that it's going to get another $1 billion out of the education system. It's an education system that is different from that in the 1950s. Unfortunately, in education most of us think back to the days when we were in school and to situations that existed a number of years ago. It has changed drastically. I have not been a teacher in a classroom now for over 20 years, but I know, from talking to the people on the front line, those who deliver education services, that it's a far different group of students they deal with today. There are a lot more challenges out there. Teachers are asked to do far more. The atmosphere is significantly different from what it was when I was in the classroom.

When we start to attack members of the teaching profession -- and I know the target is always the head of the teachers' federations, because that's an easy target. When we start attacking those people, we reduce the morale to the lowest level it has ever been. We need the support and enthusiastic involvement of members of the teaching profession to make our education system function as we all hope it would. Yet the rhetoric that is taking place clearly demonstrates that's not going to happen.

I listened to the Premier answering questions in the House today, and he was very confrontational. I believe there is a lot of goodwill still out there among those who want to work with members of the Legislative Assembly, with parents, with students and with others interested in education to help our education system, to build our education system, and this bill certainly does not help with that.

We're going to see a further erosion of junior kindergarten, which is so important, as all the academic studies are today proving; or the needs of special children, who are now in the regular classroom; or adult education, where people are going back to be re-educated and retrained for the new job opportunities we hope will be out there.

All of this withdrawal of funds is to pay for an income tax cut which will benefit the wealthiest people in our society to the greatest extent and will remove services. It was ill conceived until such time as you have your budget balanced. That is what is driving this agenda for further and further cuts.

There is a denigrating of trustees, there is a denigrating of members of the teaching profession. I listened to some of the inflammatory speeches I have heard that are attacking teachers, trying to do it by attacking the teachers' federation representatives, duly elected by teachers in this province. I don't think that is going to be healthy.

There is an attack, as my friend from Renfrew North indicated, on the publicly funded education system in this province. The publicly funded education system is that instrument we use to provide equality of opportunity. We can't guarantee equality of outcome, but the publicly funded system, when it's at its healthiest, when it has a sufficient investment in it, is a good system which allows people to have that kind of equality which wouldn't be there otherwise. I see that eroding.

I have mentioned as well that the government appears to be hiding behind the recommendations of the commission, co-chaired by David Cooke, the former NDP member and Minister of Education, and Ann Vanstone, when in fact what it is doing is selectively cherry-picking, if you will, those recommendations which it feels are going to suit its agenda.

I must mention -- and it looks like I have to end on this. Perhaps this story best tells what is happening in education. I recall when Dianne Cunningham, the member for London North, was the education critic for the Progressive Conservative Party. She spoke one night in St Catharines to a meeting of the Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation in Lincoln county. In fact, I introduced her on that evening as one of the guests, and I introduced her in some pretty glowing terms. She provided a very moderate message. It wasn't something I would agree with in its entirety, but it was moderate, it was pro-education, it was trying to build the consensus with the members of the teaching profession who were there.

On the very same day, Mike Harris was speaking in St Catharines at the lunch-hour, and it was a far different message. He was speaking to the Rotary Club in this particular case. That's irrelevant, but it was not, obviously, the members of the teaching profession, although there were some educators there. The message was one of confrontation. It was an attempt to play on the resentment that some people have of members of the teaching profession, particularly those who haven't had to be in the classroom on a daily basis, who don't have to confront Ontario as it is in 1997 and the many, many challenges that teachers face.

I thought that was instructive of what is happening in this government. The formerly moderate Conservative government represented by Dianne Cunningham, and I would suggest Elizabeth Witmer, at least in the field of education directly, though I disagree vehemently with her Bill 136, when she was chair of the board of education in Waterloo, I'm sure had a far different approach to education, much more of a consensus-building approach. What we see today is shoving the teachers aside, is attacking them.

If we are to be successful, we must enlist the support and active involvement of the teachers of the province of Ontario. They want to work on behalf of students. They want to work with parents. They want to work with the community. You will not do that if you allow this bill to pass this assembly in its present state.

The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?


Mr Marchese: I congratulate the member for St Catharines and agree with much of what he has said. I have listened closely to the members for Durham-York and Scarborough Centre and Northumberland and I have to tell you these are fine soldiers, always on duty for the revolution, dedicated to mythologizing as best they can this Bill 160; revolutionaries looking for an enemy, and they've found it in the teachers, except they call them the unions. Needless to say, they call themselves federations, but these guys here, they call them unions.

Have you heard from Mike Harris, the members for Northumberland and Scarborough Centre? The reference is always unions. Not teachers, although from time to time they get careless and they attack the teaching profession as well, where they say, "They can't be trusted." But the focus, by and large -- you might have observed this; I have because I listened closely to them -- they talk about bureaucracies, they talk about unions, they talk about simplifying finances, they talk about accountability, all buzz words that Reformers like to listen to.

I listened closely to the member for Scarborough Centre, who said, "They're not like us, who think that we can improve the system by spending more money." Then the member for Durham-York, who I've gotten to know in some of the committee work, says the school system isn't getting enough dollars and that somehow we have to put more money into the system. I don't get it. One guy says, "These guys are saying that they can improve the education system by spending more." That's what the member for Durham-Centre said, and Julia, from Durham-York, says, "We're trying to put more money." What is it? What are you trying to do? We don't understand what you're trying to do. These teachers here, they don't understand either. I've got a problem, they've got a problem, and our educational system has a problem.

Mr John Hastings (Etobicoke-Rexdale): I guess I would start with some of the myths we've heard tonight from members opposite. Some of the myths are: One, if you only put another $6 trillion or $8 trillion into the system, there would be no problem.


Mr Hastings: That's what you want, spend the whole provincial budget on education.

Two, the PTR is directly attributable to bad learning. If you had a one-on-one ratio you'd have a great ideal education system. How come it is then that certain teacher organizations increase their PTR? In one instance, Fort Frances, by 25 to 28 in JK.

Three, school boards spend responsibly. Preparation time tremendously prudently used every day. Types of inputs: If you'd only put more money into the system; don't ask for results. That's bad. Student achievement tremendous in this province; there's no problem there. There's no problem in terms of trying to retain the status quo. If you retain the status quo, you're not attacking teachers. As soon as you propose a change, that's attack on education, attack on change. Some of the more irresponsible myths we've heard tonight.

I'm sure we're going to continue to hear them because, if you continue to repeat them, they must be true, particularly if you take something like "Student achievement is great at the present time." We've heard that from over there now because the members opposite have been quoting recently that you can't use international testing and where students were in a particular study of math or language development.

All we've heard from across the way are myths. Too bad they wouldn't face some realities for a change.

Mr Michael A. Brown (Algoma-Manitoulin): I have some myths. I want to talk about the marketplace, because perhaps that is the language of those over on the other side. I have a copy here of an article from the Toronto Star business section on Saturday. It has a nice picture of Tuna Tsubouchi on a tanning bed.

"Public Cuts are Private Gains," is the headline. In the body of the article it says --

Mr Jim Flaherty (Durham Centre): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I believe the practice in this place, well established, is to refer to members by their ridings and not by other appellations. The member well knows that.

The Acting Speaker: It is a point of order. Refer to them by their riding.

Mr Michael Brown: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would just like to quote from the article. The article says:

"The Common Sense Revolution has meant big bucks for Michael Peever, president of A Little Extra Help Tutoring Services of Whitby.

"`The best thing to happen to my business is what the government has been doing lately cutting back education funding and increasing class sizes.'

"He's got a booth set up at the CFA trade show to sell tutoring franchises.

"For $15,000, which includes a computer, you too can start up a tutoring business -- and you don't even have to have teaching experience.

"Peever said franchises typically make about $28,000 in their first year and earnings should go up in time.

"His main contribution is access to a data base that contains lists of retired, unemployed or underemployed teachers...

"`Ontario is so ripe for this business,' he said. `The phone has been ringing off the hook.'"

That's the marketplace. The marketplace is saying you're cutting education, you're hurting kids, and what it means is the death of public education in this province. For those who can afford it, they can call Michael Peever, they can get tutoring for their kids. For those who can't, "Too bad," says Mike Harris.

M. Pouliot : Comme il l'a si bien souligné, mon collègue et ami de St Catharines, si ce soir ici à l'Assemblée le gouvernement aurait choisi l'appel au calme, l'appel à la discussion plutôt que d'un cri de guerre -- parce que, voyez-vous, en fin de compte c'est qu'on parle ici d'argent. On parle ici de 5 $ milliards en consultation totale avec les mieux nantis de notre société, et les dépourvus, les esseulés, les pauvres, ceux qui en ont moins doivent payer à la caisse de ce gouvernement les 5 $ milliards.

We are not here, or we shouldn't be, to talk about vouchers, to provoke with alternatives emanating from the Premier's office, from the whiz kids, where you will have "school for profit." This is about $5 billion. They're on the hook. Who is going to pay? The people on Bay Street will not pay, for the $5 billion is destined to reach their pockets.

First it was people on welfare, social assistance, the less fortunate, the marginalized: 21.6% cut. Then Mikey and the gang found that it was not enough. They became insatiable and they said, "Let's move up the food chain." They've jeopardized the very essence of our system, that of education, that of our future -- no less than that.

They know no bounds. They must reconcile the books. If the human dimension, if the essence of life stands in the way, they get together and a mere click of the heels will dispense of what should be done in order that the mantra, that their agenda, that the commissars, that the brigade have their way and balance those bloody books.

The Acting Speaker: If I could have a minute. I just wanted to caution the members about inflammatory statements. I think that we should choose our words well, we should say what we mean, but I would caution you that there are some terms that are inflammatory and I would ask you to desist.

Mr Pouliot: Mr Speaker, should I use "economic cleansing"? Is that okay?

The Acting Speaker: If I have to be more specific, don't use "clicking heels" again in my presence, please.

The Chair recognizes the member for St Catharines for his response.


Mr Bradley: I appreciate the comments of the various members. I agree with some and don't with others. I simply want to indicate to those who have spoken that they have to recognize the situation that exists in the classrooms today and how it is substantially different from what it was a number of years ago.

If you think, for instance, of Metropolitan Toronto, teachers on almost a daily basis are confronted with people of a variety of cultures, dozens of different cultures and languages, kids coming into the classroom in those circumstances. There are far more dysfunctional families in our society today, whether we want to accept that or not. So the challenges are far different than they were many years ago, and my fear is that this government is stuck somewhere in the 1950s in its approach to education, which may well have served us well at that time, but in the present circumstance will not serve us well.

You'll notice that the government members have been told to use the words "status quo," that anyone who disagrees with what the government is doing is in favour of the status quo. These are the words given to the government members by the Premier's staff. They are told to use those particular words. We can spot them in virtually all the speeches we hear.

What's unfortunate is that this government is going about denigrating the system of education. Though I would not be unkind enough to name people, I suspect there are members on the government benches who are, at the very least, uncomfortable with this attack on the education system and the people in the education system. I hope the government will step back from its rhetoric, that it will abandon its $1-million advertising campaign to promote its partisan agenda, that it will try to work with teachers instead of against teachers in this province.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Mr Marchese: The question for the people watching this debate tonight is this: Do these revolutionaries want to control education to improve it or do they want to raid the educational system to pay for their income tax cut? That's really the question. Let's look at some of the things that I believe speak to the issue of what it is they're trying to do. I argue that they're trying to raid it.

Look at what they've done with junior kindergarten. You'll recall that debate, Speaker, when most of us argued that it was foolhardy for this government to eliminate junior kindergarten. I know that M. Harris says, "We didn't do it." But you control the funding. If you don't give the funding so that junior kindergarten can be provided, school boards cannot provide it. Those who have a few dollars can, but the majority of school boards are not doing it. They can't afford it. When you continue to raid it as you have done, it will disappear.

Why would they do that? We know, all of us -- I know some of these Tories know, and many people watching -- that junior kindergarten is an important equalizer of educational opportunity. We say this because most of us know that we are not all equal, that students do not come to the classroom as equals. Our conditions are different. Some kids come from poor homes where the literacy levels are very low, due to no fault of their own, I would argue; some come with the great fortune of heredity and other benefits, come with money, a whole lot of it; some people, with good luck or otherwise, have some good educational background, so they have high literacy skills in their professions, and the people with money and with literacy skills are able to pass on some of that rich capital and heritage to their children, and they do better. Those who are not so lucky come to the educational system unequal. They're not as well prepared. Thus, there is a disparity in the classroom when you get those children.

The function of junior kindergarten was to try to bring all children to the same level. Even though you cannot ever do that, the attempt would be to try. We know that in other systems where they have done this, educational outcomes for all children improve if you offer early childhood education for those students who don't have that same rich capital to bring to the classroom.

If these revolutionaries were so keen on improving educational quality for children, why would they cancel the junior kindergarten program? Isn't that a good question, mon ami Gilles Pouliot?

Then there is adult education. They cut the funding for adult education. Most of the people who go back to school are those who have had, in some cases, low literacy levels; many people want to upgrade their educational skills. If these fine revolutionaries were interested in improving educational outcomes for children, why would they cut the possibilities for adults to have a better opportunity to learn? If you cut the funding, some of those people are not going to be so lucky to get those programs, so why would you do that? Remember, if these people do well and acquire greater literacy skills, they pass on those skills to their children, thus improving educational outcome. So why do these revolutionaries cut that funding, including cutting funding for ESL? I think it should puzzle most observers.

Why would you take $1 billion out of the elementary-secondary school system and university system? You've done that already. You can't deny that. It's done. Surely taking money out is not going to improve the educational system, I don't think. In fact, Liz Sandals, executive vice-president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, says you can't have an increase in quality and a bankrupting of the system at the same time. She's right. If you take money out and bankrupt it, you cannot improve the educational system. It's an oxymoron. It's contradictory. It can't happen. But that's what these folks talk about. They say we can do better with less. I don't see it. Liz Sandals doesn't see it. I know teachers don't see it either, and I believe parents don't see it.

You can do your best, Mike Harris and the others, to mythologize, using those words you believe people are going to like: "unions," because you think people hate unions. That's why you don't say "federations." You say "unions," you say "union leaders."

Mr Wildman: Union bosses.

Mr Marchese: Or "union bosses." That's even better, right? It's a negative thing. That's why you use it. I know that. They know it too.

That's why you talk about "bureaucracy," because the Reform-minded people you represent love that: "Oh, yes, getting rid of bureaucracy. That's good." You don't explain, really, how that works. You don't explain that by eliminating some trustees, a few trustees, even 100 trustees, you save a pittance, that if you amalgamate and fire a few people, maybe a few superintendents, you save a pittance. That money doesn't go back into the system really. It's not a whole lot of money that you're cutting, but it sounds good to your Reform-minded friends.

I have to tell you, those of you who are thinking -- and I'm disappointed in my friend from Durham-York, because she was --

The Acting Speaker: Please direct your remarks to the Chair.

Mr Marchese: Always through you, Speaker. I'm disappointed, because the member for Durham-York was a teacher for 25 years, and I see her here again as a fine soldier, just repeating the same lines. I felt she was uncomfortable having to do what she did. I really believe, Julia, that you were uncomfortable talking about what you said. I'm not sure you believe in some of this stuff. As a teacher, I believe she would know what a lot of these teachers here understand.


Mrs Munro: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I think the member for Fort York has imputed motive and integrity in the comments he's made.

The Acting Speaker: I did not hear the member impute any motive.

Mr Marchese: Thank you, Speaker, for your assistance and your quick ability to deal with that.

I want to get to some of the points in Bill 160. These people talk about setting standards for class sizes. You cannot reduce class size. It takes billions of dollars. You've taken billions of dollars out. You can't reduce it. Even if you keep class sizes where they are, they're extremely high. But you can't play the game that you can reduce it. It takes billions of dollars, and you're taking it out. You've eviscerated the system, so you can't do it. That's point number one.

Increase the number of instructional days, those contact days: That's not going to help you very much. Those of you on the other side who are teachers should know better. You increase instructional days by one week. You think, Jack Carroll, your children would have learned a hell of a lot more in one week? Please.

Mr Flaherty: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: The member knows full well what the rules are, but he insists on referring to members by their names rather than by their ridings. He brings this problem on himself.

The Acting Speaker: It is a point of order, and I would ask you to refer to the members by their ridings.

Mr Marchese: The use of non-teaching professionals: How does that help the teaching system? They say, "For a gym teacher you don't need educational qualifications." How does that improve the educational quality of the classroom? Librarians: You can hire somebody else who's got a couple of years of experience. How does hiring some of these other people improve the educational system? That's what this bill speaks to.

It talks about removing the taxing powers of local school boards so they can equalize taxes. What these people are going to do is equalize poverty for every school board across the province. They're not going to increase the funding; they're going to decrease it. It's a harmonization of a bottomless pit to the sewers, to a two-tier educational system, one public and one private. That's what they're leading us to. That's what this thing is all about.

Notice they never speak to Bill 160. It's all rambling about other things because they have nothing to tell you about Bill 160. I'm looking forward to the remarks of some of the people over there to Bill 160 and some of the remarks I have made.


The Acting Speaker: Clear the galleries. I'll assume the rest of us would like to stay.

Comments and questions?

Mr Flaherty: I listened with interest to the comments of the member for Fort York, particularly with respect to junior kindergarten and blaming the fact that some school boards chose not to offer that program in the last school year on our government.

In my own region of Durham, the school boards exercised their discretion. For example, the separate school board maintained junior kindergarten and the public school board chose not to. But those were decisions made, allocating resources, at the local level.

Education is open to quality improvement. It seems like a pretty obvious point, but I gather it's a point that is not shared by many of the members opposite. I encourage all watching this to educate themselves as much as possible about the important issues raised by Bill 160, dealing with differentiated staffing, dealing with class size, dealing with the amount of instruction, the amount of classroom time that teachers spend in classrooms each day in Ontario. These are all very important issues.

I'm sure the members opposite would also want to educate themselves about those issues, which are reviewed in a very helpful publication, the first report of the Education Improvement Commission. It's not too long a report. I'm sure the members opposite would be happy to provide it to those constituents of theirs who call them. Certainly we are, because this report --

Mr Marchese: You're the best.

Mr Flaherty: The member for Fort York will want to know this and he'll want to read the report, because it deals with those very important issues of class size --

Mr Marchese: I know you've read it.

Mr Flaherty: Yes, I have read it. I've read it very carefully. Rational debate requires knowing what the issues are, knowing what the arguments are on each side, and that's the kind of debate the people of the province expect to see in this legislative chamber.

Also we need to set an example, and those who were in the gallery have just set what I consider to be a rather poor example for the students of the province by disrupting the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly.

I encourage rational debate; I encourage everyone to read this and engage in that sort of helpful, rational debate.

Mr Bradley: One of the things that most people in the province will be looking forward to is very extensive hearings across the province so that people can make their views known. The member who just addressed the House indicated that there should be rational debate. One of those opportunities is when you provide a chance right across the province, in various centres, for people to come to meet with members of the committee and make representations to them.

I hope the government is not going to severely restrict the amount of time that might be available for those kinds of public hearings and restrict the various venues for them. Even if people see at the end that not all their wishes have been accommodated, you will find that people at least appreciate the opportunity to make presentations to a committee of the Ontario Legislature, to make their views known, to have their day in court, if you will.

As the House leader of the Liberal Party, I have made the case and will make the case again tomorrow at the House leaders' meeting for very extensive hearings not just here in Toronto but across the province.

Some members of this House who are not from Toronto recognize the importance of having people in their community, some who may agree with the provisions of this bill and some who disagree with the provisions of the bill, to make known their views to the committee. This is a very radical bill, in my view. It is a bill which makes substantial change, which I don't think there's a consensus supporting at this point in time in the province. It may well be that after hearing from people who come to committee, the government will make the kind of changes to the bill, or decide to withdraw the bill, which would have a consensus backing in this province.

I hope it isn't just another case, as it was with Bill 136, of ramming it through as quickly as possible with as little input as possible.

Mr Wayne Lessard (Windsor-Riverside): I want to congratulate the member for Fort York for his inspiring statements with respect to Bill 160. I'm not sure there was anything in his remarks that caused the outbreak that happened in the galleries. There was certainly nothing that he said that would provoke that kind of response. I think what we're seeing is a response by teachers who are frustrated by a government that is refusing to listen to their concerns. They have no way of getting this government to listen to them, and they are just speaking out in any way they have at their disposal.

This is a government that doesn't want to have public hearings with respect to this bill. They don't want to hear people's opposition to it. People who are frustrated with this government's dictatorial approach find no other ways to express themselves than what we saw here tonight.


I want to thank the member for Fort York for his comments about junior kindergarten as well. As a parent of a son who is in senior kindergarten right now I understand the importance of having an effective senior kindergarten and junior kindergarten program in our public school. It's very important, I know, for my son to ensure he has that opportunity to be able to attend senior kindergarten so that he's well prepared for his future years in education.

I also want to acknowledge the remarks he made with respect to the savings that are going to be found by reducing trustees and reducing bureaucracy. He said these savings are going to be a mere pittance when you compare that to the $1 billion this government wants to take out of the education system. We've seen in the Essex county and Windsor area that, as a result of the amalgamation of the boards, the administration isn't going to be reduced. They're planning to keep the same level of administration. They're not finding the savings that this government is purporting they're going to.

Mr Smith: It's a pleasure to comment on the remarks made by the member for Fort York, although I must say, I'm more inclined to reflect on the comments from my colleague from Durham Centre, because I think he provided some very good advice to all members of the Legislature in terms of the issues to which we should be turning our attention with respect to this matter.

The member for Windsor-Riverside says we have not been listening. That simply isn't the case, as I've met with teachers across this province, as the minister has met with teachers. It was made very clear to us on many occasions that they need not have their right to strike removed, that we need not pull vice-principals and principals out of the system, that we need not eliminate their ability to affiliate with whatever federation of choice. We heard that; we responded to that. The minister has clearly indicated that's not a priority in terms of our government objective to bring a quality education system to this province.

To say we're not listening to teachers in this province is simply not acceptable, because it is happening. The minister, on a number of occasions, has invited the input of teachers from all federations to provide us with advice with respect to collective bargaining issues. We seek teacher input on many issues with respect to the technical input we're looking for in terms of the fair funding model, curriculum, all of which has been developed by teacher writing teams across this province. To suggest teachers have not been involved in the reform agenda is not accurate. We continue to invite their participation in what is a very aggressive reform agenda for education in this province.

The Acting Speaker: The member for Fort York has two minutes to respond.

Mr Marchese: I appreciate the comments made by the four members. But I have to comment on the comments by the members for Durham Centre and Middlesex in particular.

The member for Durham Centre talks about how these teachers were so impolite and set such a bad example. It offends me. These people, your friends, are eviscerating the educational system and he expects them to be polite. Can you figure that out? Maybe he wants us to clothe ourselves in antiseptic every time we speak; I don't know. It can't be done when these people are assaulting the educational system the way they are.

He talks about junior kindergarten and fails to understand -- I believe, because I'm not sure what he understands -- that unless the provincial government provides funding, most boards cannot afford to provide junior kindergarten. But this man speaks of choice: boards have a choice to do or not to do. If he understood the value of junior kindergarten, he'd stand up and say, "The provincial governments have a role in funding it," but he doesn't understand, and he talks about our being irrational. I defy this guy on anything I said that might not have been rational; I defy him to quote anything I said that may not have been rational, any part of my 10-minute speech.

To the member for Middlesex who says they are listening, these teachers are ready to strike. The member for Middlesex says they're talking to them. They're ready to strike; they're shut out. He says they are talking to them and involving them -- including the other member for Durham Centre. These people are ready to strike. They're sending you a message that unless they are involved in the educational process, no change can be fruitful. That's what they're telling you.

The Acting Speaker: I just want to remind the Sergeant at Arms that I wanted the galleries kept clear for the rest of the evening. I wanted those who were ejected escorted out of the building.

Further debate? The member for Kitchener.

Mr Gary L. Leadston (Kitchener-Wilmot): Kitchener-Wilmot.

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry, Kitchener-Wilmot.

Mr Leadston: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It's rather nice to hear that rather than "some guy" as referred to by members of the opposition.

I'm grateful for this opportunity to participate in this evening's debate on Bill 160, the Education Quality Improvement Act. I would like to focus my comments on what I believe -- and so many of my constituents have told me -- is the real issue underlying Bill 160 and other reforms in the area of education and training.

That issue is, as the bill so explicitly states, education quality. Everyone agrees that our education system needs to be reformed. Everyone agrees that improvements need to be made to ensure our students obtain the best possible education and the best possible academic and practical preparation that will afford them a sound and secure future.

As I listen to the comments made by the opposition on this proposed legislation, I do not hear from them about improving education quality. We don't hear anything from them about how they would make sure our students are ready to take their place in tomorrow's internationally competitive workforce. We don't hear anything from them by way of constructive recommendations or suggestions on how best to strengthen the focus of our educational system on the client it is designed to serve: the student. Instead what we get from the opposition is simply resistance to needed change.

The opposition likes to get up in the House and criticize the government for not listening to the public. Has the opposition even bothered to listen to the parents with respect to what they think about how well our education system is doing? Have they gone beyond the special interests they are really depending on that have nothing whatsoever to do with the education of our children? The opposition's educational equation is yesterday's formula for mediocrity and failure.

Both parties had their kick at the can, so to speak, when they were in government. Neither of them had the political will to act on what the public, especially parents, told them needed to be done within our educational system. Instead they chose to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing, despite the fact that our students were falling more and more behind students in other jurisdictions in terms of educational achievement.

The opposition thinks Bill 160 is about money. I, for one, understand why they would focus on money. When they were in power, they certainly threw enough of it at their problems that they faced while in government, without solving anything.

Bill 160 is about changing the system. It is about improved quality of education. It is about making our children, the students, the focus of our education system once more. For example, at present, school boards and unions can make agreements to increase class size. Many parents are concerned that large class sizes affect their children's ability to learn. This is entirely a logical conclusion that can be drawn. Right now class sizes are larger than the number of teachers would indicate. In the elementary system there is one teacher for every 17 students, but average class size is 25; in the secondary grades there is one teacher for every 15 students, but average class size is 22.

Bill 160 would for the first time prevent school boards from increasing class size. It is as simple as that. I would suggest to the opposition that when they discuss Bill 160, they should state their specific position on issues such as class size. Parents don't like class sizes. We in government agree with the parents. Why doesn't the opposition? What Bill 160 is proposing to do isn't difficult to understand; it isn't complicated. The opposition obviously is trying to make it much more complicated.

The Education Improvement Commission, for example, believes there is a relationship between the time teachers spend with students in the classroom and increased student achievement; in other words, the more time teachers spend with students, the better students perform. That's not a difficult concept to comprehend.

High school teachers in Ontario currently spend as much as 20% less time with their students than teachers in other jurisdictions. 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 a day. On average, students spend five hours a day in the classroom. Bill 160 would allow the province to set standards for the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom. Instructional time is clearly an issue of educational standards; again not a difficult concept.

At the university level, students are often encouraged to see their teachers and professors as frequently as they need in order to discuss their individual questions. I would like to see that kind of relationship between students and teachers take hold and develop at the pre-university level as well. I am encouraged that Bill 160 will pave the way for that to happen.

Another important issue affecting the quality of education is the amount of --

The Acting Speaker: I'm sorry. I'm going to have to interrupt you some time and I was wondering if this would be a good opportunity.

Mr Leadston: I appreciate the time, Mr Speaker, if it would allow me the opportunity to continue and conclude my remarks at a future time. Should I adjourn the debate?

The Acting Speaker: No, you will continue the next time this bill comes up for discussion.

Mr Leadston: Rather than adjourn the debate, Mr Speaker -- I'm not sure of the appropriate wording -- I'd like the opportunity to continue my remarks at the earliest possible convenience of the House. Thank you.

The Acting Speaker: It being 9:30, this House stands adjourned until 10 am tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 2132.