L060B - Wed 17 May 2000 / Mer 17 mai 2000
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
EDUCATION ACCOUNTABILITY ACT, 2000 / LOI DE 2000 SUR LA RESPONSABILITÉ EN ÉDUCATION
Resuming the debate adjourned on May 16, 2000, on the motion for second reading of Bill 74, An Act to amend the Education Act to increase education quality, to improve the accountability of school boards to students, parents and taxpayers and to enhance students' school experience / Projet de loi 74, Loi modifiant la Loi sur l'éducation pour rehausser la qualité de l'éducation, accroître la responsabilité des conseils scolaires devant les élèves, les parents et les contribuables et enrichir l'expérience scolaire des élèves.
The Deputy Speaker (Mr Bert Johnson): The Chair recognizes the member for Trinity-Spadina.
Mr David Caplan (Don Valley East): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: Not to take time away from the member from Trinity-Spadina, I'd like to know if we have a quorum present to listen to him.
The Deputy Speaker: Would you like me to check and see?
Mr Caplan: Yes. I've requested that you find out if we have a quorum.
The Deputy Speaker: Would you check and see if there's a quorum present, please.
Clerk Assistant (Ms Deborah Deller): A quorum is not present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker ordered the bells rung.
Clerk Assistant: A quorum is now present, Speaker.
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Trinity-Spadina.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): Thank you, Speaker. I appreciate the help because we want as many Tories in this place as we can.
Mr Caplan: You've got to make them listen to this.
Mr Marchese: They've got to listen to what we have to say to the extent that they can. It's a problem, but they've got to listen. Where are you guys going? Oh, quorum is going to be called again. Speaker, they're leaving. Quorum is going to be called again.
Hon Jim Flaherty (Attorney General, minister responsible for native affairs): Oh, say what you've got to say.
Mr Marchese: It's so nice to have the Attorney General here, the Attorney General who wants to say that we've got to keep a list of the decisions judges make in terms of the kinds of decisions they're making and whether or not they're not going to be tough on the-
Hon Frank Klees (Minister without Portfolio): On a point of order, Mr Speaker: We're all anxious to hear about the business before us. I believe it's Bill 74. We look forward to the member actually speaking to the issue that is before the House. I think it would be appropriate, Speaker, if you would direct the member to do so.
The Deputy Speaker: That is a point of order. I'll give the member an opportunity to bring his debate to-
Mr Marchese: I'm going to bring you all back, absolutely, and in short order too. I'm happy to have the member from Oak Ridges here too because it would have been very sad had he become the replacement for Mr Long. It's good to have you here, Mr Klees, from Oak Ridges. I tell you, better here than there.
You know what? Speaking of Mr Tom Long, did you notice the position he's taking these days? He wants to make sure that all teachers get tested across the land.
Hon Mr Flaherty: Oh, my God, what an idea.
Mr Marchese: It's education.
Hon Mr Flaherty: What an idea.
Mr Marchese: Isn't it a great idea, Attorney General?
Hon Mr Flaherty: What a startling idea.
Mr Marchese: Yes. The Attorney General says, "We've already done it." Mr Tom Long is just borrowing an idea and he wants to nationalize it. I'm going to get to that in a short while. There are a few things I want to say. First of all-
Mr Marchese: Speaker, there's some cross-firing going on here. Is that OK with you? Is that all right? OK.
First of all to the Attorney General, I've got to tell you-
The Deputy Speaker: Order.
The Chair recognizes the member for Trinity-Spadina.
Mr Marchese: To bring us back to this place and to Bill 74, the first point I want to make to the Attorney General is that my daughter, Vanessa Marchese, is going to become a teacher, and she wants me to tell him and Mike Harris, the former teacher, that she's not happy with you guys at all.
Mr Marchese: It may come as no surprise to you; I have no doubt about it. God bless her, she still wants to become a teacher in spite of you. But I needed to pass on her feelings, whether you like them or not. That was the first point.
The second point is, to those who are watching, welcome. This is Political Forum. We're on live at the moment, at 5 minutes to 7 on Wednesday night, and we're working-at least some of us are.
I have to tell you, Bill 74 is not about education; it's politics. This has nothing to do with improving the quality of education; this is all to do with politics. By the way, yesterday I made reference to making people feel good, and I don't know where my finger was pointing, but it points to the stomach, right? Just to be clear, because I don't know where the camera sometimes points. This party is here to make people feel good in the stomach; viscerally, in other words. If people out there feel this government is doing something that's good, then God bless, that's all that matters.
Does it lead to anything that will improve the educational system? For Tories, that's irrelevant, absolutely irrelevant. The title speaks to it. I have to tell the public, don't read any bill, just get hold of the title of the bill. That gives you a good sense not of the direction the title ought to be going but rather of the opposite direction.
Mr Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): Who's really getting screwed.
Mr Marchese: The teachers.
So the real politics is polling. Harris has done polling, and the polling reveals that the public out there, a lot of taxpayers, 73% of whom are not parents, feel the teachers are overpaid and underworked. Probably, in the perception of the public, perpetrated by the great professional manipulators called the Conservative Party-but one wonders whether they're the real Alliance party; we think they are-and aided and assisted by them to make the public feel the real culprits out there are the teachers: lazy and incompetent, overpaid and underworked. That is the extent of the leadership of the Conservative Party, to make teachers victims of a certain politics out there that is shared by many people who probably only earn $30,000 or $40,000 or less. Those people out there think: "Geez, I work hard, but I don't think teachers work too hard. So if this government wants to go after them and victimize them, as they're doing, that's OK by me." That's the politics of what we have seen not just with the recent announcement they have made but with the whole historical attack on the educational system from the first day they got into politics.
Mr Kormos: "We need to create a crisis."
Mr Marchese: Ah, you remember Snobelen, the former Minister of Education. He said, "We need to create a crisis." That's why I made reference to Bismarck, who said the same thing and used to get re-elected as Chancellor in the 1880s by creating a crisis, which he masterminded as the professional politician he was and then solved. That's what Snobelen knew. But it's not about solving; it's about creating a crisis, a perceived crisis, a crisis where there is none. These guys are masterful. They're professional manipulators-Snobelen first, followed by other ministers, but really the centre, which is Harris and a few people around him.
Mr Kormos: Unelected people.
Mr Marchese: Always unelected people who feel they have a lot to say.
Mr Kormos: A little cabal.
Mr Marchese: A cabal of friends who have the ideology and purpose and mastery to know how to deceive the public.
Mr Kormos: A sinister cabal.
Mr Marchese: We'll get to these words, because I need them as we go.
They decided initially to go after the boards of education. You'll recall they said: "Too many boards. We need to reduce the number, because they waste so much money. We'll save billions, probably enough to deal with the debt, or at least to deal with the deficit." So when the boards were decimated and reduced, rendering trustees unable to do their jobs, because not only are they now not earning enough to be there full-time or even half-time, but also because the decisions have been taken away from them-they went after the boards and the trustees. I have to tell you, and I'm saddened by it, that initially the teachers said: "That's OK. It's got nothing to do with us. It doesn't affect the schools. If you go after trustees and the boards, that's probably all right."
Then they went after what the Tories called bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a mythical thing, but everybody is against bureaucracy, even though we don't have a clue what we're talking about. But the Tories know. The Tories know what bureaucracy meant, and they perpetrated on the public the sense of this monster called bureaucracy that was just sucking dollars away from education. So they said, "We're going to take money away from this bureaucracy so we can give it back to the teachers." Sadly the public fell for it, and I suspect a lot of teachers did too. They did.
I made mention of the fact that they went after trustees, and trustees have nothing to do with teachers. I suspect a lot of the public said: "Yeah, there's no politics in education. Get rid of the trustees." It's OK for the Tories to do politics with education, but it's not OK for trustees to do any politics with education. So we chop them off and get rid of them, but we still keep enough of their function to be able to use them.
Mr Kormos: But Harris increases his own bureaucracy in the Premier's office.
Mr Marchese: Are you kidding? The bureaucracy in Harris's government-all the ministers-has skyrocketed. When you mention it, they say: "No, we're not. Yours was bigger." OK, yours was bigger. Every time you mention you are spending less, they say: "No, you're not. You New Democrats spent more."
Mr Kormos: We couldn't afford to spend more.
Mr Marchese: Of course. There was a recession. We didn't have any money. But if you leave it to the Tories, they can spin anything. How else do you think Tories got elected for 45 years, except and unless they were the professional manipulators they are? They're good. They're very good.
Mr Kormos: Slick.
Mr Marchese: Slick.
Mr Kormos: Conniving.
Mr Marchese: Conniving.
Mr Kormos: Devious.
Mr Marchese: Devious too?
Mr Kormos: Lying.
Mr Marchese: Oops. That's too far. The Speaker might hear it.
Then, of course, they went to Bill 160. And what did Bill 160 do? It took money, sucked away money, from the boards, the teachers and the classroom, all under the guise of making education better. They said they were creating a quality educational system. You know what? They were even clever enough to invent what was called "classroom" and "non-classroom." Only Tories could do that.
Mr Kormos: Square footage.
Mr Marchese: Square footage, yes, in terms of funding and all that stuff, which meant less money for the boards. But how is the public to understand this stuff? They don't. That's why these guys are good.
So they invent this definition: "Classroom" means teacher and student, and "non-classroom" is everything else. But "non-classroom," in their view, is something apart from teachers and students. Therefore, if we make the cuts, let's say to principals, that's OK. If we cut vice-principals, that must be OK, even though principals are leaders.
Mr Kormos: They're important parts of education.
Mr Marchese: Are you kidding? Principals are a critical part as leaders in that classroom and in that school. But they cut principals, they cut vice-principals, they cut secretaries. Would you say, Mr Kormos, my buddy here, that secretaries are not a critical part of that classroom and of that school?
Mr Kormos: They're part of the whole educational family.
Mr Marchese: An integral part. But to hear Tories: "That's non-classroom. They don't count." So can we chop secretaries? Yes, we can. What about heat and light? We need heat and light to run classrooms, but does that count? Not according to Tories, because that's non-classroom. So can we cut money from that budget? Yes, we can, because it's got nothing to do with teacher and student, and therefore, by definition, we can cut all we want.
Mr Kormos: Well, that's stupid.
Mr Marchese: It's not only stupid; it's criminal.
What about maintenance-caretakers, custodial workers? They keep classrooms clean, don't they? But that's not part of the "classroom" definition. So does that mean we can cut? Yes, according to Tories they can. Do you know how many caretakers have been cut from the public and Catholic systems? In the hundreds. They're talking about rats and mice in lockers and in all the schools now, because there are not enough caretakers to deal with that problem. But it must be OK to have rats and mice in the schools. At least kids will get to know mice and rats a little better and become a little more familiar with those critters. They're not human beings, of course, but they have a right to live and, good God, what's wrong with them roaming around in the schools and living in lockers? Attorney General, it must be OK, eh? But you don't have to worry about that. That's not your portfolio. But honest to God, fewer caretakers now means that schools are not being cleaned and more rats and more mice. I don't know; I think you've got to be stupid and deeply daft to come to those kinds of decisions. But that's what they did. They defined classroom and non-classroom funding.
What about adult education? Does that count? Do you mean child care as part of that continuum of education from the early years to elementary, high school and then continuing education and adult education so people can adapt better to this new society? I think that continuum is a critical part of education, but that falls under non-classroom funding. So can we cut in that area? Yes, we can, because that's got nothing to do with teachers and students. What about busing? Busing has nothing to do with education, because it's got nothing to do with teachers and students. So we can cut that budget, can't we? Sure we can.
I mentioned daycare, didn't I? Daycare is not really an essential part of schools. I mean, good God, why should schools run daycares? Should they be funded as part of the funding formula? Let's see: It doesn't fall under the definition of "classroom," does it? So we can cut there too. We kept the funding for the "classroom" definition funding, and so the Tories, through Madam Ecker and the Premier, can say, "We maintained and even increased funding for the classroom." But what about that non-classroom thing that doesn't connect to it? "Oh, my God. Really, we cut possibly $1 billion or so from that? You've got to be kidding." Well, that's what they did. But to listen to Madam Ecker, she says to the opposition mockingly, and in particular to the Liberal critic: "No, we didn't. Liberal critic, where did you get those figures from? Our figures show we've increased funding. Surely you must be inventing yours." She said that.
Mr Kormos: You do a great Ecker.
Mr Marchese: I want to imitate to the extent I possibly can without offending-that's my point. We say there have been cuts, and she says: "No, there aren't. The opposition must be simply inventing these figures, because they like to be mythological." It is so tiring to be in this place. Poor teachers.
So they attacked boards of education by amalgamating. They attacked trustees. They attacked the school boards through Bill 160, where they centralized funding. Then they went after teachers. Where else? You've got to go after teachers now, right?
Mr Kormos: Easy pickings.
Mr Marchese: Easy pickings indeed. You find your victim, like they did with welfare, you'll recall. Welfare was good. They said, "Our polling reveals that the public hates welfare recipients."
Mr Kormos: So what does this government do?
Mr Marchese: They attacked welfare recipients, and then they went on the hunt for another victim.
Mr Kormos: They cut them by 22%.
Mr Marchese: Cut by 22%. And now, mon ami, mon cher, they go to the teachers, because they're easy pickings and because they can be victims if polling reveals they can be victimized. Their polling shows they can go after teachers, and that is what they've done. So Harris centralized power to remove teachers. They have stigmatized them. They have cut school resources. By the way, don't listen to me. Go to the schools yourselves, some of you who are not parents, and ask the parents what is going on. If you would like to ask the teachers what is going on in the schools, they'll tell you. Resources have been diminished. Parents are fundraising in their schools to raise money for essential things like textbooks, like computers even. They're fundraising for essential stuff-unheard of before in a good economy. Imagine what would have happened in a bad economy. In a good economy, parents are fundraising now more than ever. Teachers are putting in money out of their own pockets to make ends meet in their classrooms. But to hear this government, my God, money is flowing to the schools like water from the mountain.
Whatever happened to that slogan the Tories have worked on, "lower taxes and smaller government"? I'll tell you what happened to it-and it works. Their ideology of lower taxes and smaller government inspires the Reformers out there. Every time they hear "lower taxes and smaller government," the Reformers out there say: "God bless. Rejoice. We've done it." What have lower taxes meant? Yes, provincial taxes are lower, but at what cost? A huge debt that has been increasing. They don't have the money to pay down the debt because it's been going to cut taxes to the big banker boys, their buddies.
Mr Kormos: It's over $20 billion.
Mr Marchese: It's gone up $20 billion because of the income tax cuts, $5 billion, most of which has gone to the wealthy ones. They don't have money to reduce the debt. We've had, as a result of all of these lower taxes, higher municipal levies that people are paying and reduced services because the municipalities don't have the money they expected from this Conservative government in a good economy. What do we have? We have a deteriorating health system in which people are crying out for better services. In a good economy they expect more money and yet they get less. That's the result of the lower taxes.
Then there is "smaller government." Smaller government for whom? There is less government for businessmen and women. There is less government for the corporate sector. There is less government for the gun owners, by and large. But we have more government, centralized governments to go after the poor. We have more government and more administration and more paperwork for the municipal politicians. We have more government for trustees, which I will get to in a short second. We have more government for teachers, more government for students, high schools and universities; more government for the poor squeegee kids who were trying to eke out a living just cleaning windows. We have more government for labour because we've got to control labour. I guess they're bad in some way or other. More government for judges. The Attorney General is about to support a motion by one of the backbenchers that says we've got to make sure the decisions judges make are reported so we know how tough they are on crime, one of the stupidest things any one of these members could have proposed, including the Attorney General, who supports it, and that is being attacked viciously by the legal profession generally and the general public for being a dumb idea.
I don't know, they go after any group that gets in the way of this government. Any time some group out there gets in the way of government, we have more government, not less government. But we have less government for business, not more. Everybody else gets the shaft, and what does business get? They get five billion bucks in tax cuts. I've got to tell you, in a good economy where the big businesses don't need them, they give away five billion bucks-of my money and the good citizens of Ontario, the good taxpayers. They give it away. They say, "We insist, you big corporations, that you take the taxpayers' money." Wacko political stuff.
Then they say not only that they're going to give the $1-billion boondoggle-I'll repeat, Speaker, for your benefit: the $1-billion boondoggle, and I'll explain. It is that every individual taxpayer gets $200 back. Why? Because the Attorney General and the others say: "Oh, but it's their money. They should. They're entitled to 200 bucks." The taxpayer of Ontario says, "If you're going to give me 200 bucks, I'd rather you pay down the debt." That's what their taxpayers are saying. Their taxpayers are calling this the $1-billion boondoggle. They're giving away billions of my money and the taxpayers' money to the corporate sector that isn't even asking for it.
Mr Kormos: Their profits went up by 22% last year.
Mr Marchese: Profits went up 22% last year and yet these guys, these Tories, the new Alliance, is going to give billions of dollars away to the corporate sector. I guess they need it in a good economy.
You know what? They're so proud of Bill 74 that I hear tell their deputy leader might, through his graciousness, offer us a one-day hearing on it. So proud they are of this bill that through their magnanimity they might offer the opposition, the teachers and the parents one day of hearings, I hear tell. Can you believe it?
Mr Marchese: You remember, Shelley and Peter, New Democrats used to go out on the road four weeks at a time on every bill. Four weeks at a time because we thought we should be consulting with the public. What do these people do, this new Alliance party on the other side? They are so kind that they have decided on a number of bills to give one day. On the Parental Responsibility Act, their crown jewel, the Attorney General gives us two afternoons where we have to hear him for an hour and then we've got an hour left for someone to come and give us an opinion or other on something major that they're proud of.
There's no room for debate in this place. There's no room for consultation. We don't want to hear from the public because these guys are so right in what they're doing.
Mr Kormos: You don't really mean one day. You mean one afternoon.
Mr Marchese: I think I heard one day.
Mr Kormos: That means one afternoon.
Mr Marchese: Oh no, I think you're right, an afternoon meaning a couple of hours, and if we are so lucky, we might even get the Minister of Education to come and give us one hour of her time because we need to hear from her and then-
Mr Kormos: And she'll insist.
Mr Marchese: She might insist. Then we'll have one hour left for the general public to come and say yea or nay to it, I guess. You've got to love these people. They are professional manipulators.
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for francophone affairs): Oh, come on.
Mr Marchese: They are.
Hon Mr Baird: Who wrote this?
Mr Marchese: I told you guys, you guys are so good. I already mentioned how good you guys are.
Let me go on to some other theme. Do you remember I just mentioned Tom Long?
Mr Kormos: Who's he?
Mr Marchese: They credit him with having Mike Harris win a couple of elections.
Mr Kormos: He's a backroom boy, isn't he?
Mr Marchese: I don't know that any one individual could take credit for that, but Tom Long evidently is a pretty powerful guy. Do you know what he's proposing these days? That we have national testing for teachers. He says, "If Mike Harris could have such popularity now with the general public, I, as the potential leader, am going to suggest that we test all teachers, not just in Ontario but across the land." Brilliant, eh? He's good. Tom Long is so good at this bullshit-I mean this kind of-
Mr Marchese: I stopped myself-
The Deputy Speaker: I didn't hear you withdraw that.
Mr Marchese: I was about to. I almost stopped myself.
The Deputy Speaker: I'm waiting for you to.
Mr Marchese: Thank you, Speaker.
Listen to me. I've got to tell you a story on this teacher-testing stuff. Prior to the election, the Tories announced that they were going to test every teacher. The point I want to make is that the effect of that statement had already been achieved; what they wanted to achieve was already achieved a year ago. When they announced they were going to test teachers, they needn't have done any more. They don't even have to mention it, they don't even have to talk about it again, because the public believes you've already done it. You don't have to do anything any more. The minister is in the happy position of being able to say simultaneously-a difficult feat-"Yes, we are testing teachers" to those who agree, and, as she's said a few times, "No, we're not testing teachers" to those who disagree. Simultaneously she is able to do that. That takes skill. That's why I call them professional manipulators. It takes skill to be able to hold two positions at once. I can't do that and I've been around this place for a while. But imagine what these guys can do. Good God, they're almost semi-divine, with that kind of politics.
So there you go. When the critic, Mr Kennedy, said, "You're not testing any more," which is not an approach I would have taken, the minister replied, saying, "Oh, no, Mr Kennedy, you didn't read the bill," presumably to say, "We're not testing teachers." And to the electorate outside who say, "Right on, Minister; I hope you're testing teachers," she says, "Yes, right on; this is a hallmark of our bill." She's good; you've got to admit it. So there you go.
Mr Marchese: Well, sure it's exhausting.
Mr Marchese: Please, I've got so much to say. Speaker, please calm them down. Come on, help me out.
The Ontario College of Teachers, which has already certified courses the teachers should take to be able to upgrade their teaching skills-and by the way, 70% of teachers do take courses, but don't that interrupt the course of your political direction, right? So 70% of teachers already taking courses? Don't tell anybody. So the Ontario College of Teachers is doing that, and already they have the power to fire incompetent teachers in the event the boards don't do it, but please don't tell anybody that either. You wouldn't want them to know that such practices already exist, because what you've got to tell the public is: "We're fixing the problem. There's a crisis out there. Me, Mike Harris, I'm good, I'm a former teacher and I know what I'm doing. We've got to fix the system. There's a problem-gotta fix it." You're saying: "There are institutions dealing with this issue. Don't concern yourself with the little matters. I, Mike Harris, know what I'm doing and we're fixing the problem."
Madame Ecker, thank you for joining me. You guys are good, the women too; guys and women, you're good, the best I've ever seen.
Hon Janet Ecker (Minister of Education): I had to come in and listen to the show.
Mr Marchese: I enjoy having you here. It's my pleasure. It is.
Hon Mrs Ecker: It's my pleasure too.
Mr Marchese: No, no, it's mine, honestly-you and the Attorney General together, and Mr Snobelen. Ah, you're here. You remember, the one with, "We've got to invent a crisis"?
The Deputy Speaker: Order. I can't have these conversations going on. I would ask the person who's in debate to address his comments to the Chair, and I expect any of those others who feel they have something to yell out to get outside and say it.
Mr Marchese: Then there's the code of conduct. Don't tell the public, by the way, that we had a code of behaviour since 1994. Don't tell the public that, John, Minister of Community and Social Services, because they don't need to know that.
The Deputy Speaker: No, I'd like you to address those to me, please.
Mr Marchese: Always to you, Speaker.
So here we are, code of conduct versus code of behaviour. The code of behaviour was a more-dare I say-comprehensive and intelligent piece. Don't you bother yourself with that minutiae, but the code of behaviour was more intelligent, more comprehensive. It dealt even-dare I say again-with suspensions. But you can't tell the public that. You cannot tell the public that because you Tories are coming up tomorrow with an announcement on the code of behaviour which you announced a couple of weeks ago, which you announced for the last couple of years, which you will announce again tomorrow. The code of conduct is going to fix the miscreants out there. They're going to fix the miscreants once and for all. How do we do that? It's called the code of conduct.
What is the bill going to do? Don't you bother yourselves with the details about what it's going to do. You let Mme Ecker worry about that because she's got the time and the resources and the professional manipulation to be able to deal with that very cleverly. Don't you worry your little heads about that. We've got the time and the resources to fix it. All we want you good public, good taxpayers, to know is, are we making you feel good viscerally here? Do you think we're doing the right thing? Please don't bother thinking about it, just right here, viscerally-am I focusing right into the camera?
Mr Kormos: In the gut.
Mr Marchese: In the gut.
Hon Mrs Ecker: Be careful. You might be censored.
Mr Marchese: I know. That's why I'm pointing up here. Right?
Hon Mrs Ecker: You're not Michael Jackson.
Mr Marchese: That's all they want to know. "Is the public feeling good with us, and if it is, don't you worry about the consequences, having to fix another bill like the Municipal Act," which we had to fix eight times because of the idiocy and incompetency of this government. Oh, a political announcement today: "Do we worry about whether the bill is good or bad, whether we've got the language in? Don't you worry about that because we Tories will fix it again. How do we fix it? We'll introduce another bill." Attorney General, you should go and take a break. You need a rest because your bill is going to come up soon, that's for sure.
Mr Kormos: His number is up.
Mr Marchese: Your number is coming too. We've got a number of people talking about how you deal with kids who bully in the schools, who misbehave and who are bad kids, right? One of the professionals, Dr Paul Steinhauer, said, "What those kids will probably need"-see you later, Attorney General. "What these kids need is a good relationship with a teacher to help them control their tempers and learn to function well and not just be kicked out."
Hon Mr Flaherty: See you later, Munchkin.
Mr Marchese: See you later. Good, Attorney General. You're doing a great job. I hope the lawyers love-
Mr Kormos: That's the pot calling the kettle black. Hey, what's going on here?
Mr Marchese: I'm worried about him because all the lawyers are going after him like a wet blanket. I've got to tell you, if I were he, I would be skulking away as best I could.
Mr Kormos: He just did.
Mr Marchese: He just did. OK, I've got much more to say.
Hon Mrs Ecker: Oh, you're going to talk about the bill, finally.
Mr Marchese: Oh no, Mme Ecker is here to join me. Madame Ecker, there are a couple of points in here. One of them is-
Hon Mrs Ecker: I'm listening.
Mr Marchese: Yes. One of them is instructional time. What have we said here on this side? What are the politics of instructional time? The public, through the polling, believes they're underworked. How is this minister going to save a couple of bucks?
Hon Mrs Ecker: They think they work very hard.
Mr Marchese: Oh, yes. The minister says, "I think they work very hard," as she professionally canes them to death, right? She canes them at every turn and at the same time has that wonderful sincerity: "We love teachers. No, we think they do a marvellous job. They work so hard, but we cane them so viciously with these kinds of bills. On instructional time, they don't work hard enough, the public thinks. Well, we're going to get them to teach some more. We're going to get them to teach longer."
What if the teachers are exhausted day in and day out teaching so many students, including teaching yet another classroom, because this minister says we can save 2,000 teachers by getting them to teach more?
Hon Mrs Ecker: There are going to be more teachers.
Mr Marchese: Oh, there are going to be more teachers. The minister should have joined in before when I had so much more time to engage her in this discussion.
She fires them and then hires them and says, "Oh, by the way, we're hiring a couple of hundred more teachers to the profession," like in special ed. Do you remember special ed, where she fired-there were so many special-ed needs, $140 million worth of special-ed needs in our boards, and the minister said: "We don't have such a problem. We're delivering according to what the boards are telling us." Right? Then all of a sudden she made an announcement of $40 million a couple of months ago.
I say to myself, how is that possible? She just said there was no problem and all of a sudden she announces $40 million, and in the next budget, admitting over and over again in response to the critics that there's a problem, she says, "Oh, I've got another $100 million." She denies it all along and then announces $140 million. You take money out of the system and you put more money back in. Brilliant professional, political manipulators, aren't they?
On the volunteer stuff, 99% of teachers volunteer to do extracurricular. This person here says: "We're going to have to make it obligatory. Some teachers in my area in Durham are not doing extracurricular, so I'm unhappy with that. In order to fix the 1% problem, we've got to make the extracurricular activities mandatory."
Can you believe it, Speaker? Look at me. I don't believe it. I've got to tell you, these people are nuts. Do you think that all of a sudden teachers are going to volunteer to do work that now is mandatory? They're going to say: "Make me do it. Oh, I love to do football." Do you think that person is going to volunteer to do football again? "Make me do it." "Oh, we're going to fire you otherwise." The poor principals who have to enforce this kind of stuff are leaving by the thousands. So many are new. They don't have the resources or the wherewithal to deal with this kind of problem, and they are stuck with yet another crisis that Mr John Snobelen started a couple of years ago.
I tell you, the profession is tired. The profession is maltreated. The teachers are so discouraged about doing what they're doing that they don't quite know how to do their job like they used to be able to do it. I am worried for the profession.
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. Comments and questions?
Hon Mr Baird: I have to commend my friend from Toronto. He's really outdone himself tonight in this speech. Speaker, I don't know if you noticed that before he got up to speak, he had to move his chair beside him because he needed a stage. It's all a big act.
Mr Marchese: That's so unfair.
Hon Mr Baird: It really is.
The member opposite seemed to take a view of education policy of, "Don't worry, be happy." "Everything's fine," he says, "Don't worry. Don't change it. Everything is fine." He gets up and he speaks to the code of conduct: "No, it's fine. There's a code of behaviour. Everything's fine." When you see the parents out there who are worried about violence in our schools, when you talk to teachers who are concerned about intimidation from students, what does the member for Fort York say? "Everything's fine. Don't worry."
We hear him talk about teacher testing. Again, "Everything's fine. Don't worry." We hear him talk about teacher time, "Just leave it alone." Mr Status Quo. He talks about extracurricular activities and mentions our colleague from Durham, the Minister of Education, and he says: "Well, it's 1% of people. It's only affecting 1% of students, so don't worry about it." He's like an insurance adjuster. He wants to write these students off. I'll tell you, the Minister of Education doesn't want to leave anyone behind. She's heard the voices and she's concerned, as she should be. In my board, teachers' unions went on work to rule three times in the course of one student's history. They didn't get any extra help, any extracurricular activities. If the member for Fort York had his way, "Don't worry, be happy." I don't agree.
I don't think the member opposite really has that many problems with this bill. I know that because it took him 57 minutes of his speech before he got to the bill, which suggests to me that perhaps it's not that bad, that perhaps he's quietly really not that concerned with the new direction and the changes in this bill.
Mrs Claudette Boyer (Ottawa-Vanier): I just want to say how true it is what the member from Trinity-Spadina said. Yes, this government is really trying again to create a crisis in education. Why? Pourquoi ? Oui, j'y crois. J'étais là quand on a essayé de créer la dernière crise en éducation, et on n'en est pas sorti encore, et encore on nous arrive avec une loi matraque. Ce projet de loi donne l'authorité au direction d'école d'obliger les enseignantes et les enseignants à organiser des activités parascolaires.
The Minister of Education said in introducing her bill-her famous bill, I should say-that extracurricular activities will now be part of the teachers' job description and that these same teachers would face penalties up to-I don't know how much-and could even be fired for refusing after-hours work. It's incredible.
Dois-je vous rappeler encore une fois, madame la Ministre, que nos enseignants et nos enseignantes sont des professionnels ? We really don't need legislation to force them into extracurricular activities. Voluntary work has always existed. They have always organized their time to go along with these activities, and always on the same voluntary basis and very willingly. Extracurricular activities are great for teachers. Let me tell you, don't force this on them. Pourquoi vouloir risquer encore une fois de provoquer d'inutiles confrontations ?
Ms Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I want to commend my colleague from Trinity-Spadina, because again this evening he was his usual witty, charming and engaging self, and he had so much to say that it's hard to make a two-minute response. So I'll only focus on the comments he made with respect to instruction time and the changes the government wants to now impose to make it clearer how long teachers have to teach.
Previously, the government had made some changes that would have forced teachers to teach seven out of eight, and a number of boards, to their credit, recognized that would have meant the loss of teachers and bigger classes, so, fewer teachers teaching bigger classes. A number of them came to an arrangement with a number of their teachers which would have allowed for remedial time to be counted. You would think that would have been something the government would be happy about, that a teacher would be in the classroom, in a position to provide special additional help to a student or group of students. I think most parents would have appreciated that too. So the Thames board, the Rainy River board, the Toronto board, for example, looked at using that as instructional time: remedial time, a teacher in the classroom giving special assistance to students, one on one or to a small number. That was a good thing to do.
This government doesn't like that, so this government has now changed the legislation to make it clear that teachers have to teach-what?-6.67 eligible courses. This means, of course, any effort to have a period set aside to do remedial work is gone.
This is all about getting rid of teachers. It's interesting that the chair of the Rainbow District School Board in Sudbury said the same thing. This is from the Sudbury Star of May 16:
"Although the new legislation has been billed as a way to get teachers to spend more time in the classroom, board trustee Doreen Dewar said that is not its true intention.
"`This legislation will mean that we will need fewer teachers,' said Dewar, who confirmed that close to 50 teachers will be laid off because of the legislation. `The government hasn't been honest. They call it more time in the classroom, but it is really a big money-saving measure.'"
The Deputy Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Northumberland.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): Thank you very much, Speaker, for the opportunity for a couple of minutes' response to the member for Trinity-Spadina. The member was certainly up to his usual performance. On entertainment, it was just absolutely excellent. On theatrics I give him an A+. On emotionalism I give him an A+. On body language I give him an A+. But unfortunately, on content he would get an F-, because there was really negligible content in that presentation. But from an entertainment point of view he was up to his usual standards; it was truly very entertaining.
He did make on occasion some reference to teacher testing and the code of conduct. I thought the member for Nepean-Carleton pointed out very well that everything's rosy, everything's wonderful, everything's just fine; don't worry, just truck along-the NDP approach. We did that for five years with them, and you can see what happened, how we deteriorated and how things slipped behind-not to mention the five years before that which weren't any better. So really it ended up as the 10 lost years.
What the member for Trinity-Spadina really doesn't understand is the importance, as teachers and unions were telling us, of the non-instructional time that is spent in the schools. They were stressing all this effort that was put in and how important it was. They really stressed that back at the time of the difficulties over Bill 160, which they disagreed with, but that's when they were telling us about how important that is to the time the students have at school, that that is all part of their educational experience, and then we have the unions advising teachers not to do it. Teachers end up in tears wanting to do extracurricular activities and are not being allowed to by the unions. That's really what's unfortunate. We have teachers in some boards who can and some who can't.
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. The member for Trinity-Spadina has two minutes to respond.
Mr Marchese: Bill 74 devastates the education system. On instructional time, it forces teachers to teach more, which means 2,000 fewer teachers. With those savings, this minister is going to announce more teachers in the classroom.
On volunteer work, it's now mandatory. People used to do it because of their passion and love and now these professional political manipulators are saying they've got to do it whether they like it or not. It's going to kill it.
On compliance, it now forces boards to enforce compliance on curriculum, co-instructional activities, class size, instructional time, violations of the funding formula envelopes, and the list goes on and on.
I've got to tell you, I think we have wonderfully dedicated and intelligent teachers who go beyond the call of duty struggling with the new curriculum for which they get very little assistance, photocopy lessons for kids who don't have textbooks, fundraising along with parents and school councils for money they don't get any more, trying to maintain the quality of education in the face of your relentless cuts.
You're destroying the education system. Your constant cuts remove any hope of providing quality education. On a daily basis we hear of dirty classrooms, schools with fewer maintenance workers and secretaries, schools sharing principals, special education students being sent home, principals being shared between schools, long bus rides on dangerous winter roads, a school system threatened once again with instability, and on and on. It's so sickening.
This government leads by stealth. They don't have the courage to do what the Nova Scotia government did: They fired 870 teachers. At least they had the guts to say, "You're gone," and to give the public an opportunity to respond. These people do it by stealth, clandestinely. That's the way they do politics in this province. All I can hope for is that parents and non-parents alike and teachers will fight back against the devastation that has been caused to them as students, teachers and parents and as-
The Deputy Speaker: The member's time has expired. Further debate?
Mr Galt: I will be sharing my 20 minutes with the member for London-Fanshawe. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to address Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act. This is really a bill about overhauling the education system, and about improving the quality of education and ensuring there is consistency in the level of education that's delivered across Ontario. Unfortunately, for the last 10 years, because of the system and because of the unions, the quality of education has deteriorated tremendously in this province and that's unfortunate.
Certainly we did not shy away from correcting those problems and bringing education up to the quality standard that we believe our students in the province of Ontario should have. Students are number one and should be put forward as the most important resource we have.
This is about consistency and quality of education and improving that quality of education. We're not, as a government, about to sit back on our laurels and just let it ride along, as maybe the boards or the member for Trinity-Spadina are happy with.
We're really about improving the quality of education here in Ontario. To get there we have been consulting extensively with parents. We've gone for, I'd suggest, maybe close to 30 years without truly consulting with parents. It's been, "Oh, yes, the unions know best," and, "Oh, yes, the boards of education know what's right for our young people." When I was on a school board back in the late 1970s for two terms, at that time the parents were pleading for the quality of education they expected. It wasn't happening, and there was just no response. The system was not responsive to their concerns.
What they were saying was that the education system needed some direction. Sooner or later, whether the education system likes it or not, the parents will be heard and will be responded to. Unfortunately, with what's been going on for some time, parents have not had that opportunity to truly be heard. Now they certainly are.
I think it's a good step to look at the co-instructional activities that go on in the schools. Yes, they are very important. There's more to education than just sitting in academic classrooms. That of course is very important but there are other aspects of education, and as I mentioned in a two-minute response a few minutes ago, this was stressed to us by the unions and by teachers just a couple of years ago. Then, lo and behold, now we have unions that are advising teachers not to do it in some of the boards, and it's just not right when we have that kind of thing going on. It's just not right that unions should be advising teachers not to help our young people.
This bill will require that boards meet certain standards that we set some two years ago. Unfortunately, they have been able to find some loopholes that were not the intent of the bill. One of them was to ensure that in the secondary panel teachers would teach, would have instructional time for at least four hours and 10 minutes per day or 1,250 minutes per week. This bill will ensure that the boards will meet the legal and the educational and also the financial responsibilities that are expected of them by their provincial government. It will also give the minister some extra powers, so that if the students are not being put first and if quality education is not being delivered out there, the minister will have some ability to step in and ensure that happens. I believe that is truly the right direction to be going in.
There's been a lot of concern about teacher testing. I was recently on a radio phone-in show, CJBQ in Belleville, last Friday. I thought it was rather interesting that out of the 16 callers who called in at least half of them congratulated our government on the direction we were going in. You might almost think I'd set these calls up, but I hadn't. Then the ones who were concerned were very mild in expressing their concerns. I thought it was interesting, the number of retired teachers who phoned in and agreed with the direction we're going in in education. I suppose we didn't get many active teachers calling in because the program was during the regular school day.
Teacher testing will ensure the highest-quality education in Canada, North America and maybe even internationally. If we don't have our young people ready to compete worldwide, Ontario just isn't going to be able to compete; they have to have that quality of education. As a parent, I think we all know the effect a teacher can have on our young people. We reflect back on our experiences when we went to school, the effect a teacher can have. There's nothing like an excellent teacher in a classroom. A very large percentage of our teachers are excellent, contributing tremendously to our young people in Ontario.
We're also concerned about the kind of training and upgrading. Large numbers of teachers do get this training and upgrading, but it isn't as consistent, as effective and as rigorous as it might be for all the teachers. This will ensure that all teachers are being upgraded and are consistent in their ability to teach.
In developing this, we've also worked co-operatively with the College of Teachers, with parents, teachers and students, to develop this testing program. It is arriving at an appropriate balance. There are three very important components here. One is that teachers must be recertified at least every five years. I think of MPPs: We have to be recertified, usually every four years but certainly within a five-year period; if there's a minority government, it may come even more often than that. Many other organizations similarly have this responsibility to go through some written tests and complete some assignments.
Also, to write qualifying tests once they graduate from university-that's not that different from what lawyers have to do, what accountants have to do, what many other professions, including my own, have to go through. That assures us, as the public, that there is quality there, whether they step into the courtroom as a lawyer, whether they're doing your income tax as an accountant, or in the case of a teacher, when you leave your young people off at school you know that those teachers understand the curriculum and have the teaching skills and teaching methods that are necessary.
The bill also incorporates standards on which principals and school boards will evaluate teachers, that they are effective and consistent. I see these as very important aspects of this bill.
The government is very dedicated to the improvement of education, to ensuring that there be quality education. That's part of the reason we brought in standardized testing. Remember the protests at the time we brought it in, particularly from the teachers' unions. I hear teachers regularly comment how important those standardized tests are and what they've really accomplished for education. Again we heard a lot of protests about standardized curriculum. I hear from teachers, "It's one of the best things that ever happened to education in Ontario."
Then we brought in the funding formula to ensure that palaces are not developed for board headquarters. This happened in my board. It's a funding formula to ensure that it's student-focused and that the money flows into the classroom. Then, of course, to even it out and make sure it's equitable, there are other grants for special education, transportation, English as a second language, and on the list goes. At least there's a consistent amount for teaching and the classroom.
More recently we've added $190 million. That was announced back in March. Several other dollars were added more recently in the budget, with the budget for education moving to $13.4 billion this year. In my area, the separate board was up 7.7% last year, with enrolment up only 2.2%, and then for the coming year it was up 4.9%, with enrolment up 2.2%. The board I have a little bit of in the Quinte West area is going up next year by 2.4% and enrolment is dropping by 1.1%. That's certainly indicative of the support this government has for education. I, for one, enthusiastically support Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act.
I now turn my time over to the member from London-Fanshawe.
Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): It's my pleasure to speak on Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act. Just before I start it's important to acknowledge that as a government we're accountable to taxpayers and that we're accountable to the parents of the children who attend our schools across the province, to make sure these kids have a proper education at the end of their learning years. One thing that it is also important to recognize is that the teachers' union bosses, in fairness to them, are not accountable to those parents and they're not accountable to the children; they're accountable only to the people who pay their union dues. Their role is to work on labour issues. It's not to improve education. It's not to make sure that class sizes go down. It's to ensure that teachers teach less time and have more time off. That's what they're paid to do. Our job is not to do that.
I want to go back to budget 2000. Let's look at the clear intent of the Education Accountability Act. It's to make education a quality thing in Ontario. That is the intent of the act. If you go to budget 2000 and you go to our component on investing in children and youth, we're launching a $30-million early years challenge fund. There is $70 million annually to improve the reading skills of students from junior kindergarten to grade 3. Who could oppose that? There is $101 million annually to reduce average class sizes in junior kindergarten to grade 3. Again, who could oppose that?
The increase in special education funding will be $140 million for the next school year: $4 million to train and to assess, test and identify young francophone students with learning disabilities; extended funding for medical requirements for special-needs students to include students in denominational schools. Again, some of the denominational schools in the past have been shut out from very important services, such as speech pathology and audiology, that regularly are available through the Ministry of Health at all of our publicly funded schools but was not available in those schools. Certainly I've received many calls praising our government for extending those very important services to denominational schools.
There's an increase in child care support benefits of up to $210 per year for each child under seven in low-income, single-parent families as part of a $100-million challenge fund to the federal government. Again, we continually hear from that side of the House that somehow tax cuts benefit the high end. All of the tax cuts this government has come up with benefit the vast majority of low- and middle-income families.
From the other side we continually hear how things are so bad in the province of Ontario. Well, I can remember when they were so bad. In 1995, when this government took over, things were very bad, not only in one system or another, but you had a province that was on the verge of bankruptcy-an almost $12-billion deficit. Everyone had lost total faith in not only the province being able to deliver education but also health care and all of the other important services that we should provide as a government. None of this was being done.
What had to be done? There had to be a drastic change in plans, because obviously for 10 years taxes had continually gone up. What was the end result? Services decreased.
Taxes were cut enormously in Ontario, and that has created 703,000 new jobs to date, and 500,000 people have left the welfare rolls.
Let me just say for people who have left the welfare rolls, these people had not gone on welfare through any fault of their own. They had gone on welfare because two governments had increased taxes to the point where they drove all industry away so that people, through no fault of their own, had no hope in this province. Well, that has certainly changed today, and people who had never intended to collect welfare, ever, have been allowed the opportunity to get a job, which should not be an opportunity, it should be a right in a prosperous province like ours.
I want to focus a little bit on the federal government, because certainly Ontario has not been receiving its fair share on many fronts. If you start with health care, with our growing and aging population, the budget for health care is going up over $22 billion. The federal Liberals contribute about 10% of that-10% from a government that continually takes tax dollars out of Ontario. Ontario citizens certainly are being treated, I would say, as second-class citizens.
But that's not the only area. If you look at things like infrastructure and the gas taxes that are being collected off the roads in Ontario-and continually we hear members from the Liberals complaining about conditions on the 401. Let me tell you, they barely spent $500 million when they were in government on road infrastructure; today we're spending $1 billion. Is that enough? Likely not. In the state of Texas, they spend $3 billion a year, but that's because their federal government redirects 98% of the federal gas tax back to the state. Do you know what we get in Ontario? Not even 20%. Yet continually we hear Liberals say: "Why don't you do something about the 401? Why don't you make it six lanes? Why don't you make it eight lanes? Why don't you put ramps here and there?" Well, we will, if the federal government will ever give us back some of these gas taxes that they completely suck out of Ontario. What do they do with them? They don't spend those gas taxes on health care, not in the province of Ontario.
I'll tell you what they do with it-$3 billion in HRDC grants, and where do they spend that? Not in Alberta and not anywhere else. Most of it is spent in the Prime Minister's riding.
Again, I certainly think things on the federal front are changing. The Canadian Alliance has taken a rather interesting approach on the leadership.
Mr Mazzilli: The members across are yelling "Tom Long."
Tom Long is a person of integrity and vision, and is probably worth considering in leadership. He's definitely worth considering. I feel he will come up with a plan that restores integrity to government, not what the federal Liberals have done. Where are the priorities of the federal Liberals? There are none. We need priorities back in the federal government. Those priorities should be health care, they should be education and they should be infrastructure.
Finally, I want to talk about the Young Offenders Act. Continually, people in my riding and many other ridings call and talk about the Young Offenders Act. The Young Offenders Act in its present form was likely well-intended for a young person who committed, let's say, a minor crime and probably was treated in a fairly light manner. I don't think the act was ever intended to treat young offenders who commit violent crimes on an ongoing basis in the soft manner it does. This message has been communicated to the federal Liberals, and still no action. So I intend to voice my objection to the federal Liberals' not listening on many fronts through the federal election, on things like health care, education and when it comes to safe communities.
The Acting Speaker (Mr Tony Martin): Questions and comments?
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): Speaker, you have just come into the chair, but I would remind you that the member for Northumberland spoke about teacher testing, which is not part of this bill, and the member for London-Fanshawe just ranted on about health care and Highway 401. So I should be able to take the next minute and 38 seconds to tell you how concerned I am about the lack of leadership on that side of the House on the strike on Pelee Island.
They have a school on Pelee Island, and they have students on the island who attend high school on the mainland. Transportation is imperative to them, as well as to the businesses on the island, the farmers on the island, the residents on the island and the visitors to the island. Tourism dollars are being lost by the tens of thousands, mainly because there's absolutely no leadership on that side of the House, in the government, to help settle a strike.
You'd understand this, Speaker: The only thing on the table right now are wages, and they're 1.5% apart. Yet this government, with all its money, with all this money rolling in-
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): For advertising
Mr Crozier: They spend millions on advertising, as the member for St Catharines says, and they don't have 1.5% a year to help settle the strike on Pelee Island. What it boils down to is an absolute lack of intestinal fortitude, an absolute lack of leadership. The Minister of Agriculture is here. The Minister of Transportation should be here to listen, because you talk about 401 all the time. I think the people on Pelee Island deserve your support, and you'd do well to talk about Pelee Island.
Ms Martel: Mr Speaker, before you came, you missed the comments by the member from Galt, who basically said that the reason the government was moving to make extracurricular activities mandatory in this bill was because unions were advising teachers not to help young people. What a crock. This same government has said on numerous occasions, the Premier included, that 99% of the teachers across this province are providing extracurricular activities.
The only place where we have a problem is in Durham, in the minister's own backyard, and we all know the reasons for that. It probably is, more than anything else, because the teachers in that area are teaching extra, more than any of the teachers in the surrounding areas. Forcing people to do what they are now already doing voluntarily is not going to lead to good relations amongst boards or teachers; it's going to sour those relations.
It was interesting that in the Sudbury Star on May 16, they talked to the four directors of education for the four boards and asked them what they thought.
Here's what they said: "`There are so many teachers participating in extracurricular activities in Sudbury you could not mandate the number of hours that are already spent by teachers in those activities,' said Gord Ewin, `Some teachers will have a negative reaction because now they are being forced to do something they always did willingly.'"
Hélène Chayer, who's the director of education for the Conseil scolaire de district catholique du Nouvel-Ontario: "It's quite deceiving that, because there are a few problems elsewhere in the province, the government is saying that teachers, as a whole, are not doing their job. Here, in our board, teachers are putting in an absolutely incredible amount of extracurricular hours."
The director for Conseil scolaire de district du Grand Nord de l'Ontario said that they have a full and active extracurricular program. They don't have to coach teachers to participate.
Finally, Bob Richer, director of the Sudbury board said, "The issue of extracurricular activities should remain an issue between individual boards, school councils and teachers," because otherwise if it's being forced on teachers, it's just going to "sour all those relationships."
Mr Bradley: It was a bit depressing listening to the speeches, because it reminded me that at one time there was a lot of enthusiasm in the teaching field and in the field of education. I'm not just thinking necessarily of the days of the New Democrats or the Liberals, I'm thinking back to the days of Bill Davis. We on this side of the House could disagree from time to time with Dr Bette Stephenson or perhaps our good friend Bob Welch or Tom Wells or Larry Grossman or some of the ministers of education, but you got the idea that they were there to be for education. Bill Davis himself made his name in the field of education.
You've got exactly the opposite today. You might expect that among the teachers' federations, you're going to have some anger with the government and so on. But it's the disillusionment of members of boards of education that concerns me. A lot of them are Conservatives. I know them well. They've been good members of our community. It was a different kind of Conservative. It was a Conservative who was pro-education.
My friend Tim Hudak would know of what I'm speaking. These were Conservatives who were pro-education in various communities. They were members of boards and, yes, they belonged to the Conservative Party and went out to the events and so on. But they were pro-education. They could work with teachers. They understood that teachers were the front line of education. They worked well with parents and students. What I see now is a vindictive, extremist government that is just looking for excuses to fight with members of the teaching profession.
The member for London-Fanshawe spoke. He would know what it would be like if members of the policing community were constantly under siege by a provincial government and how they would feel, compared to how teachers feel today. Teachers feel very much under siege today. They want to be enthusiastic. They want to be part of the system, but this government simply will not let them go away.
Mr Caplan: I'd like to follow-up on the comments from the member for Northumberland and the member for London-Fanshawe. I must admit I was very disturbed to hear the comments from the member for London-Fanshawe, who cast aspersions on teachers, on the teaching profession and on the leadership of that group.
I can tell you, having served as a school board trustee for almost six years in North York, that I had occasion to visit classrooms and to go to professional development days to see the great work teachers are doing with children, making a real and significant difference in the lives of children, not just in the classroom but in all the parts that make up education outside the classroom as well, and preparing the next generation of leadership, the next generation of citizens. What is truly important is the investment we make, not only in money but also in time.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Harris government, with the mindset of a member like the member for London-Fanshawe, has only served to denigrate and scapegoat, for whatever reason. I find it very hard to understand why the members of the Harris government would seek to do this kind of deed. It serves no good purpose, except perhaps one. If the government wants to portray itself to be the hero, if it wants to portray itself to be the saviour, it must find a villain. They've chosen, for whatever reason-twisted and sick it may be-that teachers are going to be their villain.
This government has a choice to make. It can stand up and try to be held accountable and say, "This is what we're doing and why we're doing it," but they try, in a very sneaky way, to undermine those professionals who have made such a difference in the lives of children.
The Acting Speaker: Two-minute response.
Mr Mazzilli: The member for Don Valley East was perhaps not listening when I spoke. I'll clarify what I first said. I said simply that the primary role of the union bosses for the teachers is not be accountable to parents and teachers-that is not their primary role-it is to fight for labour issues, and in all fairness to them, that is their role, as with police associations. Their role is to fight for their members' rights, and as a government our role is different. Our role is to be accountable to parents, to students and to the entire community. That's what the intent of this act is, Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act. Others may take its intent to go beyond that.
All I can say is, yes, there are many teachers who are doing all the things we've heard. They have been doing it for years and have been doing it on a voluntary basis. Do you know what? This act is in no way going to affect those teachers in any way at all, because they've been doing it voluntarily for years. Perhaps the few who were not doing it may have to contribute in some way to co-instructional activities.
The member for St Catharines talked about, can you imagine police organizations being under siege? The member for St Catharines perhaps can remember the social contract. The social contract took so much money out of all of the civil service that in an area like policing everybody had to take time off at critical points of the night. So you would have 10 officers go out on the street; eight got sent home because no one could afford to pay them, so two officers were left on the street. Is that safe, in a large city, in a large community? Well, they have been under siege in this province and our government certainly has corrected that.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Caplan: I will be sharing my time with the member for Essex.
Usually I start off my comments by saying it's a pleasure, but unfortunately it is not a pleasure to speak to this particular piece of legislation, Bill 74, and the continued attack by the Harris government, under various ministers, on education and on the teaching profession.
I must comment on the member for London-Fanshawe's last comments. He mentioned something called the social contract. If he has such a bitter memory of it, perhaps he or members of the government can explain why the Harris government chose to make the "social contract savings" permanent; $387 million extracted from education. It doesn't stop there. The Harris government has also cut provincial grants to education by $484 million. In fact, it doesn't even stop there. By not funding factors such as enrolment increases and inflation, another $745 million has been extracted from education. The Harris government has removed $1.6 billion from education, which rightfully should be there to support students and the teachers teaching those students. This is what Bill 74-and before it Bill 160 and Bill 104-is all about: removing dollars from education.
"We're going to dress it up a little bit. We're going to call it the education act to increase quality and accountability. We're going to try to massage it and use some misdirection. We don't want you to look down here when we're taking the dollars out; we want you to look up here. We don't want the eye to follow where all this is going, where the knives are going."
Bill 74 is a perfect example, following up on past practice, that is strictly diversionary. The $1.6 billion removed from education: What has that meant to our students? What has that meant to the teachers teaching those students? The government says, "We're lowering class sizes." In fact, that's not the case. Come to a classroom in Don Valley East, come to a classroom anywhere across this province and you will not see lower class sizes, but they say that they're doing it.
I have an interesting quote from the debate last night from the member from Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford. He said: "We're talking about accountability; we're talking about co-instructional activities; we're talking about class sizes; we're talking about instructional time." This is true. The members of the Harris government, the Premier and the Minister of Education, do talk about these things, but the reality, the way it's applied, is quite the opposite of what they talk about. That's the fundamental problem with what's going on. We have a government that is trying to divert attention away from what its true agenda is.
There was a startling admission. It began at the very beginning of the mandate of this government. Fortunately, we have the former Minister of Education here. Nobody would believe this except it was on videotape and it was transcribed. He said, "Our goal is to create a crisis in education." That wasn't it; it was for a purpose. What was that purpose? The purpose was to undermine the system and bankrupt education. In fact, those are the exact words he used: "We will bankrupt education and one of two outcomes will happen. Either the system will be totally broken and we'll be able to rebuild it in the image, in the ideology, in the manner and in the fashion we want, or those stakeholders, parents, students, teachers, school boards, those people who are involved with education will be so desperate to hang on to whatever they have that they will be willing to accept anything that we impose on them." That is exactly what the then Minister of Education, Mr Snobelen, had to say.
What is it that the government wants to impose? What is its vision of education? Interestingly enough, the groundwork is being laid. How? Quite simply. "First, we take control of governance." That was Bill 104. "We undermine"-didn't really have to, unfortunately-"public confidence in boards of education. We'll undermine that confidence and we will take control of governance of education." That's precisely what the government did.
Next came Bill 160: "We control the finances." No longer do we have locally elected people making funding decisions about what happens in their local schools, with the advice of their local ratepayers, with the advice of parents, with the advice of students, with the advice of teachers, in a local community. That now comes centrally from the ministry, from the minister. The language is very clear and all members of this House know it. This government, the Harris government, are control freaks. They must control every aspect, the governance first, the financing second, and now we have Bill 74, the other aspects and elements.
Bill 74 is a very interesting read. It has some very fascinating clauses in it. "The minister has control and charge over the exercise and performance by the board of its powers, duties and obligations ... ." The minister has control. "The minister has exclusive jurisdiction as to all matters arising ... ." These are the words, these are the controls. This is what's contained in here-"all matters arising." In fact, it goes further and says: "that jurisdiction is not open to question or review in any proceeding or by any court."
That sounds pretty absolute to me. We've heard that kind of language in many other bills. It's not surprising you would find it again here in Bill 74. "We're going to take control." But this is the accountability act, right? So we're going to force boards of education, we're going to scapegoat teachers. It's not accountability for the Minister of Education. It's not accountability for the Premier. Again, misdirected; try to divert attention; try to scapegoat somebody else.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: It is sick and it is twisted that that would be the mentality and that would be the way, because for every protagonist, for every hero, you must have an antagonist, you must have a villain. The Minister of Education and the Premier have chosen as their villain the teachers of this province, the very people whose help we need because we ask them to do a very special thing. We ask them to find the hidden potential that exists in children, to fan that flame, to bring it out, to help children to be the very best they can. How can they do that when they're being undermined? How can they do that when they're being denigrated at every opportunity, when they're being devalued?
I say to all members of this House, this is not the approach that is used in business, this is not the approach that's used in academia, this is not the approach that's used in any sector anywhere in the world, except here in Ontario as it relates to education, and it is an abomination.
The times are definitely changing. There is a single-mindedness to impose this agenda. We saw the manifestation of it in the region of Durham. This formula that was imposed has been aptly named the "Durham disease." Now the Durham formula and the Durham disease are going to be spread across the province like a plague, if you will, and this plague is going to be mandated, and in fact there will be compliance and it will work-thus sayeth the minister. But it won't, because it didn't work in Durham. It's not going to work in Toronto. It's not going to work in the north or the east or the west or the southwest, in large communities, small communities or northern communities. It didn't work in Durham.
What Liberals believe we need is a partnership. We need to reach out. We need to bring people of goodwill together. We don't need to beat up. We don't need villains. We don't need heroes. We need a working partnership. It's very simple. It can work. I've seen it work. I know it will work. Continuing crisis and turmoil from one day to the next, from one negotiation to the next, from one piece of legislation to the next-when is it going to end? It won't until this government is either (a) defeated or (b) brings in the kind of change they want. It's very clear: It is a model of education that some call charter schools and voucher systems.
I believe that is where they want to go, and it's very clear that that groundwork has been laid. It is very clear that the crisis of confidence that this government is trying to create is the vehicle in which they're going to try to get there.
I can assure you that the people of Ontario do know and understand what the agenda of this government is and do know and understand what it takes to stop it, and it will stop. You have my word on it.
Mr Crozier: I welcome the opportunity to spend a few minutes speaking to Bill 74 this evening. What particularly strikes me is part of the long title of this bill, which says it's intended to "enhance students' school experience." I think all of us rely on the experiences we have over a lifetime to make the decisions we arrive at today. I can think of how often I reminded Joan and my children, Nancy and David, about their school experience when they went to school through the 1970s. I pointed out to them that when I was young and went to school, we didn't have busing, and how I had to go through the snow to trek to school, through the wind and the snow and with newspapers on my feet. I've told those kids a lot about that experience.
Mr Bradley: Twenty miles uphill.
Mr Crozier: Twenty miles uphill, that's right. They then better appreciated what they had while they were in school compared to what we had to go through. It's those kinds of experiences that bring us to the decisions we have to make today. Yes, it is better today than it was when I went to school, than it was when my parents went to school. There's been an attempt by all of us to improve our education facilities and, yes, enhance students' school experience. But you know, I'm also reminded that when I was younger I didn't like liver. My father had to eat liver because of the iron he would get from it. My mother would try to make up for that. Even though I didn't like liver and didn't want to eat liver, I had to have the same enrichment from it that my dad did. She'd find a substitute. She tried to find a compromise. I think that's what we're trying to find in education today, a compromise, and I'm not so sure Bill 74 is that compromise.
When I read in the bill such wording as "compliance measures," when, as my colleague from Don Valley East said, decisions of a minister can't be appealed even to courts-in other words, the very basic democratic right we have in this country to appeal to a higher authority is just taken away in this bill-that's not reaching a compromise. Of course we're not all going to agree on what's in the bill. In fact, I think it's our obligation and our responsibility, and in our democratic society, in our parliamentary system, it's the responsibility of the opposition to point out those areas that may not meet all of our expectations. That's why we get up and criticize a bill like Bill 74, for the reasons I've mentioned: that it doesn't try to reach some kind of a consensus that in the end will improve our education system. What I think it's doing, as a matter of fact, is dividing us. It's dumping on teachers, for example. I think in some cases it's dumping on school boards. It doesn't give the system a chance to function the way it should because it's functioning under some kind of intimidation.
We here in the Legislature have a special opportunity to visit schools. I would think all the members visit schools. I wish that everybody in the general public had that opportunity, not just those who have children who are students, but those young working couples who later may have a family and want to appreciate what our schools mean to us. Those, like me, who have gone through a school system that's changed over the years should go back and visit a school. I think they would find the same thing I found a couple of weeks ago at the Gosfield North public school when I was principal for a day.
I wanted to experience everything the principal did, so I had to be at the school at 10 to 8 in the morning. School didn't start till 8:30, students didn't arrive till 8:30, but the principal wanted to be at the door to greet those students. The teachers were at their classrooms to greet those students. When school ended somewhere around a little after 3 in the afternoon, one might think you'd just simply head on home-the teacher's day is over, get out of here, much like someone we've heard about recently used to do when he was a teacher, in some people's memory. But no, we weren't out of there at 3 or 3:15 in the afternoon. That day, when my constituency office expected me back at around 3:30 or 4 o'clock, I had to call and say, "I just simply won't be in the rest of the day," because it was 10 after 5 when I left that school. And there were teachers still there. Were all the good teachers still there and some of the not-so-good teachers had left? I don't know. All I know is the experience I had at that school that day was one of a dedicated group of individuals who, as this bill purports to do, really wanted to enhance students' school experience.
Rather than forcing people to do things, rather than forcing teachers to do certain things, rather than forcing school boards to toe the line, I think we should give every sector of our education system an opportunity to do it in the way they know best. And I don't think it's through intimidation; I really don't.
I don't think we're going to get the best of someone if they have to be assigned a specific extracurricular activity. For example, what happens under this bill when we need someone to coach football and the principal, according to the plan that has to be put forward by the board, is given the responsibility to assign these extracurricular activities-that's what they used to be called in my day; they now call them co-instructional activities, but it means the same thing.
Mr Bradley: Parliamentary assistants.
Mr Crozier: Parliamentary assistants. Do they work under co-instructional activities?
Mr Bradley: Yes.
Mr Crozier: What happens if you don't have a teacher who has a particular expertise in an area where you need it in the co-instructional area? Do we simply say to that teacher: "I'm sorry. You're short a little time. You're going to have to go out and do it"? I don't think the result from that is going to be very good.
There are a lot of areas in this bill where we understand what some of the objectives are, but I frankly wonder if the method by which we're getting there isn't flawed. I hope we have the opportunity, through debate on the rest of this bill, that we can look at those areas of conflict that have been set up in this bill and, through some kind of discussion and agreement, get a consensus where we can, in the end, give these students the school experience we want them to have.
Education has certainly changed over the years, and for the most part it has changed for the better. But we went through quite a bit of turmoil a couple of years ago with Bill 160. I think we have to let Bill 160 work, and I don't think some of the parts of this bill that I have addressed-the assignment of extracurricular activities and the compliance measures in this bill-are going to get the kind of consensus we want, the kind of co-operation we want and the student school experience we want. But I know one thing that won't happen: They won't have to go to school in the snow with newspapers wrapped around their feet.
The Acting Speaker: Comments and questions?
Ms Martel: Let me follow up on the comments by the members for Don Valley East and Essex, and focus specifically on the notion that the government has that it's going to be a good thing, through Bill 74, to ram extracurricular activities and the obligation for the same down teachers' throats. There are two examples I'd like to raise.
Last Friday I was at Confederation high school. It's in my riding. It's the fifth year in a row I've been there in mid-May, because every year the Kin Club of Valley East hosts a Raise the Flag Day, where they give awards to elementary and secondary school students who have participated in drawing, poetry and essay contests about why it's important to be Canadian and what the Canadian flag means to them. For five years in a row, that high school-its teachers, its staff and its principal-has opened up the doors to the community to come for that celebration. Over and above that, each of the homerooms in that high school-and this has nothing to do with their curriculum-has developed a Canada corner, where each of the students in the homerooms participate as well and develop the homeroom in such a way as to express why it's important to be Canadian. They do all that, and the teachers do all that, over and above all the work they do on curriculum. They don't have to do that, but they do it because it's important to the community and because they feel good about participating.
As I was leaving, I was hearing one of the teachers announcing what the scores had been from the volleyball games the night before and that badminton practice was going on that night. So here is a school where there are all kinds of extracurricular activities going on. Teachers are participating, and so are the students.
Then I look at my brother, who teaches here in Metro in Regent Park. Over and above the other things that he does in his elementary school, he and almost all the teachers in his school, on a rotating basis every morning of the week that school is in, go to the church next door and participate in the breakfast program and serve the kids they will later teach in the day. I wonder if the minister is going to try and legislate that too, while she's at it.
There is something dreadfully wrong when 99% of the teachers are doing extracurricular activities and this government somehow wants to ram it down their throats by making it obligatory.
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): I want to compliment the members for Don Valley East and Essex on their fine presentations tonight. I listened to what they had to say. I must say I disagree with their conclusions, but I think they made some very good points.
I want to pay tribute to the teachers in Ontario in the little bit of time that I have. I am very fortunate to be married to my wife, Lisa. She's a teacher. We have many teachers in our family. Three of my brothers-in-law are teachers and I think I have, through them, a very good understanding-
Mr Arnott: We have interesting Christmas dinners too-a very good understanding of the challenges that teachers face, but also the great rewards that teachers have in terms of their occupation.
The member for Don Valley East is quite right when he says that we need to have a co-operative working partnership with the teachers. I would say, for my part, it's fairly self-evident that we want to have motivated and enthusiastic teachers in our classrooms, and if that's the case, the kids are going to get a good quality of education. I completely agree: We need a strong working partnership.
This Bill 74, as we know, will require school boards to ensure that secondary school teachers are meeting provincial standards for time spent in the classroom-1,250 minutes a week, four hours and 10 minutes of instructional time a day-to make sure that's happening. Of course Bill 160 mandated it, but apparently there have been some areas where that is not taking place. This bill also ensures that extracurricular activities, or as we call them now, co-instructional activities, will take place, whether they be soccer, drama or commencements.
When we recall the days of the debate when we were talking about Bill 160, we heard from teachers how important extracurricular activities are, and again I would agree completely. Based on my wife's experience, she tells me that to the extent she's been involved in extracurricular activities, which have consumed a great deal of her time, it helps her teach the kids in the class because they see her as an extracurricular leader, and that helps her ability to teach.
I think the fact that the principals will have the responsibility to assign these extracurricular activities will enhance the professionalism of teaching in the province of Ontario.
M. Jean-Marc Lalonde (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell) : Je dois féliciter mes collègues d'Essex et de Don Valley East. Comme l'a mentionné le membre d'Essex, nous dans l'opposition devrons faire valoir ou démontrer nos inquiétudes envers ce projet de loi.
Lorsque nous regardons le projet de loi, cela démontre vraiment que nous n'avons pas confiance en nos enseignants et enseignantes. Cela démontre aussi le manque de respect qu'on doit avoir envers ces personnes. Lorsque je regarde surtout la partie 230.12, cela démontre que toutes personnes qui font partie d'un conseil scolaire, je dirais, deviendront des "puppets." Les puppets, ce sont les personnes qui font exactement ce que leur patron leur dit de faire et n'ont pas droit à d'opinions.
Dans ce cas-ci, on dit « Le conseil et chacun de ces membres, agents et employés se conforment aux arrêtés et décisions que prend et aux directives que donne le ministre en vertu de la présente partie ... » Les personnes qui ne suivent pas les directives sont sujets à une amende allant jusqu'à 5 000 $.
Je regarde en Californie, par exemple. J'ai regardé un peu le journal National Post hier. Je vais vous le lire en anglais :
"Gray Davis, California's Governor, announced that he wants to exempt public teachers from state income tax. `If you teach in California, we are going to reward you like we reward no other profession,' he said."
Just to show you that in other countries they do believe in the role or the position of a teacher, but not here in this government.
Mr Bert Johnson (Perth-Middlesex): I want to compliment the member for Essex and the member for Don Valley East on their presentations tonight, and to express to them that although I was listening and I understood, I didn't agree with all the conclusions they have.
I have a great deal of respect for the teaching profession in Ontario. Like many people, I share a background of teachers. My mother was a teacher and my mother-in-law was a teacher. I have a niece who is teaching with the Waterloo board. These people raised families and still did what they considered their duty and their responsibility to the teaching profession. I can think of other professions that have demonstrated the same kind of response, but I can't think of anybody in their position who has undertaken their duties and responsibilities with any more dedication. When I say "other professions," I can't leave out my wife, who was a nurse. If I overlooked them, I would be subject to some criticism.
I'll have some comments a little later in the evening, but I did want those two members to know that I was listening, I heard and I understood, and I compliment them.
The Acting Speaker: Two-minute response, member from Don Valley East.
Mr Caplan: I'd like to thank the members from Nickel Belt, Waterloo-Wellington, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell and from Perth-Middlesex for their comments.
I'd like to focus on the two members of the government, the member from Waterloo-Wellington and the member from Perth-Middlesex. I hear members say they respect teachers, but the words are different than the actions. The government takes out an offensive ad with a clock, trying to leave the public with the impression that teachers are not performing their jobs with the same kind of rigour and dedication that is the case.
The Harris government has embarked on this propaganda campaign to indicate that there is no accountability, that teachers are somehow coming late, leaving early and need to be taught a lesson. It's creating that impression, which shows a distinct lack of respect for teachers and for the work they do. I can tell you that if it is not true-if what I say is not true-that the crisis in education is not by intentional action, then it certainly is true that there is grave mismanagement of education, and has been since the Harris government has come to power. Never before in the history of this province have we seen the kind of chaos and turmoil in our schools, and that is not about the people who are teaching, but also about the people who are learning, the kids. That's why schools are there.
Everybody says, or I've had the occasion to hear, that morale is at the rock bottom. I don't use that phrase any more, because with every new piece of legislation, with every new action, that atmosphere goes down. The kids in the classrooms know it, and the parents know it. Why doesn't this government get it?
The Acting Speaker: Further debate?
Mr Johnson: I'm glad the member for Don Valley East is here and that he is interested in the truth. I think the truth is that you need a strong economy to afford a good education system. I thought I settled this and buried it last year in the election campaign, but I didn't. I want to quote for you, if I can, page 2974 of Hansard. I'm quoting Mr Gerretsen of the Liberal Party, "That's on page 57 of the Ontario budget, clearly indicating that over the last five years the debt of this province has gone up by a further $25 billion." That is a little bit true-about half. I can't say in this House what the other half is, but it's about half true.
If you keep repeating those kinds of things, then somebody may at some time believe them. On the same day, and I'm quoting from page 2970 of Hansard, it says, "Anybody who cares to look at the finances of the province will find that Premier Harris has added $24 billion of debt since he became Premier." I'm quoting Mr Gerry Phillips on that page. That too is a little bit true-about half. The debt has gone up by that much.
I want to quote from page 2653, and this happens to be Mr McGuinty, "This government has added $24 billion to the province's debt since it was first elected." That also is a little bit of truth, but it sure isn't the truth-not the kind of truth that the member from Don Valley East prescribes to support in this House.
The reason why I want to tell you can be found on the very same page the member would have had his quote from. Page 57 of the Ontario budget does show that in 1994 the debt was $90 billion and that in 2000 it is $114 billion. The difference is $24 billion, but I want you to just add up-the member across can do this. There was 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000. How many years? Seven years. How long has Premier Harris been Premier of this province? It will soon be five years. The little bit of truth is that it did go up that much. The part that isn't true is what it went up during the time this government has been in office-five years, and he's quoting a seven-year increase.
Mr Alvin Curling (Scarborough-Rouge River): He increased the debt.
Mr Johnson: Yes. To the member from Scarborough, the debt did go up. It went up almost the same as on page 77 of this red book, at the bottom, where it says the Liberals would balance the budget in five years-five years. What would happen to the debt in here? It even shows how much it was going to go up, and I'll remind the member that it would be much in excess of what it has gone up under ours.
The fact of the matter is that the member from Trinity-Spadina touched on one of the problems I'm trying to demonstrate, and that is that there are politics. One of the politics is that the opposition would like you to believe that there is constant consternation within the education community. Indeed, everything isn't perfect, but it sure isn't-it's a little bit like the debt. What they're saying is maybe close to half true.
I'm pleased to have the opportunity to rise to speak in support of Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act, and I will be sharing my time with Mr Beaubien, the member for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.
I'm proud to be a member of a government that puts such important emphasis on improving the quality of education and bringing in accountability measures. I can tell you that as a parent myself and a former school trustee, I can speak of the need for education reform and the need for accountability.
I think it's important to note that education reform and accountability have been talked about before, and parents have asked for it. Previous governments of this province didn't have the will to bring about the change that was needed.
In the 1970s, people like Stephen Lewis, the former Ontario NDP leader, talked about the education system and the obsession that some unions had with contracts rather than teaching and quality education.
In 1994, the former NDP government established the Royal Commission on Learning, which was an all-party committee. This commission emphasized the urgent need for reform. But despite the recommendations of the royal commission, nothing was ever done to improve the quality of education in our province.
Our government, once elected in 1995, quickly moved to establish the Education Improvement Commission to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our education system and to suggest ways to improve it.
It's important to emphasize that education reform has been talked about before, but our government has accepted the challenge of making changes to our system. I think it's also important to note that Ontarians endorsed our reform proposals in both 1995 and 1999, and we're fulfilling many of our promises with Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act.
I'm pleased that one of the aspects of this bill will ensure that all school boards and schools provide co-curricular activities for their students. As we know, there are hundreds of thousands of students in the region or municipalities of Durham who for the last two years have had these withheld from them. We have fond memories of our own educational experience. Students in our education system today also want to have the same memories of their education, and part of their memories will be about extracurricular involvement.
As my colleague the Minister of Education stated, most teachers in schools are providing some form of co-curricular activities. In fact, the majority of teachers I know in my riding of Perth-Middlesex consider the extracurricular involvement to be part of their professional responsibility.
When I think of extracurricular involvement and professionalism, I think of two teachers in my riding of Perth-Middlesex, Rob Collings and Mark Roth. Rob and Mark are both technical studies teachers at Northwestern secondary school in Stratford and both are concerned about the shortage of skilled labour in today's technological society.
Rob and Mark are making a concerted effort to find ways to improve the technical programs being offered at the secondary school level, and are spending a lot of their time outside the classroom in the community promoting the benefits of a technical education.
This past Saturday, at 8 am, I attended a breakfast, open house and sale at Northwestern secondary school that was organized by Mark, Rob and the rest of the staff in the technical studies department at Northwestern. It was a great opportunity for the public, co-op employers, industrial suppliers, other students and parents to witness the kind of quality technical education students are receiving and its usefulness in our everyday lives, whether it be fixing our car, rewiring our house or making garden ornaments.
This is a great example of teachers going above and beyond the call and working in the best interests of Ontario students. I applaud the efforts of Rob and Mark for the example they are setting. And they are an example, because there are literally hundreds and even thousands of teachers in my riding doing the same.
Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act, will help ensure that all schools provide the co-curricular activities that enrich every student's school experience. You'll even be interested to know that I used to take part in each Gilbert and Sullivan production that our school put on each year I was in school.
Mr Bradley: Who did you play?
Mr Johnson: I played Pooh-Bah in the Mikado, and I played the sergeant of police in the other one. I can still carry a tune.
I'm pleased to support this piece of legislation and the provisions it has for increasing the amount of instructional time for our secondary school teachers. In 1997 the Education Improvement Commission informed us that secondary school teachers were spending less time in the classroom compared with their other provincial counterparts. Basically, Bill 74 will ensure that secondary school teachers are in the classroom for four hours and 10 minutes.
It's not surprising that the union leadership are making an issue of this. But in my view, and in the view of many of my colleagues on this side of the House, the teacher union leaders have to understand that part of their responsibility is to provide leadership for change and improvement.
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): It certainly is a pleasure for me to rise in the House tonight to talk about Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act, 2000. But first of all, I'd like to read the entire title of the act. It says "An Act to amend the Education Act to increase quality, to improve the accountability of school boards to students, parents and taxpayers and to enhance students' school experience." That sounds pretty fuzzy to me, and I think it's a fairly reasonable approach to providing public education to our children.
This government believes in providing a sound, accountable, responsible public school system. We're committed to funding that system.
I have heard tonight from different members, and I'm somewhat confused by some of the figures I've heard. It's too bad that the member for Trinity-Spadina is not here, because in his comments he mentioned that this government had cut education funding by $1 billion. But my friend on the other side of the House from Don Valley East stated that we had cut the funding by $1.6 billion. That's only $600 million difference between the New Democratic Party and the Liberals.
So I went down and got a budget paper for the year 2000, and it says that in the year 1997-98 we spent for education $4.713 billion; in 1998-99 we spent $7.717 billion. The interim for 1999-2000 is $7.823 billion. The plan for the year 2000-01 is $8.026 billion. And that's just the elementary and primary. If we go to training, colleges and universities, in 1997-98 it was $2.988 billion; in 1998-99, it was $3.215 billion; in 1999-2000 it was $3.252 billion; and in our plan for the year 2000-01 it is $3.387 billion.
So I would ask the members from the other side of the House-I know mon amie la députée d'Ottawa-Vanier is a reasonable person, and I'm sure she probably could provide me with these figures, because it's a lot of money. One group says $1 billion; the other one says $1.6 billion.
Furthermore, the interesting thing that I find about "cuts" and "taking this away" is that in 1994, the total operating expenditures for the province were $53.961 billion. The plan for 2000-01 is $58.985 billion. So I think there is some confusion, but if we can't believe what we read in the Ontario papers, then I think we're in big trouble.
I would like to make another comment with regard to the member for Trinity-Spadina when he mentioned that this bill has nothing to do with improving the education system. I think this bill and previous bills deal with improving the education system. We don't believe in living in the past. We believe in providing a sound, quality education for the future of our children.
Let's go back to the dollars, because I've heard tonight that we've cut the funding; we took over control of the funding. Why is it that this government took over control of the funding of the education system?
I remember being elected locally as a councillor in 1976-that's longer than some of you members have been alive, I guess-and one of the first things I heard when I was elected as a municipal councillor was that the municipal taxes kept going up, but every time you sat down with one of the constituents, you had to explain their tax bill, that a part was the municipal bill, another one was the county assessment portion, and you had the education portion. Where did the increases occur? Yes, there were some increases on the municipal side, and at times there were some increases on the county side, but most of the time, and the largest increases, were with the education portion. That is a fact. I know it's difficult for the opposition to swallow that one, but it is a fact.
Consequently, the member for Don Valley East is quite right when he said that with Bill 160 we took over the funding of the education system. To show you a good proof as to how irresponsible some of the boards-and I can name my own board back home, the Lambton-Kent school board, which amalgamated a few years ago. They had 30,000 students in the system two years ago. They are down to 27,000 this year, and they are going to lose another 700. But the interesting situation is that they have 7,600 redundant pupil places. If you have an empty building, there's no doubt that it costs money to operate that building. Guess what? We take the money for operational costs and cut down on the educational side. That happens in my riding, that happens in your riding and I think that happens across the province.
I've also heard from members that there was no money for books and no money for supplies. At the end of the day, they said, "The teachers have to spend money out of their own pockets." I'm sure they do, at times. But let me tell you that two years ago, with the school board in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, at the end of the fiscal year-guess what?-there was a surplus. But all year long we had heard that there was no money for books, that there was no money for supplies, that there was no money for this. What did we do with the surplus? Did we put it back into the classroom? Did we put it back into providing services? No, we gave the superintendent a bonus.
Last year, the same story again: We had no money for books and no money for supplies, but-guess what?-at the end of the year we had another surplus. What did we do with the surplus this time? We gave the vice-principals and the principal bonuses. Is that fair to the students? I don't think it is, and I don't think this government thinks it is. That's why we are taking control of the funding of the public school system.
I want to be fair because I know teachers in my riding, in my community of Petrolia, at LCCVI, teachers like Vince Lyons, Dave Hewett and Andy Toulouse, who taught my kids in the primary system. These are dedicated people. They work hard. I heard from one member on the opposite side that the principal came to school at 10 to 8. These people come in before that. They're there at 7:30 and 7 o'clock, and they're still there at 6 o'clock at night. There are a lot of these people who are very dedicated.
But the converse of this is when I see what is happening with some of the other schools, like in Durham, where they're withholding services, not only in sporting activities but in cultural and social activities. Is this fair? Does this provide a complete, rounded education to the students? I don't think it does.
There is no doubt that I agree with the member from Don Valley when he said-and I think I quote his words-that we have to be fair and that we have to work as partners. I totally agree with that. I think that if we can work together, if we can work in co-operation and if we keep our eyes on the students-not our own turf, not what is best for the unions, not what is best for the government, but what is best for the students-at the end of the day our students are going to gain, our students are going to be better off, our students are going to be better prepared for the future and-do you know what?-as an aging person I'm going to be better off, because they're going to look after me very well in the future.
The Acting Speaker: Comments or questions?
Mr Curling: I listened to both members on the government side speaking so emotionally about this legislation. It has really appalled me, somehow, to know that both have talked about complimenting teachers on how hard they work and what they have done, but somehow they feel it's necessary to legislate. I think you are following a path, and you realize your mistakes now. When you started as a government, you came in really as a bully. You beat up all the people, you beat up the teachers and you did all these kinds of awful things. Now, when you realize the kind of work they have done-and many of the people feel very turned off about their boss-you say: "Do you know what we're going to do? We're going to legislate love now. It's time to legislate some love and affection."
I think the next law you are going to bring in is to legislate some love and affection for the Progressive Conservative Party, because so many people hate you. So let us do some legislation. These wonderful, hard-working teachers, who have dedicated their lives and their skills to students and have produced some excellent students in our midst-we have now realized that we have to legislate this love and affection. Tell me something: How far will this government go in doing all this legislation?
I was recently reading of Teachers' Day across the world, and many people were applauding teachers. Many newspapers I have read around the world have talked about applauding the excellent work that teachers have done. They're complimenting them for their activities. I picked up the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star on that day. What was this government doing? Penalizing students by penalizing the teachers. What a contrast. At a time when we should be recognizing the great contribution of teachers, this government comes down with law to penalize them, to legislate love and affection. It doesn't happen that way, and I hope you wake up and smell the coffee one of these days and realize how you can compliment those people who have done such a wonderful job.
Ms Martel: In response to the comments that have been made by the Conservative members, it's hard to accept that the government is interested in working with teachers when they spend most of their time bashing teachers, and have done that since they were first elected. With many of the changes that will result in fewer teachers teaching more students, as was announced last week, or the whole situation regarding teacher testing announced during Education Week, that should have really been described as Teacher-Bashing Week, because that's what it was all about. You can see the government laying the groundwork for what is probably going to happen this fall: chaos yet again in the system as people try to deal with negotiations and try to deal with what the government is putting down their throats through Bill 74. It will be anything but a spirit of co-operation that will be found across the province.
The minister has tried to say that this is going to result in more teachers. Well, it will not, and it will not because the change in instruction time will directly result in fewer teachers teaching more students in the classroom. The board in Sudbury, the Rainbow board, which has on most occasions been quite supportive of this government, came out last week and made that very same point. The chairperson of the board is Doreen Dewar.
"`This legislation will mean that we need fewer teachers,' said Dewar, who confirmed that close to 50 teachers will be laid off because of the legislation. `The government hasn't been honest. They call it more time in the classroom, but it is really a big money-saving measure.'
"Because teachers will have to teach more classes over the course of four semesters (two years), fewer teachers will be needed in the system, said Dewar.
"The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation said that 49 high school teachers have been given termination notices by the Rainbow board" as a result.
So there you have it: fewer teachers, more students in the classroom being taught by those fewer teachers.
Hon Ernie Hardeman (Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): I am pleased to rise and say a few words about the presentations made by the members for Perth-Middlesex and Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. I think they were very well researched and very solid presentations on Bill 74, although I would have to say that the member from Perth started off somewhat off the topic, which I'm sure no one else would do, and spoke about the accumulated debt in this province and how it had grown for many years.
Of course, we all recognized that it would continue to grow until we had a balanced budget, which this government was able to do in the past two budgets. He presented a very good case. He did a lot of research to point out that sometimes things that are said are not always totally on the facts and all the truth, from some of the comments made. I think he spoke about things being half true, and he wasn't going to say what the other half might be. I think that was a point very well made.
I think it's very important to recognize the part of Bill 74 that deals with the co-curriculum activities. I have a daughter in grade 10 and she does a lot of that. She is involved in the drama club; she's involved in a lot of sports; she's part of the student council. To do that requires a teacher or someone in the education field to help that along and be there when this is being done, and in her school that is being done very well. But I think I would somewhat sympathize with those areas where that is not happening. I think it's very important that the Minister of Education is bringing forward the bill that will make sure that happens in every school. I'm very happy to stand up and support this bill.
Mr Bradley: What the whole policy is about is really fewer teachers, particularly in secondary schools. Cut it any way you want, that's what Bill 160 was always about. I remember an incident over in the Whitney Block when the then Minister of Education, Dave Johnson, was asked how many fewer teachers Bill 160 would mean. His guess, which was an honest guess, he hadn't been prompted at that time, was probably about 7,000.
Now the right-wing commentators who are on your side will say: "Well, of course, aren't they asking for more teachers? Won't they need more teachers? Isn't there a shortage?" Yes. But what you're going to have as a result of this formula is fewer teachers in the school. Make no mistake about it-that's what Bill 160 was about.
The teachers' federation called the bluff of the government. They said: "You want us to have more contact hours with students; we will give it to you. Here's the formula. We'll extend the length of the day. That will give you more contact time. We will eliminate certain professional activity days. That will give you more time." But you see, when it came down to it, the government turned that down, because what they really wanted was to have fewer teachers in those schools, and that's what it's about. There's no masking that. That's exactly what it's about.
What is interesting to see is when people vote with their feet. People are leaving the school system, not at the end of the year, not at the end of the month, they now leave the day they can leave. That's how much you've worn them down. You've picked out the enemy. You've picked out the victims. There's always going to be a crowd there that will cheer when you put the boots to the teachers. I know the people. I know the ones who will be cheering about that. You'll feel good about it. Some people will say, "Yeah, it's time somebody put those teachers in their place." But ultimately we have to look at the good of the students, and I don't know why people who used to be so pro-education within the Progressive Conservative Party are today so anti-teacher. It's just demoralizing for the profession.
The Acting Speaker: Two minute response.
Mr Beaubien: On behalf of my colleague from Perth-Middlesex, I would like to thank the members from Scarborough-Rouge River, Nickel Belt, Oxford and St Catharines for their comments.
I've heard that this exercise is about penalizing and bashing teachers. Let me tell you that I think you're wrong.
The member from Trinity-Spadina mentioned polls tonight. I didn't talk about polls, but he talked about polls, and I think he said that 71% or 73% of the people support what the government is doing with education reform.
Let me tell you what our reforms are all about: It's investing in children. For instance, in the budget that was submitted a couple of weeks ago, we put in an additional $6 million to extend preschool speech and language programs to five-year-olds. We're going to spend $7 million annually to implement an infant hearing screening program. We're going to spend another $7 million for initiatives to stem the growing problem of eating disorders.
Consequently, I think we are concerned about young people. We are concerned about young students who have disorders, disabilities, maybe come from single-parent homes. We want to make sure that they have proper eating habits, have a decent breakfast. We want to make sure that they hear so that they can absorb the information that the teachers are giving them.
We want to make sure that we have an education system that is responsible, that is accountable, not only to the students but a system that is accountable to the taxpayers of this province.
The Acting Speaker: Further debate.
Mr Sean G. Conway (Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke): I am pleased to join the second reading debate on Bill 74, and I've had the pleasure over the last couple of days of listening to many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle address the issues in their own inimitable and idiosyncratic ways.
I must say to the House tonight, it's a far more civilized and respectful place this evening than the barroom brawl that we had here last night, and I think that's a useful thing.
I was interested in our friend from Listowel talking about statistics. I've been waiting, actually, for a few weeks to find an opportunity to cite one of my own that is a bit irksome. I'm going to add to this a growing sense of despair I have about not being told the truth-just routinely. My friend from Petrolia says, "If we can't believe the budget, what can we believe?" I've got to say, government budgets, increasingly, here and elsewhere, you shouldn't believe everything you read in them. We're hearing now provincial and national auditors saying that all kinds of games are being played. I'm not really here to talk about that tonight This little book-
Mr Conway: No, I'm going to make a point. The official line is that this famous millennium book-and this is the government line, the minister's line-cost $1.10 per edition: 98 cents for design and printing and 12 cents for postage. I respectfully submit that is manifestly not true. I don't know what the truth is, but I know that's not true. That, in my view, is premeditated disinformation.
Mr Conway: I went to a number of printers and I said, "Just as a matter of interest, what about this?" They figured five or six bucks at a minimum.
Mr Conway: I'm just speaking for myself.
My friend from Listowel says, "What is it that you can believe?" I'm asked to believe that this is $1.10, and I respectfully submit that's not true. I have all kinds of independent experts who say the only way it could be true is that there's some kind of unadmitted subsidy built in, either by the producer or the procurer. But I just make the point. I'm not going to spend any more of my time on it, except to say this is a place that is increasingly irrelevant, because it's based on the old Victorian notion that honourable men and women will respectfully and routinely tell each other the truth. That Victorian notion is receding very quickly, if it hasn't disappeared entirely.
On Bill 74, I have a slightly different position than many of the people who have spoken here before, and there is a certain ambivalence that will attach to my remarks, because I think I understand something of the pressures that have driven the government to some of what is contained in Bill 74. We are now clearly engaged in a culture war.
The Acting Speaker: Excuse me. If members want to have a conversation, take it outside. Otherwise, the speaker would appreciate some quiet.
Mr Conway: We are clearly engaged in a very significant and profound culture war. It's been coming. Some speakers earlier in the debate have referred to this. It's a culture war. It's a morality play. There are good people and bad people. I'm glad the Attorney General has joined us, because in the morality play we're living in Ontario today, I think a reasonable person would say it's clear who the good people are. Cops are good people. Teachers are bad people.
Hon Mr Flaherty: No, criminals are bad people.
Mr Conway: No, no. Again, I want the Attorney General to join the debate. My friend from Petrolia was talking a while ago about the pressure that has been building in many municipalities and local governments about the cost of education, and he's absolutely right. I haven't heard one member of this government-and he's right about that. He certainly was right about that. People not unknown to the Conservative Party, like Tom Jakobek, have been talking very loudly, until their recent departure from the budget office downtown, about the incredibly rigorous pressures on property tax bills in Metropolitan Toronto from the police budget. Have I heard anybody across the way complain about that inflationary pressure on the property tax bill? No. I understand why.
In this new paradigm, in this new morality play, cops are good, a priori teachers are bad. We are a society today that celebrates Julian Fantino. There was a time in this province when we would celebrate an Egerton Ryerson. We have an Attorney General who is complicit in an attack on the judiciary. We have a Premier who is bowing down and genuflecting daily at the high altar of the corporate bosses, because they are, a priori, good. Good people, bad people; it's a very clear and simple world.
There isn't a former Minister of Education, from Bill Davis to John Snobelen, who wouldn't tell you privately that doing battle with the teachers' federations is often an exasperating business. I'll confess it. I have to make a public confession. I came upon a friend of mine the other day reading the 10-year review of the Ontario teachers' pension plan, celebrating an enormous decade of achievement. I was the rotten scoundrel who forced those teachers to take that awful plan. I remember the paint peeling off this place because it was such a treachery. You can understand how, 10 years later, I might want to say to my friends at the federation, "Such treachery, such hardship, such unfairness." I rarely meet a teacher today who doesn't celebrate-rightly so-the enormous success of that 10-year experience when teachers were allowed to get away from the oppressive control of government with respect to their pension plan.
I'm the guy who got to implement the famous Bill Davis commitment on separate school funding. Was it more complicated and costly than advertised? You bet. I could, after the current fashion, spend all my time and all my energy denouncing Bill Davis and Ed Stewart, two really fine people who I suspect knew more about education than anybody in my lifetime. I got to do much of their handiwork. I used to wonder on those awful nights in 1985 and 1986: "Fifty million bucks. No problem here, a little adjustment there. Hah!" But I don't find it a particularly necessary or fulfilling business to do that.
Ten or 15 years from now, we're going to look back on 1998, 1999 and 2000. I suspect the future is going to unfold in a very different way than some of my good friends opposite might prayerfully imagine. My friend from Listowel celebrates the great budgetary success of May 2. I will be a little ecumenical. It's hard not to agree with him. I suspect that May 2 will represent something of a high-water mark. Your worst fear is the fear that any government, any finance minister has: "What am I going to do? Some day I have to get up and announce not excess revenue of $5.3 billion but, God forbid, a deficiency of $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion or $5 billion," which is what Floyd Laughren got to do in 1991 and which is what Frank Miller got to do in 1981. He didn't plan it. It may never happen again.
In this wonderful world where a pay cut is really a pay raise, where sunshine is really sunset, where an attack is really an embrace, one of the things I find so remarkable about Bill 74 is that it's all about accountability and participatory democracy. You can't read the sections having to do with the minister's enhanced power to move in and take over a board and see it for anything other than what it is. I would have to say to people on local school boards: "Why would you bother? Why would you be an accessory to this fiction? Give Queen's Park the keys." I say to my friends out in Listowel and elsewhere: "Do you really want to scare the wits out of the crowd at 900 Bay Street and at the Premier's office? Give them the keys and say, `Take it.'" Let them run the schools in Emo, La Salle, Vankleek Hill and Wilno, and let them run them on a daily basis. Do you know what you're going to find? You're going to be left with the laughable situation we have in Renfrew, the largest county in Ontario. I said it today and I'll repeat it: from Arnprior in the south to Deux Rivières in the north, 200 kilometres; from La Passe in the east to Combermere in the southwest, 150 kilometres-the largest county, over 3,000 square miles, and we get neither jot nor tittle on the rural and remote funding account of the new formula, while Kingston gets $1.3 million, Lindsay gets $1.2 million or $1.3 million, Belleville gets over $1 million and, yes, North Bay-Parry Sound get about $2 million plus. That's just a small example of what you get when there is the kind of centralization we are endorsing.
Trust me, I understand the impulse to say, "I've had it with these people out in the hinterland, giving me a bad time on the front page of the Sun Times or the Petrolia Trombone or-
Mr Conway: Mr Speaker, Caliban has arrived.
The Acting Speaker: If you're going to heckle, at least sit in your own seat for one thing. I prefer that you not heckle.
Mr Conway: The public school board in Renfrew is left with this apparently ridiculous situation, which I am still hopeful my friend the minister is going to address.
One of the other delicious paradoxes of the current situation is less bureaucracy. Why, my friends, at the local level we have more bureaucracy. The people calling the shots at your new, enlarged school board are the director and the assistant director. There's absolutely no doubt about it, and people understand it.
My colleagues in the Liberal Party and others in the opposition have perhaps been more than fulsome about their concerns with respect to what we're doing to teachers, and my friend Bradley a moment ago was absolutely right. We have seen, particularly from Mr Harris, a calculated, consistent and premeditated attack on teachers. They are rightly tired of it. But I say to my Conservative friends and my Liberal and NDP colleagues, don't worry too much about it because, oh, the wonderful determining market is going to come quickly to the fore. Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail of May 9 wrote a column, The Coming Classroom Crisis. I'm just going to take a moment to cite some of her data. She observes that, "A quarter of Ontario teachers on the job in 1998 will" be gone by 2003-a quarter of the teaching cohort gone in a couple of years.
Interjection: That's subject to demographics.
Mr Conway: My friends opposite say it has something to do-you bet you-with demographics. We already have, as Mr Bradley and others have observed, critical shortages in math, computer technology and a number of other specialties, and that's going to get much more aggravated in the coming years. If you are in eastern Ontario, why would you go and take a job as a graduate of Carleton University, Queen's, Laurentian or Waterloo, for 30,000 bucks at the school board when you can earn $50,000 or $60,000 at Nortel, Cisco or Mitel, with some stock options, and now there are new tax considerations thrown in.
Mr Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey): What's your point?
Mr Conway: My point is-
Mr Murdoch: We haven't got your point yet.
Mr Conway: My point is, I say to my friend whose mother was a teacher, I have to think that your mother must have had some pedagogical successes beyond my comprehension and my current viewpoint. But I have to say to the House tonight, with tens of thousands of teaching positions coming on stream within the next couple of years in Ontario, the rest of Canada-California, according to the Wente article, requires something between 250,000 and 300,000 new teachers. In eastern Ontario, we've had school boards from the southeast, from North Carolina, up in Ottawa making very attractive offers.
Mr Murdoch: But you're relying on an article in a paper.
Mr Conway: I say to Caliban, if you want to debate in a Parliament as opposed to expectorating in a barroom, you can come and join this.
Interjection: Very arrogant.
Mr Conway: I am arrogant. When I am so rudely interrupted, you bet you-
The Acting Speaker: Please take it outside or stop, OK?
Mr Conway: You see, that's what we had here last night, I say to my friend the Attorney General. We had this kind of barroom behaviour. If you want to show up here at the end of the night when people like Johnson, Beaubien and others have been here patiently participating and listening, I don't think it's arrogant to say that's rude and unbecoming.
My point simply is this, that the marketplace is going to dictate that governments, school authorities and communities are going to have to do all kinds of things, like the Governor of California has apparently done this week, because there is going to be a critical and chronic shortage in the teaching profession across the continuum, elementary, secondary and post-secondary. That's why this attitude is so peculiar. Attack the teachers, denigrate the profession and do this at a time when you know it's going to be a sellers' market. I'm not a businessman, but I think I know enough common sense to understand that's got to be a counterproductive, if not a destructive strategy.
Yes, there has to be change. There will always be change in education. I always like to remind people, and if you've never read it or heard of it, you should read Hilda Neatby's famous tract, So Little for the Mind, published in 1953, a blistering attack on the public school system of Canada and America about the time I was born. Jack Granatstein writes wonderful tracts these days denouncing a lot of what goes on in education. I spent this winter teaching in an Ontario university. I guess I'm old-fashioned and, boy, would I like to have my friend Murdoch in that class. It's clear the world is changing. We are living increasingly in an electronic world.
Mr Conway: I am double-dipping. I'm happy to tell Revenue Canada and the House that I am. It is an experience that has taught me something about the importance of prep time, about the condition and the attitude of students today. When people say the school system reflects the society, they're absolutely right. My teacher friends tell me of the situations they routinely encounter, not just in places like Toronto and Ottawa but in the Ottawa Valley communities I represent, Pembroke, Petawawa, Renfrew, Arnprior, Eganville and Barrys Bay. I'm hearing things that I find quite extraordinary, some of them positive and some of them very worrisome.
My friend from Windsor West has talked to the House about these raves. Can you imagine teaching on a Monday morning in a classroom where half the kids were out at some rave in Windsor or London? Inconceivable if you were in high school when I was there in the mid-to-late 1960s, but that is a reality with which teachers, principals and vice-principals have to deal in the year 2000. Yes, our teachers and our principals have an enormous challenge. I'm the first one to consider change. On the issues of standards, I'm probably prepared to go further than most people in this room, but I'm a realist. I had 15 wonderful students this winter reminding me on a weekly basis of just how important a bit of reality must be in the instructor. I spend a lot of my time in this library down the hall, one of the great services we have as members of the Legislature. I don't see many people in that library, morning, noon or night-wonderful people, wonderful resources. I don't see very many people in that library, in those stacks, in those reading rooms.
You know what? Our experience is very typical of modern Canada and modern America. Yes, we have work to do and nothing is more important than our public school system. Duff Roblin, the former Premier of Manitoba, has just written a book, a memoir. I recommend it to you. One of the most interesting things about Roblin's long life in politics is his conclusion that no responsibility is greater than the public schools and nothing is more important in those schools than respect for a professional and dedicated teaching profession. That's the situation that I think Mike Harris is undermining in a serious and destructive way these days in Ontario.
The Acting Speaker: It being just past 9:30 of the clock, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10 of the clock.
The House adjourned at 2130.