LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L'ONTARIO
Monday 22 October 2001 Lundi 22 octobre 2001
Monday 22 October 2001 Lundi 22 octobre 2001
The House met at 1845.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
QUALITY IN THE CLASSROOM
ACT, 2001 /
LOI DE 2001 SUR LA QUALITÉ
DANS LES SALLES DE CLASSE
Resuming the debate adjourned on October 18, 2001, on the motion for second reading of Bill 110, An Act to promote quality in the classroom / Projet de loi 110, Loi visant à promouvoir la qualité dans les salles de classe.
The Acting Speaker (Mr David Christopherson): I believe the member from Trinity-Spadina has the floor, and he may now continue.
Mr Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): Boys, just relax. There are 52 minutes. Lie back in your chairs and enjoy yourselves. That's what this is about.
First I want to congratulate you, Acting Speaker and member from Hamilton Centre, on your new position. I hope you enjoy yourself in that position; I'm sure you will.
Secondly, I want to say hello to the good folks who are watching across Ontario. I know there are a lot of people, because I get my fair share of e-mail, which leads me to conclude there are a whole lot of people watching who are interested in knowing what we have to say, what you have to say and how we differ each from the --
Mr James J. Bradley (St Catharines): They're wondering how the NDP gets so much time with only nine seats.
Mr Marchese: With the kind blessing of the Liberal Party, we have some time here in this House. I thank you for that small benefit you have given us, but I know that some members over there would like more time. Isn't that right? You would love to have more time to debate in this House. You're quite right, and you should.
Mr Marchese: I know Mr Bradley in particular needs more time, and I hope he gets the time he deserves to speak in this important debate. I'm sure he will tonight.
Good citizens of Ontario, welcome to a political forum. It's 10 to 7, more or less, and again we're discussing a bill that's connected with teachers, poor, beleaguered teachers, who have to duck constantly every other day because this government is out there with the guns, just aiming those guns and rifles at teachers in particular, federations, unions. Is that a terrible image? Perhaps it's too strong: poor, beleaguered teachers hunted by this government on a daily basis. Teachers are so dispirited and disillusioned that many want to leave the profession. Why is it that I believe the Tories are targeting teachers in a very specific and determined way?
Hon David H. Tsubouchi (Chair of the Management Board of Cabinet): Temporary insanity?
Mr Marchese: It's not insanity. It's quite a sane strategy. They know exactly what they're doing. I say to you that they have done to teachers what they have done to welfare recipients. I liken the two because they fit. The good thing about Tories is that they know how to go after their supporters out there, and they know how to nurture those feelings that people have -- good and bad -- because at least six years ago people across Ontario were looking for an enemy, and they found the enemy in the welfare recipient. Everybody knew somebody or other, who may or may not have been able-bodied but looked able-bodied, collecting welfare. People in a recession were sick and tired of seeing that someone able-bodied was collecting a paycheque for not working.
Mike Harris had a solution for that. Mike Harris said, "We're going to make these people work," and the people of Ontario said, "Finally." But welfare recipients were not enough for this government. They had to target another group that could potentially be attacked by another sector of society, and they found that target. They were the teachers. In a very concerted way, this government went after teachers, because they know there were enough people out there who could potentially hate or dislike teachers on the basis that, one, they're paid well. The image of teachers that this government wanted was that those people are overpaid -- not that they're paid well, but that they're overpaid. The other image they wanted of teachers for the general public was to show them as people who were underworked. That's the perception this government worked at -- it didn't have to work hard -- in making sure the public related to two things: one, that teachers are overpaid, and two, that they are underworked, and we've got to fix that. Just as we fixed welfare, we're going to fix the fact that teachers make too much money and work so very little.
I say to you, Speaker, that teachers are our real heroes. These are the men and women who, on a daily basis, work with 30 students in a classroom -- 35 or 38 students from time to time -- work with young men and women who are not all of the same level in terms of learning. There are in those classrooms some difficult students they've got to contend with, there are students with special needs whom they have to contend with and students who learn at different levels whom they've got to contend with. They do that with the skills they have picked up over the years, the skills they picked up at teachers' college and skills they picked up before that, having gone through the university system. They do that heroically, day in and day out. It's not an easy job. Teachers will tell you, John --
Hon John R. Baird (Minister of Community and Social Services, minister responsible for children, minister responsible for francophone affairs): I'm here for you.
Mr Marchese: I'm glad you're here, John. Minister Baird, you're a good man, and I know you came to learn.
Teachers work with young men and women daily, making sure they shape them as good citizens, because we want them to be good citizens -- and we want them to be good taxpayers, don't we? Of course. Day in and day out, it's a tough job. A whole lot of people, when they go into that classroom, when they go into that school experience, wonder how teachers do it day in and day out. Some of them wonder how we do it day in and day out, but I think our job is a lot easier than what teachers do. I do; I really believe that. They put in long hours, making sure they create good citizens, and it's not an easy job.
This government comes along and says to them, "You're just not good enough -- from time to time, you are." But in terms of every initiative that started six years ago, what they have shown school boards and trustees and teachers is that these people are simply not good, not good enough, and we've got to change, because the status quo was bad, and we've got to improve the system to make it better so the educational outcome can be what they want it to be for all those good taxpayers out there who are paying big bucks to make sure we produce good-quality students.
I couldn't read that, John.
I say to you, citizens of Ontario, that if you want a good product, you have to work with the people who work within that system. What I learned as a school trustee for eight years is that when you want changes, you need to be working with the people who implement them for those changes to be effective. This government has not once sat down with the profession and said, "We want to work with you." Not once. That is why, because of this neglect of the profession and the attacks and assaults on the profession, so many of our good teachers are leaving, and they're leaving in droves. So many are so disillusioned, dispirited and demoralized that they're quitting. They're quitting because they're tired of being treated badly, tired of not being treated as professionals, as they should be.
Teachers deserve a special place in this province, but we have -- yes, I dare say -- demonized them, because there is a public out there that says, "I get up at 6 o'clock in the morning. I go to work. I go back home at 6 o'clock in the evening. I work hard," as if to suggest that teachers have an easy life and don't work hard. That's why the government is going after teachers, day in and day out, year in and year out, while at the same time you have Harris, the Minister of Finance and Madam Ecker saying how much they love the teachers and how much these changes are being introduced to help them, because, God knows, the Tories love teachers, and they do this because they love students even more. They love children much more, but it is true that they love the profession and want to help the profession. It's for that reason that they want to test teachers, because teachers want to be helped, are desperately looking for help. So the government quite obligingly says, "We're going to help you. We're going to test you. We're going to test you, because you professionals need help. You're calling and begging for help." The profession --
Hon David Turnbull (Solicitor General): Would you fly on an airline where the pilots weren't tested twice a year?
Mr Marchese: The minister raises a question about who else is being tested. I think your point is that other people are being tested. Is that correct, more or less? He nods in approval.
Hon Mr Turnbull: Surgeons? Yes.
Mr Marchese: Speaker, through you to the minister, does a surgeon have to go through some testing program to be recertified as a surgeon?
Hon Mr Turnbull: Yes.
Mr Marchese: Really? They take courses? Doctors go through 14 courses, like teachers do, at the end of which, if they don't pass -- because there's got to be some kind of testing -- they don't make it as doctors? They do that? It's not true. It isn't true.
Hon Mr Turnbull: What about police officers?
Mr Marchese: You see, these people want to make you believe that all the other professionals are being tested to stay whatever they are, whatever it might be, doctors or lawyers.
Hon Mr Baird: You're tested. You're the best in Toronto.
Mr Marchese: Minister Baird says I'm tested. It's true. I'm tested every four years. It's not a written test: are you a knowledgeable MPP? It's not that kind of question they ask you, right?
Hon Mr Baird: You're the best MPP. I read it.
Mr Marchese: I am. I've been selected the best MPP in Metro. It's true. That is true, but on what basis? I don't have to write any exams to show I'm a good politician -- I don't. And while it is true that I've got to go through 80,000 or 100,000 people -- however many are electors; that is the test we go through -- most professions do not and are not required to do what you are requiring of teachers. They're not, not for recertification -- not doctors, not lawyers and not many other professions I'm aware of.
They can say there are. They can say anything, as they do, but it isn't true. So when you go and sit down in their offices with one of these fine ministers or MPPs, ask them to bring with them some evidence that shows they have to go through some mandatory courses which they have to pass and if they do not they don't stay in their profession. Ask them to bring you that documentation --
Hon Mr Turnbull: Every pilot. Every single pilot.
Mr Marchese: -- because Mr Turnbull won't be able to bring you anything. There is nothing I am aware of.
Look, doctors are one of the most important professions we've got. Our lives are in their hands. But I don't know that that profession is required regularly, every two or three years, to have an appraisal by somebody else to stay on as doctors. I'm not aware of that profession having to take 14 courses -- seven mandatory, seven elective -- in order to, at the end of it, go through some kind of measure that is presumably looked over by someone, after which you pass and stay on or you don't stay on as a doctor. I'm not aware of that. But that's an important profession. Our lives, good citizens and taxpayers, are in their hands, and these guys -- and women -- they don't have to take these courses.
Hon Mr Turnbull: Tell me about airline pilots.
Mr Marchese: Mr Turnbull, I love to engage you; that is true. But I'm saying to the citizens in your riding, when they meet with you -- on Fridays, I presume -- I want you to tell them, or I want you, good citizens, to tell him, "Please bring with you the evidence that shows me that doctors and lawyers and engineers and the like have to do the same as teachers."
That's what I'm asking, through you, Speaker, him and the citizens to do, just for my own clarification -- and theirs. Because you see, Mr Turnbull and the other ministers don't expect you, good citizens and taxpayers, to go and do on your own this research that would prove or disprove what I'm saying, that would prove or disprove what Mr Turnbull is saying. He doesn't expect you to go to the library. He doesn't expect you, good taxpayer, to go anywhere and inquire, if you can, as to what I'm talking about. He doesn't expect you -- hopes that you won't. All he wants you to know is, "Yes, they do have to go through these recertification courses."
Hon Mr Turnbull: Are you saying airline pilots aren't recertified?
Mr Marchese: Bring me the evidence.
Hon Mr Baird: What about real estate agents?
Mr Marchese: Real estate agents. Now let me just see, real estate agents, what they would have to go through.
Hon Mr Turnbull: What about airline pilots?
Mr Marchese: Airline pilots. Well, maybe we should look at that.
I would have loved for you to have brought this before me so I could use that as one example of a profession -- because it's an important one; our lives are in their hands too, you're quite right. David, in your view, do they take 14 courses like teachers on a regular basis to recertify?
Mr Marchese: I don't think he knows, so we can't have this debate. And it's hard to have it through you, Mr Speaker, because it's so complicated.
The Acting Speaker: Let me see if I can just help a little bit. Part of the problem is, of course, the member brings this on himself. So to a large degree, the response he's getting he has asked for. But I am going to ask the government benches to please respect the fact that the member from Trinity-Spadina has the floor.
Mr Marchese: I respect interventions, I really do. And I like interventions, I really do, because they help me. They engage me.
I'm saying that the profession is under siege. It is under attack on a daily basis. Teachers are leaving and principals are leaving. The principals we have in the system are inexperienced. The bulk of the principals in our system are inexperienced. They don't know who to turn to for help, although there's an association now representing them. I'm sure they're helping out as best they can. But they have declared, just a couple of months ago, that there's a shortage of principals. They're leaving the profession. They're not there. I say to you, good citizens and taxpayers, that principals are the key to an effective school. Principals are the key to good educational outcomes. Without these principals, we don't have good schools.
But what's happening in many of these schools? In one school in the east end -- and I don't know whether I should name this principal; I'm not sure he wants it to be known. Peter "told us about the problems the school has been facing all year because it does not have enough caretaking staff." Not enough caretaking staff -- not the separate school system, not the public school system. Both have been suffering cutbacks in caretaking, to the extent we've got more mice, I often say, than we have teachers in the schools. It's true.
But this person goes on: "He told us about operating the snow blower on snowy days" -- principals operating the snow blowers on snowy days -- "cleaning up when the toilets overflow" -- messy job. I didn't think principals should be doing that or ought to be doing that, but they are -- "about moving furniture -- activities that keep him occupied day in and day out." He "explained to us that his role is supposed to be one of leadership for his teachers, leadership in the delivery of the curriculum. He told us that schools need their principal to be engaged in promoting academic excellence, not cleaning toilets."
Mr Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): Who is this Peter anyway? Is it Peter Kormos?
Mr Marchese: A number of MPPs are making fun, as if to suggest that that's not possible, it isn't real; it must be Marchese inventing it. This principal in fact is not real, because it isn't possible they could be doing such things, right? Is that right?
Mr Carl DeFaria (Mississauga East): That's an honest job.
Mr Marchese: I'm not saying that cleaning toilets is a dishonest job; it's a very honest job, and a lot of caretakers do it. There are fewer of them, and the principal is filling in to help out. You see, that's what I'm saying. It's dumb, what is happening in our school system. Principals are our principal teachers and are supposed to be involved in the development of the curriculum, helping to motivate teachers on a day-to-day basis so they can teach our kids. They're cleaning toilets, operating the snow blower to clear snow off the sidewalks. It's nuts, right? Good taxpayers, do you see the image I'm creating here? I'm not manufacturing this; this is real.
Mr Dunlop: Just give us the name of the school.
Mr Marchese: The principal is from Toronto-Danforth, and it's Peter Griffin who told us this story. It's a real human being.
I think that if a number of members feel that perhaps I invented this, they should go to this principal, Mr Griffin, Toronto-Danforth, and say to him, "Mr Griffin, Mr Marchese was talking about some things. Is it possible they're true? Tell us it isn't so." Please, Mr Dunlop, go to him and say, "It can't be real." If it is, ask him what he thinks about such things going on in our school system.
Principals are leaving. They are in short supply. Many of them are inexperienced because of the move this government has made to remove them from the federations.
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): What is the basis for that?
Mr Marchese: Monsieur Beaubien, the basis of it is that you people are forcing them out. You whack them day in and day out. They don't feel good. I wouldn't feel good getting whacked day in and day out. It would hurt me, right? If you're beating me day in and day out, I would feel the weight of that pounding. I don't know any teacher who is feeling great to be teaching under you folks.
Mr Frank Mazzilli (London-Fanshawe): I do.
Mr Marchese: Frank, if you know one, please bring him here. Name him or her. I'd like to call her or him and find out how these teachers are functioning in the system, because they're not. They are unhappy to be teaching in an environment where they are not consulted and they are constantly attacked. You have made $2.3 billion in cuts to the system since you came into power. Everyone, from students to parents to teachers, feels not wanted, not liked and not respected. All they want is respect. Just leave them alone for a little while; let them teach.
Mr Marchese: No, no. Let them teach, is what I say to you.
Your policy of introducing both the Student Protection Act and the Quality in the Classroom Act puts obligations on the public system that it does not put on the private system, and you know it. It's sad.
The Student Protection Act is a good one. The Student Protection Act protects students from sexual abuse. We support that. It redefines "sexual abuse" in a way that is comprehensive in its definition, and it includes not only physical sexual abuse but also sexual harassment. We think that's a good bill, and we supported that bill. We continue to support it, because when something is right, we as New Democrats feel an obligation to say so, and we do. And teachers believe that is true. But in the private school system that you people funded just a little while ago, those teachers -- Garfield, you know --
Mr Dunlop: Yes. We gave them a tax credit.
Mr Marchese: Yes, the tax credit. That's another one. I'll get to that. But don't go away; I want to chat with you.
Mr Beaubien: He'll come back in 15 minutes and he won't have missed a thing.
Mr Marchese: You're probably right.
Those teachers in the private school system -- now funded, Monsieur Beaubien, by you and by the taxpayer -- who are not certified are not subject to that law. You see, you protect them, because they are not subject to that law. So those who teach but are not certified, but are really teachers, don't have to abide by that law.
I say to you, Monsieur Beaubien, it's dumb to give away public money, taxpayers' money, the people you often refer to, and not obligate the private sector, those teachers who are not certified, to be bound by that law, the Student Protection Act. Similarly, with the Quality in the Classroom Act, where there is supposed to be a teacher performance review, those in the private system who are not certified are not subject to this law. That's wrong and it's dumb.
How can you give away public dollars to a private school system and then say to half of that system, most of whom are not certified teachers, that they're not subject to this law? Frank, you've got to follow through with this logic. It's not right, it's not intelligent, and most people see through that. Most of the people say, "If my public dollars go to that system, I want to make sure that everyone is subject to the law equally," but they're not. Why would you do that? Why in hell's name would you decide to do that in this particular economic time, when you don't have any money, when you are bankrupt? I know the Minister of Finance loves to paint a picture and pretend that the economy is doing well, because he wants to make sure that people don't lose confidence in him, in his government and in the economy. He wants to make sure people keep on spending, I understand that, but in spite of what he wants, the economy is slowing down. We're seeing it.
We're seeing that you could not create a recession-proof economy, that it was foolhardy to pretend you could. It was foolhardy for you to believe that somehow this economy could be eternally good. It's foolhardy to believe in the sovereignty of the individual, that the sovereignty of the individual could solve all problems in society. We have seen that when the bad times come, people come running to government for help, because they know they cannot solve certain problems on their own, that they are not sovereign, that they cannot unto themselves solve economic problems and social problems that we face as human beings in society. They know that. When September 11 happened in the US, who did they run to, Frank? They didn't run after the corporate sector to save them, and they didn't run to themselves to save themselves. The first entity they went to was government, and in Canada they came to government for protection, for security. They came to government because they know they're not sovereign unto themselves.
You've lost sight of that. You, the non-government government, lost sight of the fact that there are turns in our economy, and it comes back to you someday where people will say, "We need governments. We need you to restore the obligations of government." They do come back, but you've given away the whole shop. You're broke. We are broke as a result of your foolhardy political, ideological actions.
Hon Mr Baird: And you wanted to cut taxes more.
Mr Marchese: I say to Mr Baird that cutting taxes --
Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): You raised the debt.
Mr Marchese: Hold on, Tony, I'm going to explain.
Mr Martin: Yes, explain to them that they raised the debt.
Mr Marchese: I will.
There are different policy tools that we can use. The Tories say that the best way to save our economy is by giving income tax cuts. What we have seen is that the income tax cuts have not saved Ontario. If they created this boom, they have to admit that they're creating the downfall, because you can't have both. Both cannot coexist. You cannot have an economy that's great and booming because of tax cuts, and then, at the same time, argue that the economy is slipping because of tax cuts. You can't have both; something is wrong. You cannot claim both things at the same time. I'm saying, if your tax cuts improved the economy, I'm telling you now they are bringing its downfall. You can't have both.
Mr Marchese: You can't. So I'm saying to you that what you have done is fiscally a failure. You're driving that tired little pony -- it's not even a horse -- that same pony, the Minister of Finance day in and day out with the same sort of chant, the same drone. My God, it's almost as bad as some other previous ministers that were in this place: same drone every day, day in and day out. Tax cuts are draining your economy, are draining our economy. There's no more money left. You are the same wild ideologues that a couple of years ago gave 200 bucks to every individual, which amounted to one billion bucks; one billion bucks at a time when we don't have it, you give it away. How nutty can you be, giving away $1 billion?
Taxpayers of Ontario, do you know how much money we need? Do you know how much help we desperately need in an educational system that has suffered some $2.3 billion in cuts; a university and college system that have suffered together close to $2 billion in cuts cumulatively in the last six years? Do you know how much help that money could be to people who need home care, who are not receiving the home care they deserve once they are kicked out of those hospitals, how far $1 billion could go? And yet this government, through its wisdom, gave away $1 billion to give to each taxpayer 200 bucks so you could feel good having 200 bucks in your pocket. And where will it take you? Where will 200 bucks take you in a recession, good taxpayers of Ontario? How far will you be able to walk with 200 bucks in a recession? It is so sad what's happening to our province.
John Baird says, "What about the PST that you taxfighters are talking about?" The PST is, in our argument as New Democrats, a better fiscal policy tool than the income tax cut. The PST helps the 80% to 90% of the population who are modest-income earners. Every time you go buy something and you get whacked by 7% GST and another whack by an 8% PST -- the combination which is 15% -- every time you buy something, it really hurts. So if you're earning, taxpayer, $40,000 a year and you get a break in your PST, man, would you feel good. You would feel it. But I ask you, taxpayer who has earned $40,000 a year, how much have you received in the last couple of years since these folks have come into power? How much help have they given you in order to have the earning power that you need?
Now you've got user fees galore as a result of the income tax cuts. Imagine, in a good economy, you're paying high user fees on everything that you need unlike ever before; in a good economy, you're paying that. Tuition fees have doubled since these people have come into power. So the couple of hundred bucks you were making as a $40,000 income earner, versus the couple of thousand your son or daughter has to pay every year in tuition fees, does that amount to an equivalency? It doesn't. These people have robbed you blind, taxpayers.
Mr Martin: And they've run up the debt.
Mr Marchese: And the debt has skyrocketed too. The debt has gone up since you guys came into power, yes. A lot of people don't know that, but it has.
So I say to those of you who are watching: teachers need respect from governments. You need to be treated as the real heroes that you are, and you're not getting that from this government. You need to ask some tough questions about the other two political parties -- which are us and the Liberal Party -- in the next little while, no doubt about it. And you will be able to see in a short, little while the differences between us all. You have seen already the kinds of love this government has given you, this tough love, and I think after six years you've had enough. Even the 28% of those teachers that voted for this government, in the second turn that these people have had, 1999, even those 28% are having second thoughts. I know that.
Mr Dunlop: How do you know?
Mr Marchese: I know. I talk to them on a regular basis. As the critic for education, we meet a lot of these people, and many are unhappy. And soon you'll be able to see the difference between what we stand for and what Liberals stand for. You need to ask the tough questions. We will be debating and comparing our various policies. We will do that.
But our educational system at the moment could live with just three simple things in order to improve our system, and it won't cost much. You need good principals who are good curriculum leaders. They're not able to be good curriculum leaders because they're not permitted to do their job as the principal curriculum teachers that they are. They're not doing that in this government because they're doing the dirty work of many of the caretakers -- the dirty work; I say "dirty" in the sense that principals have different responsibilities than caretakers. They're doing a different type of work than they ought to be doing.
If you've got a good principal in that school who is able to then do the following: motivate teachers to the extent that they're happy to be in that school -- and three, make sure you find a system to get parents involved. By the way, it's not good enough just to say parents ought to be involved. It isn't good enough. And it's not good enough for this government to say, "Oh, we are getting them involved in decision-making." That's not what it's about.
Parental involvement doesn't mean that parents want to run schools. They don't want to do that. They've got full-time jobs, and they don't want to be in the business of being politicians. They want to be involved. They want to stay connected to the educational system. So what I mean by parental involvement is the following: professional parents, people of professional backgrounds, by and large -- I don't mean this across the board, but by and large parents from professional backgrounds sit down with their children on a regular basis and involve themselves with their children and their studies and communicate to them the value of education.
Now, there are a whole lot of other people who are not necessarily in the professions who do that as well. Don't misunderstand me. There are a whole lot of people in society, in all sectors, who do that. But by and large, in a class-based society, the well-to-do, the professional classes spend a whole lot of time in the education of their children. And the result of that involvement shows incredibly. The academic achievement goes up.
What do we need to do as the third leg of that proposal that I put to you? We have to reach out to those parents who are not involved in the educational system, who do not go to the parent-teacher nights, who do not sit with their children on a regular basis to review their work, and to help out, if need be, but even to discuss issues with them as it relates to the things they do day to day; elementary, secondary and then the university system.
Those parents who show the extra effort have an incredible effect on the educational outcome of their children. So I say the third leg of that stool is making sure that we do some outreach. That needs money to pay people who are actually school community relations workers so that they actually go out into those communities and bring the parents into the school system. It goes beyond saying that we governments value parental involvement. It doesn't happen on its own. You need to work to get them into the school system.
So, three things, simple: a principal who understands how students learn, a principal who loves to be there and do the job that needs to be done, a principal who knows how to inspire and motivate teachers. If you've got that quality in a principal, you're able to have happy teachers who love to come to work every day, unlike what we have now.
Teachers don't like to go to work any more. I generalize, and I could be wrong, but many don't like going to work as much as they used to in the past, John Baird. It's true. And unless teachers go to school with a love to be there, John, those kids are not going to learn. They're not going to learn. They will learn only when a teacher is happy and motivated and has the interest of the students at heart and is able to do that because there is a government and a society that says to those teachers, "We value your work." If you don't have a government that says we value what you do, that immediately passes on to that profession and the whole system, and it infects it ever so badly. The effect of it is pervasive. People feel it across the board.
We have a system in the Toronto Board of Education that has suffered $400 million in cuts since this government came into power -- 400 million bucks. In the following year, they are to suffer another $126 million in cuts. My colleague Michael Prue from Beaches-East York today asked the Minister of Education a question about swimming pools, that boards cannot afford to keep them open. So the minister -- and others, including John Baird -- said, "I don't have a swimming pool in my area," as if to suggest that because he doesn't have one, nobody else should.
But the argument is a false one. The argument I want to make to you, good citizens, is that the Toronto Board of Education, in its foresight, was able to understand that that kind of recreational activity is good for young men and women. It is an important recreational facility to keep people actively involved. If they have something to do, better it be involvement in that kind of activity than in some other activity that is of either a perverse or perfidious nature, or just an ugly nature. Better to swim than be doing something else that could put somebody in prison. They understood that. It's part of a social understanding of what human beings need. So I say to the Minister of Education and others, what do you want the Toronto Board of Education to do: fill the swimming pools with cement and/or sand and maybe they could be used as playgrounds for children? Is that what you're asking them to do? Or should you be restoring the ability that the Toronto Board of Education and others had to raise their own money so they can make decisions as they relate to that city and to that board?
When you centralized education financing, you took the power away from the Toronto board and other boards across the province -- Ottawa, Hamilton and every other city imaginable that had at least a big enough base to be able to make different kinds of decisions. They did so, and so they had the financial wherewithal to be able to put swimming pools in those schools because it was a good thing. Ever since you centralized education funding and you took that power away, boards of education are no longer able to raise money to keep those pools open. That's the problem. I say to the Minister of Education, I know you don't fund swimming pools. You didn't fund them when the Toronto board had them, but they had the power and the tools to do so on their own. Given that you took away that tool to do so, give them back the tools so they can keep their swimming pools open. That's what they're asking you to do.
The Toronto Board of Education, unlike any other board in the province, has used educational assistants very effectively. In the early years, educational assistants are incredibly important to help the teacher do his or her job. It's not just a matter of tying shoes or putting on coats in the winter or helping with whatever a little child needs. They have to learn; they have to be taught. A teacher cannot do all those things at once. The value of having an educational assistant isn't a value that pertains solely to the Toronto board; it's a value that crosses all boards of education. But the Toronto board, in its wisdom and at the time, had the financial resources to be able to say, "We value and we need educational assistants." Well, they're firing them by the thousands now because they don't have the money, because your funding formula is inadequate to fund all these educational needs. Your funding tools are not based on human needs, and across the board they're crying for help. Across the province they're crying for help.
Here's a chairperson of the board, R.L. Willsher from Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, and here is a motion that was passed just a while ago:
"That the board write to the Honourable Janet Ecker, Minister of Education, outlining the impact of reductions as a result of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board 2001-02 budget approval, with copies to MPPs and Liberal and NDP education critics."
It says, "The following reductions in program and services were required to deliver the approved budget," and he gives a figure here. "The budget dealt with a projected accumulated deficit" of $6 million "as follows." They had to make reductions of $6 million in total, and here's where they had to make reductions. Listen to this, Carl.
"Reduction in elementary library services, 2.6 FTE" -- that's full-time equivalents, almost three staff people -- "and reallocating of the equivalent of 10 FTE from library programs; reduction of elementary and secondary special education resource teachers" by 22 full-time equivalents. These are special education resource teachers. "Reduction of special education classroom teachers, 4.13 FTE; reduction of teachers in alternative education and over-21 programs," four full-time equivalents; "reduction of school administrators," two full-time equivalents; "reduction of program and information technology program consultants," 11 full-time equivalents; "reduction of paraprofessional staff in program services, 7.6 FTE; reduction of $845,000 in program support for schools; reduction of educational assistants, 23 FTE; all acquisition of new computers for classrooms suspended; management and support staff reduced," by six full-time equivalents; "suspension in required technology investments of $800,000; reduction of secondary capital equipment budget of $359,000; reduction in board administration of $264,000; reduction in plant expenditures of $750,000."
It's a long list. It's tiring just to read it.
I read this for the record as a way of showing to you that this board is not alone. What this board and other boards are looking for is help from our provincial government. They're looking for help to finance their needs. If only there were a government in power at this time that could deliver on their needs instead of delivering on political promises that cause nothing but the ruin of our educational system.
You have introduced changes that are perverse in nature, that make teachers victims and at the same time make them the target of everybody's hostility. Instead of helping to provide the support they need because they teach our children, you have politicized the profession in ways we have never, ever seen before. You fired trustees literally by making sure they don't get more than $5,000 in honorarium because you didn't want trustees to be political, yet you have been the most political government in our educational system that I have ever seen and you've politicized education in a way that you should not have, in a way that has caused disrepute to the profession and in a way that will take a great deal of effort by a new government to restore some faith, to restore some educational value we used to have, and to restore confidence in our teachers so desperately needed at this time.
Another teacher has written to me, and I want to put it on the record. A Mr Frank Bitonti, who is a regular watcher of this program, has a few messages for the minister. I want to read it for the record.
"I am writing this letter to you as a concerned teacher as well as a taxpayer regarding the teacher recertification process as legislated by Bill 80.... This letter is to notify you that should I be randomly selected for recertification, I would ask my union to protect me and challenge the new regulations that I believe infringe on two of my primary constitutional rights, the right to liberty of person and the right to equality as guaranteed by sections 7 and 15 respectively of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms....
"A constitutional challenge ... would expose the shallow political motives that underlie the passage of the new regulations in the College of Teachers Act, regulations that will do little if anything to improve the quality of teaching in Ontario, but are simply designed to allay the fears of the public that the government is abandoning public education....
"We as public educators will argue that as a group we are being unfairly targeted as a profession by requiring that we be recertified, a process that other professionals such as lawyers, doctors, or nurses do not have to go through. Furthermore, teachers will have imposed upon them the monetary burden and obligation of paying for our recertification, a burden and obligation that is not imposed on other professionals and/or skilled workers in this province."
He goes on to say much more. I've got to tell you that he speaks for many teachers in their disenchantment with this government. He speaks for many teachers when he feels especially targeted. When no other profession is targeted like teachers, they wonder why that is happening. That is why he and I argue that there is a political kind of motivation behind everything this government is doing. They're hoping that by polarizing the public, by sticking to those strong politics of going after people -- like welfare, like teachers -- they hopefully will get the 35%, 37% or 38% of popular support to carry them through for another term. I don't think they're going to get it. I think the public is upset and angry enough that they will not stand for it.
This recertification process helps nothing but to expand the College of Teachers -- no disrespect to the College of Teachers. The college itself estimates that the recertification will necessitate creating an additional 110 staff positions and initial implementation costs of $2.2 million annually. Whom does that help? Does that help the poor teachers who are beleaguered and need the support or does it help to fatten the College of Teachers a little more with people we don't really need because of the policies of this government? What we need is a public that is outraged enough to tell this government that enough is enough, that you're sick and tired of them and that you need to meet with them and talk to them on a regular basis to convince them they're on the wrong track, that this government has taken them there and the new leader, whoever that may be, will take them further on the wrong track if they continue with these politics in this direction.
The Acting Speaker: It is now time for questions and comments.
Mr Beaubien: It's a pleasure to respond to the member for Trinity-Spadina, especially when he talks about tax cuts being no good. Yet during question period this afternoon, the leader of his party was talking about sales tax reduction in order to spur the economy. So on the one hand in the afternoon they talk about tax cuts and at night they talk about the tax cuts being no good.
He also talked about swimming pools in schools and that the school boards don't have the financial wherewithal to maintain them. I see that the member from Sarnia-Lambton is in the audience tonight and I know that the Lambton Kent District School Board, for instance, this year is finding money to spend on two tracks, $500,000 per track. That's $1 million.
You may say there are no school books in the classroom, and you may have a point with some school boards. However, school boards do make decisions. They're funded in a certain manner. Prior to having the funding formula they have today, they were funded in a different manner. But they were still spending the money. They were micromanaging the system, just like today. So consequently boards are going to make decisions that you and I may not agree with. However, as provincial representatives, even though we may criticize them, I think we do have a responsibility to respect their decision. As I said, maybe it's not the right decision for you or for me or other members, but they do have that decision.
Talking about the Sarnia-Lambton situation, I'm sure the member for Sarnia-Lambton remembers quite well a few years ago, and quite rightly so, that she embarked on a situation with the separate school board at the time whereby there was a misappropriation of funds. I think the people in the community appreciated the fact that somebody took interest and pointed that fact out.
Mr Rick Bartolucci (Sudbury): I want to commend the member for Trinity-Spadina for a very excellent presentation. Certainly in his leadoff he's covered many very important facts that I believe members on the other side should take very seriously.
He spoke as a former trustee with seven years of experience. I speak as a former teacher with over 30 years of experience when I tell you that from Premiers Robarts to Rae I saw happy teachers. With the Harris government I've only seen unhappy teachers. That's for a variety of reasons. Certainly teachers haven't had the resources in the classroom to do the job that they want to do. Certainly they haven't been engaged teacher to student the way they've wanted to be because of the pressures this government has put on them.
I would suggest to you that when we look at Bill 110, entitled Quality in the Classroom, we had indeed quality in the classroom before this government took office. What we have in the classroom now is dedication, determination and diligence to provide an education for the students of this province in spite of what the government is trying to do with our public education system. So when the member for Trinity-Spadina says that you've shortchanged the teachers of this province, he is right. When the member for Trinity-Spadina says you have shortchanged the students of this province, he is right. When the member for Trinity-Spadina says you have shortchanged the public education system in the province of Ontario, he is right. Instead of heckling on that side, you would do well to listen to what he has to say and what we have to say on this side.
The Acting Speaker: Member for Sault Ste Marie.
Mr Martin: Thank you very much, Speaker, and congratulations on your new position. So far you're doing well.
I want to say, though, that the member for Trinity-Spadina is also doing well here this evening and made an excellent argument for treating teachers and principals with respect and investing in public education in a way that allows the education system to live up to the mandate and the challenge that we all know it has and wants to achieve: to give students the best possible opportunity to do well and get on with their lives and participate in society.
As government -- and the member for Trinity-Spadina makes this argument as well -- we have choices. Those choices reflect the priority we put on things that we feel strongly about. This government has consistently, as the member for Trinity-Spadina has stated this evening, chosen to target and demonize and set apart certain groups of people. He mentioned the poor, and they've certainly done that in some major and significant and harmful ways. But teachers in the education system, a group of people that we should be ever looking for ways to support and encourage, we've set up as somehow demonic, with ulterior motives, not really interested in the well-being of their students but more interested in their own well-being.
I say to this government that you will be remembered and judged by the choices that you make. If you choose to give tax breaks to your wealthy friends and corporate benefactors, that's fine. You'll wear that. We on this side say that those monies should go into education as well as many other things.
The Acting Speaker: I recognize the member for Simcoe North.
Mr Dunlop: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and congratulations on your position.
I'd like to make a few comments on the member for Trinity-Spadina, who always is so colourful in his comments. Yet sometimes I have trouble following some of your reasoning as you go through 53 minutes of discussion.
First of all, I'd like to just bring up a couple of comments on Kawartha Pine Ridge. You read some kind of a motion over there -- I'm not exactly sure what it was. I had the opportunity to visit one of the schools in Kawartha Pine Ridge today, the Norwood high school: a beautiful high school, great teachers, beautiful grounds. No one at that school mentioned anything about all these problems that you pointed out today. What they did tell me, or what I was aware of, is that the funding this year for 2001-02 is part of the $360 million that we added on to funding, a 2.5% increase. That's with an enrolment increase of about 0.3%.
Why I was at that school, and it's an opportunity to say a few words on this because it ties into some other legislation, is that today the central region of the Ontario Provincial Police launched in that small rural high school -- I think it's about 500 students -- the "safety first" program. It deals with officers from the Ontario Provincial Police going into high schools, basically grades 8, 9 and 10, and training the students on people who abuse the Internet. I found it was a very valuable course. It was just launched and I was so pleased today to see that the OPP had launched it in a small rural town. I'll have other comments later on this evening, but I wanted to get that point out.
The Acting Speaker: The member for Trinity-Spadina has up to two minutes to respond.
Mr Marchese: I appreciate the comments made by friends and foes.
Mr Dunlop: Oh, come on. We're your friends.
Mr Marchese: Well, the member from Sudbury was very kind and I want to --
Mr Marchese: You were very unkind to me, and I want to say that the recertification of teachers is a political move. It is intended to polarize communities, to get communities fighting against each other; in this case, general communities against teachers. I find that reprehensible, incomprehensible, and it is absolutely unproductive.
The performance reviews, which is what this Quality in the Classroom Act is all about, is something the system has been doing for years and years. They didn't need you to do that; they've been doing it. There's always room for suggestions in terms of how a system could improve that, but the reason why you're bringing in performance appraisals has to do with the politicization of education in a way that is harmful to our system. Tying performance reviews to the recertification of teachers, which also says that teachers have to, by obligation of the government, take 14 courses -- seven mandatory, seven elective -- is profoundly disrespectful of that profession, because you do not expect the same of the other professions, and in that regard it's wrong.
We have dirtier schools than ever before. We have principals cleaning toilets. We have bussing cuts across the province. We have a textbook shortage. We have staffing cuts, teacher cuts. All they want is some respect and some respectful funding that is based on need and not the funding formula, which is based on square footage. That's what people are looking for, and I hope that's what you will get from the next government.
The Acting Speaker: The floor is now open for further debate. The Chair recognizes the member for Oak Ridges.
Mr Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): Thank you, Speaker. I too would add my congratulations to your appointment. I know that you will carry out those responsibilities with very high standards.
In my last opportunity to speak in the House, I referred to the decorum in this place and suggested that, of course, there's a responsibility on all members to conduct themselves appropriately. I have had numerous complaints, actually, particularly over the last month or so, from members within our community who are not impressed with how we carry on here.
I would reiterate what I said in my last comments here that, quite frankly, a great deal of responsibility for that rests with you, Speaker, because we have asked you as the Speaker to look after the decorum here, the procedures of the House. I, for one, would like to see you exercise that in a very strenuous way, so that when we have debate it is meaningful, we can listen to each other and we can take into consideration recommendations that are being made. I'm one who believes that often the opposition party has some good thoughts and good ideas, but if we can't hear what they're saying, then it's difficult to incorporate them. Likewise, we have some very good legislation that we have been bringing forward, and if the opposition is spending all of their time with catcalls, they can't hear what we're saying, can't hear the explanation as to what the rationale is for the legislation, and as a result our constituents lose. So welcome to your position, and we know that you will carry it off well.
I'm pleased to speak to Bill 110. The member for Trinity-Spadina indicated that he's speaking to this as a former trustee and brings a lot of information, a lot of very valid points to the debate. The member for Sudbury referred earlier to the fact that he's able to speak to this legislation as a former teacher, and we welcome that too. All of us bring different backgrounds to the position that we hold here.
I speak today as the member for Oak Ridges. I also speak as a parent who has had children in the education system in this province. I speak as a former employer who experienced the education system in different ways -- graduates coming in applying for jobs. I recall the election campaign in 1995. There were very few doors that I knocked on and very few discussions that I engaged in where the subject of education didn't come up, and this was not just with parents. It included many teachers who welcomed changes to the education system, who agreed that the education system was not what it should be, that there's lots of room for improvement. As a former employer I was frustrated on so many occasions about young people who were graduating either from high school or college or even university: as I viewed their resumé, there were grammatical errors and there were spelling errors. There was evidence that this individual had missed something along the line in terms of getting a quality education.
We committed to the people of this province at that time that we would bring reform to the education system, and so we have taken a number of steps over the last number of years to do that. It has become politicized, and I will be the first one to say that that is probably one of the most negative things that has happened in the last six years. Regardless of how good our policies are as a government relating to education, if we don't have the people onside who are on the front line delivering education and who see this as positive and in the best interests of students, we will never accomplish what the objective of that policy is.
I would look to members opposite, who can be very helpful in this. The member for Trinity-Spadina spoke about polarization in our communities. Let's take a look at how we're all dealing with this issue. Rather than often taking the good that is there and suggesting, "Yes, this would be in the best interests of the students and the system," the first thing that is done is that we point out how bad this is; and that is, for some reason the fact that, as in Bill 110, the government is coming forward and saying we believe it will be in the best interests of improving the quality of education. You may have a suggestion as to how this could be done better, but rather than doing that -- and I listened very carefully to the member for Trinity-Spadina, and I did not hear one suggestion as to how we might help to improve the quality of education and the quality of teaching that takes place in the classroom. If you don't like how this process is going to work, let's hear some positive suggestions.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to speak to the second reading of Bill 110, the Quality in the Classroom Act, 2001. Let's be clear that this is all about bringing improved quality to the classroom. The very purpose of our education system is to help our young people across this province get the best possible education available, to provide the tools and resources for students' success. There is no better way, in our opinion, to help students achieve a successful education and there's no better tool than to provide them with the best possible teachers. I don't know of any other way this could be achieved than to allow teachers to be assessed, to give them the opportunity to get a sense of how well they know the material that has to be covered and how well they can deliver that material, than to have the benefit of a structured program that is consistent across the province, that allows an assessment of their individual performances and then, very importantly, to have the appropriate remedial support available to these teachers so they can in fact improve how they do their job.
What is wrong with that or what is polarizing about that I'll never understand. If we're willing to step back and stop being political about this piece of legislation, which I believe is very positive, then perhaps we can get on with helping, as the member from Trinity-Spadina said earlier, and to making our education system the best it can possibly be.
Passage of this teacher test would be a requirement for becoming a member of the Ontario College of Teachers and receiving a certificate of qualification from the college. I don't know what's wrong with that. Actually, I understand why the opposition is probably opposed to this, because we had moved away in this province from even testing our young people as they were going through the education system, something I could never understand as a parent, frankly. How can we understand whether our students are performing, are learning, are qualifying in any area of discipline, unless there is some way to measure their ability to understand and to assimilate the information?
So we introduced testing for students. We believe that is very positive, and it's already proving that it is because for once, and for the first time in many years, what we're able to do is measure and understand those students who are not keeping up with the curriculum, who are not keeping up with the information that's needed to attain a certain level of knowledge that their peers, by the way, in other provinces or cities or countries around the world achieve. This is not for the purpose of punishing these young people; it's for the purpose of allowing them to get the remedial support they need to qualify for that level of education, which is measured now around the world.
The same is true for teachers. The qualifying test would assess the readiness of teachers to start their professional lives and ensure that they have a minimum level of knowledge and skills to begin teaching in our schools. I have to tell you -- and I'm sure this is the case for your constituents as well -- that every constituent I speak to believes this is a good idea, and they want to make sure we have the best teachers in our classrooms.
Development of the tests that I'm referring to is being sponsored by consultations with a broad range of educational stakeholders, including parents, students, principals, vice-principals, trustees, the deans of faculties of education and the Ontario College of Teachers.
It's important to note that Ontario is not the only jurisdiction to be moving in this direction. Spelling out entrance requirements to professionals is not something that was dreamed up in our caucus or cabinet meetings. It's something that, quite frankly, is being done in other jurisdictions. The United Kingdom, for example, recently introduced a test for new applicants to the teaching profession. In addition, France, Belgium and Switzerland use civil service exams as an entrance requirement to this profession.
The proposed qualifying test in Bill 110 would have questions based on areas of knowledge and skills from the Standards of Practice for the Teaching Profession, and that was established by the Ontario College of Teachers. So we've engaged the college in this process. From what I'm hearing, there is actually a great deal of support from the profession for this step. There are some concerns about implementation, but I think a lot of the objection is on the fringes. I believe that many teachers, in fact the majority of teachers across the province, support something that is going to increase the credibility and the quality of their profession and allow them to be the best they can possibly be.
Candidate teachers who meet all the requirements for certification, including passing the qualifying test, will be placed on the college's roster. That is a list of members, their qualifications and their status with the college, which allows individuals and boards that are in the process of recruitment to know precisely what the qualifications, backgrounds and supports are.
In a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive world, the need for quality assurance among all professionals, and especially teachers, is imperative. I think the member for St Catharines will agree with me. In fact, I've heard him say on a number of occasions that it's important that the quality of education in Ontario be increased and maintained. I've heard him say on a number of occasions that teaching is one of the highest callings in this province, and I agree with him.
If we are to believe that, then what we should be doing is implementing policies and regulations in this province that support that belief. If I believe that teaching is one of the highest callings, then as a lawmaker and a legislator, I want to give every opportunity to teachers in this province to become the best in the world. How can we know that they are unless we measure that? How can we know that they are unless there is a mandatory program of constant upgrading to ensure that the latest information is available to everyone across the province, not on a voluntary basis, but on a requirement basis?
There are members in this House -- I recall one member who shall remain nameless who, quite frankly, didn't spend a whole lot of time in this place for the term of his election. He's not here today, and the reason that he's not here today, I would suggest, and I'm sure that members opposite will agree, is because while he was here, he wasn't demonstrating a real commitment to the job. So as there are members here who on occasion don't necessarily take every effort and apply the kind of energy that they should to become and be the best they can be here, I'm sure it's true as well in the teaching profession. We're saying we're not going to leave it up just to the individual teacher to make a decision about whether they upgrade or whether they take additional courses; we're going to set a program in place that makes that mandatory.
The creation of province-wide standards would clearly be a major factor in ensuring that our teacher appraisal system is fair to all members of the profession. Today, we have some boards that have certain appraisal processes, but it's not standardized across the province. We believe it will be in everyone's best interests to in fact standardize this process. New teachers would be evaluated twice a year during their first two years in the classroom. An experienced teacher would be required to have an evaluation year every three years, with at least two evaluations of their classroom performance that year.
There used to be a time -- I know when I went to school, every once in a while a superintendent would come in and he'd sit at the back of the class -- or she -- and observe the actual practical teaching that was going on. At that time, I didn't hear accusations. Maybe it was, at that time as well, that somehow the requirement of having a superintendent in the back of the room was polarizing the community, was denigrating the profession. We know that wasn't the case. It was for the purpose of helping that teacher become better at what they do. That's the purpose behind Bill 110.
Bill 110 would also allow for parent and student input as an integral part of the appraisal process. Parental and pupil comments, of course, wouldn't be the only basis on which to influence the outcome of that report, but I can say to you -- we believe it's very important, and I'm sure, Speaker, you'd agree as well -- often the person who knows best about the quality of education in the classroom is the parent who is listening to the child, the student, coming back and telling about what's going on in that classroom. So we're suggesting there should be input into that appraisal process by the parents and the students.
Bill 110, we believe, is win-win legislation. With the passage of the Quality in the Classroom Act, 2001, parents will know their children are being taught by the most professional teachers in Canada; taxpayers will know that they're receiving value for their education dollars; and all Ontarians will know that we're moving closer to an education system that is firmly focused on quality. The issues of funding that have been discussed today are one thing, and we can probably never put enough money into the education system. So we have to live within our means. What we do have direct control over is the quality of the people who teach in that system. Bill 110 will allow us to achieve that. I will find it confusing if I see members of the opposition voting against this legislation because, as I said earlier, at the end of the day what is important is the quality of teaching that takes place in our classrooms. Let's leave a lot of the political wrangling aside and do what's best in the interests of our students.
The Acting Speaker: There's now an opportunity for members to respond with questions or comments for up to two minutes.
Mr Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): I agree that ensuring that we have quality teaching in our classrooms is an extremely complex issue. It has been said by people far more knowledgeable than myself that for every very complex issue, there is a very simple but wrong solution. I guess I should love this government, as an engineer: they have managed to take and make everything a formula; everything is a number; everything can be solved with a yes or no. There are no grey areas, there is no humanity. You're a good teacher -- yes; you're a bad teacher -- no. I can't accept that.
Mr Parsons: I think we have some sense of where the problem comes from now.
If we're going to measure performance, we need to do it to more than just teachers. If we look at other areas, say an elected official -- if a teacher were interested in input from parents and students and if they don't approve, then obviously that's a bad teacher -- then for an elected official, if the public said in a poll that their support is only 32%, should they leave?
Mr Parsons: Well, no, just a minute. I'm sorry, that is how it works. Poor analogy.
But for the matter of quality teachers, they're not measured in numbers. Each of us can think back to our experience in elementary, secondary and post-secondary, and the teacher we remember is not necessarily the one who was the best at calculus or remembered every history date. The teacher we remember was the one who inspired us, who turned us on to a love of teaching, who turned us on to education, who motivated us to continue and to want to learn.
I defy a test to be developed that can measure the passion for teaching that we need and want in our classrooms.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Trinity-Spadina.
Mr Marchese: The member from Oak Ridges says he could remember a time when there used to be superintendents sitting in the backof the room evaluating teachers, and that the teachers didn't like it. We used to have principals actually do evaluations. But we no longer have superintendents, if in his time there were superintendents doing that kind of evaluation, because they've all been fired. That's the so-called fat in the system that these people want to get rid of. There are no more superintendents any more because that's part of the fat these people wanted to cut away. So even if you wanted superintendents to do that kind of evaluation, they're not there any more.
What troubles me is that they cause the crisis and then they say, "Stop the wrangling. Let's get on with the job. We're just trying to help those poor teachers who are looking for help. Please, opposition New Democrats, don't cause this division. We're all trying to get along. We're trying to provide a few courses for these teachers to help them along."
Sixty-five to 68% to 70% of elementary teachers were doing professional development on their own without you coercing them to do so just a while ago. Almost 70% of elementary teachers were doing it on their own without you telling them, "You've got to do it." And then they say, "Oh, but we're just trying to help the teachers because the kids need help."
The problem is that you cut the system by $2.3 billion. There used to be professional development days, and you cut those days from nine or 11 to about two or three, leading to a system that needs to be privatized. That's why you're supporting private schools now and leading to a system where you have to politicize it by saying, "Teachers need to be tested." What teachers need is some support from you, Frank from Oak Ridges. They need support, not to be attacked. They need to be respected because they are heroes in our educational system. That's what you've got to do -- help them -- and these bills don't do it.
The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Simcoe North.
Mr Dunlop: I'd like to thank the member from Oak Ridges for his comments on Bill 110, the Quality in the Classroom Act, 2001. As we've said many times through this debate, this is part of our Blueprint commitment in the year 1999 and it's all part of the Ontario teacher testing program that we hope will see passage in this House.
It is important to know that the teaching profession has the most up-to-date skills and knowledge. That is why we are continuing to move forward with the Ontario teacher testing program. The government is introducing legislation that, if passed, will set clear, province-wide standards for measuring teachers' classroom performance.
I think that gets back a little to what Mr Klees said when he talked about superintendents in the schools. We used to have that in the small school that I went to in my small community. I thought at one time that the superintendent came in to check the students, but I realized later that it was always the teacher he was looking forward to.
I think it's fair to say that we all know of many, many good teachers we've come across and whom we've had in our days in the school system, but I think we've also noticed the teachers who haven't performed as well. So we're hoping that this is one step to improving quality in the classroom. We think it's a positive step. I look forward to passage of this bill, and I look forward to seeing the opposition support this bill as well.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The Chair recognizes my colleague from Hamilton.
Mr Dominic Agostino (Hamilton East): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think you look great up there in the chair, so congratulations.
To the bill at hand: when you listen to the government members, you get this feeling that they're being all warm and fuzzy toward the teachers. This is part of this new love-in that they're trying to develop. They want peace on the teacher front; they want peace on the labour front. After six or six and a half years of destruction, now the warm and fuzzy Tories are reaching out to teachers, if you listen to these guys across the floor.
The reality is that this is not about better-quality education, this is not about improving teachers, this is not about improving classroom textbooks or more textbooks or more computers or smaller classrooms; it's another hot-button issue that this government continues to use when it comes to public education. They've attacked teachers from day one, they've demonized teachers, they have turned a very honourable and respectable profession into one where individuals no longer want to go into the profession, where individuals are leaving the profession in droves, because you have spent six and a half years attacking teachers.
You remember how silly, ridiculous, stupid -- and then we had ads, when you had the little clock for 20 minutes saying to Ontarians that teachers are lazy, that they don't want to work 20 more minutes a day in the classroom. Do you remember that stunt, Speaker? That's what teachers remember.
Teachers don't need your silly little test to tell them they're qualified. We already have a process in place, we have methods in place for evaluating teachers, and most teachers, 99% of teachers in this province, do a very good job. I've been there. There are teachers who have been in the profession 20, 25 years. Now you come along and say, "I'm sorry. You need to be tested now because we don't think you're good enough any more after 20 or 25 years in the profession."
This is nothing more than another attack on teachers. It's an insult to teachers across Ontario. It's an insult to the profession. And the nice thing about all this is that maybe by the time -- if the grade 10 test is an indication -- they get around to doing it, this government will be out of office and teachers won't have to worry about it.
The Acting Speaker: The member from Oak Ridges has up to two minutes to respond.
Mr Klees: I'm pleased to respond. I want to thank the members for Prince Edward-Hastings, Trinity-Spadina, Simcoe North and Hamilton East for engaging in this debate.
I want first of all to suggest to the member from Prince Edward-Hastings that while he as an engineer may appreciate the systematic way in which we have been restructuring government and legislation, I take exception to his suggestion that it is being done without morality. He and his party do not have the high road, they do not have a lock on morality in this province, although they suggest that they do.
The motive behind our legislation, and the motive behind this legislation specifically, contrary to what the member from Hamilton East suggested, is in the best interests of the teaching profession, of our students, and it will prove in the long term, we believe, to help our young people become everything they dream of becoming.
Mr Marchese: Tell them you love them, Frank.
Mr Klees: To the member for Trinity-Spadina, who is barking out here: he himself suggested, and in his response to me said, that up until now, 65% of teachers in the province have been taking it upon themselves voluntarily to upgrade themselves, and that is precisely to the point. Those 65% will see no change. They will continue to do business as usual. It's the 35% who haven't who will be required to become better teachers in this province. It's what it's all about. It's why he and his colleagues should be supporting Bill 110. It's the 35%, my friend, who don't do it who will be asked to do it in the interests of students.
The Acting Speaker: The floor is now open for further debate.
Mr Bradley: Thank you, Speaker Christopherson, as we would call you now. I want to congratulate you on your ascension to the chair. I think a wise choice has been made. I certainly think a good choice has been made in this specific case and that we will be very happy with the decisions that you render, because we know you will be very fair.
The member over there on the other side who inherited his seat from Al McLean talks about fearmongering. It reminds me of when I asked a question on September 27 in this House to the Solicitor General. I asked a question about anthrax and smallpox and the plague. I think the minister would agree I asked it in a pretty low-key way. Now everyone is talking about anthrax -- a lot of difficulty out there. Two individuals from the post office unfortunately died in Washington DC today, and we have a genuine concern. I don't want to call it a fear, but a genuine concern.
Hon Mr Turnbull: How many cases in Canada, Jim? What are the chances?
Mr Bradley: It's always a dangerous question, I say to the Solicitor General, to ask that, because then if it happens two weeks later, someone will recall that he asked that question. We all hope it doesn't happen. I think we have all tried to ensure that we're prepared without saying that things are in a high state of alert. I think we recognize that.
But I just wanted to make a comment about the member talking about fearmongering, because I do want to talk about this legislation and I want to say, first of all, that my colleague the member for Oak Ridges I thought made a moderate speech and it fits in with what the Conservative caucus has been told now. Not that he would listen to the orders that come from on high, but the new pitch is, "Let's now come down from the confrontational politics and try to perhaps accommodate more of the people and perhaps get some of those folks back who were turned off as much by our style as by our politics." So it fit in well. Whether that was the reason or not -- and I have no reason to believe that -- it does fit in with what I think the new policy is, what the gurus are saying on the other side at this time.
I want to say that not everything in this piece of legislation is bad. In fact, what you find when you look at a lot of the legislation brought forward by any one of the parties at any time in this House is that there's much to be said for it. Indeed, I look at, do you want qualified teachers coming into the profession? As they are coming out of teachers' college, having obtained their education and their specific training, do you want those people to be qualified to teach in the classroom? The answer is yes, and there are provisions within this legislation which are eminently supportable. Without a doubt, we want to see that. We know there may be some opposition from time to time to certain of those provisions, but if you ask the question, "Do we want highly qualified, competent individuals in the classrooms of this province working with our students?" I don't know anybody who's going to say that you don't want that to happen.
However, you will forgive us and forgive others in the province if they question the motivation. The reason for that is because of the pounding that has been taking place of members of the teaching profession since -- I no longer say the Harris government -- the Conservative government of Norm Sterling and friends took power.
It was probably best exemplified by what the member for Hamilton East referred to as those pejorative television ads against teachers -- very effective, I might add. So on one level, some of the smart boys in the backroom will say, "Aren't we clever? We had this ad and it makes it look as though we're only asking for teachers to work an additional 20 minutes." It played on the thought out there on the minds of some that teachers teach a very confined period of the day and have no other responsibilities. There are people who believe that even today. It played on that particular viewpoint. They pandered well to those people who are anti-teacher. They could get the anti-teacher jokes out there then. I know who some of them are, some people who work far fewer hours, by the way, than teachers do, large as life with the anti-teacher tirades and jokes. They played to that. Were the ads effective? Obviously they were effective. So on one level, the smart boys in the background can always say, "Aren't we clever? Look what we've done."
But as public policy, I think it's important that whenever we implement policies, they are perceived to be and are for the right reason. The Davis administration, which is the last Conservative administration with which I have had some experience, made some controversial decisions, implemented some measures and changes which were not always to the liking of the members of the teachers' federation or perhaps the teaching profession. However, I never detected in those who were subjected to those changes a feeling that it was to aim at the teachers or to whip up anti-teacher sentiment, but that it was a government that truly believed those measures were good for education -- people such as Tom Wells, Bob Welch, even Bette Stephenson, who had very strong views on certain matters, and Bill Davis himself as a former Minister of Education. All, I think, had in mind the best interests of the students and of those who worked in the field of education. So even though there were decisions with which we may have been in disagreement from time to time, never did I have the feeling that they were using those measures, those changes, to simply whip up anti-teacher sentiment and to reap the rewards of that in terms of the ballot box.
In this legislation itself, what the government is doing is simply putting into effect, I suppose, what's already happening across the province. There are people who evaluate teachers on an ongoing basis: principals in the schools come in; sometimes vice-principals, if there are any left in some of the schools, because many of them have been withdrawn for funding reasons. Supervisory officers have gone in to evaluate teachers. They want to ensure that if they are not doing a good job, they have an opportunity to improve themselves, and if they cannot improve themselves, they should be withdrawn from the profession. I don't think, again, there's much of a quarrel with that across the province.
As I said, the test for people coming in probably should be done by the teachers' colleges or by the College of Teachers rather than the Ministry of Education. But I think most people would agree that there should be a test for people who are coming into the province to teach from elsewhere or who are new to the profession, even though we may find that we're increasingly going to have a difficult time getting people to be interested in the teaching profession. That's most unfortunate.
I have described a circumstance to my colleagues in the Legislature which I think is rather revealing. I have seen people whose whole lives are teaching -- in other words, they had virtually nothing else in their lives that they were dedicated to; they were almost 100% dedicated to teaching -- who I would have thought would teach to the age of 65, because they used to do that. Some members in this House remember that you had people who actually taught to the age of 65. Those people I see retiring today not at the end of the school year, not at the end of a term, not at the end of a month or a week, but the day they can retire, they step out of the profession. That tells you something. I have seen people who are good friends of mine who I thought belonged in the classroom, who are extremely dedicated -- and I'll go back to the fact that that was their whole lives -- and they withdrew from the profession the day they could. That tells you about the morale that you find within the school system.
The morale was high, frankly, under the Davis government. I don't know about the Robarts government; I wasn't here then. But under the Davis administration, the Peterson administration, the Rae administration, generally there were some high spirits. People went to school saying, "I'm excited about what I'm doing. I can make a difference with these students, and I want to make a difference." Today there's a feeling, a perception out there, that virtually every move the government makes is aimed at teachers and at whipping up anti-teacher sentiment.
If I look at this bill, I want to tell you, I want to be very frank with members of this Legislature, it is one of the more benign pieces of legislation that this government has brought in, and I venture to say, if you listen to all of the members being very frank in the debate, there is much to be supported in this legislation, but there are things that I think will cause some problems.
One of the areas I see that has potential for being a problem is having the parents and students as part of the evaluation of teachers. Do parents and students have a right to make known to the teachers themselves, to the principals and vice-principals of the school or supervisory officers or perhaps members of a board of education when they're dissatisfied or particularly satisfied with the performance of a teacher? Of course. But if that is going to be what the evaluation is based on, watch what it does to discipline in the schools. Teachers in many cases will simply want to be popular rather than good teachers. So they'll be keeping at bay the wolves out there who have it in for them, for one reason or another, whether it's a political reason -- small p, not capital P in this case -- or their child did not do particularly well or there was some incident of discipline; they will have it in for that teacher. If those people are allowed to evaluate, you're going to find an erosion in discipline in the schools. I think that's where you've made a mistake. I'll repeat, however, I think they have an opportunity to make that case, but I don't think it is part of the evaluation process without causing a lot of problems.
This, I'm told by the Minister of Education, came from people who advise the government, the Ontario Parent Council. That's hardly a non-partisan group. I see in the gallery from time to time -- I think his name is Greg Reid, who is the president you've appointed. Somebody said, "Well, that's the Ontario Parent Council." I said, "No, the Harris government appoints these individuals." He was the candidate who ran against Peter Kormos in Niagara Centre at one time. I think when the riding was called Welland-Thorold he ran against Peter Kormos. I watched him make a presentation to the committee in St Catharines when you were extending aid to private schools, financing to private schools in this province. I saw this presentation made at that time by Greg Reid. He used his whole time, of course, so he couldn't be questioned, because in front of the news media, I wanted to say, "Mr Reid, weren't you the candidate against Peter Kormos in Welland-Thorold? Aren't you a big-time member of the Conservative Party? Weren't you appointed by an order in council of the cabinet? By the way, here's the president of the Ontario Parent Council there to talk about how good it is to extend financial assistance to private schools in this province through the voucher system that you people have implemented."
That's the head of the Ontario Parent Council, so you know where he comes from. How would you like to, if you were a teacher, have a Greg Reid evaluating you? I don't think you would in that specific case, and I just use him as an example because he's on the committee, he's a Tory candidate and he has had much criticism of the publicly funded system.
I see today and this week some people moving away from the position they had on the funding of private schools, indirectly, of course, with the voucher system. The provincial Treasurer now is saying, "It wasn't me, I didn't do it. The devil made me do it," or the rest of the cabinet or something, because I think they're now seeing the ramifications. The reason I wanted to bring that in is that once again you are funding by providing a tax credit to people who want to put their children in private schools. You're funding that; however, you do not apply the same rules to that system as you do to the publicly funded system. We saw that in a previous bill, where uncertified teachers will not be subject to the rules and regulations as it affected sexual predators or whatever it was called within the school system. They were exempt from that. Now we see in the testing system that they're once again exempt from that. If you're going to make the case that private schools should get public funding, then surely all the rules and regulations that are part of public funding should apply to all of those schools. If they don't want the public funding, then that's different, and they can have different rules. I think that's a source of some considerable concern out there in the province.
I want to say as well that very many times when I've heard people say that they want discipline in the schools, what they've wanted is discipline for everybody else's kid, but not necessarily discipline for their own. That's a problem that the education system has to encounter from time to time.
We've got fewer vice-principals in the schools now. Many schools don't have them at all. Some schools have to share principals. A lot of the administrative work that has to be done, the disciplining, the dealing with parents, the dealing with all of the dictums that come down from the province, has to be done by principals who frankly are overworked at the present time and are often overoccupied with administrivia. That is why you don't see people eagerly wanting to become principals. That's why you saw such a huge exodus from the school system of principals who used to stay on. I remember when I started teaching, the principal who was there, I'm sure, taught and was a principal until the age of 65, and that was the norm at that time, and the pension plan at that time was still quite a good pension plan for those days, so that wasn't the compelling factor.
But this is the atmosphere that's in the school system at the present time. It's going to take an awful lot to bring tranquility back to that school system. We want to see enthusiastic teachers. We want to see teachers and principals and administrators who come to their jobs every day with energy and enthusiasm and a desire to help those students in the system, because we recognize that there are so many dedicated people in that profession at the present time. To hit them with piece of legislation after piece of legislation that has components which are aimed at them or unfair to them certainly does not speak well for or encourage the morale that we would like to see in that system.
The member for Oak Ridges had a moderate-sounding speech today, particularly for an individual who was going to run for the Alliance party, which isn't always as moderate as some of his colleagues might like it to be, such as the member for Markham, for instance, who wants a more moderate form of conservatism in this province and in this country.
Hon Mr Baird: Like me.
Mr Bradley: Not like the Minister of Community of Social Services, who was a YPC, who is right of Charlemagne or --
Interjection: Attila the Hun.
Mr Bradley: Attila is another one or Cardinal Richelieu or something like that. He's certainly right of many people in this province.
But his speech was one of moderation, and what I want to say to him, because I thought it was a thoughtful address to the House and a moderate address, is that if you wonder why members of the teaching profession don't always see somewhat benign legislation as being benign, it's because of what they've been subjected to by the Harris government, now the Conservative government -- I won't say the Harris government -- in Ontario in days gone by. Those television ads vilifying teachers during the Bill 160 dispute, I'll tell you, went a long way to alienating a lot of people I know in the education profession who are Conservatives.
I had many friends who I consider to be good friends and good educators who were long-time Tories. I'll tell you, in the last campaign it was quite surprising to some of my regular people who work in my campaign to see people who had been on the executive of the Conservative Party in years gone by, people within the education system who were working in my campaign. That's how alienated they felt, because the Conservative Party used to have within it a lot of educators who voted for them and were part of the Conservative Party.
Frankly, over the years I always recommended to them, and it was not in my interest to do so, that if you want to be active in the political system and you're a Conservative, go to the Conservative conventions, go to your members, try to influence the policy. Yes, I welcome you to come to the Liberal Party or the New Democrats no doubt would, but there was another role to play. These people felt completely alienated by what they saw this government imposing on the province, whipping up anti-teacher sentiment -- and it works with some. There are some people out there who don't like teachers, don't understand what they have to go through and will never like teachers, and when you whip up that sentiment, there is a price to be paid certainly in one case, but there is a prize to be won electorally. But is it good for the system? I think not.
The Acting Speaker: Members now have up to two minutes for questions and comments.
Mr Martin: I want to say that one could do worse than taking some time to listen to the member from St Catharines in this place. This evening, if you listened closely, you heard a person who understands the contribution that teachers make to this province, who understands the commitment that flows through the effort of teachers out there across this province who come to their profession after having experienced themselves the support and effort of teachers in their own right to get them to where they are so they can in turn impart that kind of support and contribution to the students they have responsibility for each day as they come to their classrooms and their schools and try to inspire, inform and encourage.
The member from St Catharines has obviously over a long period of time interacted with teachers, has met with teachers, has worked with teachers, and understands the commitment that's there, unlike the members across the way who, as he has so rightly pointed out, on one hand get up in this place from time to time and say good things about teachers, when in fact we know by way of the advertising, for example, that they ran during the Bill 160 debate in this House that at the very least this government has no conscience when it comes to using these very valuable civil servants for their own political ends. This piece of legislation is a real insult.
The Acting Speaker: The Minister of Community and Social Services will please come to order. The Chair recognizes the Solicitor General.
Hon Mr Turnbull: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and congratulations on your appointment to this role.
It's interesting to listen to this debate. Clearly, we always know that the NDP disagrees with us; that's a given. But the Liberals, of course, are always very glib. They want to seize some political advantage out of anything. And here we have the member from St Catharines, as usual, suggesting that there's some evil motivation in what we're doing with this.
Quite simply, when one flies on an airliner, one expects the pilot to be regularly tested and upgraded in his or her skills. That is a given. What we are trying to achieve here is to ensure that all teachers take upgrading during their fairly long holidays each year so that they continue to learn. The amount of amassed knowledge that exists in this world is going up exponentially. It's important that they renew their skills.
But let me say very clearly that our party does not in any way have any agenda against teachers. We are supportive of teachers. However, we know that it's good political rhetoric from the Liberals to suggest that somehow this is part of some evil plot.
With respect to teachers retiring, it was in fact the teachers' unions that for many, many years -- I believe even when the Liberals and the NDP were in power -- wanted to have an earlier retirement factor. It was our government that extended that advantage to them, and they are taking advantage of it. I would suspect that when the member for St Catharines speaks about the principals who retired at age 65, they probably couldn't retire before that with a pension.
Ms Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): First of all, I certainly don't believe that the government is embarking on an evil plot. I just believe that the government doesn't know what it's doing. It's that simple. We have a complex society. Leave It to Beaver is just not applicable in most real families.
When we want to talk about quality education, quality education doesn't come about simply by the government using the words in its legislation or by using the words in those expensive $6-million ads and those brochures. That does not achieve quality education. Quality education is about good management, and this is not what the Conservative government has shown. They are not good managers.
Quality education is about encouraging and supporting highly motivated professionals. That's what quality education is about. It's about stability and innovation. Quality education is about teaching the whole person. It's about balance: it's about teaching math, technology, art, music, history, sports. All of this creates quality education. It's about high standards.
On the other hand, as I said, the education system has undergone dramatic, fast-paced changes under the Conservative government, changes without resources and proper funding and with not enough transition time. All that has been created is chaos. I could just give you a quick example: the extracurricular fiasco. There wasn't a problem; you had to create the problem. As I said, it's not that there's an evil plot, but unfortunately I don't think the government knows what it's doing.
Hon Norman W. Sterling (Minister of Consumer and Business Services): We've heard a lot of rhetoric from the opposition about this particular act. We expected this. I can remember, going back, talking with the Minister of Education in the Liberal government and to the Minister of Education in the NDP government about bringing quality assurance measures to our education system. When I went up to them and asked them about making these changes, what they said to me was this: "Every time we take a step out to try to move a little bit progressively toward providing quality education in the province of Ontario, the union slaps us down. The union slaps us down each and every time we step out and try to make even a little bit of an improvement in terms of the quality of education in our province."
This government has finally had the intestinal fortitude to step up to the plate and make some quality improvements to our education system. So what do we get from the opposition? The same old rhetoric and the same old lack of intestinal fortitude in terms of facing up to the fact that we have to demand of our professionals, be they teachers, engineers, doctors or whatever, a higher quality of service.
The teachers who will come under this legislation are those who are no longer on the increasing pay scale grid where they are taking courses. It will be those who have already reached the highest pay scale of a grid and are no longer taking those courses who will have to continue to educate themselves and earn the higher salaries that they are now receiving.
The Acting Speaker: The member for St Catharines has up to two minutes to respond.
Mr Bradley: I know that my friend Mr Sterling, who is both a lawyer and an engineer -- I really admire that -- would admit himself that he's been on course every weekend, as he would probably say. In fact, he allowed beer on the course now, I must say to him.
I think if you listened to the tone of the debate -- I didn't get a chance to listen to the entire debate from the member for Trinity-Spadina -- you've found it's been relatively moderate on this particular piece of legislation. What I am pointing out to you is why people in the teaching profession, when you bring forward a new piece of legislation, are suspicious of that legislation.
Not everything. There are teachers, principals and members of teachers' federations in this province who would say that not all the changes that have been made in education by this administration or any previous administration have been bad for the system or aimed at teachers. I think what we look at is a number of the pieces of propaganda that have gone with the changes. Even this teacher testing thing plays well to people who say, "That teacher tested me. Good for Mike Harris. He or she has to take a test now." I know it plays well to a certain number of people.
Indeed, as I've mentioned in my remarks, there's much in the bill that I think three of the parties might even agree with. Some of these recommendations have come from Dave Cooke, the former NDP Minister of Education. Some have come from the late John Sweeney, who made some recommendations. What we find in each of these pieces of legislation, unfortunately, is that there is a hostage in them that sometimes doesn't allow us to support a bill that otherwise might have a lot of merit.
The Acting Speaker: Thank you. The floor is now open for further debate. The Chair recognizes the member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale.
Mr Raminder Gill (Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Well done. I too want to congratulate you on your assignment. You're doing a wonderful job. If I can, and not being critical at all, you have been very, very vigilant and sort of catching people if they've been unruly at all, so I certainly want to congratulate you for being on the ball.
I want to address the people at home for a second because I know they've been watching the proceedings of the House since 6:45 and they might not have quite gotten the gist of what we are talking about, because members have been all over the place, except for my esteemed colleague from Oak Ridges. People, especially coming from the third party, have been talking about tax cuts. That is something unusual, unheard-of. Perhaps they've seen the light, and I'm very, very happy that they have.
I want to emphasize that the discussion we have this evening is on Bill 110, which is the Quality in the Classroom Act, 2001. This act is the latest step in our government's comprehensive plan to reform publicly funded education in Ontario.
Even before I got elected, I got an opportunity many, many times to speak to students, anywhere from perhaps grades 4 and 5 up to the OAC level, about different subjects. I did get an opportunity a few times at Martingrove Collegiate. It's not in my riding, but they did from time to time invite me, previous to my election, to talk about entrepreneurship, because I'm a small business man and I'm an engineer as well.
Last Friday I was in my riding talking to grades 4 and 5 students, all three classes, at the Goldcrest school, which is in my riding, and half an hour ago I got a call from a student in Woodbridge. Again, that's not in my riding but they have invited me -- based on my time, so they've been very courteous -- to go and talk to them between now and Christmas at any time. I'm very, very happy to take part in those sorts of discussions and share my experiences and share the entrepreneurial experiences I might have had. Of course, after I speak they have a chance to talk to me, ask me questions, and I'm sure after I leave they rate me and decide whether they want to have me come back again or not. That's a sort of testing or evaluation that one constantly goes through. I'm very happy to take part in those.
The purpose of our education reform is to continue to set a higher standard for student learning in Ontario and to provide the tools and resources for student success. Excellence in education starts in the classroom with the best possible teachers, and during my excursions to the schools when I go to talk to them, I meet some tremendous, hard-working teachers.
I remember my own teachers and, if my memory serves me correctly, I do remember writing about 41 years ago -- that's a long time; it's hard to remember, but I do remember, because it was a significant event -- a standardized math test in grade 4. This didn't used to be called standardized testing. It was called a scholarship exam, and if you won that, if you were in the top percentage, 1%, you would get a very small monetary scholarship. That made you so proud because you were doing well, and you were doing well because of your teachers, the parents' involvement and some of the things you were interested in.
Every one of us carries with us memories of teachers who have made a difference in our lives. They could be our math teachers, our science teachers, our phys-ed teachers, our coaches. I'm sure you remember some of them as well. If I can mention some names, Mr Trotz taught me English. Even though I still have difficulty with the language, he taught me quite a bit of English at the OAC level. Mr Roots was my chemistry teacher -- very fond memories. There was a time when I was asked to do an exercise in front of the class, and I didn't think I knew quite how to solve the problem, but Mr Roots encouraged me. Even though I thought I couldn't do it, he knew that I knew how to solve it. With his encouragement, I was able to, which was a great thing. We remember those sorts of circumstances as we grow. I'm sure every one of us, even people listening at home, has fond memories of some teachers.
I'm going to give you another example. My young nephew used to come to me and once in a while he would ask me what kind of computer to buy. I was very happy to guide him. At that time, they used to have I guess XTs or just the ATs, just starting out with a little bit of megahertz -- good computers in that sense. But now, of course, we are into very high-level computers, and now, because he has kept up with the technology, I have to ask him, "By the way, I want to upgrade my computer. It's not working as fast on the Internet," or whatever, and I have to ask. This reflects back that people have to keep up to speed. I have to learn from him. We want to make sure of that with the teachers who are teaching, because things do change. They might have learned their skills over the years, and it is important for them to keep up and upgrade.
Another personal example: somebody in the family is in the medical profession, and she constantly has to upgrade her skills. She attends what we call Saturdays at the university. A whole day out of their busy time, with their own money, they go to the university, learn the skills and upgrade them.
While recognizing the essential and very important work that teachers do, I think what we are trying to do here at the same time is make sure that as things go forward, as things change, they are up to date. Many of my colleagues, even now during the mid-elections, do what we call door-knocking. I'm sure many of you are doing the same thing.
Hon Mr Baird: I do.
Mr Gill: Yes, of course. It's a great experience because you get to hear at first hand. I remember a couple of weeks ago, it was a nice day; it was beautiful. I knocked on the door and the first person I talked to was a young teacher. She was so happy -- and you have to believe me because I'm telling the truth. A lot of time people say, "Oh, yeah, you're just making up things." That's not ever a reason in my case. She was so happy. She was a young teacher and she had no problem with the teacher testing. She said, "This will make sure that we are staying up to the standard and we are keeping our standards high."
This makes their skills portable as well. As people have discussed earlier on, as the teachers are being tested, if any of them are not quite up to the standard and they go and apply somewhere else, we want to make sure that the new employer, the new school, can go back to their original place of employment and ask them whether the teacher has passed required tests and everything else.
It is essential that teachers instill a love of lifelong learning in our students as well, provide them with the tools to meet the challenges of changing jobs and new careers, because workplaces, as you know, are also changing. Even traditional jobs like tool and die maker have changed. There are a lot more computers in that, a lot of CNC machines. Even though we call it a hands-on job, it's not quite hands-on because there is a lot of technology involved in it. For teachers to be able to get students ready for tomorrow's world, teachers themselves must be continually enhancing their skills, adapting to new technologies and keeping their skills up to date.
Of course, teachers are not alone in facing these challenges, as I said before. Many professions are faced with challenges of meeting tough expectations for quality and excellence from clients, consumers and the public. I gave the example of doctors, who have to continuously take on CME, continuing medical education courses. Also, I know that professional engineers and many other professions are tested before they get into the profession.
Many professions today have a variety of entry requirements, standards for professional development, ongoing assessment and accountability practices. For example, regulatory bodies for dental hygienists, nurses and occupational therapists all require candidates to pass exams that test basic knowledge and skills to become fully licensed or registered to practise in Ontario. The Ontario Association of Architects has a mandatory continuing education requirement for all licensed members, and the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario requires its members to complete a mandatory program of professional development over a specified period of time.
Ontario has many excellent teachers, as I've said before, and many of them, including one of the teachers I met while door-knocking, recognize the need to keep their knowledge and skills current. They are actively involved in professional development activities to build their qualifications and develop new knowledge and skills. That is why our government has introduced our comprehensive teacher testing program, to ensure that all teachers, both new and experienced, have the capability to help our students excel in their knowledge and to succeed and achieve higher standards.
Bill 110, which we're discussing today, will establish a qualifying test for all entrants to the profession, whether trained in Ontario or elsewhere, to ensure they have the basic knowledge and skills expected of an Ontario teacher. Again, the examples are -- I know in my own family -- that sometimes teachers' colleges do not have enough spaces -- another problem that we'll address another day -- even though there's a lot of demand for the teaching profession. I know that my niece had to go to Manchester to get her teaching diploma. She was born in Canada, and she graduated from U of T. But because the spaces were very limited, she had to go to Manchester to spend one year. She's back, and she's very happily employed with the Peel board of education, doing a great job. She's a science teacher. I certainly encourage her to keep upgrading her skills and perhaps do a master's, because we have a lot of need for principals and professors and everything else. I do believe in continually improving oneself.
Another example is my cousin. He had to go to Spain. He's very happy that he went to Spain, because along with his teacher's certificate he learned a new language. As you know, especially in North America, French and Spanish are tools you can never sort of have difficulty with. Once you have those, your portability throughout North America is great.Of course, when they came back, they had to go through equivalency testing to make sure they were up to the standard.
Going back to the medical profession, I know that before students actually go to practise medicine, even though they have graduated from university, they have to pass what they call an evaluating exam, and then they have to continue every year to take so many courses to keep updating their skills. Similarly, new teachers would be required to pass the qualifying test to be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers to teach in Ontario.
The second purpose of Bill 110 is to create a comprehensive performance appraisal system to evaluate teachers on their performance in the classroom. As you know, whenever there's a seminar we attend, the instructor or the facilitator, after they complete the seminar -- and business people pay a lot of money to attend some of these seminars, hundreds and thousands of dollars. At the end, everybody has to fill out a performance appraisal: how did that particular instructor do? It's another way of evaluating some of the instructors. The new provincial standards outlined in the legislation would ensure that principals and school boards regularly and consistently evaluate teachers' knowledge and skills. In addition, the legislation would provide for parents and students to have input to the appraisal process, because those are the stakeholders: the students and the parents. Low-performing teachers would be given the time and support they need to improve.
I would also like to focus on the details of the performance appraisal system proposed by Bill 110. Previously, Bill 80, which the Legislature passed last June, established a comprehensive framework for professional learning by Ontario teachers. Bill 80 requires all teachers to participate in a series of professional development activities and courses in five-year cycles throughout their careers. The current bill, Bill 110, builds on the provisions of Bill 80 in several ways.
This bill would establish the regulatory authority necessary for the establishment of teachers' learning plans. These plans would be developed by teachers themselves, in consultation with their principals, and would map out an action plan for professional growth. There's an essential and necessary link between professional learning and evaluating performance. Mandatory professional learning ensures that teachers' knowledge and skills are up to date. Performance appraisals provide the necessary assurance to parents that teachers in our classrooms are the best they can be. A lot of times the parents, especially in the higher years, and previously the OAC year, asked the school, "What are the graduates doing? How many graduates go to university? What do they end up doing?" Similarly, they're very interested in how well the teachers are doing: are they up to the standard?
One way of evaluating some of the teachers very easily on an ongoing basis is how well the students are doing. It's performance-based testing in that sense. Automatically, if your students are not ending up successful as they pass on to university -- my colleague Mr Klees mentioned earlier that it is important to test not only the students, because you want to make sure that all schools throughout Ontario are teaching the same curriculum, the same standards, because you want to make sure these students learn the same skills and know the basics, they know the arithmetic, they know spelling, they know comprehension. It is also important for teachers to make sure they are up to the standard we expect.
This is a particular need that was drawn to our attention by a number of education partners, especially the Council of Directors of Education, called CODE. As we were developing this legislation, we asked that council to conduct a survey of teacher appraisal practices across the province. The survey confirmed the need for taking a much more comprehensive approach to evaluating teachers' classroom performance. While the boards have been developing tighter practices in this area, few boards today have policies and programs in place to help weak teachers meet the standards they need to achieve. In addition, few boards currently have evaluation policies that recognize teacher excellence or identify possible mentors or exemplary teachers.
Bill 110 provides for all beginning teachers to receive two evaluations during each of their first two years in the classroom and for all teachers new to the profession to be evaluated twice in their first two years with the new employer. It also provides that if a principal has concerns about a teacher's performance, he or she may do an appraisal of the teacher more frequently.
I think that sort of scenario works even in the workplace. You have a new employee and they are undergoing training. If a lot of times you see that they are not performing to the standards, sometimes you have to sit down more often with them. This is no different from what people go through in the workplace.
There is much more I can talk about on this bill. It is a method by which we want to make sure that teachers are staying up to the job and, as technology changes, they should be able to teach students as they were initially trained to.
I am hoping that everybody will find the benefits of this bill, and I understand that members from all sides will be voting for it.
The Acting Speaker: Members now have an opportunity to speak up to two minutes in question or comment.
Mr Bruce Crozier (Essex): Something that has come to mind during this debate is that the focus is on teachers and on the testing of teachers, and we seem to lose our focus on students. I think back when I was in school, which admittedly was a while ago. We had good teachers and we had, in my view, bad teachers, and it may not have been appropriate for me to make that decision at that time.
The focus was, I think then, and should be now, on the students and on the students' results. We just seem to be attacking the system when all of us here in this Legislature are the result of an education system that has evolved over the years.
Present company excluded standing before you, I don't think it was all that bad. I don't know whether we could have used teacher testing to make it better in the past, but the focus for testing was always on students, and the students' results through testing was what we really wanted to get at to see how good our education system was.
I am just concerned that we're not considering the fact that we have excellent teachers coming into our system now. I think of when Joan's and my children were going through school and we were to help them with their homework, and they were even more advanced than we were, and it was a result of good teachers. I think we still have that.
Mr Martin: If I could believe for a second that what this government wants to do with this piece of legislation is in fact to improve the system, then I might be willing to support it. However, the track record in front of us by this particular regime here at Queen's Park does not speak to that being their end in everything they've done where the education system is concerned, from beginning to end.
They started out, when they first got elected, with the Minister of Education's sharing off-the-record remarks that the system, if it's not broken, needs to be broken so that it can be fixed. From there, they moved on to a campaign of vilifying and demonizing teachers and then breaking up the system by reorganizing the boundaries within which school boards operate, and then removing resources from the system so that anything that was left of school boards could no longer deliver the quality program that we saw evolve in this province over a long period of time under different stripes of political parties.
Now this piece of legislation, which again centres out teachers by its very name, to suggest that they're not qualified, that they don't make every effort to keep up with the best practice that's out there where the teaching profession is concerned, is just to fly in the face of the truth. I know teachers, you know teachers, we all know teachers who work very hard to be the best they can be, who spend their weekends and summertimes taking courses and are continually being tested so they can be the best they can.
Hon Mr Baird: I want to congratulate the member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale on his remarks. They were very well researched. He does a forceful job of representing his constituents.
It was interesting to hear the NDP talk about education. All they've been talking about lately is tax cuts. All the NDP talk about, all their questions this week: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. They're not talking about education, they're not talking about health care, they're not talking about child poverty; all the NDP want is tax cuts. It's quite remarkable.
Education is a real priority for taxpayers in my constituency of Nepean-Carleton. We all have an interest in ensuring that every young person, every child, gets the very best possible education to ensure their full human development and their ability to tackle the pressures of a modern world and be able to compete in the economy of the 21st century.
From Bells Corners to Burritts Rapids, from Edwards to Stittsville, parents in my riding tell me education should be a priority for every government, whether it's funding, which should be a priority -- but it's also about the kind of education system that funding provides, about the quality of education. That's why the member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale spoke so highly of the two-hour mix. We spend a huge amount of our resources in education in the classroom on human resources and we want to ensure that we are able to make the most of that. It's important to know that teachers are teaching to the best of their ability, to ensure that students get the best possible education. This means we must assess more than knowledge; we must have clear and fair standards for measuring how well teachers actually teach in the classroom and the process to help them improve.
We all think about the teachers we had who made a big difference in our lives. I think of a teacher I had -- Kay Stanley, my grade 7 English teacher -- who had a real effect on my getting involved in politics and government. You saw the commitment and the energy and enthusiasm that people like her brought to the classroom. We're tremendously fortunate to have that excellent education. How do we encourage more of it?
The Acting Speaker: There being no further questions and comments, the Chair recognizes the member for Bramalea-Gore-Malton-Springdale for a two-minute response.
Mr Gill: Mr Speaker, again my compliments. I know it's a difficult name for the riding. To make it short, we ourselves sometimes call it BGMS.
I want to thank my constituents for having given me this great honour to serve them. I believe that very seriously. I want to thank the members who spoke on this bill or in response: the members from Essex and Sault Ste Marie and the honourable member from Nepean-Carleton, a very esteemed member of this caucus. The member from Essex said that there's not too much focus on students, but more on teachers. That is not the case. The case is that we have brought in standardized testing. I have certainly experienced standardized testing over the years. Like I said, 41 years ago I wrote a math test in grade 4. I still remember that, I guess, because I did well; I did get that small stipend of scholarship, or whatever it was, in grade 4.
Testing is very important in terms of evaluating throughout the province where the students stand. We are already doing that. But at the same time, it's important for us to make sure that the teachers are also up to the standard. The member from Sault Ste Marie mentioned -- as if everything is so bad. I get distressed sometimes when I hear the third party, because they think everything is bad; the sky is falling. But lately they've been talking about tax cuts. I can't believe it: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. I'm very happy that they have converted now to realize the benefits of tax cuts and how important it is to keep the economy competitive, where we all benefit.
The Acting Speaker: The floor is now open for further debate.
Mr Dave Levac (Brant): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I too would like to echo my congratulations and tell you that I'm very impressed with your performance to date. I'm sure that will continue. I look forward to it because we do need this House in order. So I appreciate the fact that you're in your new position, and I wish you luck.
It was said by the other side, and I want to get right to it, that good education starts with the teacher. I have some news for the people on the other side: good education starts with the parents, and providing support mechanisms for parents to make sure that good education is allowed to continue when they get to school. So to the members opposite who want to jump on the bandwagon and start proclaiming, "Some of my best friends are teachers," you're way past the mark and it's too late now. The people of Ontario have caught on to the act. You've gone from bashing to trying to stroke and say, "All we're trying to do is improve the education system." As far as the members opposite trying to take the tone of saying, "We're only here for the kids," the people of Ontario are smart to the joke, they're smart to the issue you have started, and unfortunately we've had to have our profession decimated, to the point where a lot of people are leaving the profession right now. Unfortunately, the problem is ours as a community, ours as the province of Ontario. We now have all inherited this problem that exists. The problem has been exacerbated by the types of comments and the rhetoric that came from that side. We're going to get accused of using rhetoric when we start to talk about the bills.
I'm going to relay a few short anecdotes about my own experience as an educator over the 21 years that I was in the field of education, some as an elementary school teacher, some as a high school teacher. I taught all the way from junior kindergarten to grade 13, OAC, and now grade 12, as well as being a principal of an elementary school. Some of the things I was looking for in the bill have taken place, and I want to say very clearly, welcome to the world.
What we're finding out is that the government has finally decided that what has been going on for years, actually decades, they're putting on a piece of paper and saying, "We've reinvented the wheel and now we're going to get credit for improving the education system for the province of Ontario." I want to reference some of those to Bill 110, an act to promote this, and suggest to you: "No certificate of qualification and registration may be issued to a person under the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996, unless the person has passed a qualifying test approved and administered by the minister." That's not a bad idea. But the question I'm asking is, why would we not have either the College of Teachers or the teachers' colleges themselves apply that test as they exit their education, to ensure that what they've learned over the year or under the three years of the BA system -- why does the minister need to take that power on to himself or herself? The power to administer the test includes the power to establish rules related to marking the test. So now the ministry is going to start marking the tests, when we've got three organizations that could probably handle that job themselves. There's a lot of stuff happening in this bill that I think needs to be brought to the attention of the people so they realize that maybe this isn't about the quality they're looking for but more control, to show that they're controlling the situation.
I'll continue to take right from the bill, so that as we discuss these issues, the people of Ontario will recognize that this isn't anything new: "A principal of a school may conduct performance appraisals of a teacher assigned to the school that are additional to those required by sections 277.28 and 277.29, if the principal considers it advisable to do so in light of circumstances relating to the teacher's performance." Guess what? That has been happening. I was a principal for 12 years, and under the first year of my principalship, unfortunately -- and fortunately -- I had to put a teacher on review. I went through the process that was described in here 12 years ago. So there's nothing new in this particular piece of legislation.
"Subject to subsection (3), and except during a teacher's evaluation year, a teacher may request performance appraisals." I don't know why they would want to do that in the off-year, but they can do that, and it still provides the principal with the ability to say, "No. You're wasting my time. We don't need to do that. You're already an excellent teacher." Or they might want to have it on the record to say, "I'm going to be advancing myself to become a principal or a superintendent," or "I want to take this other job as a consultant, so I want to have another appraisal on there." So teachers could be using that to simply say, "I want to have another good appraisal on there." The principal has the authority to say no. So there's a lot of stuff happening in this bill that basically wastes a lot of time, that was already being done by principals over the years that I am familiar with.
There's one area I'm a little bit concerned about, and I hope the government on the other side would take heed of this. As much as they want to say that parents and students have input, it doesn't classify what students. It doesn't say there that it must be senior students or at what age limit they're going to provide students with the ability to give input.
Here's something that really needs to be considered, and I hope the members on the other side listen carefully to this: "Information obtained solely through documents recording parental input, pupil input or both shall not be the sole factor in a teacher receiving an unsatisfactory rating or in recommending or determining that a teacher's employment should be terminated." "Sole" simply means it won't be the only particular thing that's going to get a teacher down into a lower level of appraisal. But it's going to be a factor. Unfortunately, what we have here is an opportunity that I've personally had to go through, where we have parents coming in, out for blood from a teacher who, in my professional opinion, was an exceptionally good teacher but was simply providing the students with the guidance that was necessary in that classroom at that time to make sure they had control of the classroom. Yet, what we're going to have now is people coming out of the woodwork, saying, "I want to take control of that classroom. I want to take control of that school." Unfortunately, the problem with this particular piece of legislation is that it doesn't give you the definition of how that's going to apply. It simply says "shall not be the sole factor" in anyone's appraisal.
I'm quite concerned about that -- very concerned about that. Where in the bill does it say what age the student is going to be for this input? It doesn't make the justification for it. Again, for any other reason that is inside of this legislation, it comes through another section, and it says it "shall not be the sole factor in a teacher receiving an unsatisfactory rating or" recommendation. They have said that two or three times, and it's something that I think we really have to get our grip on before we can support a bill like this.
Furthermore, I want to point out some discrepancies that seem to exist in the bill. The way the bill is written right now, there are two sections of "unsuccessful," and a third section does exist where we start moving into the review process, which is a process that gets the teacher fired. It recommends to the board to do the firing.
By the way, for those who don't understand, principals don't fire and superintendents don't fire; the boards fire. These are recommendations. But it says, under the second recommendation, that the principal issues a joint report with the superintendent to the board. But under the third, which is the third time in which we go back to the drawing board to help the teacher improve, the supervisor is out of the picture. The principal immediately recommends to the board that the person be terminated.
So now we're moving from a superintendent, who supposedly would have even more experience and more background than a principal would, who is helping the principal and working with the principal to work with the teacher, and in the third case they're automatically moved out of the situation, and the principal is responsible for making the recommendation of firing straight to the board. I think that's an inconsistency that should be clarified immediately.
We want to move on to some of the other points. I know my time is running out, Speaker, and when it does I shall yield the floor with grace and dignity because I know you deserve it. But let me make this quick point. Last year we lost 5,000 teachers for reasons other than retirement. I went to the Minister of Education and asked her directly, "What are we going to do to find out why they left?" All she said to me was, "We're going to get newer teachers coming in, so don't worry about it."
Unfortunately, that's not the kind of answer we need to have. We need to find out from them in an honest forum with this minister. If they're concerned, they should go to those 5,000 people and ask them bluntly in a survey or person to person, "Why did you leave the profession?" I fear the problem is that they're going to find out that they don't like the answer, and it's going to be because of the vilification of teachers that has happened with this government, time and time again. Unfortunately, they don't want to know the answer.
I know we're right on the time, Speaker, so I will yield the floor. I thank you very much for providing me with this opportunity to say a few words.
The Acting Speaker: Thanks to the member for Brant. Indeed, it is the anointed hour. It now being 9:30, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow afternoon at 1:30.
The House adjourned at 2130.