Monthly Column – School Closure Proposal Shocks SD&G

October 3, 2016

As tough as the Ontario Government policies have been on rural Ontario, Eastern Ontario was rocked by the Upper Canada District School Board staff report released last week. The report outlines the closing of 30 schools in UCDSB’s territory, the majority located in Cornwall and SD&G. All this after the Board closed a number of schools during the 2020 review conducted during 2007 and 2008.


All this was made possible when the current government quietly revised the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines (PARG) that were put in place to ensure early and ongoing consultations with the community. Prior to March 2015, school boards were required to prove that their decisions reflected: 1) value to the student, 2) value to the Board, 3) value to the community, and 4) value to the local economy. At that time, the last two “values” have been removed, making it very difficult for boards to justify the very nature of rural schools and the length of consultation was significantly shortened revealing little interest in the community’s input.  The community is still recovering from the closure of the Kemptville Agricultural College, and now we are hit with the closure of the majority of our rural public schools.


Just a few short weeks ago, we returned back to Queen’s Park to hear the Government address the Legislature with much pomp and fanfare, saying that the Premier had heard during the Scarborough-Rouge River by-election that residents were tired of their gross mismanagement of the energy file. When asked about the Auditor-General’s report that Ontario had paid more than $37 billion over the market price for electricity since 2008, she stated that it “was worth it”.   With the price of energy increasing again on November 1st due to a scheduled rate increase and again on January 1st due to the introduction of the Cap and Trade Tax, the Premier announced the removal of the 8% provincial portion of the HST or $145 per year for the average household.  This measures miserably to the $255 annual increase between May 1, 2015 and May 1, 2016.


September also provided me with the opportunity to table my Private Member’s Motion calling on the Government to improve the service guarantee for the reinstatement of a person’s driver’s licence to five business days after receiving a doctor’s medical clearance.   The current service standard of 30 business days or about 6 weeks is creating undue hardship for people who need their driver’s licence to work, shop for groceries and medical supplies, and get to medical appointments for themselves or their family members.  Although the service has improved somewhat since we first tabled a petition on this issue to the Legislature last May, we were previously told many times to simply call back in six weeks.  This is totally unacceptable service to our residents, especially since it is not a result of any published regulation or legislation.  On September 22, the Legislature unanimously approved the motion, so only time will tell if the Government follows the will of the elected members and implements this improved standard of service.


The Government also re-tabled the Election Finances Act, regulating political fundraising in Ontario.  Since they first announced their intention to introduce such legislation, they have been shamed by numerous examples of gross excesses. Corporations were denied meetings with cabinet ministers, only to be told that for $10,000 a plate, they could meet the minister at their fundraising dinner.  Cabinet ministers were given fundraising targets between $250,000 and $500,000.  After the Premier rose in the House to say that she has ordered her ministers to stop attending fundraisers, we found out that her Chief of Staff and senior ministry people were attending such $10,000 a plate dinners.  The $1.3 million in donations that the governing party received from renewable energy companies that were awarded contracts is particularly upsetting in light of the Auditor General’s report that the Government paid $9.2 billion more for this power contacts than their previous legislation required and forced the cost and consequences on to ratepayers and unwilling communities.  When you add in the tens of millions of dollars in third-party advertising spent to support this tired government, it was time for Ontario to enact legislation barring corporate and union donations, that has been in place in all other jurisdictions in Canada for some time.
I want to take this opportunity wish all of you a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend.  I look forward to meeting with many of you at events in our riding over the weekend and during my time in the riding next week.