How many times has Canada been chosen as the best place to live or placed at least in the top ten best nations to live in the entire world? There have been many surveys based upon responses to a large variety of criteria. Admittedly I didn’t come up with a final answer in my research, but suffice to say we have achieved this honour many times in our history.
If you ask people what makes a country a great place in which to live, you are going to get a very broad range of answers, but most will fall under general categories such as climate, geographic location, type of government, economy, wealth, resources and so on. Now I don’t have any degrees in sociology or economics, but I can say with absolute certainty that a nation’s overall commitment to and delivery of public education is a primary determiner in nation building success.
Education plays a critical role in deciding the path a nation follows in world growth. The more formally well educated people a country has, the greater the opportunity to draw investment and wealth which leads to development and prosperity. Nations that make education a cornerstone have a distinct advantage of those who do not. By encouraging citizens to share what they learn and engage in discussion, we put in place our plans for security, prosperity and overall satisfaction or even happiness.
Given the predominant role that education plays in national success, it would seem that it should also be one of the highest priority investments that any government can make to ensure the continued safety and prosperity of its people. As of late here in Ontario, however, education seems to instead seems to be one of the greatest targets for Doug Ford’s government.
This Conservative Government seems more committed to saving money by reducing the number of teachers in Ontario classrooms than it is to providing our children with the very best education we possibly can. The result of Ford’s “efficiency finding” is his decision to increase class sizes in both elementary and secondary school levels.
By no means are the Conservatives novices at the ‘spin game.’ They know that by telling the public that it doesn’t really sound so horrific just to add one more elementary student or just six more high school students per class. But according to Harvey Bischof, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, in looking at the total picture, this will mean a loss of literally thousands of teaching jobs over the next four years – over 5700 in English public secondary schools alone. Bischof stated, “That equates to a loss of approximately 34,000 classes.”
Bischof went on to explain that this will mean that any school’s smaller or specialized programs are doomed to be cut because the schools won’t be able to afford to accommodate the lower numbers necessary. If you have lower numbers in one class, that reduction has to be made up by adding students to other classes. “It means ballooning class sizes in any course that is not limited by issues such as student safety, as we would see in certain technology classes.”
Education Minister Lisa Thompson also announced that all secondary students will be required to complete one course each year online at home. Not only does this decision fly in the face of all we know about accommodating all students learning styles as live classroom teachers do, but it puts pressure on those families who are not able to afford computers or internet at home. And just for good measure, after years reaping the benefits of advanced learning by offering full day kindergarten, Thompson refuses to commit continued funding for this in the future.
The meddling with education is not limited to the elementary and secondary school levels by any means. Ontario has the unfortunate reputation of offering the lowest per-capita post-secondary funding, the very highest university tuition fees as well as the highest student debt levels in all of Canada. Ford’s cuts will force low and middle-income students to take on even more debt to pay for their education. This will take a toll, not only on their finances, but also on their mental health. Our graduates are walking out of our colleges and universities with dreams of moving onto the next stage in life - experiencing new challenges and opportunities as wage earners and consumers - only to be kneecapped with a lifetime of crushing student debt loads.
Chris Glover, Ontario NDP Colleges and Universities critic recently put forth a motion calling on the government to convert all future OSAP loans to grants and stop charging interest on existing student debt. Glover stated, “Too many young people in Ontario face the impossible decision to either shelve their academic career or take on enormous loans. Wealth should not be a pre-requisite to accessing a high-quality post-secondary education. And we should not be saddling low- and middle-income students with so much debt that it holds them back from reaching their other life’s aspirations, like moving out of their parents’ home and starting a family of their own.” Predictably, the Conservatives turned their backs on Ontario students and voted the motion down.
I have always maintained that Algoma-Manitoulin’s greatest resource is its people. I believe the same to be true for the youth of Ontario. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the smartest investments Ontario can make is in the education of our children and youth, for it is in them that our true future lies.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député