BROCKVILLE AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' FEDERATION OF ONTARIO, UPPER CANADA LOCAL
MUNICIPALITY OF GANANOQUE
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICTS 26 AND 27, TEACHER BARGAINING UNIT
CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES,LOCAL 2204
OTTAWA-CARLETON CHILD CARE ASSOCIATION
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 26, PROFESSIONAL STUDENT SERVICES PERSONNEL BARGAINING UNIT
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 26, OCCASIONAL TEACHERS' BARGAINING UNIT
Wednesday 9 February 2000
Mr Alan Bickerton
Mr Gordon Cameron
Mr Malcolm Stopani-Thomson
Mr Jack Drynan
Brockville and District Labour Council
Mr Jim Murray
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Upper Canada Local
Mr Randy Frith
Municipality of Gananoque
Ms Sylvia Fletcher-Thomas
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, districts 26 and 27, teacher bargaining unit
Mr Greg McGillis
Ms Joan Jardin
Canadian Union of Public Employees; Ottawa-Carleton Child Care Association
Ms Shellie Bird
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, district 26, professional student services personnel bargaining unit
Ms Heather Wells
Mr John McEwen
Ms Joan Jardin
Dr Douglas Auld
Mr Wendel White
Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, district 26, occasional teachers bargaining unit
Mr John McEwen
Mr Greg McGillis
Ms Joan Jardin
STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND ECONOMIC AFFAIRS
Chair / Président
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Vice-Chair / Vice-Président
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington PC)
Mr Marcel Beaubien (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex PC)
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West / -Ouest ND)
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland PC)
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre / -Centre L)
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill PC)
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt L)
Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands / Kingston et les îles L)
Clerk / Greffier
Mr Tom Prins
Staff / Personnel
Ms Elaine Campbell, researcher, Research and Information Services
The committee met at 0901 in the Royal Brock Hotel, Brockville.
The Chair (Mr Marcel Beaubien): Good morning, everyone. It is 9 o'clock and I'd like to bring the committee to order.
The Chair: Our first presenter this morning is Alan Bickerton. Could you please step forward and state your name for the record.
Mr Alan Bickerton: My name is Alan Bickerton. I am president of Bickerton Insurance Brokers in Gananoque, Ontario.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 15 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Bickerton: Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today as you receive ideas to consider for your 2000-01 budget. It is an unexpected and rare opportunity, and one I appreciate very much.
As a general insurance broker, my comments are partly focused on the insurance industry and partly on small business. I am a very strong believer in the importance of small business to the Ontario government and to the Ontario economy.
I would like to compliment the government on its accomplishments since the beginning of its first term in office just over four years ago. You inherited a truly horrible fiscal situation from the previous NDP government. Having taken the drastic steps necessary to wrestle the out-of-control spending, we will very soon enjoy a balanced budget. You have also taken a long-overdue step in implementing balanced budget legislation to prevent future unbridled spending of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
You had the courage to cut up the government's gold credit card. What a relief to know that soon we will actually be starting to reduce our debt and redeploy the money that has been needed to pay interest. Past governments have failed us miserably as trustees of the public purse. My business is as a trustee of my clients' money. If I had treated it as cavalierly as prior governments treated our public tax money, I would be in jail. Thank you for turning the situation around.
To the naysayers out there who have felt they were disadvantaged by the cuts that were made, I say that we had all become too used to having government throw money at our every request. This includes education and health care as well as many other departments. It was high time for us to accept a dose of reality and stop feeling sorry for ourselves.
Now that your house is back in order, you will have choices to make to redeploy and reallocate some of those surpluses.
Debt reduction: First and foremost, start paying off the accumulated debt. This should be done on a predictable and committed basis.
Education and health care: Allocations should be made to health care and education but only where the need is greatest. I firmly agree with your move to retest and recertify teachers on a regular schedule. While I am not conversant with the frequency of testing, it is certainly long overdue and hopefully will remove the career-for-life concept that has permeated the education and schooling system for far too many years. Educators will now be faced with the same real-life performance standards that we in private enterprise face every day.
Make these allocations of resources thoughtfully and with good fiscal management required of the recipients. Overspending or inappropriate spending will be viewed by the public as a failure. No government needs to be reminded about what happens when the public gets upset. I think that all citizens expressing concern now about health care truly understand that you did what you had to do. Now there is an opportunity to put some money back into the system but it must be done judiciously.
Natural disaster reduction plan: Third on my list, I would like to encourage you to look favorably upon a proposal by the insurance industry to participate with other levels of government, federal and municipal, to establish a natural disaster reduction plan. I know you have had a presentation on this plan from the Insurance Bureau of Canada and I also know that many MPPs have been made aware of the plan through private meetings with local insurance industry representatives such as myself. As a result of these previous presentations, I will not repeat the details of the concept here. Having lived first-hand through our now famous ice storm of 1998, I can tell you that with a natural disaster reduction plan such as is being presented to you by the IBC, the overall cost to governments and insurers would be enormously reduced in the future.
You have heard about the enormous savings realized because of the building of the preventative Winnipeg floodway. You may or may not know that the insurance industry spends about $1.5 million in Alberta seeding hailstorms. This is to reduce the threat from hailstorms and diminish their impact. The success of that program has returned the annual investment many times over.
Due to the enormity of natural disasters and the well-proven fact that natural disasters are increasing in both frequency and severity, it is obvious that the scale of preventative measures must be equally large. Accordingly, the cost is most appropriately addressed by governments. Please consider seriously the long-term benefit of making the recommended annual allocations of 15% of the cost currently being paid by governments towards recovery from these disasters. Imagine how little government involvement would be required if more power distribution lines had been buried underground prior to the ice storm or if better drainage had been implemented prior to Hurricane Hazel back in 1954.
Sustainable economic growth for Ontario: Ontario is unquestionably a terrific place in which to live. With your continued fiscal vigilance, Ontario will become an even better place in which to do business. Specifically, I suggest that with revisions to the tax system, Ontario could become the most envied and sought-out location for businesses in all of North America.
For individuals, income tax is based on one's gross income. That's not a difficult concept. For corporations, however, gross income is disregarded and replaced with a tax on profits. It should be renamed a profits tax, or better still, change it to be based on gross income. Obviously, the percentage charged would have to be considerably reduced.
I appreciate the fact that Ontario does not have its own tax act, other than for corporations, but rather charges a percentage of the federal tax rate. What I am suggesting is that the Ontario government either consider influencing the federal government to change their system or develop Ontario's tax separately.
As a businessperson and as a chartered accountant in my previous career, I have always found it an enormous waste of human resources to have to engage a small army of professionals to understand the Tax Act and guide taxpayers through it each year. My suggestion for simplicity would help to reduce the need for this waste. At the risk of being hung for treason by my fellow CAs, I think simplicity is best.
Tax counsellors have always joked that their income increases exponentially with the increase in the thickness of the Tax Act. There's absolute truth to that. Can you imagine the collective brainpower that could be redirected into positive, offensive planning rather than defensive planning if we could make a system that represented a one-line tax return, with no convoluted exemptions and no unintelligible rules?
If the corporate tax system can't be simplified, I submit that income or profit taxes on corporations should be eliminated. I know that sounds terribly hard to imagine. I'll even go so far as to agree that it would be very difficult to deliver politically. However, consider that corporations and unincorporated businesses are only amalgamations of shareholders and owners. These owners want either a return on their investment in cash or by way of having their companies reinvest for expansion.
All businesses employ people. Those people pay taxes on their gross salaries or commissions. Since corporations now pay profits taxes, they pay dividends to shareholders with after-tax money, and there has to be a different rate to individuals receiving those dividends. Why not consider for a moment that businesses either retain profit to purchase new equipment or expand in some way to employ more people or become more efficient? With more workers, more taxes are collected.
If the money is not used for expansions, it will eventually be paid out to shareholders, since they would not allow the directors to retain unused profits indefinitely. The tax should be collected when it is paid out to the individual shareholder. There would not have to be a different rate on salaries, dividends or capital gains. Income would be income, period; no exemptions, no hard-to-understand rules.
Can you imagine how Ontario and Canada would be viewed by corporations if they knew they could retain profits, untaxed, to use for expansion within Ontario or Canada? Obviously, foreign owners, corporate or personal, would be taxed as soon as the money crossed the border to be repatriated to those foreign destinations. Can you imagine the collective brainpower that could be released into proactive endeavors?
I know this may seem radical, but maybe it's time to start with some radical, unusual thoughts and percolate out the best of them to develop a system that would be the envy of the world.
I encourage you to keep striving for fiscal perfection, paying down our provincial debt, re-establishing the necessary levels of health and education funding and establishing a natural disaster recovery plan. These should all be pursued with vigor.
I also encourage you to think seriously about ideas that will bring Ontario on to the radar screens of corporations, large and small. These corporations would see Ontario as a tax haven in which to operate and employ Ontario residents. I firmly believe that with more businesses in Ontario employing more Ontarians, the loss of corporate tax revenue would quickly be offset by increased personal tax revenue.
I look forward to answering any questions you may have. Thank you again for this opportunity to present my thoughts to your committee.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. However, we have run out of time. We've basically used the 15 minutes for your presentation. On behalf of the committee, again, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
The Chair: Our next presenter this morning is Gordon Cameron. For the record, could you please state your name. On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 15 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Gordon Cameron: I'm Gordon Cameron. I'm the president of Hewitt (Brockville) Ltd. I can assure you I won't use anywhere near my 15-minute allotment, so there may be some dead air space.
Just to give you a little background here, I am a small business owner. I've owned a business that's grown over the last 26 years to have approximately 60 employees. Our business is primarily that of a machine shop, a fabrication shop. We've grown as a result of a local economy that's grown over the years and also by expanding outside this local area. So my remarks are based on my experience in running a small business.
There are two points I would like to make. The first point is regarding the provincial debt. I understand the figure is around $120 billion, give or take a few billion. I also understand that the interest payments are approximately $9 billion, give or take a little bit. I also understand that our budget is going to be balanced or is balanced now. But I think it's really important that we get that overall debt down and that we look at that as sort of an albatross hanging around our necks. Some people might argue that as the economy grows debt is a smaller percentage of a larger economy, but I think it would be prudent to try and bring that debt down. That's something that I think we should always be looking at.
The other thing I'd like to talk about is the problem that small businesses have getting venture capital money. I can give you our story. A few years ago, we realized that as a small business in Brockville we had to look outside the local area and also outside our borders to keep growing. We came up with an idea that we would look for a company that we could buy or get involved in that had a mandate of selling worldwide and also making products that we could make in our own facility. We found one and it was a start-up business. We've been at it for four years and it has tremendous potential. All of its sales are going to be worldwide.
We happen to be fortunate that we have a reasonable amount of cash so we can fund this thing internally at the level of activity that we want. But from the experience I've had with this company, it has tremendous potential in the environmental business. The problem is, with a start-up business it takes a tremendous amount of cash and the time line, when you think the thing is going to finally click, keeps moving. So it takes a tremendous amount of time and patience as well.
What I see with a lot of start-up businesses is that you can't go to the banks because you have no assets. A modern company today probably wouldn't have a lot of assets. It would be like Nike. It would be a sales and marketing organization. If it was in the software business or the dot.com business, it would have zero assets. So what traditional lenders look at isn't there in a modern company. The next thing is the companies that are going to grow are going to have a lot of international exposure, which means more risk for receivables and things like that. Again, the traditional lenders don't understand that and don't want to get near it, because it has a lot more risk.
If you go to the venture capital people, a start-up business or anything under $2 million or $3 million is too small for them to look at. So you have businesses that are, if you use a step analogy, on step one or two. The venture capital people wouldn't look at the thing until it was probably at step six or seven. So you've got this huge gap there. What I see is that there's an opportunity for the Ontario government to create a tax incentive for people to take that risk.
I understand-I have some notes here-that Bill 164 tries to address this partially, but in talking to some people, it appears that it's not doing a very good job at it. Some of the comments that I've got from people who have looked at the thing are that there was not a lot of response from the ministry when asked for application information. There's a need for a co-sponsor in the fund, either a municipality, an educational institution or a First Nation organization. There appear to be cumbersome requirements that have hampered, for example, a local goal of making a case-by-case investment decision on the basis of the small business's business plan. There is something there but I don't think it's working.
We don't need another program. We need some sort of tax incentive to allow people who have money-for example, in this area there are a number of people who would be willing to invest in a small business that was in a start-up situation, or become venture capitalists, but because of the risk, they need a tremendous incentive to do it. I think the government should look at providing a very large tax incentive for investors to invest patient capital in small businesses. The investor has a lot of up-front costs, due diligence. That would be borne by them. But there would be a real incentive to do it.
The payback, of course, is that I believe this is where the growth is going to come from. To position ourselves for the future is going to be, as a province, taking risks on small businesses that are in areas that other people don't want to take the risk in. Certainly, if you look at the list of venture capital companies, very few of the companies that they invest in are in manufacturing. They're in service businesses, intellectual-type businesses, information businesses. These are things that don't have a lot of assets, so you have to look at it differently.
Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you. Do you have any questions?
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have approximately three minutes per caucus.
Mr David Christopherson (Hamilton West): Thanks for your presentation. You mentioned that getting the debt down was the economic priority that you see, yet the government's path to get there has been to cut provincial revenues by between $5 billion and $6 billion every year. That has increased the debt of the province by between $20 billion and $25 billion. In addition, our international bond credit rating has not changed since Premier Harris took over from Premier Rae. Don't you think it would have made a lot more sense for the government to hold off on the tax cut until such time as they've brought the books into balance and allowed our international credit rating to improve, and not add another $20-billion to $25-billion debt? That in fact would have then balanced the budget years earlier. Don't you think that might have been a little more prudent, if debt reduction is your priority?
Mr Cameron: I think on the other hand, by what the government did, they created a lot more jobs. The economy is very vibrant, which is the other side of the coin.
Mr Christopherson: If I can, what we've heard from virtually every economic expert who came before us at the beginning of our hearings was that the overwhelming majority of the benefit we're receiving in terms of the economic boom we have is as a result of the American economy, in particular the auto market. Of course, someone buying a car in Wisconsin is not affected by any kind of tax cut in Ontario. So the tax cut, according to senior economists, has been negligible.
Mr Cameron: We do some business in Toronto and some of the companies that we deal with are not in the auto sector and they're doing very well as well.
Mr Christopherson: There's no question; everyone is doing better. I'm not an economist, but the experts are coming in and telling us that the main reason we're booming the way we are is because of the American economy, which, as you know, is defying gravity. I just raise the point that if debt reduction is the most important thing, I find it somewhat strange when people who are relatively well off feel that it was OK to go with the tax cuts since they benefited the most. To me, it's contrary to their argument that the debt ought to be the priority. It looks to me like they're trying to have it both ways. In fact, the senior economist from the Royal Bank said that it's much like pigs at the trough in terms of the fact that the boomers have benefited from the debt in terms of the money having been spent on our society, and at the same time, at our peak earning powers we're benefiting from the tax cut and the younger generation could indeed look at us as being pigs at the trough.
Mr Cameron: I hope they don't.
Mr Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): Thank you very much for your presentation. We appreciate the fact that you've come forward and given us the advice that you've given us.
I think it's fair to go back to a review of the electoral platforms of the three political parties in the 1995 election. As you know, our party was supportive of reducing the deficit to zero over a five-year period, with a 30% personal income tax cut. I recall the NDP's position in the 1995 election was to balance the operating budget after three years' time with no significant tax cuts, which I think would have required fairly significant expenditure reductions to accomplish. The Liberal Party's position at that time was that the budget would be balanced in four years and that there would be a relatively modest tax cut of around 5%, which was somewhat undefined.
So there was some similarity in all three parties' positions in the sense that they all wanted to work towards a balanced budget. But remember, when we came into office in 1995 the deficit stood at $11.3 billion. So it would have required a number of years of fiscal discipline, even if there weren't tax cuts, to balance the budget. I think it's fair to say there would have been spending reductions in many areas to accomplish that, no matter who was in power.
Like you, I think that debt reduction has to be the next priority of the provincial government. I think that your advice today is helpful to us. We need to have a disciplined, long-term plan to reduce the debt, to pay down the debt, retire it, whatever you want to call it. We need to have interim targets every five years and try to set goals for ourselves to pay down a certain percentage of the debt. I want to say to you that we do appreciate your advice. We appreciate the work you do in your business, the fact that you've expanded your business because you've seen opportunity and you have confidence in the economy, and we want to wish you all the very best for future success too.
Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I appreciate your advice and all the other things, and congratulations on the business. I'm going to focus on the access-to-capital issue. In the 1997 budget, the government established what you were referring to there-
Mr Cameron: Bill 164.
Mr Phillips: They called it the Community Small Business Investment Funds Act and established the community small business fund. You've got your finger on an issue, which is that the venture capital people, including the labour-sponsored venture capital people, seem to have a threshold that's above what you're talking about.
Mr Cameron: Yes, starting at $2.5 million.
Mr Phillips: So you're looking for funding-
Mr Cameron: Up to a million.
Mr Phillips: Sort of the start-ups.
One of the things that governments are always cautious of is initiating programs where there's an expense involved. When you offer a tax break there is an expense; it's a lost-revenue expense, so they're cautious. The reason the government started up the small business investment fund was to ensure that there was some due diligence as to where those funds were spent. In theory, this is supposed to be the program that would answer your needs. It has been going since 1997. I don't know how many are in play right now, two maybe?
Mr Arnott: Not enough.
Mr Phillips: I think there are only two after three years now, so something's not working here.
Mr Cameron: That's right.
Mr Phillips: Actually, the labour-sponsored venture capital corporations are now investing in these things. So there's lots of paper shuffling and meetings and titles probably, and business cards being produced and lunches being held, but relatively little ever flowing through to what you need.
Mr Cameron: That's correct. Even with the labour-sponsored pools, if you look at Working Ventures and Capital Alliance, which are two whose statements I look at, there isn't a lot of activity from year to year. They might have 60 companies-I'm just going from memory here-on the books and they might have a change of 10 per year.
Mr Phillips: Yes.
Mr Chair, I think the presenter has got his finger on an issue. There's a theoretical program out there that isn't working, so we've got two choices. One is that we adopt your suggestion, or at least the government adopt something, or we make these things work somehow or other. I wonder if it might be appropriate, when the witness leaves, if we ask the research staff to get an update on how many of these things are working now and how many investments-I had a briefing on it about six months ago and there was one, I think.
The Chair: We'll take that undertaking, Mr Phillips.
With that, we've run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation.
The Chair: Our next presenter is Malcolm Stopani-Thomson. Could you please state your name for the record?
Mr Malcolm Stopani-Thomson: Malcolm Stopani-Thomson. I'm a retired engineer and private citizen.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome, and you have 15 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Stopani-Thomson: Mr Chairman, members of the committee, the constitutional taxation belief system is expressed in the article from the Ottawa Citizen, "6,000 Years of Feeding the Dragon," of Monday, February 7, 2000, at page A15, by Randall Denley. It states, "In Canada, taxpayers were cooked from day one, when the British North America Act gave the federal government unlimited taxing powers." This is not so, but it is the belief system.
There are six sections in the Constitution of interest; five major, one minor. The sections are 91, 92, 102, 126 and 107, and the minor one is 130.
On the handout sheet, you will see that the word "generality" occurs within section 91. If you go to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, which is the official dictionary of the federal government, you will find out that generality means "being general." If you go down to the bottom and look at the last trailing paragraph, 91, you'll see that local and private matters are assigned to the provinces.
If you go to 102 and 126, you'll find the word "special," and special in the dictionary means "not general powers of the legislatures of the provinces," ie, Ontario. If you look carefully within the Constitution, you will find the words "assigned exclusively." They occur in section 91, the introductory paragraph, head 29, and the trailing paragraph. They also occur in section 130, and they'll always occur with "assigned exclusively to the legislatures of the provinces."
If you look up the word "assigned," it still means-and it's on the second page; you can see it-"allotted as a share to; made over (especially personal property)." "Exclusive" means "shutting out." So we have four times in the Constitution the words "assigned exclusively to the legislatures of the provinces," and this basically states that personal property belongs to the provinces. So why is the federal government taxing personal property?
What I said was about the generality. You look at "general," being general; you look at "local," assigned to the provinces. Local and private are also in section 92.16.
If you want to look up the word "act" in any of the dictionaries-in this case I've given you the one that comes out of Black's Law Dictionary-it says an act is "public general," "local," "private," and "special" equates to local. We have a situation here where continuously through the Constitution you uphold that you as the provinces have total control of personal property.
If you go down to section 107, you'll find the words "all stocks cash." You look in the dictionary and cash is "ready money," and yet with the GST you are taxed on the ready money when you walk into a store. Cash is defined within the Constitution as "property," the third line down in 107. Property is exclusive to the provinces under section 92.13 and there's many a court case that says so.
If you go back to the handout on section 91, you will find the word "exclusive" right at the top. That is the one and only exclusive given to the federal government. There are seven other exclusives that apply to the provinces. All have been ignored by lawyers, courts etc. Those exclusives are two in the heading of 92; one in the title, one on top. You'll find "exclusively" occurs four times. The last exclusive is education. The gentleman before me was talking about education funded by the federal government, yet it's exclusive to the provinces.
You'll find also, as you look down here under section 91.29, the words "expressly excepted." The word "expressly" is also in the dictionary and "excepted" also. If you look carefully at that and you substitute these into the actual one, you will find that section 91.29 then reads, "Such classes of subjects as are `definitely stated, not merely implied as excluded from enumeration' in the enumeration of the classes of subjects made over (especially personal property)"-that's section 92.13-"to the legislatures of the provinces," such as the class of direct taxation in 92.2.
The aim of the Constitution was to have personal property assigned to the individuals who lived within Upper Canada and that was to be taxed under 92.2. When you get to the Caron case, which turned around and didn't understand the basic structure of the Constitution, they find the right to direct taxation to the federal government for purposes of the Dominion.
In 1887, Bank of Toronto v Lambe was the first case in which an imperial Parliament had to decide what direct taxation was, because the imperial Parliament had all powers. They could do anything they liked, including hang old guys who wrote with their left hand if they wanted to. They turned around and decided that John Stuart Mills's definition was to be the one accepted, and it's still today being used by the Canadian government as the standard. However, you'll see in the handout on the Bank of Toronto that the bar turned around and decided that the word "general" that John Stuart Mills wanted to add to direct taxation did not fit the description of income tax. So basically now, under section 91, we have a government with general statutory powers only levying, and not general tax.
The "assigned exclusively": Like I said to you before, you can go through and look it up. But when you start getting into the definition of an individual-that's you, me and everybody else around this table-you are single, particular, special, opposite to general. The federal government has only general powers. When you are special, you are not general. That's what the dictionary calls it. General is universal, but not local, particular, partial or sectional. So we tolerate the Clarity Act being written by the federal government, dealing with Quebec, which is a local act passed by a general government, and it deals with one province only. The word "general" means not particular, and they've got an act for a particular province.
You sit back and you worry about your finances coming in, but you have a situation where you allowed the transfer payments to be put in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, schedule B to the Canada Act. Is it or is it not sectional? They pay Atlantic provinces out of tax rates in Ontario, so you get this mishmash. The basic bottom line is the feds have the general statutory power; provinces have the local, private and special, because those are the acts, the statutory power, that existed in 1867.
When you go back to section 91 and you look carefully at it, past the word "generality" you have the words "foregoing terms." If you look in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, you will find that "foregoing" means previously mentioned terms or conditions. What are the previously mentioned conditions? If you go to the first part, it says "peace, order, and good government."
However, gentlemen, you have a Lieutenant Governor in this province, as of 1867, who is a direct descendant of James Murray, who is the general who took over from Wolfe when Wolfe was killed on the Plains of Abraham. Under the royal proclamation of October 7, 1763, he was enjoined to appoint governors that were to look after peace, welfare and good government. So now you have a situation where you have the federal government, with general powers only, dealing with welfare.
I don't have it down for you, but if you happen to look up "welfare" in the dictionary you will find: "A satisfactory state, health and prosperity, wellbeing, usually of person, society etc. ... Welfare state: one having national health, insurance and other social services."
So now you have Ontario taxes flowing to the federal government from the GST, the Income Tax Act; some $90 billion from the various provinces, from Ontario usually the most of it, somewhere around $40 billion most probably, all in not general taxes flowing to a general government and coming back from a government that has peace, order and good government spending it on welfare, which is the mandate of the provinces.
You sit here and you don't know this. You most probably never read the Constitution. I read it for eight years, over and over again.
A tax is defined within the Black's Law Dictionary as "a rateable portion of the produce of the property and labour of the individual." Now, you look up "private"-it is within your statutory powers to deal with the private-you can tax my farm, you can tax Darwin's farm, or his aunt's. You can do what you like with the person. Then you stand back and allow the federal government to tax the individual too, so you have a double taxation system, because you don't understand what the Constitution says. You can quote all sorts of statutes that were passed prior to 1982, but the mistake that Trudeau made was he brought this back, made it the written Constitution of Canada with the words still in it.
I basically wanted an excuse to talk to you on the unemployment insurance. You have a SIN number given to you if you're a private individual. You have the federal government dealing with private individuals. They don't have the statutory power of the private. They're collecting your money and they turn around and they hand it back to you and they'd like you to believe that they have the right to do so. But if you look at 118, especially if you go down in the notes below section 118 of the Constitution, in the Constitution itself, and you read them carefully, you'll find there was a lump sum payment to all the provinces and there was a universal per-head allowance given.
Paul Martin stands up the other day and talks about the universal baby care program they had. This is fine, but it only applies to babies. That's a partial, part of the provinces. If you want to talk about the territories, don't. The territories fall under section 146, and for section 146 the laws are made as if they came from Westminster.
We have a bigger problem in Ontario. We have a problem where we have all the judges on all your courts appointed by the Governor General. In 1949, William Lyon Mackenzie King requested permanent letters patent from St James's Palace, and they came from the hand of the king. They came to Canada under the Great Seal of Canada. What statutory power does the Great Seal of Canada hold? Talk to the federal government; they think they've got everything. That's why they've walked over you for the last 120-odd years.
The Great Seal of Canada holds general statutory pow-ers only. That is in accordance with resolution 28 of the London conference on confederation in 1866. These prin-ciples are brought forward by W.P.M. Kennedy in his article "Interpretation of the British North America Act, 1867" that occurs in the Cambridge Law Journal at page 146, 1943.
We have a situation-
The Chair: You have one minute to wrap it up.
Mr Stopani-Thomson: Okay. I hope sincerely that you have an alternative thought on what the Constitution stands for in my presentation, and I sincerely hope you do something about it, because I'm getting sick and tired of being taxed by the federal government. People go to a court and they go to an admiralty or a civil court and it has three things. If it's an admiralty, it has prize money, it has torts and it has contracts. If you go to a civil court, it has torts and contracts. When the federal government revenue department stands there with the T1 generals, they do not produce the original contract. So all the cases that are being done in the civil law courts are fraudulent.
As far as the appointment of judges, like I said, they're being appointed under the Great Seal of Canada with general statutory powers only. There isn't a single judge in Ontario who has the right to hear local and private matters, because they don't have the power they can delegate.
The Chair: With that, I have to bring it to an end because we have run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
Mr Stopani-Thomson: I tried to pack in as much as possible, gentlemen.
Mr John Gerretsen (Kingston and the Islands): No time for questions, Mr Chair? I have a few of them.
The Chair: No time for questions, Mr Gerretsen. I'm sure you do.
Mr Gerretsen: Have you discussed this with your local member here and with the Attorney General?
Mr Stopani-Thomson: He phoned me up and suggested I come here.
Mr Gerretsen: I bet he did.
Mr Doug Galt (Northumberland): I always suspected those rascals in Ottawa were up to no good, and now I know for sure.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I must bring back order to the committee.
The Chair: Our next presenter is Mr Jack Drynan. For the record, please, could you state your name. On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 15 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Jack Drynan: My name is Jack Drynan. My story won't be so complicated. It's just about money.
Ontario pre-budget tax review committee, committee members, my name is Jack Drynan and my topic concerns the property taxes of my tenants at the Seeley's Bay Centre. I will read my letter of September 7, 1999, to the Brockville regional assessment office and then my text.
"Regional assessment office ...
"Enclosed is the completed schedule of occupants as per your August 30 letter request.
"In the July 99 supplemental assessment
"The assessment for the LCBO, May 1, 1999, would be approximately $1.77 a square foot.
"The assessment for the medical, January 1, 1999, would be approximately $2.01 a square foot.
"I find these rates excessive for a rural area lacking in services and offer in comparison the following news release in the Toronto Star showing Mississauga at $1 per square foot with the services of an urban area.
"A medical centre and a full-time LCBO have brought a much-needed boost for this community and a more moderate tax will help lease the other 70% of the building.
"Trusting the July 1999 supplemental assessment rates will be revised by my appeal to be competitive, as the Harris government advocates."
The Seeley's Bay area has a need for employment. A great number of the people are unemployed and receive government assistance, which could be confirmed by your office.
The Seeley's Bay Medical Centre opened July 1998 in our new mall and has gone from zero to over 4,000 patients. The seasonal LCBO that was relocated to the mall is now operating very successfully on a full-time basis. Both of these ventures have created services and employment where they did not exist before, along with maintenance such as snow removal, lawn service and construction. One resident has opened up a beer bottle return depot due to the LCBO operating a combined store.
The 12,000-square-foot mall sits on one of three lots that were divided up from a 10-acre parcel with a road passing through it to service the three commercial lots. There is potential for the other two equal-sized lots to be developed, as well as the unoccupied area of the mall. The development of the property, road and building have all been done privately. The medical centre's 1999 tax bill for 1,200 square feet was $2,451.66 or $2.04 a square foot, which is twice the price of Napanee, Markham and Mississauga.
Can you imagine how much relief having 4,000-plus patients attended locally takes off the Kingston General Hospital, as well as the effect proper maintenance will have on future long-term care? If this fact is worth considering, then consider that the same taxes charged elsewhere would provide twice the tax space, which incidentally is exactly what the medical centre requires. By reducing taxes to a more competitive level, you would not only bring more relief to the Kingston General Hospital by allowing the Seeley's Bay Medical Centre to grow but would also attract commercial and industrial interests to our area, providing more taxes and employment and reducing government assistance.
I have provided newspaper articles from the Toronto Star and the Kingston Whig-Standard, along with a photo emphasizing client use of the medical centre, which expresses a larger space requirement, for your information.
In addition, I'd like to comment on a Kingston Whig article dated February 5, 2000.
Approximately 64% of our tax dollars goes to education, while Ontario's school teachers are among the highest paid in North America. The Ontario teachers' pension plan board has shrewdly invested their money into business and real estate, realizing millions, if not billions, of dollars. Last year they purchased the Toronto Eaton Centre and this year, with partners, purchased Shoppers Drug Mart for $2.55 billion. Government could take advantage of this fact by taking the tax dollars paid by the teachers and their pension plan towards reducing the high education tax load.
Just as some personal information, I moved my business to Markham because of low taxes. It was a village of 6,000 people. Today, it has upwards of 200,000 people and low taxes. I still have a business in Markham, but I came here to semi-retire. I was asked to serve on the search committee for a doctor, and that's how the Seeley's Bay Centre came about. Low or competitive business taxes start things rolling. I know, I've been there. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have two minutes per caucus. I'll start with the government side.
Mr Galt: Thanks for your presentation. There have been some difficulties with actual value assessment as we've moved into it. It's something that's been talked about for two or three decades. Various governments had talked about bringing it in, and we finally did in our first term. The philosophy is right, but there have been a few stumbling blocks. Obviously you've run into one of those.
I'm curious. The local assessment office must be telling you what the local comparators are. You're going from elsewhere, where you'd think the comparators would be much higher. Are there other properties in the Seeley's Bay area, that they're saying this is why your assessment is at this level?
Mr Drynan: I'm not comparing it with what's in the immediate area. I'm comparing it with what it is in Markham and-
Mr Galt: The actual tax levels are what you have compared?
Mr Drynan: Yes. I've received my taxes and paid my taxes in Seeley's Bay. I also have paid my taxes in Markham.
Mr Galt: Maybe I wasn't totally clear. The problem isn't assessment then, as you see it. The problem is the local tax base, compared with other areas and their tax base.
Mr Drynan: That's right. The way to make it competitive is, we should all be down lower. We should not have to pay twice the taxes in Seeley's Bay, in a rural area that doesn't have the amenities of a city.
Mr Galt: Maybe we can explore that for a few minutes. You made reference to education and the cost and what's going there. Fifty per cent of the residential education is now being paid by the province. Is that the main reason your taxes on this property are so high, because of education?
Mr Drynan: I just point that out as we're paying taxes for education at the rate of about 64%. I think that's quite high. They might pay the same thing in Markham. The whole tax structure is too high; it's twice as high.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much. I'm familiar with your plaza in Seeley's Bay. It certainly looks like a very well-run and organized plaza. As a matter of fact, it's the only plaza probably within about 30 or 40 kilometres, I would think, any which way.
The question that I have is, are you also concerned about the fact that for the same space in a plaza, some businesses are being, on a square-footage basis, charged more than other kinds of business? Why is the LCBO, for example, paying $1.77 a square foot in taxes and the medical centre $2.01? What kind of answer do you get from the assessment people when you raise that issue?
Mr Drynan: It's something I have no power over. They decide that they've spent more money on their amenities, and I-
Mr Gerretsen: No, but did they give you a reason? Did they say why one is more than the other?
Mr Drynan: No.
Mr Gerretsen: Is it under appeal right now?
Mr Drynan: It's under appeal.
Mr Gerretsen: I see. Thank you.
Mr Phillips: Just to pursue the question that Mr Galt was raising, in Markham your property is assessed at a certain value and in Seeley's Bay your property is assessed at a certain value. Are you saying that the value per square foot in Seeley's Bay that you're assessed at is substantially higher than the value per square foot that you're assessed at for a comparable building in Markham?
Mr Drynan: I'm saying that my taxes per square foot are twice the price. It's $1 a square foot in Markham; it's $2 in Seeley's Bay. If you read the articles that I've added with my resumé, they show how important it is for a township or a village or whatever to bring their taxes down to be competitive if we want to bring people here, and that's my aim. My aim was to help the doctors, and they're doing well. In fact, we're running out of space and it's hard for them. They don't make the money that it's said they make.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Phillips. Mr Christopherson.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. When Mr Galt talks about the fact that they brought in their property tax reform legislation, I'm sure you'd be interested to know that they liked doing it so much they introduced six more subsequent bills, which actually were necessary to correct the problems in the first bill, and then continued to bring in bills to correct follow-up problems that were created with the subsequent bills that came after the initial bill. All of this the government was told was going to happen because they rushed it through, so it's not surprising that virtually every day of these hearings we hear of some business person who, quite frankly, is still getting shafted by what the government has done.
I'm from Hamilton and I have two major commercial sectors: the downtown of Hamilton proper and Westdale, if you know Hamilton. That's in the west end of the city. Both those small business communities finally were going to get a little bit of fairness out of this because finally they would have been charged based on what the value of their property was and that would have made them more competitive. Then the government brought in the cap and totally screwed it up and we're still losing business. In fact, the rate of business leaving has increased rather than decreased.
So I can just tell you that your problems are not shared by you alone, that we have these concerns in all the commercial areas of all our communities right across Ontario. It's interesting as we travel, because when I'm in a town, the small businesses talk to me about being competitive, and then I go into the neighbouring towns and they talk about being competitive. Of course, everybody wants to compete with each other, and at the end of the day all everybody wants is fairness, some kind of system that makes sense.
When a government has to bring in six bills after an initial bill to keep correcting all the mistakes they've made along the way, I don't see how anyone can believe they are benefiting the interests of competitiveness and fairness for small business people right across the province.
I appreciate your coming forward.
The Vice-Chair (Mr Doug Galt): Thank you very much. Your time has run out. Thank you, Mr Drynan, for coming forward and presenting to us this morning.
Mr Drynan: I got off easy. Thank you very much.
BROCKVILLE AND DISTRICT LABOUR COUNCIL
The Vice-Chair: I will now call our next witness forward, Mr Jim Murray from the Brockville and District Labour Council. Mr Murray, representing an organization, you have a half an hour for presentation and then the remaining time will be divided up among the three caucuses for comment and/or questions. Please state your name and away you go.
Mr Jim Murray: Thank you very much. My name is Jim Murray. I am vice-president of the Brockville and District Labour Council, which I am representing this morning. I am also a member of OPSEU, local 439, at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital-so it would be the Royal Ottawa hospital, I guess-where I work as a psychometrist.
Since I think all of you are from out of town, I'd like to begin by giving you a little bit of a tour of our town, Brockville. As you come into the city, if you come in from the west, the first thing you'll see is a major plant called Phillips Cables, which is now closed, which formerly employed 600 workers. Mr Runciman assured the community that lots of great things would be happening there. So far, a few small operations are in that facility, but it's pretty much empty.
As you continue on your tour into the town you'll go through our main street, which is not a big main street. It's probably six blocks, if you live in a city. Yesterday, I drove through there and counted over 24 vacant stores in the downtown core. That's a pretty high percentage when you consider the total number that we have in downtown Brockville.
If you go north and up about a block, you'll find a building which formerly housed the VON, where they had a big banner which proudly said, "Serving the community" for some 50 years. Well, the VON is no longer in business because this government decided that the homecare business, the not-for-profit business like the VON or the Red Cross, that someone had to make a profit on that, and so the VON is now out of there and not in the homecare business, along with the Red Cross and other not-for-profit organizations that we used to depend on, because I guess that's what the government thought we wanted them to do.
You can swing now back along King Street and drive west through the main street. On your left you'll see the former Fulford Home, which was a long-term-care facility, which is now closed. The funding formula is the reason that's given. Really, I guess that means the government has decided to make the operators operate with too few dollars to run that facility, so it's now closed.
If you proceed a little further, on the right-hand side you'll see St Lawrence Lodge, which is the municipally funded home for the aged. Now, St Lawrence Lodge is in a lot of trouble these days because under the new funding formula and by the edict of this government, they have been told they can't expand that facility. They need more beds. They can't expand on that property. I know this firsthand because my mother, before she passed away, was a resident of that facility. I, the caregiver for my mother, received a letter: "Oh, by the way, St Lawrence Lodge cannot expand. It cannot be renovated. It must be replaced. We must raise money to replace it." Even though it was a municipally funded facility, as I said, which my mother and other people in the community helped to build, they were run out of business. They are going to be replaced for, again, business-operated homes for the aged where you can get in if you have the money, I suppose.
On the left of St Lawrence Lodge you'll see Brockville Psychiatric Hospital where I work, at least for now. That's a place where the restructuring commission came in-actually they didn't come in, they didn't even set foot on the property, but they ordered it closed. Duncan Sinclair was the man, I think, responsible for that. Right now it's in total disarray. The Royal Ottawa is supposedly taking over. Nobody really is sure why, or how this is going to work out, but that's what's happening there.
I should say that before you get to the hospital there is another building which I forgot, another Ontario government building which formerly housed the MNR, the natural resources people. We of course are gone, because this government decided we don't need people to go out and look after our natural resources, that we don't need people to police our parks and so on. We can hire it out to anybody with a badge who wants to work for $6.85 an hour or whatever these private security firms do. That's what has happened in that building.
If you go a little further north, you'll see St Lawrence College, a community college which we're all very proud of, which this government has managed to turn into a former shell of what it was. A number of the programs that were there are now abandoned. They've been sent out to the Kingston or Cornwall campus. We hear now that one of them may return. People have been really fighting to keep that place open. I am sure it was the mission of the former administration to have that place closed and out of there. They really would like private trainers to be able to come in and do the job that Canadian colleges have done. So that's St Lawrence College.
If you go further west now, you'll see the former Black and Decker plant, which is closed, of course, which was another giant loss to our community.
This government has told us that the economy is booming. I say to them, for whom? Not for people in Brockville; I don't even think for people in Toronto or any city in Ontario. It's booming for the people at the top end of the scale because, if you look at the profits, look at the CEO earnings, look at the stock market, of course it's booming. It's certainly not booming for any workers in Ontario.
There are a couple of industries that have expanded in Brockville. We now have I think four pawnshops. The food bank can't keep up with demand. In fact, they've expanded to a Loaves and Fishes operation, which is a restaurant-soup kitchen, and God love them for doing that. These people are really trying to make a difference in the community, a job which really should be done by the government. I don't know why, in a province that produces more wealth than any other, more and more people have to go to a food bank in order to survive, but that's the reality. That's the reality of Brockville.
When we look at what this government does, and the budget impacts everything they do, people would ask, "Why has this government abandoned so many workers?" I'm one of those, as are the people at MNR and anyone in the public service. I guess the short answer is that privatization is the key to our fortunes, or so we're told.
Mike Harris and his followers think, and I remember Dave Johnson saying: "Oh yes, we have to get more bang for our buck. We can get services cheaper, better, faster," whatever. That is the big lie that we're being told. When you extract a profit margin, it can't be cheaper. We don't think-those of us who are working people are people who used to trust our government-that you need to make a profit on sick people. We don't think you have to make a profit on the elderly. We don't think you have to make a profit on students, our children, our education. But this government thinks that. This government thinks that the only thing that's worthwhile is to make a profit wherever possible. This government has abandoned its responsibility as a government and really has become a weak appendage of big business. When Mike Harris said that Ontario was open for business, he forgot to tell you that it's closed to people, and he forgot to say: "Not open for business generally; open for big business." As we just heard from the gentleman earlier, small business operators, people trying to strive, are not getting a break from this government.
If you believe that privatization is the ultimate goal, what do you have to do? As a famous man, John Snobelen-everybody remembers him-once said, and I think he misspoke, "What we have to do is create a crisis in education and then go about solving it." I think he really let out, misspoke, what the true aim of the government is: We create a crisis in every situation where we have publicly funded institutions, not only in education. If you want to make something look bad-and I know because I work in one of those facilities-and you control the funding to that facility, it's very easy to cut the funding, make that institution look bad and then say: "Gee, this is so terrible, we have to close it. We have to find an alternative." The great example is in education. People are saying, and I hear it in the media all the time: "The public schools are so bad, the public colleges and universities are so bad, we have to do something. We have to open them up to private trainers. Boy, we could really do great things if we operated under the same principles they do in the United States." In the United States, people send their kids to private schools. They're afraid to send them to public schools because they have gotten that bad. Well, this government wants our schools to get that bad, very simply.
Health care: Ralph Klein, Mike Harris's idol, is going on and on about how we should make health care more flexible, open it up to private enterprise and concerns. What he's really saying is, "Let's let rich folks jump to the head of the line and get their health care, and if nobody else gets it, that's too bad." Of course the model again is the United States, but what they don't tell you is that 40 million people in the United States have no health care at all; they have no insurance. People in Ontario right now are feeling the crunch because this government wants to open up health care to private concerns. Health care is in crisis, just as education is. It's a created crisis.
When it comes to the aged, the saying is, and this comes from the US and it's a terrible statement: "It's mining grey gold. There is money to be made on the backs of old people." This is a government that we should respect? I don't think so.
Again and again we hear of public institutions that really have to be done away with. We hear about the "old Ontario Hydro-so bad." Yet, when we look at what happens in privately run operations, people don't want to hear things like Three Mile Island, what happened in Japan recently with those nuclear waste buckets. Yet Mike Harris is saying, "Fine, let's privatize Ontario Hydro." Ontario Hydro, which has a track record that's probably unmatched in the world as far as safety, now has become the "old Ontario Hydro." In communities across the province, as a result-one little bit of our tour that I forgot to mention was the PUC, the Brockville public utilities. There is such a cash crunch now that while the foundations are being laid, the population is being fed bits and bits of information from the propaganda network of this government to tell us how bad the public utilities are, how far they're in debt. Yet it's this very government that is putting them in debt. They wouldn't let them bail themselves out even though they had a reserve fund. Now we're seeing increased costs, and my question is, when private concerns take over public utilities, who is going to pay the 30% tax that private businesses pay for electrical services? Of course it's going to be the people. It's not going to be the corporation.
The second question is, why is there such a need to make a profit on something that we need to live in this country, especially this time of year? Do we need people to make a profit so that people can stay warm? We see what happened in Britain, where they went the whole nine yards and in fact privatized water. Judging from the track record of this government, that'll probably be next here. Maybe air will be after that. You see, everything has to be taxed; everything has to make a profit.
How have the policies of this government impacted on this community? I'd just like to give you a couple of real-life stories. One is a lady who has a deaf daughter who has now lost the supports that she needs to attend school because the funding formula changed. It's all being blamed on the school board, but we know that it goes directly back to the government's budget. Another lady I know, who was a welfare recipient, was encouraged-actually forced, I suppose you could say-to be involved in the Ontario Works project. She was given a placement-not a job, a placement-and subsequently talked into taking a course from a private trainer and now has no job but also an OSAP loan to repay. I would like to know how many jobs Ontario Works/workfare has created. I don't know of any. We know of all the placements-tons of placements-but no jobs.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the tax cut. This government is telling us that tax cuts create jobs. I would like someone from the government to tell me what hard data they have to prove that the tax cut has created a single job in Ontario. I haven't seen any data. In fact, this regressive tax only goes to the people at the top end. When you give a tax cut to someone rich, Mike Harris thinks that's a great idea. It's going to trickle all down. Well, I don't like being trickled on; in fact, I haven't been. It didn't work for Ronald Reagan, didn't work for Margaret Thatcher, and it's not working in Ontario for the people. It is working for Mr Harris and his friends.
I think it's best exemplified by the Premier himself. If you give a tax cut to someone at the low end, they spend it immediately. If they need food, if they need clothes, if their kids need things, it goes immediately back to the economy. That's not the route that this government has chosen, because there is very little in the way of a tax cut for people at the low or middle end. All of the tax cut benefits the people at the top.
Our illustrious Premier I think best illustrates what happens when you get a tax cut. Over the Christmas vacation, what did Mike Harris do, supposedly with his tax cut? He went to Florida. How did that benefit the people of Ontario? It really didn't, as I can see. The other thing is, he was supposed to be in North Bay. I don't know what happened there. He told everyone he was in North Bay. I don't know why he would tell us he was in North Bay when he was in Florida. I suppose he has his reasons. Maybe somebody here could tell me that; I don't know.
Yesterday a friend of mine in the construction industry handed me a publication put out by the Council of Onta-rio Construction Associations. This is new; he just got this in the mail. This is an example of what the Harris government is doing to workers in this province. I'm going to read from this:
"Major contractor groups are going to the Harris government asking to change the labour laws in Ontario. They want to delete section 1(4) of the Labour Relations Act so they can spin off non-union companies that operate outside the union agreement. This has been against the law in Ontario for decades but these contractors want that changed. They want the flexibility to walk away from union rates and conditions. They may still keep a union operation in case they need skilled workers from the hiring hall for big industrial jobs, but most of their work will be shifted to the non-union side where they will set whatever wages they want."
Mike Harris has bought into this plan. He wants to change an agreement that has worked with labour for years in Ontario. I suppose he feels that people who work in construction don't deserve the money they earn. I think if that's the case, he should probably go out and work alongside someone in construction for a couple of days. Compared to trotting around a golf course, he might find it a little different.
Just another little quick note around the health care issue. These are not the words of myself; this is from Maclean's magazine, January 17. It compares all the provinces in terms of the number of seniors' long-term-care beds and home care beds.
If we look at home care, this government has recently cut the maximum to 60 hours a month. If anybody here has had a sick relative, as I have, or knows someone who is chronically ill, 60 hours a month just doesn't cut it. What is that a week? What is that a day? A little over an hour a day for someone who probably needs to be in hospital but can't. So the long-term care has been cut to 60 hours in Ontario.
If you compare Ontario to, say, New Brunswick, and we're looking at home care, the waiting list in New Brunswick for home care is about 83 people. The waiting list in Quebec for home care-there is no waiting list. The waiting list in Manitoba for home care is nothing. There is no waiting list, and they provide 32,000 people a year with home care. Their maximum hours are unlimited.
In Ontario the waiting list for home care is 11,000 people. People are dying, suffering immeasurably, as a result of the policies of this government. If you don't believe me, talk to someone who has had a sick relative recently, and if you don't do that, your time will come and you'll find out. This is absolutely disgraceful. We're the province that's producing more wealth than any other, yet here we are taking it out on the backs of the most vulnerable, the weakest, the oldest people in the province. This is absolutely shameful.
While we're on the subject of budgets, I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that this government has continually ignored what was probably the most telling event of this government's tenure, and that was the shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash in 1995. It is estimated that the coalition for the public inquiry into Ipperwash has cost-and this is a conservative estimate-over $4 million, to investigate and cover up what happened at Ipper-wash in September 1995.
As a taxpayer and a citizen, I think our tax money would be better spent uncovering the truth about what happened at Ipperwash than covering it up. I encourage the people sitting to my right to continue that struggle. When the United Nations tells Canada that there should be a full public inquiry into what happened at Ipperwash in the shooting of Dudley George, this government cannot continue to ignore it. Thank you.
The Chair: We have approximately one minute per caucus. Mr Phillips.
Mr Phillips: Let me assure you that I for one will not ever give up on the Ipperwash affair until we find out the truth of what happened there. I can guarantee you that.
It was a very good presentation, by the way, and I know from colleagues like Mr Gerretsen the challenges of the economy in the Brockville area. It's hard to know where to begin, but to start, Ontario is now the most export-reliant jurisdiction in the world. When we started these hearings, the government said, "What is driving the Ontario economy is domestic spending." Since 1995, domestic spending is up $20 billion and exports are up $80 billion. Exports are driving the Ontario economy.
I have a suspicion that that is one of the challenges for Brockville. Exports are tending to go to New York state through Buffalo and to Michigan through Detroit-Port Huron. The challenge we are going to run into, and we've seen this at the hearings, is that exporters say we have to harmonize our taxes with the US. So we are going to see enormous pressure to harmonize taxes with the US. Then everybody needs to harmonize services with the US, or lower services, because our productivity per capita in Ontario is lower than in the US. Therefore, in my opinion, if we don't figure out how to manage this, we are heading towards undermining the primary thing we do with our taxes, and that is our health care system. That is the number one area we spend our tax dollars on for ourselves.
I don't whether the Brockville Labour Council has had an opportunity to look at the impact of the trends in exports to your economy. I know that was not central to your theme, but we don't have the chamber of commerce speaking to us today, and I think the economic group has cancelled its presentation. So we do not have a chance to talk to the business community about the effects.
The Chair: Do you have a question, Mr Phillips?
Mr Phillips: Have you had a chance to look at the impact of exports on your businesses here?
Mr Murray: Certainly that has been a problem with companies. Another plant, Newell, has just closed in Prescott-90 years in Prescott-bought by Rubbermaid and moved to Freeport, Illinois, I believe. Rather than keep the company open to produce for the local market, they just decided to draw back and save jobs in the US; the same with Black and Decker.
We don't have a domestic market. I think Brockville is no different than anywhere else. When you had to produce in Canada to sell in Canada, we had a domestic market. With free trade and NAFTA, that is no longer the case. So unless somehow, some way, government recaptures what we had in some fashion, we're continually going to compete with Mexico and Third World countries for these jobs.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you , Jim. I don't know if you were here at the opening of the hearings this morning, but right off the bat we heard from Mr Bickerton, a general insurance broker in Gananoque. His presentation was basically singing the praises of this government. So it was good to have you come in and talk about the other part of Ontario that exists out there.
Let me just read you a couple of quotes from his presentation. I wouldn't mind your thoughts, particularly as the last one relates directly to health care. He did start out by saying, "I would like to compliment the government on its accomplishments since the beginning of its first term in office just over four years ago." He went on to say: "To any naysayers out there"-and I suspect that might be you and me, Jim-"who have felt they were disadvantaged by the cuts that were made, I say that we had all become too used to having government throw money at our every request. This includes education and health care, as well as many other departments. It was high time for us to accept a dose of reality and stop feeling sorry for ourselves." He also said, "I think that all citizens expressing concern now about health care truly understand that you did what you had to do."
Well, Jim, do you understand and believe the government did what they had to do in terms of what they've done in health and education?
Mr Murray: No. I think they threw money all right, but they threw money back at their friends and themselves, because of course they don't have to worry about health care. When someone with a fair amount of money becomes ill, they can get whatever they want to save their life-have a heart transplant. If you're a working person in Ontario and you're at the back of the line, you simply may not get it in time. People are literally dying on waiting lists. To make that statement is absolutely misguided.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Government side.
Mr Christopherson: We will also continue to fight for an inquest into the Dudley George affair.
Mrs Tina R. Molinari (Thornhill): Thank you, Mr Murray, for your presentation this morning. I want to assure that this government truly cares about all the people of Ontario. The difference is that we've had the courage to make the difficult decisions needed in order to provide for long-term care.
You talked about some of the decisions with respect to health care. For a long time it was stated that health care was not in the position to provide for all of the services needed and changes needed to be mind. This government recognized the aging population, and as a result introduced and made available more long-term-care beds to provide for the aging population.
You also talked about the tax cuts going to the wealthy. Well, more than 90% of Ontario taxpayers experienced a 30% tax cut, and those who earn $60,000 or less got more than 30% of the tax cut. So if your idea is that 90% of the people of Ontario are the richest, then I think we have a province that is quite fruitful.
You talked about some personal experiences with people in health care. Let me tell you about a personal experience of a very close friend of mine whose father was very ill. She told me that because of the change in the drug formulary and the fact that we introduced more drugs that were able to be accessed through insurance plans and through other sources, they were able to better afford those drugs that they hadn't been able to afford before. So I have to take issue with some of the comments that you've made.
With respect to funding for education and health, it's ever-evolving. No plan is perfect. What we're doing is trying to make it better, and hopefully, as we move towards the future ideas that come through, that will help make it even better and improve it. Certainly as the government we're open to listening to a number of constructive ideas on how we can improve all of the services that are presently in place for the future. So I want to assure you that definitely these hearings are a way for us to be listening to the people, of improving what we already have in place and moving forward for all the people of Ontario.
The Chair: With that, we've run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
Due to the road conditions, our next presenter, the mayor of Gananoque, had to turn back. I don't know whether she'll be able to make it later. We're going to be in the building. If she shows up we'll try to get in touch.
Mr Phillips: That can't be so.
Mr Christopherson: Not enough funding to plow the roads?
The Chair: If you recall this morning when you woke up, unless you woke up late, the roads were pretty good, and if you have a look outside right now, I'm sure it would be very difficult for anybody, under any conditions probably, to have them in good condition. The 11 o'clock presenter has also cancelled, so we'll recess until 11:30, unless the mayor shows up.
The committee recessed from 1035 to 1130.
ELEMENTARY TEACHERS' FEDERATION OF ONTARIO, UPPER CANADA LOCAL
The Chair: The next presenter is a representative from the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Canada, Upper Canada Local-and I don't have the number. If you could please step forward and state your name for the record.
Mr Randy Frith: My name is Randy Frith. I'm president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Canada, Upper Canada Local.
The Chair: Okay, so Upper Canada Local. Thank you very much. On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation this morning.
Mr Frith: Welcome to sunny Brockville. I gather most of you were in Timmins yesterday. We've avoided most of the snow so far this year, but it's here.
Mr Chairperson and members of the standing committee, thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation. My name, as I mentioned earlier, is Randy Frith. I'm the president of the elementary teachers' federation here in Upper Canada. Our local represents approximately 1,300 elementary school teachers and another approximately 400 occasional teachers. As you'll see, and I know you've got copies that have been distributed, the form of our presentation will be as follows: We'll give you an overview-and some of you will know this better than others, but we'll give you an overview of the Upper Canada District School Board, with the emphasis on the sheer size of our geography; an explanation of the distinct cultural differences in this board; a clarification of some of the program differences that we had when this board was amalgamated; and some of the program differences that still continue. Then we'll take a look at some of the specific challenges, as we see them as teachers on behalf of our students, and their impact here in Upper Canada. Last, we'll conclude with some recommendations that would enable us as teachers to do a better job and thus meet the needs of our students here in Upper Canada, not just now but, as I mentioned, for the future.
The Upper Canada District School Board is an amalgamation of four former boards: Lanark to the north; Leeds and Grenville, where you are presently; Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry; and Prescott-Russell. We are one of two boards in the province that were such a combination of four. In the public domain we are basically eastern Ontario, with the exception of Ottawa-Carleton. We have 110 elementary and secondary schools that stretch from just east of Kingston to the Quebec border. To put that in context, when I visit schools to the east of us, I often stay at my daughter's house, who lives in Beaconsfield. It's a lot closer than doing the drive home. So it's large. We stretch to Pakenham and Almonte in the north and basically circle Ottawa, as I said. We have one main board office. If you wanted to go for a good walk, it's about a block away to the east here. It's located in Brockville, as I said, with three regional education centres which have evolved. These must service approximately 25,000 elementary students, 14,000 secondary students and close to 4,000 staff. Our 1999-2000 budget is $244.5 million.
Geography, especially with amalgamation, is often our number one concern here in Upper Canada. Nothing is planned without factoring in the vast distances. I see that on your program you had a couple cancel out earlier because of the weather and the geography. Just as I left my office this morning, I cancelled the meeting for this afternoon because teachers would have had to commute a couple of hours. So we have to factor these in. We cover an area of 12,000 square kilometres. To put that in perspective, you could fit 13 Toronto district school boards into our area and have some space left over.
I know, at least I've certainly heard this through the funding, that we're described as a rural board-we are a rural board is what I'm saying. We're described otherwise. There are only two cities within our boundaries, Cornwall and Brockville. In the elementary panel there are 73 rural and 13 urban schools following that description. The government funding didn't provide additional funding to recognize our rural nature and chose to deem us urban. They based that on our proximity to Ottawa-Carleton. They are about an hour or an hour and 10 minutes to the north. However, Limestone, our neighbour to the west, with a much larger city, Kingston, approaching 100,000 people, is deemed to be rural.
Being rural and having substantial distances between our schools leads us to have many small schools. We have 16 schools with enrolments of under 150 pupils, 10 having less than 125 pupils. We have numerous schools with split grading and the potential for triple grading. Combined grades, as you're aware, if you've heard other elementary presentations, certainly aren't new. But their number in Upper Canada is increasing dramatically. Splitting grades seems to be the only way to organize classes to fit the fewer number of teachers we have. Classrooms with combined grades were always a challenging environment for any teacher. Now it resembles Mission Impossible. It has become much more challenging. The new elementary curriculum requires material to be covered in specific grades. The curriculum is tied to defined outcomes, and it's just not possible to teach everything and everyone. The result is that students get less time and individual attention from their teachers. Parents are worried about the impact on their children's province-wide test results. Our students deserve classroom resources that meet their needs. They deserve adequate time and attention to learn.
With amalgamation-I must admit, even though I've taught in this area for a long time, I learned this with our four former boards coming in-came the realization of the unique cultural and program differences within our four former boards. The most distinct and diverse was French as a second language. Upper Canada, particularly the areas covered by the former Prescott-Russell and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to the east, recognized its large French-speaking population by providing programs that met their needs. During the past two years, the Upper Canada board made decisions resulting in greater accessibility to French immersion programs and still maintained a degree of local flexibility in determining the amount of core and extended French appropriate to the needs of local communities. Within Upper Canada, just to give you an example of the range, core and extended programs are offered within the following parameters: grades 7 and 8 within our board go anywhere from 40 to 75 minutes a day; grades 4 to 6, 40 to 75 minutes a day; grades 1 to 3, 20 to 75 minutes a day; and kindergarten, up to 40 minutes a day.
Allowing for these site-based decisions in local communities within these set time parameters appears to be serving the needs of our school communities, but obviously it comes with a cost. The ministry acknowledges only those core and extended programs offered in grades 4 to 8 in its curriculum and funding policies. Therefore, the costs to maintain these programs from kindergarten to grade 3 must come from somewhere else. The government needs to acknowledge the need for funding in our region in particular-and I'm sure there are others with a large French population-to provide this primary French-as-a-second-language program.
In our former boards, local priorities in the delivery of programs were addressed. Design and technology-what some of us used to know when I went to school as family studies and industrial arts-were emphasized, particularly in both Lanark and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Delegations from local school councils appear regularly in lobbying the board to maintain these worthwhile programs. In fact, I sat on an education and policy meeting last week where there were three delegations trying to save those programs and legitimately recognizing the needs and the benefits they've offered in their community for quite a period of time. The decision on those programs, by the way, even though they still exist in places, is to be decided in the next couple of weeks and will be forthcoming. Continuing these programs, however, means taking money from other parts of the classroom allocation.
Library was a very high priority in all of our former boards. One of the things in my job when I took over two years ago after amalgamation was the opportunity to visit all 93 of our elementary work sites. I was very impressed by the quality of our library facilities out there. Some schools obviously were better than others, some that were newer, but they were all very worthwhile and well-used facilities. Because of cuts many of these excellent resources sit vacant or darkened during the school day. To maintain these programs, staff must also come from the classroom allocation, which increases class size.
The ministry's model funds pupil spaces-maintenance, renovation and new pupil spaces-at a lower level for elementary students than for secondary. This limitation, in my opinion and that of others, is arbitrary and unrealistic. Young students need as much space as older children, especially in a time of child-centred learning.
This September in Upper Canada we are closing three elementary schools. There are numerous others that are targeted for the future. When a school closes there is great loss, both to the students and the community. It can mean loss of programs and an increase in class size in the receiving school. Often, to accommodate the influx of these new students, the receiving school must convert science facilities, music, design and technology or special education resource rooms over to regular classrooms.
We are facing challenges here in Upper Canada. Staffing: The major challenge, certainly in my job and I think with the people in senior administration in the board over the last while, is trying to maintain the level of quality that we had here in Upper Canada and variety in the programs that are offered. This is what I mentioned earlier was being asked by the parents. We lost 60 elementary teaching staff for the 1999-2000 school year. It severely impeded our ability to meet this challenge of offering those programs. Another 20 staff were lost due to declining enrolment. And we have had declining enrolment, but it's like anything else. The long-range projections seem to level off and in fact may increase by the year 2003. Since September 1997, in our board, Upper Canada district-and now we're comparing figures from the last year of when we were four former boards to 1999, last fall-the complement of elementary teachers has been reduced by roughly 300 full-time equivalents-a pretty drastic drop.
What specifically was removed, as we're finding out as it has evolved, was the program factor. It may not be terminology you're familiar with, but it was the way we staffed the first two years as a board. By allocating staff at the 25-to-1 ratio and using preparation time to provide French, only the basic program needs of the elementary students are being addressed. This formula does not provide the flexibility or the teaching staff to offer programs that were once considered essential.
Valuable programs, some of which I've mentioned before-music, instrumental and vocal, design and tech, library, computer studies, reading recovery, junior kindergarten-were reduced or have been eliminated. Individual schools, under pressure from parent groups and staff themselves, have made tough decisions to maintain some of these programs. But this has been at the expense of the classroom allotment. You increase class size or you go to split grading to provide these, to free staff up to do some of these important programs. It's a dilemma where nobody wins. The problem is exacerbated in many of our small schools, and that really is an issue in this board. We just don't have the flexibility to offer some of these with fewer teachers, and that was true long before amalgamation, by the way. In the past, at least I know in my experience-and I come from Leeds and Grenville-the board could and would adapt and add additional staff to avoid triple grading, which nobody wants to see. But the flexibility isn't there and the money isn't there to the same degree. Contrary to what we heard in the last election, our class sizes are up, and as a result, elementary students in Upper Canada must suffer from the loss of valuable programs and teachers.
According to the data collected in the elementary teachers' federation's response to the EIC's second interim report, the elementary PTR in Upper Canada between 1997 and 1999 has increased by 3.37. That is the greatest increase of any board in the province. Research on class size overwhelmingly points to the importance of small classes, especially in the child's early years. The Upper Canada board allocated staff at a 22-to-1 ratio this year in the primary grades for 1999-2000. They should be commended for that. But as you'll see, because the funding is based on a 25-to-1 ratio, this meant that junior and intermediate classes became larger. So there's a set-off. There are numerous classes within our system-and we survey our members every year to get this data, and the board provides us with the data-that have 30 or more students, often in split-grade settings.
Special education: In the third interim report the EIC confirmed what parents, school boards and teachers have known for years. Programs for those students with special needs are dangerously underfunded. The impact is that identifications are slower, students are left on waiting lists for placements or programs, and schools and staff are asked to prioritize special-needs students. Because of the lack of funds, the reality is that only the most needy get the attention they deserve. The funding to augment the shortfall must come from other areas and, again, other programs are reduced.
I think it was in the announcement recently where the $40 million was added. It was pointed out that the schools have been spending upwards of $100 million plus in trying to maintain these programs above and beyond what the funding provides. But, of course, it comes from somewhere else.
The nature of accessing these funds, though, whether through the ISA or SEPA grants, forces staff to spend a much greater amount of time to complete the paperwork necessary. This increased workload greatly lessens the time that SERT, special education resource teachers, can work with individual children. Programs, such as reading recovery, which identify and assist children at the earliest age, should be expanded, not eliminated. The special education grants are for one year only, so we have to go through this process of applying for the grants again. It's very difficult to sustain any kind of continuity.
To an elementary teacher, the frustration of receiving one or more of these special-needs students in the middle of the school year is agonizing. I want to explain that. It's not because we don't want to receive those students, it's just the perception of teachers. If they come in the middle of the year, especially if they come from outside the board, the funding doesn't move on until you reapply the next year for the grants. So you have to deal with these special-needs students but you don't have the assistance and resources to do it. Providing essential programs for students with special needs has become much more difficult and, in many cases, almost impossible.
Recent announcements, which I mentioned, of increased funding will provide temporary relief but my understanding is that it's just for one year. If we compare the pre-Bill 160 funding for special education and the current levels, it indicates that programs for students with special needs are seriously jeopardized. The funding shortfall must be taken from the classroom component or services cut.
It's very difficult. I sat in an elementary staff meeting last week with the superintendent responsible for special ed. He has sites within our board where I would say close to one third plus of the students are identified. The funding model just doesn't accommodate all of those needs. It really is a difficult issue with special ed. It's a difficult issue and it has been for years-I won't deny that-but it's becoming even more difficult.
Until we get the grants and the grants are passed on-the applications aren't finalized until late in the year-it makes it really difficult to establish programs for the next year. Once more, if you don't-you've got to address these funding needs-the funding shortfall comes from the classroom component or other services have to be cut.
Learning problems and exceptionalities must be identified and addressed as early as possible. We all recognize that. The later the intervention, the more costly and less effective becomes the remediation. The belief that teachers can do more with less is wrong.
Early years: Before the new funding model was initiated, there was considerable support directed to the primary grades and I think many of you will remember this. However, student-focused funding took grant money away from the early learners and replaced it with the early learning grant. This grant was to be used to enhance kindergarten to grade 3. In Upper Canada, we made the difficult but I believe correct-and I think teachers did too and staff-decision to maintain the junior kindergarten classes. As a board and as teachers, we understand the need to give four-year-olds the opportunity for an education. Only at the primary level, where our students are the most vulnerable and would benefit the most from smaller classes, enhanced programs and greater resources, do we have to make this kind of choice, one against the other.
Transportation: I'll just briefly comment on that once more, because of the geography. The challenge in transportation in a lot of ways has been to save money and to continue to provide the service. We have a great-and I didn't put it in here and I wouldn't be leading you astray. We've done a lot of co-operative work with this board for the last few years and they have an excellent-it's sort of an amalgamation, one board-joint transportation consortium and it works. But there are still some things that are concerns.
The savings in some of these areas have come at the expense of students and I wouldn't say staff-that's a poor choice of words in my presentation; most of them aren't walking-with longer walking distances, staggered school hours, full day/alternate day kindergarten and many more hours on the bus for the kids. School closures, especially in our rural settings, will only add to this problem.
Professional development: The greatest challenge for teachers in the past two years has not been amalgamation. Teachers get on with life and deal with kids every day. It's been the arrival of the new curriculum for nine subject areas and new standardized electronic report cards.
With the cuts in professional activity days from nine to four and the reduction of preparation time by approximately 25% in our board, the challenge is how to implement all these changes without adequate training or fund-ing for resources. There was no transition period. Teachers are expected to carry on doing their jobs while planning and preparing to implement the new curriculum at the same time. They are expected to scramble to find new resources and materials to support this new curriculum.
I want to give you an example. The funding has gone down over the years but my wife and I-my wife is an elementary teacher, a grade 1 teacher, just west of here. She went in to talk to her principal because she's in a fortunate situation: She can retire at the end of the school year. She was just pointing out to the principal, "It depends on who comes in, but you're going to have to really put some money aside to address some resources and the needs of this classroom." The principal said, "Why?" and she said, "Because I've bought 80% of what's there and I'm planning on taking it with me"-not to take it away from the students, but she's promised it to a student who is graduating from a faculty of ed this year and is going to take it to another school.
We often thought of putting out a survey to our members to say, "What do you actually own that's in that classroom?" Most of them would say, "I'd leave it." I know they would say that, because it's the needs of the students. But a good percentage of what is there actually has been purchased by teachers.
The last-minute dash to provide these materials has not been successful. Many classrooms still do not have the materials required to implement the new curriculum.
Our teachers are reporting having spent up to 100 hours of their own time to prepare one class set of report cards. They do this three times a year. We have surveyed our members the last two years and their comments on reporting are very harsh and directed as to the amount of time spent on reporting. For at least two weeks each term reporting takes over a teacher's life. I must admit I am fortunate in that I don't have to do them right now, but I have to listen to my wife, who is doing them for two weeks. She likes doing report cards; it's just so demanding with the electronic version. With additional time each night, it really takes away from people's families.
Classroom preparation and marking during the time when reports are being done is severely limited. Inadequate training-and these are the comments we hear back from teachers-short time lines, lack of access to computers, difficulties with software that has not been properly field tested, and constantly changing expectations are not acceptable. That's probably one of the most frustrating calls I get in that everybody knows you do reporting. That's a very important part of your job and parents expect it. We used to look forward to it. It's just that it's changing so rapidly that it's become a great challenge.
Just a couple of short comments on fundraising. It has always been a part of school life. However, over the past few years I know it has changed. It's changed quite dramatically. Schools must now fundraise for essentials: supplies, textbooks, field trips, sports and playground equipment. In the past, fundraising enhanced the program. The focus now is on the basic needs and requirements of the child. Now the funds go more directly to the classroom and subsidize the necessary resources. In less affluent communities, access to these essentials is less likely to occur.
Staff morale-and I will tie it to a budget presentation. The EIC report specifically recognized, and I think accurately recognized, the low morale of elementary teachers and staff in general in Upper Canada. The obvious causes are the increased workload and the fast-paced change in education. However, that's only part of the problem. Our members are deeply affected by the lack of recognition of the value of elementary students and themselves. The funding formula says clearly, and has for a long time, that an elementary student is worth less than a secondary student. When the nine years of new curricula were introduced without appropriate resources and support, elementary teachers were not provided with similar training to that which the Minister of Education ensured for one year of secondary curriculum change. A period of stabilization is really essential. Teachers can cope with change, they always have, but they need the resources to support that curriculum change.
They need the financial support for adequate professional development. They need to be reminded that the focus is on children, not on testing. They do not believe in teacher testing for the sake of accountability. There already are, in Upper Canada, effective models for evaluating teachers. Soon we will have one consistent supervision-for-growth policy. Teachers do not want to see further ministry money wasted in this area. Put those funds earmarked for testing back into the classroom where they will benefit children.
Two other issues also lead, I believe in Upper Canada and maybe around the province, to a low level of morale. First, with reduced funding over the last few years we've evolved, here and maybe in other boards, to school-based occasional teacher budgets. That pot, that envelope that goes to the schools, is inadequate.
Teachers come to school sick because there is no money to replace them. Unintentionally, they are made to feel guilty by their administrators and their colleagues who are forced to cover their classes internally. Teachers of French, special education and library are often not replaced. The impression left with students, teachers and parents in these programs is that they are not as important. That's not right.
If a school's budget goes into the red, the deficit is taken from the next year's budget. Children are impacted by those kinds of decisions.
Elementary teachers need to see a real salary gain in their next round of negotiations. This acknowledgment of an increased compensation package is long overdue and in keeping with the improved economic climate. Boards recognize this need; they just don't have the funds to do it.
We, as elementary teachers in Upper Canada, are committed to quality education that fosters lifelong learning for all. All children are equal and have the right to reach their highest potential. That's our professional responsibility and the reason that we're all in the profession. These beliefs and this vision are framed by what we really want to accomplish and by what the ministry expects of us in the way of curriculum. To achieve this, we must handle a complex variety of challenges and deal with an endless number of restraints. Education is a shared responsibility, but the individual classroom teacher, who after the parent is the most crucial person in a child's pursuit of learning, has very little say in providing the resources and support that are necessary to accomplish this.
The government wants us to be proud of our education system; so too do the elementary teachers here in Upper Canada.
I would just conclude with a number of recommendations. Some you probably have seen before as you move around the province, but I just want to reiterate them.
We would like to see increased funding to reduce elementary class sizes, particularly in primary grades; real caps placed on elementary class sizes so we don't have 36 or 37 in certain rooms; the formula for funding elementary pupil spaces increased; preparation time for elementary teachers funded at a rate no lower than the 200-minute standard set out in Bill 160; the funding formula fully recognize increases in inflation and enrolment; the right to levy taxes for local education restored, and if it can't be-and I understand how that's a fundamental change-at least some funding given for program factors to address particular community needs; the ministry increase the funding targeted specifically for professional development to help elementary teachers implement the new curriculum and report cards; and, I think one of the most important, special education funding restructured and the grants enhanced.
I end there. Thank you for the opportunity. I certainly look forward to any questions or comments you may have.
The Chair: We have a very short time but we'll go for a minute for each caucus.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your presentation. Again, it offers up a view very much different from that of my right-wing poster boy of the day, Mr Bickerton, who thinks everything is wonderful because the bottom line numbers look good.
There are so many key issues you have raised. Let me tell you, I represent Hamilton West, and all the issues you've raised here save and except the geography are exactly the same as we have.
You did mention that special education is of particular concern. You state, "Programs for these students with special needs are dangerously underfunded." Very strong words for an educated person. Obviously you had reason to choose that particular word. Could you tell me why you used the word "dangerously" in relation to special needs and the lack of funding?
Mr Frith: Once more, I'm not that far removed from the classroom, even though I've done this job for a while. I do have, as I said, a spouse in the education field and I hear from colleagues all the time.
Special ed has got to be a priority. The impression in teachers-and there's not just some pressure. There's a feeling and even a message we hear that we've got to prioritize who we deal with. We know we should deal with all, and I know that's next to impossible sometimes, but there are so many needy students out there. Teachers will go to regional meetings of special-ed resource teachers and will only be allowed to bring forward, say, two names from your school. You may have 10 who need it, but to prioritize it, it's not right. It's a fact of life based on what we can allocate to them, but it's something we're going to pay the price for down the road. If we don't deal with these students now, somewhere we're going to have to deal with them within the system.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation and for caring.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. I want to compliment you on the tone of your presentation. Although you have a number of issues that you want to bring forward, and we appreciate hearing those, your tone has been very positive.
Like you, my wife is a teacher, so I think I have some understanding of the dedication and professionalism of the vast majority of teachers.
I want to ask you about one point that you made about the fact that in the Upper Canada board you say there are "effective models for evaluating teachers." That perhaps could be a model upon which we could have a province-wide policy. I wonder if, in the minute you have, you could explain to me how it's done in this board, how you do it.
Mr Frith: I don't sit on that committee, but I know they met again yesterday afternoon. Obviously we had four former evaluation policies and it was "Supervision for Growth"-the same name there. It may come out as a different name once they finally get it in print, but it was a model that I would say tracked teachers. It was a model with supervision. There was a cyclical part to it. At least in the former Leeds and Grenville, we would have done it a maximum of every four years.
But we acknowledge difficulties there. I'm not hiding that. I get those kinds of calls. If there's difficulty with a teacher or a concern with a teacher-supervision means let's help that person-those would get acknowledged. Those wouldn't get pushed on till four years down the road. Those would come up. Everybody had the right to access that kind of procedure and we'd deal with it. I think it was a good way of keeping track of what teachers were doing. The relationship was ongoing and positive. As I say, I deal with-not many, but I do deal with those teachers, and even if the principal in the school is having some difficulty maybe finding assistants, we can do that through our own organization.
I'm quite happy to forward it to you too, but I think there are models out there that will identify the great quality teachers we have, but also-and I'm going to say it-weed out the ones perhaps we don't. I think we've always done that.
Mr Gerretsen: Congratulations on an excellent presentation. I'd like to get back to the special education funding. We've heard in the House time after time from the minister that in effect the same amount of resources, if not more so, is being put into this area as was happening before. Can you tell me from a practical viewpoint how it is affecting your teachers and the students in particular? How many students are being left off the special education funding list who were there before who had some special education assistants and now no longer have them?
Mr Frith: You hit the right word, "students." Even though I represent teachers, that's what we're all here for. I can't give you that number. I could make an approximate guess. I think the feeling with teachers and people at the college, working right in the classrooms, is that there's a great demand, I believe a greater demand, for special-needs students. I think that's got to do with society and how it's evolved too. Some of the problems weren't the same 20 years ago. We've got to recognize that.
But the thing is that all professionals, but teachers in this case, want to help everybody and you have to draw a line. I understand they aren't all at the same level, but there seems to be more severe difficulties at this time and not the opportunity to address those. The grant structure-and I won't deny it-within Upper Canada has provided us with EAs to help the students, non-teaching people to help the students. And our numbers aren't down; I will tell you that right up front. They aren't up, but they certainly haven't gone down with amalgamation.
The problem with the funding model there is, because of the quite complex way of getting the grants, we often don't hear the actual answer till well into the summer. You don't even know who you're working with, an EA, to help your identified student until right when you walk in the first day or the day before. The need is increasing. I think it's just the frustration of not knowing that you can address all those needs, and I think split grading makes it more complex.
Mr Gerretsen: It's unfortunate that the board isn't here to make a presentation as well, because those would be the kinds of questions that we'd be able to ask them.
Mr Frith: You make a very good observation.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this morning.
Mr Frith: Thank you. I hope you all have a safe trip out of Brockville.
The Chair: Before we break, I'm told that the mayor of Gananoque is going to try to make the empty space we have at 1 o'clock, so if we could reconvene and see if she can make it by 1 o'clock, we'll adjourn until 1 o'clock.
The committee recessed from 1205 to 1322.
MUNICIPALITY OF GANANOQUE
The Chair: If I can get your attention, we'll bring the meeting back to order. I know some of the members are not here, but due to the situation we're facing I think I'll invite the mayor for the municipality of Gananoque to start her presentation.
For the record, could you please identify yourself.
Ms Sylvia Fletcher-Thomas: I'm Mayor Sylvia Fletcher-Thomas, town of Gananoque.
The Chair: Go ahead. We'll let you make your presentation and then we'll decide how many minutes we have for questioning or statements after.
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: I will try and make it brief. First, I have to say that I really appreciate this opportunity. I feel quite honoured and pleased that there are so many taking their time, so much interest in wanting input from the municipalities for the budget. That's why, in spite of the weather, I really wanted to make it. I do apologize for being late, for the second time, even. But I'm not a good winter driver any more and I apologize.
I don't have any revelations, so I won't take too long. I asked in the community when I had an opportunity to get input from people, and at least in the Gananoque area, infrastructure and health services and that type of thing-everybody says infrastructure and health care were the two top issues.
With the infrastructure, just a couple of comments. I have been to see ministers before, and Gananoque's just an example where the connecting link in some cases was brought up to provincial standards and in other cases it wasn't, with some money in lieu. In the community of Gananoque-and there are others-the King Street bridge connected the only route from Toronto to Montreal. That bridge was built in 1930, and the 401 didn't open until 1967. So I just feel that I and the community would like to see monies put back into infrastructure to bring things up to provincial standards, and then the municipalities take that over. That is understandable.
With infrastructure, I'd like to maybe suggest a stipulation. I know that before with infrastructure a lot of it was put into new things. I think we have to take care of what we have first, so we need to work on the infrastructure as far as roads go but also sewage separation. With storm water there's a lot of filtration, which causes charges by the Ministry of the Environment. In our municipality, we have done it on our own and owe money, but there still are problems. We do need to bring those things up. Rather than hurt the environment, we're better to put monies into getting sewage standards up to par. Again, I think there should be a stipulation that we should bring the old up to standard as far as infrastructure goes.
With recreation as well, which is a very important part of our lives, but especially with younger people-I know in one councillor's course I took, they mentioned in Texas they'd opened a recreation thing all night long for basketball and everything and the crime rate went down. They are the things I hope will be considered: the infrastructure, maybe money towards landfill sites, because a lot of them have closed down but not properly, and there will be more being closed down; maybe put a focus for municipalities that they really do need to plan ahead for that as well.
Land ambulance: As I said, we'd really like to consider and really appreciate what the province has done in taking some back, but I know the big concern of employees and staff is that they still don't have that much of a say in things like social services, land ambulance and health services and would really like to see that considered. I know our social services costs have gone up. I'm not being critical; I appreciate the changes and know that we need to change more within, actually. But at the social service end of things, now they're talking about a call centre. It was questioned, "Would that eliminate some staff to alleviate things?" They said, "No, it means additional staff." I do think those things are funded better provincially than at the municipal level and would just request that that might be considered.
Restructuring: We'd like to consider monies again that could be put into the budget for people like ourselves that haven't restructured yet. I know it has to take place. Unfortunately or fortunately, we're in a unique situation, with a county where there are three separated municipalities. It's not the norm across the province. There are only four separated towns in Ontario, and two of them are in Leeds and Grenville.
So there has been a lot of stumbling, territorial and everything else, but it's really difficult to sort things out between county and our responsibilities and not having a say, or as much say, for the dollars as we feel we should. We'd really like to see if some funding could still be provided to help restructure. We're doing restructuring within, and a lot of the municipality's money is going to consultants and lawyers and retraining staff. Not that change wasn't necessary, but it does add a burden. I'm one who would rather put it into sidewalks, roads and sewers. If we could try to come up with even some standardization from the province or access to provincial lawyers on some of the issues, something that might be considered to save the municipality some money and maybe have more standards there.
We really appreciate what the province did with the municipal liabilities, but wish that we could have a few more changes there because the money that saves in insurance alone is quite valuable.
Policing is the one thing-and I'll try to be really quick here; sorry. I know with crime, the CPP grant has been wonderful and appreciated. The additional funding for front-line officers has really been needed and appreciated. Extending the RIDE program and the OMERS holiday have been good, but something that municipalities have done and are still doing with the cost impacts of standardization-the subsidized policing is still going on in areas previously policed by the OPP. They are still enjoying the subsidy, where municipalities have paid their way all along. So we'd like some consideration, or dollars possibly, to have some extra municipal funding for the costs as far as standardization. The standardization criteria are necessary, and we know that, but it means for us either a new building or extensive renovations to a building or some form of amalgamation. We've been trying to look at that with cost savings, but we would like the province to take into consideration that we've been paying our full bill the whole way along and would like some consideration in that area.
Also, and I don't know whether the province would ever consider this, a provincial cap on union demands. It is difficult for a small municipality, or any municipality, I would say-the unions have more money than municipalities, so even if there was a cap on when you're negotiating, when things go back, it can only go back so many years, because a lot of the things can really break municipalities. Even when we talked about amalgamating with the OPP service, the cost of payout is quite a bit. So if any consideration could be taken along those lines, we'd appreciate it.
Then there's economic development and tourism. We appreciate that the province has recognized that and would like that to continue, tourism being a big industry at this point, but all industry and high-tech. We just want that to stay considerations of the province.
I know that one of the clerk's things is the capping. She understands it more than I do. I don't even want to pretend, with all her changes, but the capping of municipal taxation on certain properties should be reconsidered. The current value assessments were put in place and tax bills issued in 1998. Taxpayers accepted it. Now they're upset because of the capping and implications it has on their operations. I just wonder if it would be worthwhile to get a notice out to clerks or to the tax collectors just for their input on that when you're being good enough to listen.
I think that's it.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I will give each caucus two minutes for questions, and I'll start with the government side.
Mr Galt: Thank you for making it. I know it's been a bit of a trial for you getting here. Just a couple of quick comments and then I want to get to the provincial cap on union demands. That's a new approach to a new suggestion.
You started out by saying your priorities were infrastructure and health care. We've been hearing a lot about education, all from teachers' unions. We have three coming up this afternoon and we had one this morning. At each stop we're hearing a couple. We've yet to hear from a group of trustees or any school board and there are none scheduled to speak to us. I'm curious, you haven't mentioned education in here. Where would that be in your priorities?
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: Education is here. I really skipped over things. A lot of people seem quite happy-the people in our area-with education and some of the changes. But it is important and I feel-I hate to say "I" when I'm representing the community.
Mr Galt: "We."
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: We feel that some programs with education are really improving and there should be more money put into it. They just started a hospitality program in GSS, Gananoque Secondary School, training people for jobs and that type of thing. Something that I always wondered about with education is that I think the province should look at putting money into a simple course in CPR and retraining every year; the number of lives that could be saved, that type of thing. But education is at the top of the list.
Mr Galt: If I could just quickly get to my other one, and that has to do with capping union demands. Some people would suggest it's been union demands and settlements that have driven inflation in the past. How would you go about that? How would it happen? It's a tremendous idea. How would it work?
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: Do you know what I say to people? I always say-and I try to do this myself; I was on holidays so I was a bit behind with this when I got back-"When you have a problem, come with a solution." What I'd like to do is think a little longer than that. I was trying to think of things that are problems for our municipalities, for the province. My father said years ago that unions were a necessary evil, and they were, but now the demands are so high that I'm not sure how to do the capping. I'd like to give it a little bit of thought and get back to you if I could.
Mr Galt: I'm sure Mr Christopherson will explore that a little further too.
The Chair: With that, Mr Galt's time has expired.
Mr Gerretsen: It's always nice to hear from a mayor of a municipality, because after all you are the persons and councils that are the closest to the people and know about their problems a lot more, particularly from a place like Gananoque which is one of the tourist meccas in Ontario. I'm sure you will agree with me that we'd like to invite all of the committee members and staff people to come back to Gananoque this summer and enjoy the heart of the Thousand Islands.
The one issue that I feel very strongly about is the infrastructure issue. You mentioned the King Street bridge. For those members who aren't familiar with it, it's part of the original Highway 2. The bridge has never been replaced since 1930.
With the downloading of all the road systems outside of the 400 highways to the local level, the major concern that I have is that perhaps a lot of these roads are in good shape right now but what's going to happen five or 10 years from now when they deteriorate, when they not only will have to be maintained but will have to be rebuilt. Do you think smaller municipalities like yours will have the financial ability in those days coming up to do those kinds of major infrastructure repairs, since a lot of the grants and subsidy programs that governments have come up with over the last 40 or 50 years were precisely done because municipalities didn't have the financial ability to do that? Do you have any comments as to what's going to happen to your road system in the future?
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: I am concerned. That's why I am, and we are, very concerned. I do feel that the connecting link especially-it was brought up to standard in many areas, but wasn't totally across the province, Gananoque being one of them. I do feel that to have that capability, we need to get them up to standard and plan ahead, something that we and a lot of councils do. That's where there have to be restrictions and guidelines too; just get through the three years and don't plan ahead or put in the infrastructure either. So I feel there has to be a directive from the province as far as planning goes, but I feel that we need funding in those areas.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for that presentation. I'm glad you were able to get through, Your Worship.
I want to tie a couple of the issues together. I know my friend Mr Galt likes to isolate his favourite little hobby horses and ride them to death but most things are linked together.
You talked about the costs as a result of changes of consultants, lawyers, downloading, and then you threw into the mix the idea of the capping of union demands. Having been a former alderman myself and a former minister, I've been on the other side of the table and I know what it's like to face demands that you have a great deal of difficulty seeing your way clear to be able to meet, whether you agree with them or not. I just wanted to get a sense from you whether you were concerned that the wages and benefits that you are paying your employees, who are actually your neighbours and friends and family, are too great in terms of that they want too much for what they do, or whether what was driving you making that recommendation was trying to deal with all the fiscal demands and just not having enough money and finding more and more demands on you as a result of downloading.
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: Well, it's dealing with all the fiscal demands. As far as paying and everything and benefits, I think what's happened in the past is-and I would say everywhere, and that's where I feel we need provincial help maybe. We negotiate contracts. You're elected; no training. You go in and negotiate. Things have been in little pieces of wording, because no one wants to spend the money on expertise that could have saved municipalities a lot of money. The things that have been written in really weren't given the thought, or it's just the lack of background or knowledge, really, on what goes on. I just think we either need some guidance or help or, again, guidelines to get things get levelled out a bit.
I'm not saying unions are bad, but the thing is, every year you sit down, and half your council time-and we're volunteers, really-is taken with negotiation. Everybody wants more. I do think that with negotiations that go back where contracts have been lapsed for years because you can't get together, and then you have to go back and pay three to five years, even if there was capping on-municipalities only have to go back two years or three years-
Mr Christopherson: The problem with that, of course, is that it would be to the advantage of a council to drag their heels and let a lot of time go by, and then they wouldn't have to pay it. I'm sure you're not out to screw your employees.
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: No, no. It's just that a lot of times municipalities get into situations they can't really afford because of, myself included, lack of knowledge when you're doing those things. Then you look at wording after and-
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for coming today, ma'am.
The Chair: With that, we're running out of time. Your Worship, on behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon. Sorry that it had to be abbreviated. However, we do have a train to catch later on tonight.
Ms Fletcher-Thomas: That's my fault. I appreciate it.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICTS 26 AND 27, TEACHER BARGAINING UNIT
The Chair: Our next presenters are representatives from the OSSTF teacher bargaining unit. Could you step forward and state your names for the record, please.
Mr Greg McGillis: Members of the committee, my name is Greg McGillis. I'm president of the teacher bargaining unit of OSSTF district 26. That's Upper Canada. That's that large section of most of eastern Ontario other than Ottawa. My colleague here is from the other part of eastern Ontario that's nearby. This is Joan Jardin. She's the president of the teacher bargaining unit from OSSTF district 27. We're here to present some of our concerns and what we think are some solutions.
A point well taken: The lady before, Her Worship, mentioned that if you have a problem, present a solution. We're here to talk about some solutions today, and we appreciate you giving us the time.
The Chair: You have 30 minutes for your presentation.
Mr McGillis: Before I even get into the written text-and we won't be reading the entire amount-I'd like to point out that in many ways education fits the bill in a lot of what the mayor from Ganonoque was talking about and a lot of what we're all talking about in terms of safety. It's infrastructure, it's quality of life, it's the way we think about our society, and it's a way that we ensure that the values and the purposes of our civilization continue. Really, when we think about education and as we're presenting today, I would ask the committee members to think in terms of-perhaps you're not currently parents; perhaps you're grandparents or whatever, some other form of parenthood. Perhaps you could think in terms of all those children being your children. Every day, we see opportunities and difficulties that teachers encounter, and those difficulties invariably involve the difficulties of children and of teenagers. There is no underestimating how important those difficulties are, and I am going to talk about some of those in my presentation, and so will Joan.
I just happened to visit an interesting newsgroup on teachers and schools where someone had posted a written cry of agony in the form of an article from a teacher and writer in Mississippi to other teachers in the same state. I have attached the article. The writer and teacher chronicles the decline in Mississippi of the teaching profession and of schools from years of cutbacks and neglect. Perhaps you will say that there is little that is reasoned or even thoughtful in her argument. It appears to be a cry in the wilderness, a cry for help, a cry that has gone unanswered for too many years to count.
And yet there is hope to be found in this article in the person of the new governor. A political solution, potentially, can offer an educational solution.
The hope is most assuredly not that the teachers in Mississippi will speak out for themselves, for the children or for the community. They have had to abandon that very important role that educators play in the formation of education policy. Mississippi remains mired at the bottom of almost every ranking of education finance and also at the bottom of almost every ranking of productivity and post-secondary education in North America, and indeed in the world. As almost every American state has reinvested massive amounts in education, even as the American federal government has reinvested in education, the decline of between 10 and 100 years of neglect in that state, in many of those jurisdictions and also elsewhere in the United States, seems irreversible.
Would it surprise you to find that Mississippi, with its long tradition of poverty and ignorance, ranks 51st out of 63 jurisdictions in North America, while Ontario, in per pupil expenditure, ranks 55th?
You have before you the future. The rich can get richer and the poor, poorer. The wheel of poverty can grind the bones of the unfortunate as it has in many places in many times. We can starve the teaching profession for the money needed to hire the best and the brightest-yes, why not the best and the brightest?-and feel the rising brain drain where it hurts: in the classroom and the schools. Or we can realize the inadequacies of the funding model, of the education taxation system and of the command economy that education is becoming.
There has been a real effect on the children in our classes of more than $1 billion in cuts. I say "more than $1 billion" rather than "$1.7 billion" because even the most optimistic observers can agree that more than $l billion has been cut from the education system in constant dollars during the first mandate of the government. As the American Senate armed services committee chair once remarked to the general, "Sir, a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon we're talking real money."
In Ontario we can only count the recently restored money in the millions. We do appreciate that and I want to mention that. Thirty million dollars that's been "defrosted"-that's been the word that's been thrown around-related to special ed and $40 million for ISA. It's not enough, but I think it's a symbol and perhaps a kind of hope to the people who are working every day and to the children who learn in our schools.
We have a golden opportunity before us. At no time in the last 50 years of education has money been so critically short in our education system. At no time have we been in a better position to correct that dire shortage. At no time is education more important in Ontario than it is right now.
I'll ask Joan to continue.
Ms Joan Jardin: I'm just going to continue on what Greg was saying, especially at the beginning about the importance of education. If you were to ever measure the wealth of a population, the wealth of a population is not just money. Are the people educated? Are the people healthy? Do you have a safe society? Education is paramount in all three of those to ensure that we have a very wealthy society, where you have educated, healthy individuals and, of course, safe streets. We contribute to help education and certainly we're the ones to promote discipline, self-discipline and respect for others.
I'm going to vary a little bit from the text that follows in that I've heard it and I've even seen it written that we want to put kids first. Unfortunately, whenever I see that or hear that, often it's followed by cuts to programs for kids. I think it's really important that we actually follow through. It's not just something you write down, but it's something that actually will pay off in the future.
Unfortunately, since I've been president, I've attended a rally about child poverty in Kingston, where child poverty has actually been increasing despite the motion-I know it's not in your House-in Parliament 10 years ago to eliminate child poverty. I was at a rally about rising tuitions for universities. That has great implications for our students and for the future of our province, the future of expectations and hopes of young people.
All this relates to underfunding-induced inefficiencies. Things are underfunded, but in the long run it really does catch up and they really will have long-term difficulties. Talk about ESL. Talk about junior kindergarten. That's where it starts. Certainly adult education is at the other end.
What we're asking for you to do is to ensure that our students have hope in the future, that they are supported with services such as ESL, starting with junior kindergarten and going up to adult education.
Another point: With these underfunding inefficiencies-I've listed quite a few there. Please note that the previous speaker had said that people are happy with the cuts to education. I want you to know that the education workers that have absorbed the cuts for over eight years have managed to try to do their best. We're at the edge. We're at the breaking point, because not only do we have to absorb our own cuts but we have to absorb the cuts that have been made to society, to social programs. I speak from Kingston-there are at least eight penal institutions in the Limestone area-and there's quite a lot of need for social assistance and support for families. We've absorbed that also, and we're doing our very best, but we're asking for some support and forward planning.
Mr McGillis: Among the inefficiencies that we've seen, some of them have been catalogued by the people like the EIC, even by our own boards. A lot of the documents that I've used in creating this submission to this committee have been public documents, sometimes created by the boards themselves. In one case here I quote the EIC, which clearly is concerned about issues related to transportation, and mentions the issue of student support staff and the increased workloads. In this area of eastern Ontario, we're looking at workloads for social workers, for psychologists and psychometrists which are, depending on the profession, between four and 10 times what we're seeing in the rest of the province. It's partly these inequities in the funding model that are driving these kinds of problems. The fact of the matter is, if it's not in the funding model, you have to find money for it. It's all well and good to say, "We're only going to fund this and you'd better find some other way to fund it." The reality is, if you have no power for taxation, if you have no other source of income, you're going to have difficulty funding those kinds of levels of service.
One of the things that's happened in our board, to a great extent, has been that teachers and professionals have been encouraged not to identify students. There are students out there today with those needs who are not being identified simply because what's driving it is the fact that there is simply no money in the pot.
I can speak from experience. It's in my submission here, but I will speak from the heart to you, about a young man I met the other day, driving a truck down the main street in Kemptville. He had been severely physically, sexually and mentally abused over a period of 10 years. His entire life was some sort of hell. He lived in a barn. When they finally found him, they changed schools, changed families, did everything they possibly could. It was a very long road back for that young man. It took every teacher in that little school to get him ready to rejoin society. It took teams of professionals to get him ready to possibly rejoin people and to start to think about having friends. He's married now and he has a family. He has a very good-paying job, and his story would not be possible today. I want to leave you with that at the very least.
We have several recommendations. It's not just in special ed; it's in other areas. You can say that education has to focus on the academic. Too often, schools do focus on the academic and put a high price on it. That's our main focus. But in fact a key part of learning and a key part of teaching is understanding the whole child and understanding that as teachers we learn and as learners we teach. I really invite you to visit some of those schools.
I saw the mayor of Gananoque here. I come back to this: Gananoque Secondary School, which was referred to, has some very severe problems right now. That community's in great turmoil. I'm surprised the mayor didn't mention it. That school currently has a severe health and safety crisis which is certainly out of control in every respect, mostly due to funding cutbacks causing the deterioration of the physical plant in that school. Many of the students are saying they don't feel safe or healthy in that school any more, and we've had to transfer teachers out. Those people are called susceptible workers. If you're familiar with the terminology, you understand that they're like the canaries in the mines. They're telling us, "It's not healthy here." That's the kind of problem we have. These are very serious problems. It's only the beginning of what's going to happen.
We can sound the alarm now. We can say the level of morale of the teaching profession has sunk to a point that's really beyond what is sustainable, but until you really sit down and examine what's happening and look and try to project for the future, you can't realize that in the end you're talking about the people who at the end of the day have to be extremely motivated, no matter what, to try to find a way to reach those students day in and day out.
I'd like to encourage the committee to consider some of those issues, look at the submission that we have here and ask any questions. We're certainly interested. I'll also defer to my colleague Joan to speak.
Ms Jardin: Just continuing on with the unique aspects of both the Limestone and the Upper Canada boards, certainly the rural, remote schools, the small schools, it cannot be over-expressed how difficult it is thinking about students on buses for even longer periods of time than they are now. We must ensure that the smaller schools can remain open for the kids.
The mayor of Gananoque is very happy about the hospitality program. The Limestone board has been having what they call focus programs for almost 10 years now and they are wonderful programs. I spoke to the hearings on Bill 160 about how if you don't allow local determination-actually, I put it in a more positive way: "Please allow local determination, local choices and ability to raise local taxes because there are unique things that happen in each board." Our focus programs are excellent. They are being repeated and followed in other boards, as witnessed today. They need the money in order to pay for those because it does involve increased costs, because quality does often cost. So what it means is transportation, but what it also means is a priority in excellence in education. That's what our local boards want to be able to do. So we recommend that school boards should have taxation power to ensure that inequities in the funding model can be dealt with locally by those familiar with the needs of the community and the students.
Our focus programs are in trouble. Unfortunately, our board is looking at any other way to fund it, but it's a public responsibility. Those are very good programs. We all benefit, in particular the students.
Mr McGillis: Just one last thing before taking some questions: We'll read through the recommendations for the record, but I also want to mention that there was a mention of the fact that no trustees or school boards were presenting today. In fact, we had spoken extensively with the trustees and the director of education about presenting today. I must admit it's my failing and my responsibility that we were not able to get a joint submission together in time. The director expressed a keen interest to prepare a joint submission and was encouraging us to write it. He would simply review it and discuss the contents and we would make that joint submission.
We also had several phone calls from parent councils that wanted to participate in our presentation. Unfortunately, to begin with, the word seemed to get out that we were making this presentation. Teachers were talking about it. I asked teachers to submit. A lot of our brief is written from what teachers have submitted and from our own personal experiences. So there is a broader education stakeholder group out there that we have been in communication with, that certainly could have been represented in this brief, that is not very far from what we've said here. I don't want to misrepresent that this is what they're saying, but some of these people were calling me as late as this morning to see if there was some way we could have arranged to make a joint presentation. That is our fault, but nevertheless, it's not for lack of trying. I think they expected that we were going to do that. So you should know that.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We have four minutes per caucus. I'll start with Mr Gerretsen.
Mr Monte Kwinter (York Centre): Did you not say you were going to make the recommendations?
Ms Jardin: We're going to wrap up by reading the recommendations.
We've mentioned the first one: School boards should have taxation power to ensure that inequities in the funding model can be dealt with locally by those familiar with the needs of the community and the students.
Recommendation 2: The foundation grant should be increased to ensure quality education for all students, including those at risk who may not have been identified as worthy of ISA grants.
Recommendation 3: That the qualifications and experience and benefit lines be adjusted so as to reflect the changing demographics of many boards and to allow for reasonable compensation increases for teachers and other education workers.
Recommendation 4: The targeted increases in areas like department heads, support services, adult education, ESL, guidance, preparation time and library be used to ensure that students are given the support they need to become contributing members of society to whatever extent they are capable.
I want to assure you that we know taxes are used, we know every day that they're used wisely and we promise that they are every single day, and we do our very best. Our taxes do pay for very important programs and quality public education is, I believe, one of the very most important.
Mr Gerretsen: Thank you very much. Congratulations on an excellent presentation. I'd just like to follow up on something that Ms Jardin mentioned and that deals with the focus program situation. I'm personally familiar with one of those programs, the building intern program that Don Voteary and other people in the Limestone board started about 10 years ago. I believe that they've finished building 34 houses and are now involved-from a meeting that I attended on Saturday-in the historic restoration of houses as well.
I think the committee ought to know that these are two teachers who got together mainly boys, but also girls, who were 15, 16 and 17 years old. They started this about 10 years ago for kids who otherwise undoubtedly would have dropped out of the system. I know what I'm talking about because my son was involved in building the very first house some 10 years ago. What these two individuals, with some extra funding, were able to accomplish and how they turned these individuals around on an ongoing basis over the last 10 years-to bring young people back into the education system and to teach them the different techniques and trades in the building area that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives-is absolutely commendable.
I really believe, and I'd just like your comments, that one of the problems that we've always had is that we have a tendency to look at education in a very narrow scope. We have to realize that there are people out there who don't learn by the traditional methods, and it's programs like that, which need some extra push and help from the community and from the system through resources, that really make it happen. Do you have any comments on that at all?
Ms Jardin: I've been very closely linked with the focus programs. At the school at which I taught for 12 years that was, I'll say, the hub of most of the focus programs. The comment is that I agree with you. They are wonderful for the students. They address a need for the students. They incorporate the community. They give them vital learning and living skills, and actually they also help the teachers and they help the community of the school.
As I did say in Bill 160, they were going to be under fire, and some excellent programs have had to stop or have been cut back. I think that is a wrong use of money if these wonderful programs are not being supported, such as the masonry program. I can go over other lists. We have done our very best to support them and we work to make huge concessions in other ways in order to maintain those programs. Unfortunately, as I said, we're at the breaking point.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you, Greg and Joan. I appreciated and enjoyed your presentation. You talked early in your comments about child poverty. I've noticed, with very few exceptions, that members of the government side don't address the issue of poverty. Their answer seems to be that it's complicated, the feds have to be involved, and beyond that, I get a sense that they wish it would just go away.
We have once again the government version of how wonderful everything is, that things are just terrific, couldn't be better. We have stats that now show us that there are more people who have slid from middle class into poverty, and those who are in poverty are in deeper poverty. That's the statistical. So you get the political and the statistical. Can you just share for us what your experience has been, and that of your colleagues, in terms of what you see in terms of changes of socio-economic levels of children and families now as opposed to earlier in your careers?
Mr McGillis: Perhaps I'll start and Joan can finish. I taught in a small school in eastern Ontario. I won't identify it because I don't want to say anything negative about it. But the key was that it was a difficult-to-serve population. It was a very small school with a high degree of rural element and a significant amount of poverty and a lot of other social issues.
I only became a teacher in 1990. I'm fresh off the boat, or fresh off whatever you get off to become a teacher, and Joan is relatively-very, very fresh, actually.
Mr McGillis: She's a little more experienced than I am.
Mr Galt: Keep digging.
Mr Christopherson: I think you should just get off it, man, and move on.
Mr McGillis: Thank you, Mr Galt, I will.
There is no question, there has been a significant effect. The problem is the combination of the fact that we're seeing-and it's strange, the statistics don't seem to bear it out. I hear government statistics and they seem credible and yet I see rising amounts of social unrest, difficulty within families and real problems with families who have been on some form of social assistance, on employment insurance, whatever government program.
I'm not pointing the finger at any particular government, but it has been a problem throughout the education system. At the very moment when the crunch has come from one side in terms of the schools' ability to actually meet those problems, the crunch has come from the other side in terms that the need has probably quadrupled, really only in the last four or five years, let alone over the last 10 years.
Also, our society seems to becoming more violent. I noticed that even over just seven or eight years from when I started till just recently when I began this job. I was really shocked by the degree of violence and the need for special programs to combat that violence and the amount of teacher time and professional time spent to try to deal with the problem. There's no funding for that in the funding model. There is really no resource out there for it and that's a serious problem.
Ms Jardin: And it's certainly important not to become complacent because generally crime statistics have gone down, but it's people's ability to deal with all the cuts and the hurt that they feel because of the cuts.
Just to answer that, I also teach in an area which is relatively low socio-economically and the cuts to welfare and to social assistance made huge differences. I have mentioned this publicly, that we have a food-sharing program and, unfortunately, every year they say 600 more meals are being delivered. It's not supposed to be a growth program. I find it very disturbing that every year it's gone up.
We've absorbed the other cuts to social programs etc. By the way, I can provide any of you with the Kingston report on poverty. I apologize to the rest of Upper Canada and Limestone, that it doesn't deal with all, but I am quite sure it would be all very similar statistics.
Mr Christopherson: I've had a copy of that given to me and it's very similar to what happened in my hometown of Hamilton.
Ms Jardin: And so once again, it's just the idea of putting kids first. Are we? We are obviously financially not putting kids first.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your answers.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. I could make several comments, but with the short period of time I want to leave some time for one of my colleagues.
Just one quick question: In your recommendation 4, where you talk about targeted increases to be used to ensure that students are given the support they need, school boards are supposed to use the funds given to them to provide the support they need directly to students. Could you expand a little more on that, what your expectation of the government is?
Mr McGillis: One of the things that has happened is that things look pretty good on paper sometimes, and I've seen this myself. I have to set a budget as president and I've had to do this recently. It's a daunting task in some ways and I admit that it's a daunting task for the government as well.
Things look like they're being used for one thing on paper and perhaps it isn't even understood how those particular programs function in the context that they are in, except by the people who are involved, and even sometimes then. I think a good example was the elimination of department heads, the almost complete elimination of departments heads from the schools. It had been an old saw, you know: "It's something we could cut." In fact, we would often go in and that was one of the first places we were cutting way back at the beginning of the social contract. We would say, "If there is some softness there, we'll cut that; that's one of the things."
We have found, and it's almost universal now among teachers, that there is a general consensus that there is a crisis of leadership in the schools. Is it a short-term issue? No. It's a long-term issue. Are students getting the support from teachers in their learning that's necessary? There's a bit of a gap from where the government introduces legislation or guidelines and curriculum to where it finally gets to the teacher. At every point there, there are weaknesses in the system. One of the biggest weaknesses was the withdrawal of department heads, and we didn't realize that, I think because we hadn't really seen in the last three or four years a lot of curriculum change all at once.
If you were going to do something to improve the delivery of the government's curriculum policies-and I'll applaud the government for that. Some of the curriculum was excellent and people are very happy about it. It's the implementation that's all gone to hell. Pardon me. I'm sorry; it's unparliamentary, I'm sure.
Mrs Molinari: So you're looking for the government to take a more leadership role in that issue rather than leaving the responsibility up to the boards to make those kinds of decisions?
Ms Jardin: Unfortunately, the government hasn't allowed boards to do that because they have actually provided funding and envelopes with very specific allocations. It isn't: "Here, have a couple of thousand dollars. Allocate as you want." The funding is incredibly strict, it's targeted, and that's why we've listed it here. I truly believe that our school board is doing its very best, but it's the funding model that is fundamentally difficult and flawed and underfunded the way it is done.
The Chair: With that, we've run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES,LOCAL 2204
OTTAWA-CARLETON CHILD CARE ASSOCIATION
The Chair: The next presenting group is CUPE local 2204. Could you please come forward and state your name for the record, and on behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation this afternoon.
Ms Shellie Bird: My name is Shellie Bird. I'm here today to represent CUPE 2204 as well as the Ottawa-Carleton Child Care Association. My co-presenter fell victim to the flu today so she's not going to be here with me.
The Ottawa-Carleton Child Care Association represents 50 non-profit child care agencies which provide a variety of child care services to over 2,000 families. CUPE local 2204 represents over 200 early childhood educators, cooks, cleaners and clerical staff employed in non-profit child care centres in eastern Ontario.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak before the standing committee on finance and economic affairs.
Margaret Marland, provincial minister responsible for children, made a statement that child care and child development are separate and unconnected. To impose this false separation between child care and child development is harmful and counterproductive, and ignores more than 20 years of research. All the research to date demonstrates the critical link between positive early child experiences and healthy development and later life outcomes. If this government is to achieve its stated economic goal of building a strong, vibrant, knowledge-based economy, it must reconsider this artificial separation between child care and child development. Investment in high-quality, non-profit early learning and care services is the bedrock of the economic objectives of this government.
Before I get started, I think it's important to define exactly what I'm talking about when I talk about high-quality child care and education. The key indicators of high-quality learning and care include adequate government funding and regulation, not-for-profit delivery, adequate physical environments, high adult-to-child ratios, small group size, parental involvement, consistent staffing with specific training in early childhood development, and good wages and working conditions.
Not-for-profit child care ensures that public dollars remain in the public domain, where parents, communities and local government can work together to build a range of child care services to meet the diverse needs of the community and to improve the quality of care.
Research shows that not-for-profit child care has better staff-child ratios, better-trained staff, higher salary levels, lower staff turnover and higher staff morale, which supports a higher standard of care.
Research clearly indicates trained and knowledgeable care providers as the central ingredient of high-quality care. Knowledge of child development, patience, respect for children, practical skills to meet their learning needs and to guide their behaviour, together with a deep appreciation of the knowledge that I bring to my work, lasts a child's lifetime.
Let us look at the benefits of high-quality care. The 1994 report of the National Forum on Crime found that investment in high-quality child care reduces high school dropout rates, youth crime, unemployment and court-related expenses.
The 1995 Royal Commission on Learning and the 1999 Statistics Canada Longitudinal Study on Children and Youth found that children who attend preschool programs score higher on language, reading and math skills. These studies show that regardless of socio-economic background or mothers' employment status, children who participate in early childhood education perform significantly better than children who do not. School performance at 10 years correlates positively with the decision to pursue post-secondary education and with future family income.
The 1999 report of the National Council of Welfare, Preschool Children: Keep the Promise, found that children who had access to high-quality child care were in better health and less likely to require expensive health and social services later in life.
These studies all agree that society gains significant benefit from the future effects of high-quality childhood care and education. The long-term effect of early learning and care services is linked to later productivity and lower welfare, health, education and social costs.
Benefits are realized through increased workforce participation rates of single- and two-parent families, which produces lower social spending, higher tax revenues and increased economic security for women throughout their life cycle.
The 1998 economic study, The Benefits and Costs of Good Child Care, concludes that for every dollar invested in high-quality child care and education, there is a two-dollar benefit to children, parents and society. In preparing for this presentation, I read somewhere that economists refer to this as "external benefits."
Numerous studies show the direct relationship between the quality of care children receive in their early life and later outcomes. Children in poor-quality care arrangements score a full standard deviation below those in high-quality care arrangements.
The two-year Goelman and Pence study to test quality levels using standardized quality indicators found that unlicensed, informal child care settings score consistently lower than licensed home care settings.
One third of unlicensed care providers report that they do not read, sing or listen to music with the children in their care; half report not working with the children on language, numbers or nature studies; and 18% stated that they did not play with the children.
I think it is safe to say that how a child spends its day, no matter the circumstance, will determine how that child will grow and develop. Children develop regardless of who is doing the caring. Children's early environment and development are intrinsically linked. This is supported by your own research.
Over 70% of young children spend anywhere from four to 10 hours a day in non-parental care arrangements. The sheer number of children we are talking about moves this from a private family matter to a societal issue requiring government funding, standards and regulation.
Understanding high-quality care and its benefits to children's development and to society, we will now talk about what happening to high-quality early learning care over the past six years in Ontario.
The ill-conceived and artificial separation between child care and child development has been used to de-fund high-quality early childhood care and education and to fund the informal, unlicensed child care sector. Since its first term in office, the provincial government has cut more that $70 million from the regulated child care system.
These cuts have also been accompanied by provincial funding restraints, a general tightening of child care sub-sidies and changes to cost-sharing arrangements as a result of restructuring and downloading. Under downloading, municipal governments are now required to cost-share the entire child care budget, including child care subsidies, wage subsidies, family resource centres and supports for children with special needs.
Without additional dollars being flowed to local government to assume these new responsibilities, many municipalities are unable to maintain a quality system of child care. They are being forced to rely more and more on the informal sector to fulfill their child care obligations.
The non-profit child care sector in Ottawa-Carleton has sustained a 2.21% budget cut since 1996 as a result of changes to cost-sharing for Jobs Ontario child care subsidies. We did this to save 707 Jobs Ontario child care subsidies from being lost in our region.
Operating budgets for child care programs have been frozen at 1994 levels. Though the actual cost of operations continues to rise, there are no new dollars flowing from the province to cover them. Cash-strapped municipalities are unable to increase funding for per diems to cover these additional costs. This leaves parent boards forced to increase full parent fees. Spiralling parent fees will force many middle-come earners out of the regulated system and into unregulated care. Parent fees constitute 50% of the provincial child care budget. The erosion of this vital funding base does not bode well for regulated, affordable high-quality child care.
Though research proves conclusively that child care providers are the cornerstone of high-quality care, this government has not seen fit to fund a cost-of-living increase since it has been in office. In 1990, the wages of child care workers were compared to zoo attendants. In 1994, our wages were comparable to parking lot attendants. The latest federal study compares our wages to pet groomers. It is terrible that we value children so little that we don't care who is caring for them.
A major flaw in the current funding for child care is that staff wages are directly tied to parent fees. When staff receive a wage increase, it puts pressure on government to increase parent fees as opposed to per diem rates.
The implementation of wage grants was meant in part to alleviate this situation, and to recognize the relationship between quality child care services and the need for a stable child care workforce. Municipalities are now responsible for 20% of wage grants, with no additional dollars being flowed from the province to cover them. To deal with this, the province has given the municipalities discretion to reallocate wage grants from one underpaid child care sector to another.
This is a flawed option for managing increased child care costs. This will see the already low wages of early childhood educators lowered further. The research clearly shows the need for improving wages and working conditions in order to attract and maintain a trained, knowledgeable and skilled child care workforce.
The province has also indicated that it will no longer fund mandatory pay equity adjustments beyond 1998. Not only does this continue an injustice against child care workers; it also puts parent boards in an untenable legal bind. Boards will be forced to choose between making mandatory pay equity adjustment and accumulating unsustainable debt for their centres, or ignoring the legislation and putting their centres in direct contravention of the statute.
I think it is important for people to realize who these boards are. They are voluntary boards made up of local community members and parents whose children are enrolled in the centres. They are people who take their responsibility as parents and board members seriously. It is reprehensible that the provincial government can have so little regard for the position these parents have been put in as a result of the province refusing to fund pay equity but holding boards accountable for it.
The provincial changes to child care subsidies are exacerbating an already difficult situation. The 1996 decision to remove parents attending post-secondary education from social assistance and to eliminate the child care bursary is having a devastating impact on these families as they struggle to improve their employment opportunities and provide for their children's care. This change has forced many young parents to drop their studies or to accumulate huge debts or to take their children out of high-quality care because they can no longer afford it.
The provincial directive to include RRSPs as a liquid asset in determining eligibility for child care is forcing many municipalities, under threat of sanction, to implement a guideline that they know undermines the interests of children, parents and the child care system. This provincial directive is forcing young families who have demonstrated foresight in planning for their retirement to choose between economic self-reliance in their old age or taking care of their children and taking them out of the kind of care that they believe is best for them. In Otta-wa-Carleton, a regional staff report indicates that approximately 600 families and 900 children will be expelled from the system in a matter of months as a result of the implementation of this directive.
The introduction in 1996 of the Ontario Works program is adding additional pressure on the child care system. Since 1995, 70,000 more children are requiring early learning and care services. The 1999 KPMG report found that the Ontario Works program could not succeed, because of inadequate funding for child care. Some municipalities have indicated they will use only unregulated care for these children because of lack of provincial funding.
In light of the current crisis in the regulated sector, we must ask, how is it that the provincial government can claim so loudly and so vehemently that it is putting more money into the child care system than any previous government? To account for this, we must look at how and where the government is investing in the system.
The government is funding the growing demand for care by defunding high-quality regulated child care. Provincial allocation for regulated care shows a difference of $70 million between 1995 and 1998. The actual child care expenditure per child has dropped 15% since this government has been in power.
It is also finding savings by clawing back money from welfare recipients receiving the federal child tax benefit. The savings from both these measures are being directed to the Ontario child care supplement for working families. So while the province claims to be injecting $175 million into the system, it is doing so by robbing from the regulated system and taking money from poor children to provide unlicensed care of unknown quality to a growing number of children. As Mustard and McCain point out in their study, these care arrangements may be good, bad or mediocre-we don't know.
But let's look at what this Ontario child tax supplement really means for these families. The maximum annual benefit for one child under seven is $1,100 dollars to be paid out in quarterly instalments. On an annual in-come of $20,000, a family with one child will pay, on average, $600 a month for informal, unlicensed care. Minus the $92 monthly child supplement, this will be $508 a month. So with an income of $20,000, child care expenses for a year of $6,096, housing and utilities for a total of $9,000, transportation-this is the cost of a bus pass in Ottawa-Carleton-of $780 a year, and food and other necessities of $4,200 a year, the total that this family pays for just basic living expenses and child care costs is $20,076. They are in debt after the year for $76.
Though this government can claim it is investing millions of dollars in child care, when we look at it, this investment is supporting families to live in near poverty and children to be placed in unlicensed care where there is no certainty about the care being offered.
The Ontario child supplement is flowing millions of public child care dollars into the unregulated, informal sector where there is no accountability, no assurance of quality and no standards for training to ensure high quality.
In the conclusion of their study, Fraser Mustard and Margaret McCain clearly call on the provincial government to develop universal programs available and accessible to all children. They state that a targeted program that reaches only children at risk will miss a very large number of children and families in need of support in all socio-economic sectors of society.
We urge this government to reconsider this artificial separation between children's care and children's development, and to fund the kind of care research shows to be the most beneficial to children's development and to society. The research clearly proves the link between positive child care and child development and its benefits to society. If you are serious about preparing this province for the knowledge-based economy, then invest now in our children for our future.
We urge the Ontario government to make the development of early childhood care and education a high priority by co-operating with the federal government in negotiation of the National Children's Agenda.
The Ottawa-Carleton Child Care Association and CUPE Local 2204 recommend: that the provincial government return to its traditional role in supporting the development of licensed, quality child care by making substantial new investments in the regulated system; that the Ontario government undertake a five-year plan to increase child care spaces and provide base funding for child care services modeled on Quebec's universal child care system; that the Ontario government dismantle Ontario Works and invest in job creation and training programs that lead to permanent jobs and access to quality child care for the unemployed and for people on assistance; that the province provide ongoing funding for pay equity adjustments in recognition of pay equity principles; that the Ontario government restore all funding cuts from education; that the Ontario government reinstate the policy that required all new school buildings to include child care programs; that the Ontario government make new and substantial investments in children to address serious child poverty; and finally, as a signatory to the National Children's Agenda, the Ontario government demonstrate vision, political will and commitment to regulated, licensed, non-profit services available to all Ontario's children and families who require it. Thank you.
The Chair: We have three minutes per caucus.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you very much for your presentation. It was excellent. I noted that, contrary to what some folks might think, the issue of wages for early childhood educators didn't find its way into your report until the bottom of page 4 and then only briefly. I think that underscores again the commitment and professionalism that early childhood educators bring to the job that we as a society ask them to do.
I want to focus on that just a little bit because I agree very much with the idea. I have a seven-year-old daughter who was in child care early, and we had the benefit of very professional, dedicated, educated, committed individuals who just made a huge difference.
You make reference to the fact that in 1990 your wages were compared to those of zoo attendants, in 1994 you were at parking lot attendants, and now you are told that they are looking at pet groomers. You don't mention dollar figures here, and I know they vary across the province depending on whether it's not-for-profit or profit, and even within each of those categories there is rich or poor, depending on neighbourhoods etc. Can you give us a sense, so that it's on the official record and for the benefit of committee members, just what are the ranges of wages? Most early childhood educators have post-secondary-education degrees and some of them even beyond that. With that in mind, can you give for us the range that you're aware of?
Ms Bird: The range for an ECE graduate just coming out of college after two years is minimum wage. You start out as a teaching assistant at minimum wage. I can give my own self as an example. I have a university degree. I have worked in the field with children for 18 years. I have reached the maximum of my earning potential in the field at $38,000. I cannot look forward to more money in my field, even though my 18 years' experience and my university degree should be giving me more.
Mr Christopherson: I think that will be a shock to a lot of people. Think about it: Two years of college, taking care of our kids, and you walk into a minimum-wage job. You've got to be pretty committed, or crazy.
Ms Bird: I have to say, for myself, I work in a unionized centre so I'm at the top wage scale of early childhood educators, but even at that I have reached what I will make for the rest of my life, other than cost-of-living adjustments.
Mr Christopherson: Just in your own experience, looking ahead, if things continue down this road-and we're at the beginning of a fresh mandate for the Harris government, a second term-if things continue this way for the foreseeable future, if this committee were to revisit with you in five, eight, 10 years hence, where are we going to be? Where is this trend going to take us?
Ms Bird: I can tell you that right now, with the provinces having downloaded discretion to reallocate wage enhancement grants, for those of us who work in the non-profit sector, we are looking at a loss of $6,000 minimally in our wages. That will be taken right off the top. I'm looking actually in my future at losing my income as a result of the province giving municipalities the discretion to reallocate wage grants. I know of one municipality that has already chosen to take that route in order to manage the downloading costs. So it's being done directly on the backs of people who are working with children.
Mr Christopherson: I understand that in the private sector it's even worse, with lower wages and benefits.
Ms Bird: Yes.
Mr Galt: Thank you for the presentation-very thoroughly researched and put together, and well presented. You made reference to the $175 million-the figure I've heard is $173 million, a 30% increase-and you've sorted out where that did or did not go. These are the figures we hear and that it has increased by that 30%.
As you talked about no dollars, that responsibilities were transferred to the municipality, it started out in the discussions with the previous government of disentanglement, which they backed away from. We gave it a new heading, Who Does What, and proceeded. When it ended up, we followed through on every recommendation that came back from AMO, with the exception of a 5% tax levy for boards of education. It was revenue-neutral, although the opposition would like to say "downloading." That's got a great ring to it and it's been effective as far as an emotional rollout.
As you are aware, there has been a minister appointed to oversee children's issues. Certainly this kind of thing and the concerns you're expressing are of paramount concern to her.
My question to you-and this came as quite a surprise to me. This was 20-plus years ago when I was on a school board. There was a struggle at that time-senior kindergarten, full-day, half-day; junior kindergarten; the whole package-and a study was done at that time indicating that academically at the end of grade 3 you couldn't measure whether they'd been in kindergarten or not. What young children learn is tremendous; they're just like sponges. So I had real problems with that. Maybe you'd like to expand a bit on the educational experience that occurs in child care activities.
Ms Bird: This is the result of your own Early Years Study that's drawing more from the sciences-epidemiology, biology-to determine that the wiring of children's brains begins at a very young age and sets the stage for how they learn throughout the rest of their lives and how they cope with life's stresses throughout the rest of their lives. They're discovering more each day about how critically important the first five years of life are. The long-term impacts are being followed through longitudinal studies, and they are finding a direct correlation and link between children's early life experiences and how they go on to develop throughout their lives. The research is all coming together to reconfirm what has already been found around children's early experiences and later life outcomes.
Mr Phillips: Just to follow up on the comments from the previous speaker, the facts are that Mike Harris appointed 14 people to look at what things should be handled municipally and what things should be handled by the province. He handpicked these people, 14 of them, all his friends and whatnot. When they looked at it, they unanimously said: "Don't do this. Don't put social housing, don't put social assistance, don't put child care on property taxes." In fact, they said: "We are unanimous in this view. The panel strongly opposes such a move." They begged them not to do it.
AMO said, finally, "If you're going to ram this down our throats, then at least try and do some things to make it go down the throat a little easier." That's what Mr Galt was talking about.
But Mike Harris's own people said, "Don't do it." Why not do it? Because of exactly the reason you've pointed out now. When you go to a local municipality that is up against it on property taxes, has a gun to its head-and that's their only access to revenue--and you're saying, "We need help on child care," no wonder it's difficult for municipalities to respond to it.
The other half of the equation, and some of our educational leaders from the community are here today, was that Mike Harris wanted to get a hold of education. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Now he has total control over it, although he has set up these school boards, covering huge geographic areas, as a buffer between himself and the school system and gives them no flexibility. He tells them dollar for dollar what they're going to spend and virtually how they're going to spend it. When people complain, Mike Harris says, "Go to the school board; it's their problem."
I couldn't let that comment go by, because what you've done for us today is prove the success of Mike Harris's formula, which is to get municipalities taking the heat for this issue.
The second thing you've done for us, which is extremely important, is that you've outlined this shell game for us of where the money has gone. The staff are preparing for us a kind of road map of the shell game, but you show the shell game. Here's the money here, and then it's the old three-card monte. Where is the money now? It's over here.
And they say, "We've got more money than we've ever had." I see even recently here they've taken some federal money, put it in as revenue and then shown it as expenditure and said: "Aren't we nice? We're spending more money." It's just taking somebody else's money, laundering it through their bank account and saying, "Look at us, we're helping." So that's, first, a comment.
I appreciate, frankly, the work that's gone into this brief. You have outlined for us about six or seven areas where real people are being hurt, the young people on social assistance-I had a young lady in my office who went back to school because she wanted to get an education and was told that this was the approach. Now she owes $66,000. She's a single parent and it's a mountain for her to climb that is virtually, if not literally, impossible.
My question to you would be: Has your organization been able to put together for us a simple little chart? As I say, you've outlined here in words, but a picture would be very helpful for us. I personally wouldn't mind the six or seven areas where you show what it used to be and where it's gone now and a dollar figure. Is it possible for your group to put that together?
Ms Bird: Yes, we could work on that.
Mr Phillips: And forward it to the clerk of the committee, who would circulate that to us?
Ms Bird: Yes.
The Chair: We've run out of time. On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 26, PROFESSIONAL STUDENT SERVICES PERSONNEL BARGAINING UNIT
The Chair: Our next presenter is the OSSTF, district 26, professional student services personnel. Could you come forward and state your name for the record, please.
Ms Heather Wells: Good afternoon. I'm Heather Wells.
Mr John McEwen: I'm John McEwen.
Ms Joan Jardin: I'm Joan Jardin. I'm from Limestone, District 27. I'm district president. The professional student services personnel is actually one of our bargaining units.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, welcome. You have 30 minutes for your presentation this afternoon.
Ms Wells: I appear today on behalf of my bargaining unit, which is the PSSP bargaining unit for District 26 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. PSSP stands for professional student services personnel. Within that bargaining unit I represent a conglomerate of 20 psychologists, psychometrists, attendance counsellors, speech-language pathologists and behaviourists.
We offer students emotional, behavioural and social support. The services that we provide to at-risk and challenged students often make the difference between a successful graduating student and a dropout.
We have before you in the brief a table, which I'll ask John to walk you through, please.
Mr McEwen: Since 1992, school boards have been reducing the staffing levels of these professionals. As you can see, it's gone from 1.3 staff per thousand to 1.14 staff per thousand. Paradoxically, as you heard in an earlier presentation, as the staffing levels have been reduced the demand for these services has increased. Now, back to my colleague.
Ms Wells: In the same period, our particular corner of the world amalgamated four boards and, by doing so, as part of that, we did originally start with a staff complement of 42.5. That has now been reduced to 20.
On the next page, I'd like to take some time with this particular table and explain it to you and help to draw it out for you. We have the staff categories and I've listed the staffing complement before amalgamation, after amalgamation and the change. I want you to bear in mind that we're servicing 40,000 students. We have three psychologists to service 40,000 students. We have two speech-language pathologists. We have three attendance counsellors. These people, the attendance counsellors, would have approximately 14,000 students each, in 37 schools. That doesn't allow much in-depth time.
There were three behaviourists before amalgamation. I'd just like to clarify that those three were in one predecessor board and they served the 14,000 students. With amalgamation, yes, we got more behaviourists, but it was now six spread across the 40,000.
The job of the behaviourists is that they're called on by the schools; a child in crisis, a child tearing up a classroom, whatever. The behaviourist goes in, observes, sets out programming, coordinates with family, with school, looking at the system. In the past, they had what we called educational-behavioural assistants whom they could leave to do some of that programming. That's been lost so that now we have fewer behaviourists and we have not the same support in the school.
Where I'm going with this is, that bounces down to the teacher. The teacher then becomes the person who is trying to follow through on a behavioural program, because she or he needs that in order to keep their class stable. They also have a few other things on their plate too, so that gets to be difficult and very stressful.
I think I missed psychometrists. We did lose 3.5 psychometrists. These people do the assessing for learning disabilities, for at-risk children. In the past they used to do some consultation, and that has been lost as part of this puzzle.
As well, there were speech assistance resources available before, where the speech pathologists could give their programming to these assistants to be carried out. Again, that is gone, and it goes into teachers' hands, which again expands their jobs.
We took a survey and have bulleted various concerns and comments within the brief. You will notice that they are not all specific to my PSSP bargaining unit, because we are not isolates. We impact, and the kids impact, on a whole variety of things. It impacts on what the community mental health agencies have available for us. All of that is one big package. So you will see comments that aren't totally specific but do have influence.
Since amalgamation, we still have the same number of children, with maybe even greater problems than we had before. Across the system, my membership sees increasing difficulties with behaviour, increasing social difficulties in the home and in the community. In my job is a psychometrist, and when I assess kids, I see that the depth of learning difficulties these children are presenting is greater. Hence, I would like more time to delve further into those assessments rather than having a set number that have to be accomplished. Sometimes you feel that you have a choice. You can give a quick-and-dirty, which I don't like and I don't do, or you take the time and then you run and burn your own little candle at both ends, as it were, to try to cover that base for the children.
Some of the things my members are seeing are an increasing number of parents who now complain that their children aren't getting what they perceive to have previously been in existence in terms of individual, one-to-one, specialized programming. We are seeing that shifting. We are seeing many more disturbed children and a real reduction in the community services available to help with those mental health issues. We have children who set fires in schools, who abuse and bully other children, and we do not have community resources to handle those mental health issues. So it comes down to our three psychologists covering 40,000 students.
I am sure you have heard endlessly about the increase in class sizes. From my point of view, I have students who are overwhelmed by large groups or maybe can't process auditory information. So a large group gets even more diffuse and they really can't hang on to what is being said. They quickly get lost in the woodwork of a large group, and that's something that can't be picked up because we have lost that one-to-oneness we were able to provide in the past.
Attendance counsellors, for us, are a big concern. As I said, we have three who cover a large territory. I think the frustration for them is that they find they've gone from being able to be proactive to just being able to cover the bases. I was talking to one today and she was telling me that the piece she missed most is that transition when kids go from grade 8 to grade 9 and don't arrive in grade 9. They're not there. Where did they go? They don't have the time to go back into the woodwork to try to find that child and see where they may be. Are they on the street? Did they not make the transition? That kind of issue.
They can look at the major things, when a child has missed 15 days, which I understand is the important number, but they aren't able to pick up the kid who misses four days a month or two days every week or that kind of thing. That is a pattern which, if someone could take them for coffee or a sit-down, you might be able to work through a little personal thing and get beyond that.
Teachers as mentors: As we all know, teachers have a huge impact on children. The time they can spend with a child on a very informal basis can be far more valuable than me going in with my wonder box and trying to come up with some reason why the child is not learning. By virtue of the stresses we are seeing these teachers under, with extra paperwork, credentials, criteria and all that kind of thing, which are needed in part, so much at once, has reduced that mentoring time that they might have had. We as a group see that as a loss to the system.
For our own PSSP staff, we're very frustrated. We feel we're constantly running-nobody really eats lunch; we eat on the run-and there are huge distances involved, all of which sounds a bit whiny, but that's not the design, please. The design is that we would much rather be working with a child and we find that's compromised sometimes.
Maybe, Joan, you could add some from your PSSP groups, please.
Ms Jardin: I certainly want to echo everything that Heather said about the cuts to professional student services personnel. In the Limestone board, we've also had cuts. Sorry, I don't have a handy, nice chart, but trust me that they've been cut about 30% in the last couple of years, which is not the best for students.
I want to also follow up on the travelling time. Once again with the rural schools, with the large school boards-our Limestone board is a very large board; of course it's almost puny compared to the Upper Canada board-we have very few professionals who are going from school to school, and a lot of their time is being spent in the car as opposed to with students because there are so few. That certainly is not a wise use of money and is certainly not good for kids when the professionals are in the car for a large part of the day.
The one difference is that we have what are called adolescent care workers in the schools, a little bit like the behaviouralists. We actually have maintained one per school, but that is definitely a cut. The adolescent care workers provide much-needed connection. If a student needs a social agency, when there were social agencies-actually there still are. They're just harder and harder to find and therefore actually adolescent care workers are very good at making connections with the agencies that might be helpful for the students.
Also not only increased class sizes but those ISA grants, the recent word or the recent release was that they will be a little bit more open, but they have been strictly dedicated to providing EAs, and really the ISA proposals are taking a lot of time from the professional student services personnel to write up. They are very large in paperwork and what they not do is provide a big-picture response to the needs of the students.
Of course teachers and PSSP staff are spending a lot of time doing that. There seems to be almost a lottery on which student does actually get the grant and it's, "I can have more paperwork than you and therefore you might get it," so it is incredibly time-consuming and not as beneficially used in the big picture. I certainly hope the money continues to be put in and more and more money be put into the needs of the ISA students.
Thank you very much for the opening of that envelope, which is really very important, meaning that it's not as targeted as it was before, but of course we have yet to see the real regulations involved with it to see what it is.
Just to continue on with the ISA grants, with all the work from the PSSP to do that, unfortunately some students who really need it are not sufficiently identified, probably and mostly because there isn't enough time to do all the paperwork that's involved with it. That's really a great difficulty. We have to make sure the students are getting the programs they need.
Once again, the cuts in teachers and cuts in administration-administration actually does help out in the school and when you cut them, it adds to the whole difficulty.
Ms Wells: Thank you, Joan.
The Chair: Does that complete your presentation?
Ms Wells: Just a couple more comments. I think we need to constantly keep in the forefront of our minds these children. Have we given up on them? Where are we wanting to go with them? Do we care about their emotional, behavioural, social support systems? How do we see that fitting into the big picture?
Ontario has made many advances in raising the levels of education and literacy over the last 30 years. A great deal of the success has been due to the efforts of non-teaching professionals, and we would like to see that continue and be built upon.
I don't think we want to go back to the days when troubled young people were automatically marginalized. We don't want to pay the social and economical costs down the road, and I ask you to keep that in mind. When you look at your next budget, I hope you will also keep us in mind and remember our children and their troubles and the challenges that we wish to address to help them.
I'd like to recognize the director of education for the Upper Canada District School Board, Mr Gino Giannandrea, who I understand is with us today, and I do thank him very much for being present at my presentation.
Are there any questions?
The Chair: We have approximately four minutes per caucus.
Mr Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. I found your ideas and your suggestions to be very interesting. This is a perspective that I don't think has been brought forward to the committee as of yet, the particular point of view of the non-teaching professionals. I looked at this graph that you provided on page 2 very carefully, but I wanted to ask you this one question first of all. The government has created, through its new funding formula, two broad categories of spending: One is classroom spending, as you know, and one is non-classroom spending. Which category do you fall into?
Ms Wells: I would think non-classroom spending.
Ms Jardin: And in-classroom.
Ms Wells: A little of both?
Mr McEwen: Yes.
Ms Wells: My more experienced colleagues say a little of both.
Mr Arnott: I don't feel so bad. I thought I should know the answer to that-
Ms Jardin: A little of both. It's quite a complicated funding formula.
Mr Arnott: -but it's more complicated than that.
Mr McEwen: The real problem is for students with difficulties. The student with difficulty has to be there before the process to generate the money begins. That's highly inefficient in that in a board of our size you would expect that there will be a certain number of students with a certain set of difficulties, and therefore, one ought to presume that you will need people with the kinds of skills that are required to treat them. But the cart is, if you like, before the horse.
Ms Jardin: I might just clarify that there is a foundation grant per pupil. However, my understanding is there are about nine lines in the funding formula considered inside the classroom and there is paraprofessional and student support as a line separate from the foundation. I'll also give you, though, that throughout each of the lines there are various aspects that are to be allocated towards special education and, as I said, the ISA grants. That's a separate line.
Mr Arnott: So the school-based educational assistants, for example, would be considered paraprofessionals; is that correct?
Ms Jardin: Educational assistants are not one of our bargaining units at this time.
Mr Arnott: Oh, OK.
Mr Gerretsen: At this time.
Ms Jardin: I think that might be just one of the things, how we can work best for the students in that way.
Mr Arnott: Yes, because certainly the government wants the kinds of services that you perform in the schools to be adequately funded. I think that's a fair statement to make. The fact that you used to have 42.5 positions and it's been reduced down to 20, you say that this is before and after amalgamation?
Ms Wells: Yes.
Mr Arnott: Does it coincide with the funding formula changes as well, or was it due to amalgamation primarily that these positions were reduced in number?
Ms Jardin: You can't separate them.
Ms Wells: I guess I really can't answer that adequately. I don't know the funding formula. I do know there's been a reduction in staff. I do see the impact in the schools. It would take someone else with facts.
Mr McEwen: I regret I did not look at the variance table this morning as I had planned to. The variance table is the one where you find out whether the board has spent as much as the funding model allowed. I am aware that the board, in its approved estimates, admitted to spending less in every single classroom category than it was allowed to. But I did not specifically look at this one, so I'm sorry, I cannot answer that question.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Arnott.
Mr Gerretsen: I think the last four minutes completely indicate the absurdity of trying to separate funding between so-called classroom and non-classroom funding when the government members themselves-and I've got the highest respect for Mr Arnott. He's what I would regard as one of the more progressive government members there. If he doesn't know-and I certainly don't intend to take a shot at him or anything like that.
We have school boards with elected people, the trustees etc. They are run by competent administrators. Why don't we let them decide what is in the best interests of their children in their particular areas. To artificially say, "This is classroom funding and this isn't classroom funding"-and nobody seems to know exactly what fits where-leads to all sorts of useless time and energy that's been wasted rather than just looking at it as a whole, which is surely what we want to end up with in the long run.
One thing that your chart-and that's really what I wanted to comment on-clearly indicates, something that the minister has been denying in the House for the last year and a half, both before the last election and after the last election, is the notion that the non-teaching professional staff in the school boards have not changed at all, that there hasn't been a decrease. We've brought to them example after example where this has happened, and you've clearly indicated that in your board the net result is that there's been a 50% reduction in the non-teaching professional staff. Regardless of whether it's due to amalgamation or to funding cuts, that's the net effect. Those people are no longer involved for roughly the same number of students who were there two or three years ago to help them in their non-teaching-related activities that the students may be involved in or for the needs they may have. Is that standard within the other districts as well, as far as you know?
Mr McEwen: Precisely. It's more than 50%. We are presently-"we" being one of the groups that I belong to-analysing this. I do not have a definitive answer but that is my impression. My colleague from Limestone spoke of a 30% reduction; we're talking about a reduction of approximately 55%. There's a range for you. Let's hope we don't find anybody who's outside of that.
Ms Jardin: I'd like to combine the last two questions in that I think it's a very important point to make about what, by the funding formula, is inside the classroom. Apparently, heat is not inside the classroom, and things like that. Certainly with amalgamation, just to echo that, our PSSP has been cut back quite a lot, the point being made that you can't separate amalgamation and the funding formula because it was all done at the same time. I do believe strongly that our board is trying to provide the very best that they can within the funding formula. Therefore, if there's been a cut, I have full confidence that it's because the funding formula is not adequate to what it was before.
Mr Christopherson: I very much appreciate your last comment, because far too often in all of our communities we see major battles going on, pitched battles, either between school board trustees and teachers, school board trustees and parents. In the case of my home town in Hamilton, we had the HSR, our public transit bus drivers, at battle with the regional councillors and none of them picked the fight. It was Harris who picked the fight by cutting the transfer payments that set up this scenario and yet within the community it was always the local folks fighting among each other.
It's really positive and helpful when you acknowledge the fact that sometimes people are making decisions you don't support-you wish they'd make other decisions-but you don't think they're being evil and don't care about the kids and that they're not doing this because they don't believe or support.
I also want to touch on the issue of the classroom spending. Government members have got a lot of nerve asking a question about this, because we all know that whenever government members talk about education they're very careful to say "classroom spending." That is deliberate, because they've eliminated so many things from classroom spending that all they have to do is increase the few things that are left in that category and they can accurately, although deceptively, say, "We've increased classroom spending."
You mentioned heating the classroom. Hydro doesn't count, transportation doesn't count, cleaning the classroom doesn't count, maintaining computers and upgrading them etc doesn't count. There's a whole load of things that affect schooling that they've cut out of that category. They've slashed those budgets and then increased the couple that are left over, and this is the shell game they play here.
I want to ask a quick question, if I could. I suppose one could say I should know this, but I don't. Behaviourists, psychometrists and psychologists-you mentioned that you're a psychometrist and that you do assessing for students who are at risk. How does that differ from psychologists and behaviourists? Exactly what do they do that's different?
Ms Wells: A psychometrist does testing for learning disabilities to find out why a child isn't learning properly, what we want to do about it, to look at programming, that kind of thing. A psychometrist has to work under the auspices of a psychologist. The psychologist would have to approve my work before it is then transferred to parent and school. The psychologist as well would be able to do in-depth counselling, that kind of thing.
A behaviourist is someone trained in behavioural management, and so a child in the classroom who constantly is in difficulty would come to the attention of the behaviourist who would go in and set up programming to try to mould that behaviour to make it more socially appropriate within the class, to try to find out why they are kicking their neighbour-or whatever the child is doing-for the child's benefit, for the classroom benefit, that kind of thing.
Mr Christopherson: I think it was you, Joan, who mentioned existing community agencies. The community mental health agencies are referenced in the document. What sorts of things beyond community mental health agencies are you as educators reaching out to when you have children with special needs, and in the past finding that help?
Ms Wells: We find that hospitals, vision and hearing clinics, that kind of thing, where you used to have maybe a three-month wait-if when I'm doing an assessment I discover a child has some neurological issues, it might be that we refer to CHEO or Kingston General or something like that. The wait at that end has become so long that it gets-
Mr Christopherson: For example, the three months has now become what?
Ms Wells: Six, a year, something like that.
Mr Christopherson: A year? And what age children?
Ms Wells: All ages. It's just the impact of-
Mr Christopherson: What happens in the interim to that child who needs the special help?
Ms Wells: The child is in the class and people try very hard and actually do a very good job of trying to program and accommodate the child. The real concern for the staff is, are we doing the right thing?
Mr Christopherson: Because you're not the experts.
The Chair: On behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
Ms Wells: Thank you. I appreciate your time.
The Chair: Our next presenters this afternoon are representatives from Loyalist College. Could you please step forward and state your names for the record please.
Dr Douglas Auld: Douglas Auld, the president of Loyalist College.
Mr Wendel White: Wendel White, a governor of Loyalist College.
The Chair: Good afternoon and welcome on behalf of the committee. You have 30 minutes for your presentation.
Dr Auld: Thank you very much. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with you this afternoon.
Let me start off our presentation by saying that in a perfect world there would be sufficient resources for a college education to provide quality education for every qualified student without the student having to take on excessive debt in getting that education. But we don't live in a perfect world. We have a lot of competing demands. I'm sure that everyone here in this committee realizes how competing those demands for public funding are. Those competing demands of course have resulted in, as we all know, increasing student debt as students attempt to gain a post-secondary education, which is so important in the world today.
In eastern Ontario, and certainly in the four-county area that we serve to a large degree, this is even more burdensome by virtue of the fact that the average family income in our area is considerably lower than the provincial average and our unemployment rate is higher than the provincial average as well.
There seem to be two approaches to solving this particular dilemma. One is to provide additional funding on the operating grant side on a per-student basis which would then allow our college, for example, to freeze tuition fees. That would reduce slowly but over time the amount of debt that students would have to incur.
The other solution of the problem is a little more creative and innovative, and I will ask my colleague to outline that approach.
Mr White: Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation. I would add at this point to the handout you have that the creative solution or the proposal here is modelled after the state of Georgia, where they have in effect and in use the Hope scholarship program. To date the Hope scholarship foundation or the scholarship in the state has benefited 457,000 students in the state. What is more glaringly obvious for the state of Georgia is that it has benefited the economically disadvantaged of that state and made college education or university education more accessible via providing a performance-based program for students who achieve a B or B+ average in the state. When they achieve that performance, then they are eligible for a scholarship from the state. That scholarship covers tuition fees, books and other related costs.
The story here is that it's an attempt by the state of Georgia to make college and university education accessible. What I wanted to also point out is that it's a legislated program, and that being the case, it does not get altered by politics. It's also part of the mandate of the Hope scholarship that it supplement, not supplant, the present funding that the state provides for education. These are funds that are available to students over and above what the state budgets for education. As well, they've expanded the program of their scholarships to include pre-kindergarten.
Probably for me one of the most creative things about the Hope scholarship is that it's providing an opportunity to educate teachers as well and that the state is demonstrating that education is important. "It's so important that we're going to provide and find opportunities through an existing management program"-thus the lottery corporation-"to fund teachers for post-graduate work and training."
That is basically in a nutshell what the Hope scholarship does and the impact it's had on the state of Georgia.
I also want to make one other observation for you. Presently, the Ontario Lottery Corp, through Super Bingo, also designates three charities through which it funnels money. To be honest, I have no idea exactly what charities they are, but I know the funds they give to those designated charities are is a significant sum of money. Given that that structure is in place, I think it's a perfect fit for an idea such as this.
The Chair: We have approximately seven minutes per caucus. I'll start with the official opposition.
Mr Kwinter: Thank you very much for your presentation. I just want to give you a little bit of background for my comments. In your particular submission, you say: "Ontario is no stranger to lotteries. Hundreds of small community arenas and community centres were financed by the first years of the Provincial lottery." The background on that, just so you'll know, is that prior to the provincial government getting into the lottery business, there was a huge, huge resistance on the part of the people that this was a form of regressive taxation. You're holding a lottery and you hold out this prize-and all you have to do is take a look at the casinos. They generate billions of dollars to the province.
The problem that was evident at that time was that the Irish Sweepstakes was available and people were buying tickets to the Irish Sweepstakes; that money was leaving the province and the province felt that was money that could usefully be kept here, but how do you bridge the political problem of getting into the lottery business? The way it was bridged was to suggest that the proceeds of this lottery would go to community activities and sporting facilities, recreational facilities. That was the justification, but the actual intent was to stop the flow of money to the Irish Sweepstakes. After a number of years, when every arena in Ontario had a new roof and they really had no place to put the money, it reverted back to consolidated revenue, and that is where it is today. This money goes in and basically it's a way of getting revenue for the government.
In 1995, Mike Harris stated he was opposed to casinos. When he took a look at the monies that were going to be generated, he suddenly had a conversion. We now have lotteries and charitable casinos and casinos in places like Rama, Niagara Falls and Windsor, and more charitable casinos are going to be emerging and we have video lottery terminals on the horizon, all these things, and they're all meant for one purpose and one purpose only: to generate revenue and to offset problems we have balancing our budget and reducing the debt, all those things.
The reason I am giving you that background is that over the years virtually every group that has had a financing problem has come to the government and said, "If you would only let us run a lottery, we would solve our problems." Your presentation is not new at all. As I say, it has come forward from many groups that want to do that. As a matter of fact, the Princess Margaret Hospital runs a lottery, the Hospital for Sick Children runs a lottery-all sorts of groups run lotteries. You get to the point where you have to decide: Is the total economy going to be lottery-based or is there some reason why, for social reasons, for economic reasons-every time you have a lottery you drag money out of the economy. Monies that go to the lottery and then go to, say, the consolidated revenue fund, take away monies that are community-based, where you get the added value, you get the spin-offs and all these things.
In theory I understand exactly where you are coming from. In practice it is very, very difficult. What happens is that the community college is going to have a lottery. Then another group comes along and says: "What about the opera? We want to have a lottery." Then the ballet says, "If the opera's got a lottery, we want to have a lottery." Before you know it, every organization that has the greatest intentions wants to have a lottery and then it becomes counterproductive. Because you have so many lotteries and there is only so much discretionary disposable income, you have a problem.
The reason for giving this background is to say that this is not a new approach. It has been presented many times by many organizations. Maybe you know why, in the state of Georgia-I don't know whether they singled out community colleges. Have you done any investigation as to what other endeavours are funded by lotteries in the state of Georgia?
Mr White: If I could speak to that, the only program we have really looked at in the state of Georgia was the Hope scholarship, because it dealt with education. But as far as the rest of what the GLC is doing, I don't have the answer to that question.
But at the same time, if I may, the whole issue would probably never arise if there weren't actually a disaster afoot related to the amount of debt students have. Certainly one would have to take a look today-and you had it at the front door of your Legislature last week-at the number of young people and the number of families out there in distressed circumstances related to the whole issue. Dr Auld and I probably would not be sitting here in front of you if this were a perfect world, if this were a great situation in the province. But it's not. The funding situation related to colleges is a disgrace. As a parent, I say that to you. As a governor of a college, I say that to you. It's a disgrace. I would not be here saying that to you if that were not the case, or suggesting the use of lotteries, which I myself don't like. However, trying to be creative about how we solve a real, unconscionable situation in this province related to students' debt and how we reward excellence of students I think really deserves a lot of attention.
Mr Gerretsen: Would you agree with me that we'd have to have, if we were to implement what you're suggesting, something in place to ensure that the province wouldn't do what it's currently doing with the Millennium scholarships that have been granted to students whereby the money is taken right from the students and the students don't benefit from it at all? In some cases they're no better off and in some cases they may be better off as far as their overall debt load is concerned somewhere down the line, but it doesn't help them right now.
Would you agree that if anything like this was even contemplated, we'd want to make sure that this current government wouldn't be taking those kinds of steps that they're doing with the Millennium fund right now?
Mr White: Certainly, if you're going to talk about the Millennium fund, the whole issue around taxing the money is significant for students. Basically, it is an interesting concept, but the whole tax issue for students is one that really needs to be examined.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you for your presentation. Let me say at the outset that I agree very much with my colleague Monte Kwinter in terms of his concerns. I won't repeat those; I think he articulated them very well.
Do you know what I worry about in this, given that I share that viewpoint? I worry they'll do it.
Mr White: That's a good thing.
Mr Christopherson: I was going to say I know that you'll see that as a good thing, and in the short term it is, there's no question, if it's going to take some of the pressure off. In the long term, though, it's just a time-delayed disaster. It's still a disaster.
The real answer to this is, if there weren't the kind of cuts that are going on and if there weren't the deregulation of tuitions, we wouldn't have this problem. We've always had disagreements in our society about tuition levels and what they ought to be and what they ought not be, but we've never been anywhere near where we are now and where we're heading. It's worse.
I worry they'll do it, because I don't think in the short term they're prepared to change their priorities from giving more tax cuts to the very wealthy, who quite frankly don't need it, and put the money into education and health care, which are the top two priorities. All they have to do here is stickhandle the politics of the charitable groups, the small-p politics within those groups, who will say, "We're quickly reaching saturation; there are only so many tickets you can sell." If they deal with that, they don't have to put out a dime to help make you folks go away, which is what they would like you to do.
They know the problem's there. I even think there are some individual members who are really bothered. I watch some members, particularly when people come in and talk about children and how they're being hurt, and I know they're uncomfortable with some of these things. Yet at the end of the day this is an easy solution. It's not the long-term solution. There will be a fair degree of disparity. We're already seeing now fundraising events going on in elementary schools, high schools, and whether you're raising $60,000 or $5,000, it depends on whether you're doing it in downtown Toronto or whether you're doing it maybe in Markham, where you have one of the highest per capita incomes in the country. The fact is that the areas that can generate the most money to pay for school books, which are no longer being paid for because of the changed funding formula, are the ones that need it the least. They've already got enough parental support, home support, that they are able to manage the cuts in the education system and the lack of supports better than families that don't have. And yet when it's time to go out and get money to buy books, which is a scary reality for us to be in, the ones that can most easily do this are the areas that are already most capable of dealing with, as best they can, some of the cuts that are coming.
I don't have any questions. I'd like to give you a chance to respond if there's any of my time left. But I did want to be right up front and say to you that I know that you want them to do it and that it would solve your immediate problem. I worry, though, that they will do it and that it'll solve it in the short term and then we've got an even bigger problem in the medium and long term. The only real answer here is to adequately fund our post-secondary education systems, full stop.
The Chair: Comment?
Dr Auld: I'm not sure what the question was.
Mr Christopherson: No, there wasn't one. I just said I'd give you a chance to respond in case you disagree or-
Dr Auld: On the question of the short term versus the long term, we could spend a lot of time talking about the difference between them, but if we take the short term as even being a few years, I think we're in a situation now where the accumulated mounting debt, in particular in communities like ours, is now becoming a significant deterrent to higher education, particularly in an area which has a less-than-average participation rate in higher education because it has a less-than-average income level and a higher unemployment rate. This is a major concern of ours.
When we look at this, if it's over a five- or 10-year period and something else is put in differently and along the run, the fact remains there are now sanctioned lotteries in Ontario and people will be involved in lotteries. What we've indicated in our proposal is not necessarily the launching of a new, complicated lottery, but either the possibility of diverting existing lottery funds into something we believe would be of enormous social value, economic value, personal value, in our community, or, if that's not feasible, let us run a lottery in our own community for the purposes we have stated; in other words, to provide scholarships for motivated, qualified students so that they can spend two or three years at college and not walk out the door $20,000-plus in debt.
Mr Christopherson: Would you want to fund our hospitals based on the vagaries of lotteries?
Dr Auld: You already are. You're doing it.
Mr Christopherson: I mean a large portion of the budget, growing parts of that. Is that where we really want to be going? That's what worries me. Right, we already do, and probably more than we should. Governments down the road of all political stripes-if it's being taken care of and adequately being looked after through lotteries, the odds of a new government coming in and saying, "We're going to rejig the finances to do this differently," is not likely to happen.
Dr Auld: Let me respond to that one. We just finished a capital campaign at our college. We went out and raised money from the private sector. All colleges have started to do that and universities have been doing it for eons. One of the really positive things about going out and fundraising, whether it's knocking on corporate doors or raising money from foundations or selling lottery tickets for scholarships, is that you're arguing the case of your institution. You're creating awareness and knowledge about the value of post-secondary education. As one of the co-chairs of our campaign said, "The best thing about the campaign you've just finished here at Loyalist College is there's a much better understanding of the value of college education in the community."
Similarly, if a hospital is selling lottery tickets, when a person buys a lottery ticket they say: "What's this for? How is the hospital run?" I think there is some value in that kind of fundraising. Whether it should be 10%, 20% or 50% of the gross revenue of an institution, I have no idea, but in this particular proposal we're making we're not talking about a significant proportion of the total cost. We're talking about just enough to take the edge off the high burden that students are suffering today.
Mr Christopherson: I'm just so saddened that you're so excited about the prospect of a lottery taking care of something that just a few years ago was properly funded. They could also use more money, but we didn't have this kind of crisis. It really worries me and disturbs me that you find yourselves in this position because of the reality you're in and where that will take us. I've been around long enough at different levels of government to have a really sickening feeling in my stomach about what this is. I agree with earlier presenters who said that the government wants the public education system-this is more secondary and elementary-to deteriorate, they want the health care system overall to deteriorate, because then people are more open-minded to the idea, "Here's a choice for you," you know, the great democracy card, "This is choice and now you can buy private health care if you want more, or you can send your children to private school and get away from what's going on in the public schools." It's down that slippery slope, and here's a reflection of that, in my opinion. You wouldn't be here suggesting this if we were back six, seven, 10 years ago in terms of the kind of funding that you were receiving versus your needs and those of the students.
Mr Galt: Thanks for coming with your presentation, especially after I heard you making a few comments I guess about a month and a half ago or thereabouts. I appreciate your journeying down on a rather slippery road today.
Just hearing from the opposition, it's obvious that we have had-and I'm thrilled to hear it-10 years of a perfect world, and as a result of that perfect world the deficit climbed at a phenomenal rate and the debt doubled in the first half of the decade. Then they talked about the shell game. I'll tell you what the shell game was all about. Back in the late 1980s the Liberals bragged about a balanced budget, and I'll tell you that was a shell game.
The Chair: Order. Only one person can speak at a time.
Mr Galt: Then in the beginning of the first half of the decade we had a government that had two sets of books. If you want to talk about a shell game and playing games-
Mr Christopherson: We didn't hurt kids.
Mr Galt: -when you have two sets of books-
The Chair: Let's have some order, please.
Mr Galt: -that is indeed a shell game and one you played very effectively until we came to office to find out what in fact the deficit really was. There's just no other way around what was going on.
Something like the Millennium fund was made reference to a few minutes ago. Any savings from that are certainly being reinvested right back in. I heard Mr Kwinter making many comments about how many times we've heard it. This is the first time I've been on the committee. It's the first during these hearings that we've heard of this kind of approach with a lottery to help students. Congratulations to you for the idea. I was just checking with my cohort sitting beside me, Mr Arnott, who's been on this committee before and he has not heard of this type of a presentation before.
I'm coming around to ask a question. It has sort of come up before, but is there room out there in the lottery community? Would one fly at a significant level? How much room is there out there for one? I don't have a feeling for that.
Mr White: Do you mean at the local level?
Mr Galt: At the local or provincial level that would support this philosophy. Have you carried out any investigation into that?
Mr White: The short answer here is no. I'm of the belief that knowing what the general public knows about debt, regardless of what political party we're talking about here and regardless of the significance of the debt that students carry-the projected costs of education in the future, I recently read in a Canadian magazine, in the next 10 years would be $60,000 for a four-year degree program-I think that there is significant support, if marketed properly through the OLC, that such a lottery would work and would not supplant present educational funding in the province.
It would reward excellence in education, and there is nothing wrong with that. We do it every day in business and in other enterprises. We reward people for excellence. The example in the state of Georgia is highly recognized. Out of the 37, I believe, lotteries functioning in the United States, it is highly touted as the most successful one because of how it targets its program. So yes, I believe it would be.
Mr Galt: You make reference to student debt. Add to that another $20,000 for federal debt and another $10,000 for provincial debt, another $30,000 on to what they come out of college or university with, and they've got quite a load on their backs.
Mr White: May I also add too the cost of managing in excess of some $500 million in defaulted loans? What's that cost the province? I'm not saying this is perfect. I'm not saying this is the absolute right thing that a person in his normal mind would really want to do. But the reality here is that there are people in need, and we as a college are saying that we want to help. There's a mechanism in place. It's in place in your government. Why can't we make it work for education?
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. Since this committee started meeting and hearing presentations, I don't recall one coming forward that wasn't specifically asking for money, but this one's coming up with ideas of how to generate money which I think are good and need to be explored to a certain extent.
You talked about the amount of debt and you referred to it as a disgrace. I agree that student debt is a real issue. We've initiated a number of initiatives to assist students who are in debt. But just for the record, it needs to be made clear that more than 50% of students graduate without any student debt, so it's not as bleak as it appears because there is a good portion of students who actually don't have the escalating debt.
Also, I want to congratulate you on your work that you do in colleges, because the enrolment has been increasing constantly. I think that says something for the kind of work that you do in the local community colleges across the province. In all the post-secondary institutions enrolment is increasing, so students are saying that there is a real benefit to post-secondary education. Although there is tuition to pay, a shared responsibility between the student and the province, in the end that student will be better off for having sought post-secondary education.
I don't have any specific questions. I just wanted to congratulate you on your presentation.
Dr Auld: Could I make one comment? The long-term solution that was referred to over here-it's not a 100% solution but part of the solution-is a totally seamless federal-provincial system on a student loan basis that is based on an income-contingent repayment plan. I know that people at the provincial level here have been trying to work at that for a long time, and I know you have some problems with the federal government on this. I was part of a major conference three years ago.
Once you get a student loan scheme that is tied to the taxable income of the individual and you develop a scheme like that, which is far more equitable, which allows people-for example, take graduates coming from colleges and universities. We have graduates who are going out and doing some of the most important work in this province, and that is working as early childhood educators. Do you know what they get paid? Some $12,000 to $14,000 a year. Then we have graduating electronic engineering technologists starting at $40,000 to $50,000 a year. One of the unfair things about that is it costs those two people exactly the same to go college, right? So if you have in place an income-contingent repayment plan-which is a long, long-term goal of mine that I have been arguing for for 10 years-then you allow a much more equitable and fair way.
Maybe this lottery thing doesn't have to be around forever, maybe for the next five years, until this income-contingent repayment plan is in place and working. Maybe this is a way that we can stop the acceleration of student debt by providing some funding, either at the local level through a lottery or at the provincial level, until we get a better solution. I agree that this is not the best solution. There is a better solution, and I certainly encourage the province of Ontario to work very hard with the federal government to bring that plan to fruition as soon as possible.
The Chair: Gentlemen, on behalf of the committee, thank you very much for your presentation this afternoon.
ONTARIO SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS' FEDERATION, DISTRICT 26, OCCASIONAL TEACHERS' BARGAINING UNIT
The Vice-Chair: I call the next delegation forward: OSSTF District 26 Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit. I see some familiar faces. Could you state your names for the record. As you have heard before, a half- hour for presentation and responses from the three parties divided up, the remainder divided up three ways.
Mr John McEwen: As we say in some parts of eastern Ontario, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. My name is John McEwen. With me are Greg McGillis and Joan Jardin, who you have seen before. We appear today on behalf of the 200 teachers who are members of the Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit. They of course replace regular teachers for illness and other matters.
I thank you very much for permitting me this opportunity to appear and be heard. Such opportunities are part of what I believe is something quite necessary to a democracy: a dialogue between those who are governed and those who do the governing.
I have to begin with a confession. I am not yet president of the Occasional Teachers' Bargaining Unit, although he would like me to be. At present, I am a classroom teacher. I have responsibility for science and math. I am a parent of adult children. I have had a lifelong interest in school-to-work transitions. I am currently on the Eastern Ontario Training Board. Frankly, you are going to hear all those perspectives. I'm bringing all those persons to the table, along with my two colleagues.
I'd like very quickly to go through the numbers. It should be quick because you've probably seen them all before. Last spring the government announced that it would spend $13.25 billion in allocations to school boards, or $6,600 per pupil. That amounts to 3.5% of the provincial gross domestic product, as it was known in the spring. That is the lowest percentage since I started tracking in 1991, and the percentage devoted to this investment has been dropping steadily since 1992.
I do various comparisons. I'm the person who does the annual ranking of Ontario in North America, just in case you want to know where to send the letter bomb. In the process of doing that I have discovered that again this year Ontario ranks 55th in North America, and I have a small chart that shows we have been declining steadily in that regard in comparison with other jurisdictions in North America since 1992. Further, when this jurisdiction is compared with other provincial jurisdictions, no other jurisdiction in Canada on a year-over-year basis, or on an eight-year basis, has had as severe a reduction in real per pupil expenditures.
Does this matter? I guess I wouldn't be here if I believed it didn't matter. Money does matter. It provides up-to-date texts and learning materials, it can be used to lower class sizes and it can provide specialized instruction for those who require it. Money helps provide teachers with time and resources to be effective. I teach 15 minutes away from the New York state border. I am familiar with the practices of my colleagues in upstate New York. They have higher salaries, better teaching loads and better working conditions. Their students have access to better facilities, additional learning materials, richer educational experiences and more special support. These things confer advantages on their students that my students don't have. But frankly, ladies and gentlemen, this is not about the fact that we don't have the resources they have in New York state. This is about the fact that we don't have the resources we used to have.
I'd like to take you through the first bullet. I'm responsible for science and math. Each and every one of my science teachers teaches in a room with 28 seats. Each and every one of my science teachers has a class with more than 28 students in the room. I have two: one with 29 and one with 34. When I attempt to do a lab, I have to be very careful. Open flame is out, and heat and reactive materials are out, because they provide a very real risk to the students and the teacher. As a consequence, there are parts of the curriculum that we simply can't offer because it's too dangerous.
Departmental budgets are two thirds of what they were 10 years ago. I can barely cover photocopy costs and the tax I pay to the principal for central office functions. I have a list of things that this has meant. For three years now I've taught a course without a textbook. I can't afford to buy it. When my teacher colleagues heard I was coming, they said, "Bring some textbooks to show them." I failed to do that. Most of our textbooks are rags, and our students have to rebind them very carefully. When I come to presentations like this, I steal the pens. I picked up this pencil and you're not getting it back. I have a whole drawer full of pens I've stolen from conferences that I use with my students.
Once there were two of us who had oversight of math and science. Now there's me and I have no time for it. I have two brand-new departments; that is, everybody is younger than I am, they all need mentoring and they're all struggling with this new curriculum. Frankly, the resource is not there to do the kind of job that was done for me.
Joan, you wanted to say a bit about department problems, didn't you?
Ms Joan Jardin: Yes. Certainly the new curriculum-and I have a great deal of knowledge of the new curriculum, as I was responsible for a large part of the biology and a large part of the science, so I know a great deal about what the new curriculum means and entails-really requires a lot of extra work for the teachers and certainly for the department heads to provide leadership and support. The difficulty is compounded by the reduction in PD days.
The way I relate this to occasional teachers is that when I started teaching, which was a little bit ago-
Mr McEwen: Not as long ago as me.
Ms Jardin: -we actually were able, because of departmental budgets, because of budgets in schools, given a need, in order to be innovative, in order to really coordinate with other teachers and to enhance what we do in the class, to get occasional teachers in during the school day so that teachers could work together to share curriculum, share curriculum ideas, work on team teaching. The department heads in, I'll say, "the olden days," which means just a few years ago, six, were able to meet and share and have reliable occasional teachers in the classroom so that we could better enhance and better do our job in the classrooms.
Mr McEwen: You have most of this in front of you, and your reading skills are at least as good as mine.
I'd like to focus on a couple of things. First of all, we don't answer the phones at my school any more; there's nobody to do it because of the clerical cuts. That's a security issue, but we can't have someone answer the phone some days. We have teachers who drag themselves in ill because the money for the supply teacher, the group that I'm speaking on behalf of, is not there. They stay sicker longer. They spread their illness to students and to other teachers. Generally, if a class is served by an on-call teacher, it gets make-work, whereas in a class taught by a supply teacher there's a much greater likelihood that they'll get something that's instructionally appropriate to that point in the curriculum.
The current funding model requires that teachers in Ontario teach a greater proportion of the instructional day than any other group of teachers in Canada. The remainder of that time at school is filled with clerical and administrative tasks, supervisory duties, lesson preparing and marking, student assistance, meetings, extracurricular activities and so forth. Not surprisingly, the teacher day is intense and long, and there is little time for that most necessary of activities, quiet reflection and creative thought.
Understandably then, I read the Stats Canada statistic that says Canadian teachers experience the greatest amount of overtime of any employee group in Canada and realize that the teachers in Ontario are probably responsible to a great extent for that average.
We teachers try to make things work. As a result, when resources are taken away from us, when materials and supplies disappear and demands increase, we try harder to make things work. I'm spending about $20 a week, ladies and gentlemen, out of my own pocket. I don't like it. I feel abused. But I am doing it because it's the only way I can keep my program going.
In the long run, this is not a viable solution for insufficient funding. We have reached a point where the continuing or additional resource shortfalls must result in reduced services, no matter how strong the desire of teachers to carry on and to do the job properly.
I'd like to add some context. We have a remarkably successful education system: 81% of high school graduates go on to post-secondary; 44% go on to university. An Ontario high school graduate is one and a half times more likely to go on to university than those from other parts of Canada. Our graduates are readily accepted throughout North America and the developed world. When I started teaching, 40% of the students made it to grade 12 and 20% made it to grade 13. It's a remarkable change, and the International Adult Literacy Survey shows that in fact there has been a comparable rise in literacy levels in Canada and in Ontario over the same period.
At the same time, we are now aware that good education is more important. I list a set of economic authorities that make exactly that case and the case for investing more money in education. As the demographics are shifting, we are moving into certain skill shortages. In my part of the world, we need to find teachers, we need to find millwrights, we need to find information technology people, and all of these things require either good education or good education and training, and they require the foundation that we attempt to provide in public education.
Ms Jardin: I would just add that there is certainly a teacher shortage in a lot of different subject disciplines. We are having a batch of students graduating from the faculty of ed in the spring, and if we cannot guarantee them a full-time job in the Limestone-Upper Canada school board, it's nice to be able to say that there is sufficient occasional teaching available to keep them in the area so that we know we will be able to fit them in whenever we can. If we are not able to provide them with occasional teaching while they're waiting or applying and working towards getting a full-time position, that really is a difficulty and certainly a reflection of the funding being able to provide for relief time.
Mr McEwen: Make no bones about it, this is a brief that argues for reinvestment in education, particularly at the elementary and secondary level. As I have written, if we fail to do that while others around us are doing exactly that, we will have committed some kind of unilateral disarmament in the economic competition between our jurisdiction and others.
I'd like to close by reading something that is the reason I'm here and the reason I'm still a teacher:
"Teaching is more than a traditional civil service job with a small but steady paycheque. It's more than a new building or a winning team. It's a fundamental commitment to the protection of our children's futures.
"Democracies and free markets rest on the assumption that people are sufficiently well-educated to make informed decisions at the polls and in the markets. A nation's continued wellbeing rests on the civility and creativity of its citizens. Civility is not genetic. Each generation must learn it anew. It must be modelled by parents and teachers. Education reform is as much about relationships of dignity, respect and innovation as it is about systems of bricks, budgets and mortar."
Although there is a slight disparagement of budgets in that quote, I believe that citation is why the community, the government, has to consider reinvestment. The government has taken on an awesome responsibility. It controls every aspect of elementary and secondary education, including how our schools are funded and the levels of that funding. If the government is to carry out this responsibility to assure the continued wellbeing of the province, it must provide for a substantial increase in funds.
Greg would like to close off with some remarks.
Mr Greg McGillis: I recently had the opportunity to speak to some health people who went into a school that had some health and safety issues. They had their usual team that goes into tight or sick buildings go in and simply do the preliminary analysis to allow them to begin to analyze why there was a problem in that school and whether indeed some of the people were getting sick as a result of various airborne contaminants. The jury is out to some extent. Nevertheless, the one thing that did come out of it was that all of them to a man and a woman said they were surprised at the dynamism and the difficulty of measuring. The fact was that any one area of the school seemed almost unique in terms of its ability to either have contaminants or who was there at any one time and what activities were occurring. They hadn't actually been in a school to try to do this kind of testing. They had done testing in almost every other workplace but they had not done a school and they simply had no way to properly measure what was going on in that school in terms of contaminants.
One of the reasons is what I think you see in everything else here. Over the last little while we've had three different presentations from three different bargaining units, and we've had other people involved. The director has dropped by from Upper Canada, and we thank him very much for doing that. But we want to portray to you the complexity of what's happening in our schools, that it's not as simple as cutting one or two budget lines and then you've just realized half a billion dollars in savings. There's a cost to that savings, just like there is a cost to spending the money. Your job ultimately, as you're consulted and help to build the next budget, is to evaluate those costs. I can tell you those costs are already very high and that the marginal cost of any further cuts would be tragic.
We certainly have found that the twin evils of amalgamation and budget cuts have left us in some pretty tough territory in our school. I'm constantly told that it's necessary to cut money. I'm constantly told by various people that we have to simply tighten our belts.
My brother is an OPP officer, and we began talking about some of my former students who are currently some of his clients. They have managed to find themselves all the way through the system. I did teach a class of particularly difficult children for two years. I was with these students all day and every day; in fact, one of the things we used to do was golf together on the weekend. It was an all-consuming thing and it was an unusual experience pedagogically, I have to tell you. Nevertheless, some of those people are now in custody. That's very unfortunate but what became clear to him was, he said: "Nevertheless, this is what we've got and these are the various new programs that we've got to deal with this. This is how we're dealing with students-or not students, essentially young offenders and criminals. These are the kinds of resources we're able to put behind the effort to catch these people and put them behind bars."
I said, "It would have been nice if you had caught them at the beginning." That's the problem. I quote him now directly, and I hope he's not angry about this, because he's probably going to read this. He's saying, "Mike Harris has been very good to me and Mike Harris has been very good to the police across the province." I'd love to be able to say that and I really can't.
I leave you with that, and I think we're ready for questions.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation. We have just barely three minutes for each caucus, beginning with the NDP.
Mr Christopherson: Thank you again. We're all getting to be family here. You mentioned textbooks, and I think, and I'm just going from memory, you said there are some classes you're teaching with the new curriculum and you still don't have the textbooks.
Mr McEwen: These would have been classes under the old curriculum. I taught environmental science for three years without a text and I teach any basic level of science at whatever grade without a text. Quite frankly, I find the resources where I can. I just don't have the money to buy textbooks. I have a hit list of students who have not handed books back, and we go after them like tigers.
Mr Christopherson: Did you run into the circumstance, particularly in the science discipline, of having to buy textbooks before you saw the curriculum?
Mr McEwen: That is so. I also had to buy materials before I saw either.
Mr Christopherson: That is such lunacy.
Mr McEwen: If I may say something about those textbooks, after one semester the wear on them is equivalent to 10 years of wear on my senior physics textbooks. They're not going to last.
Ms Jardin: I just want to add to it, giving a different district's viewpoint. I also am a science and math teacher, and I have been head of both the science department and the math department when they were separate. They both are certainly very unique departments. But there is very little money for textbooks and with the new curriculum it is very difficult in schools, because even if you know that you're going to have a new curriculum in three years, there just isn't enough money now if you're thinking about where you're going to allocate money. In the long term, because we're thinking three years even, it's not worthwhile buying textbooks for those students, so for three years that's going to be a difficulty. It's not just, "OK, next year we're getting new textbooks"; we hope to get new textbooks with the new curriculum, but it's three years in the future.
Mr Christopherson: This is another perk of being one of the double cohort if they're captured within that group.
Ms Jardin: It's with the changing curriculum. As I've explained, I have a great knowledge of the new curriculum in both math and science and there has been some support with the new curriculum. Unfortunately, the fact that we've had a curriculum and this year it's been the present curriculum for 10 to OAC, that's actually kind of been lost in the funding all together.
Mrs Molinari: Thank you very much for your presentation. I've enjoyed hearing the various presentations, although some of the faces are the same at the table.
I just want to first clarify some of the comments you made and then ask for your feedback on how it specifically affected the board you're with, because we're hearing from the teacher representatives and we're not hearing from the actual board about the funding and that there isn't enough money.
The new funding model was to provide equitable funding for all the students in the province of Ontario. The previous funding model allowed more dollars to go to boards which were rich in assessment and those that were poor in assessment did not receive the same dollars for the students. The foundation grant was based on the average per pupil expenditure of all the boards in the province of Ontario.
Granted that some boards were spending below that and some boards were spending above that. Those that were spending below actually got more money for their per pupil. Those that were spending above obviously had to come down. And then there were mitigation grants that were also given to boards to provide for some of the difficulties in reaching that per-pupil spending if they were spending above. I don't have the specifics of how the board that you represent works, but I would like your feedback on it.
Also, classroom education spending, the intent was that more money would be going directly into the classroom instead of being spent in other areas. I know that the issue of classroom spending is still being discussed and debated as to what's actually classroom spending and what's actually spending that supports the classroom and so directly benefits the student in the long run. There is still discussion on that.
Previously, one of the presenters was talking about special education and mentioned that, from her knowledge, there was less being spent in special education in every category. I would ask why are you not going to the board and demanding that at least the board spend the money they receive for special education on special education?
Ms Jardin: Actually, three parts from that: I do want to let you know that our director of education has written a letter to the government, stating the difficulties with the funding formula and many of the points were incorporated with these briefs. I want to once again say that certainly with the Limestone board it's not the teachers having a different viewpoint or very different from the board.
Something that's very interesting to me is that before what you call equitable funding was put in, I was in a poll. I was actually one of the people who was polled. When I was asked, "Should there be equitable funding, should there be funding for everyone?" I never in my dreams thought it would be brought down. I don't know why. When I was answering the questions I thought, "Yes, let's bring everything up to the highest denominator," and I don't know why. I assumed naïvely, but that's when I was answering the questions, yes. So "equitable" pretty well means going down. It certainly has been for our board.
You mentioned the mitigation grants. That's been tenuous and from year to year we don't know whether we have it or not. We cannot even make with the Limestone board an imaginary prediction of what our funding is going to be for next year. It's already February and our school year starts in September.
The Vice-Chair: I think we'll have to move on to the official opposition caucus. I gave an extra minute there because you were really wound up.
Mr Phillips: Just a comment first: I've been struck by a couple of government documents that are circulated on Why Ontario is the place to invest and why businesses should be here. The two major reasons are our health care system, publicly funded and accessible to everyone, and our education system. In fact, as you know, this is a document the government sent to us on Why Ontario. It points out: "The United Nations human development program ranked Canada number one in its human development index for the sixth straight year."
What does the index measure? You already know this, but it measures life expectancy at birth, which is how we deal with expectant parents and things like that, adult literacy, educational enrolment and real per capita gross domestic product-four measurements, two of which are educational in nature.
It is odd that the thing that sets us apart, both in terms of a measurement of the quality of life and the two things that apparently are the key reasons why companies should invest in Ontario, are the two things that are under attack: health care and education. This is as much a statement as a question for you. But we've heard from many of the presenters that we have to harmonize our taxes with the US. The trucking industry believes we've got to have the same taxes on a variety of things as the neighbouring jurisdictions. The high-tech people say we've got to get our income tax down to the same level as the US. I think it was the real estate people who were saying we've got to get our property taxes to the same level. We've got to get our corporate taxes to the same level.
We are under enormous pressure to get taxes to the same level or lower than the US, but the two key reasons why we are unique and why this is the best place in the world to live and the best place in the world to invest can only be funded by adequate resources, from wherever they come. Tragically, we heard earlier that a college feels we've got to get into the lottery business to fund colleges. We see right now that the government's introducing 10,000 slot machines that will take $1 billion out of taxpayers' pockets. Every penny of the tax cut is going to go back into the slot machines. It will be different people playing them. That billion dollars is after winnings, by the way.
The Vice-Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Phillips. Your three minutes are up.
Thank you for your presentation. We very much appreciate it.
The standing committee on finance and economic affairs is now adjourned. We'll reconvene in Chatham on February 14 at 9 am in the Wedgwood Room, Best Western Wheels Inn.
The committee adjourned at 1613.