I will specifically address this motion and some concerns that I have with it. I’m supportive of the idea—absolutely. In fact, November 21 of last year, I held a press conference and had people from across the province in rural communities join me, not only for the press conference to talk about the issue regarding rural school closures and what that means for those communities, but we also had a rally out on the front lawn of Queen’s Park. I want to recognize those who came to Queen’s Park back in November.
That’s not the first time I’ve raised the issue. It’s certainly not the first time our party has raised the issue. That really was the first time that the PCs decided they wanted to get on board because they realize, by the number of people coming to Queen’s Park, that maybe it was a good issue for them to jump on—probably for votes, but I’m glad that they finally joined the party. That’s a bad choice of words. I’m not sure we’d want them in our party, but anyway.
I’d like to thank Susan MacKenzie of the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures, and Judy Keeling, who joined me on the panel for our press conference, and the many people from across the province who came for the rally. I would also like to thank Krista Wylie from Fix Our Schools, who has been a tireless advocate for proper funding of our education system, specifically around the condition of the buildings and the fact that there is a $15-billion capital repair backlog. I know the government announced some money; it’s not even going to address the repair backlog, let alone the condition of the schools going forward. I think that might have been an important piece to acknowledge in the motion as well.
Part of the reason that school boards are faced with closing schools is based purely on the condition of those buildings, because this government does not give school boards enough money to manage the upkeep of these buildings. So while the minister stood up in her time and talked about these wonderful new school buildings that they are putting up, these modern facilities and how excited these children are to be in them, the fact of the matter is that a lot of those kids and families are excited to have new school buildings because the schools they were in are crumbling. They don’t have the technology that they need. They don’t have warm classrooms in the winter. They don’t have cool classrooms in the summer. They don’t have ceilings that are not leaking when it rains. The buildings are in such terrible condition.
I’m not making this up. I was a school board trustee for eight years. I can tell you that the way this government underfunds the system is deplorable