Sol Mamakwa MPP, Kiiwetinoong

Government of Ontario

Ford drops ball on education during pandemic, Northern forum finds

Published on October 8, 2020

ELLIOT LAKE - KAPUSKASING - Michael Mantha, NDP MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, and Guy Bourgouin, NDP MPP for Mushkegowuk-James Bay, held a virtual town hall on Wednesday evening with local parents, school trustees and teachers about the urgent need for the provincial government to reduce class sizes, and provide a safe environment for students and staff.

“Doug Ford is simply not doing what he’s supposed to," said Mantha. “With education resources already stretched thin, school boards, teachers and education workers are doing the impossible to ensure student safety and success.”

“With the number of COVID-19 cases in schools skyrocketing, parents are concerned – and rightly so,” said Bourgouin. “The Ford government’s penny-pinching school scheme has left our children’s education hanging by a thread.”

MPPs Mantha and Bourgouin hosted four panelists: Anne Vinet-Roy, President of the Association des enseignantes et enseignants franco-ontarien(ne)s (AEFO); parents Tanya Giles and Timothy Ellis; and Michel Seguin, school trustee for Conseil scolaire public du Nord Est de l’Ontario (CSPNE). All panelists called for smaller class sizes, bussing caps and improved supports for students, education workers and teachers.

They said that poor broadband connectivity, long bussing distances, and chronic staff shortages are critical concerns for Northern Ontario.

“Broadband internet is extremely poor in Northern Ontario. With three school-aged children and just two Mbps of bandwidth at home, my children cannot have proper online education. The government dropped the ball on this. There were months and months to prepare, and at the end of the day, it was all rushed through. This is all hard on the teachers and on the kids,” said Ellis.

“What Doug Ford does not understand is that in Northern Ontario children must travel long distances in crammed busses shared by different school boards and multiple schools, sometimes for two hours every day and are being asked to keep their windows open. We are in Northern Ontario. We have different needs up here. The nonsense has to stop,” said Giles.

“It was difficult to find qualified staff before the pandemic and it is more difficult now in the midst of a second COVID-19 wave. There’s no line up of teachers coming in to work in our schools,” said Seguin.

“What we have heard from parents, teachers and education workers is that the Ford government has dropped the ball when it comes to education and keeping our children safe. Why would physical distancing apply in every other situation, except when it comes to our kids when they are on school busses or at school?” said Mantha

"The plan was not good enough before schools opened, and it remains highly inadequate now that we are in the midst of a second wave. School case counts continue to rise, affecting more and more schools, including in Northern Ontario," Bourgouin said. “Ford need to act now.”