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article imageEducation takes centre stage at several Ontario riding debates Special

By Andrew Moran     Sep 22, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - Across the province of Ontario, there were several electoral districts that were focusing their attention on education. Candidates for the St. Paul's riding in Toronto gathered to talk schools, policy and government funding.
On Tuesday night, St. Paul’s candidates talked about education, what has transpired during the past eight years of the Liberal government related to the issue and what can be done in the future to better the school system.
Candidates for the riding are Eric Hoskins, incumbent Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament; David Hynes, New Democratic nominee; Christine McGirr, Progressive Conservative candidate; Judith Van Veldhuysen, Green candidate; John Clinton, Freedom Party of Ontario candidate; and Libertarian candidate John Kittredge.
Speaking at Northern high school on Mt. Pleasant Road in uptown Toronto, Hoskins, Hynes and Van Veldhuysen participated in the education debate. McGirr declined the invitation and Clinton and Kittredge were not part of the debate.
Who are the candidates and what are their positions on education?
Liberal – Eric Hoskins
First elected in 2009 in a by-election, Eric Hoskins is a physician that is the former president of War Child Canada and has worked with several non-governmental organizations to assist children affected by war in many parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Pakistan.
Hoskins, who believes the best way to improve society is for communities and people to work together, says Ontario has one of the world’s best school system, at least according to a report from The Economist.
The St. Paul’s MPP said the “Education Premier” has improved the PC government’s failure on education during their tenure. Hoskins says graduates rates are up, class sizes have less than 20 students, they have hired more than 12,000 teachers and 11,000 support workers since 2003, not one school day has been lost, the government has implemented full-day kindergarten and they have instituted a 46 percent increase in funding. He noted, though, that progress must continue.
One of the province’s initiatives that he is most proud of is full-day kindergarten because it’s good for the economy and jobs in both present and in the future. Hoskins stated that the “commitment is there and is the first initiative in North America.”
A goal and a priority for Hoskins and his party is ensure that all children have the same quality access to education, including special needs kids. Although Hoskins said his party “inherited a chaotic system,” the province has spent $2.5 billion annually for special needs classes, which is a 55 percent increase since 2003.
When asked how each party will fund outside playgrounds, the MPP said that they plan to double physical act tax credit – No Child Left Inside – with cooperation from the community, parents, schools and private entities.
New Democrat – David Hynes
David Hynes comes from an educational background. He studied philosophy and history at the University of Toronto and then taught English Language overseas. Hynes returned and earned an MA in Political Science at York University and is now working towards his PhD in corporate governance and economics.
When it comes to education, Hynes believes the term “crisis” is not an understatement because it has been like it for the past 16 years. The reason for this is because public schools are being sold off to private developers and the function of the old funding model has been eliminated.
The Ontario Premier, says Hynes, has not restored the funding formula and has promised that the NDP will review the old system. The Toronto District School Board will run a deficit.
Hynes and the New Democrats support full-day kindergarten, but disagreed with the way it was rolled out and implemented. Hynes said that there was not enough support and let lobbyists institute the program.
Although Hoskins accused the NDP of voting against full-day kindergarten, Hynes explained that they didn’t vote against the initiative, but rather they voted against the budget that “penalized low-income families.”
An audience member asked the candidates if selling healthy food in schools will promote healthy eating. Hynes agreed with the Green candidate that we need local and healthy food in schools. He also noted the people can decide the priorities because they know what’s best for the community.
The same applies to school security system. Schools can decide what type of security best meets their needs, but there needs to be funds for schools that make those decisions. “Refer to overall vision as to how schools are run.”
Funding was a major issue for Hynes. He explained on several occasions that money wasn’t there. For example, he stated that there isn’t enough money to hire more teachers in order to have smaller classrooms, which is important for all grades.
Green – Judith Van Veldhuysen
By working as the Women’s Issues Critic for the Green Party of Ontario’s shadow cabinet, Judith Van Veldhuysen analyzes issues that most affect women in the province. Among many of the issues that matter most to women is local healthy food.
With the party’s five-point plan, they will advocate quality education for all children, allocate $200 million in tax credits for recreational programs and not abandon children on poor future job prospects.
On the issue of full-day kindergarten, Van Veldhuysen supports early funding for early education. However, similar to Hynes, she is worried with the way it was rolled out because it seemed like a top-down approach, which has led to schools suffering due to overcrowding.
The Greens believe the government’s responsibility is to fund schools and not having them to rely on Public Private Partnerships and fundraising. Van Veldhuysen prefers not to have private interests in public schools.
In terms of school security, Van Veldhuysen feels that there should be analysis into the root problems.
One way to tackle issues affecting schools, such as special education, is for the provincial government to relieve their debt load. If the province does lower its debt then there will be available funds to hire more staff, purchase more equipment and a higher focus on children.
One of the biggest moments of the night, which led to both applause and laughter, was when Hynes accused Hoskins and his party of following the policies of former United States President George W. Bush.
Hynes stated that the Liberals provided “Bush-style tax cuts to corporations” and referred to their education initiative as “No Child Left Inside,” which is similar to Bush’s education policy “No Child Left Behind.”
Liberal government decreased corporate taxes from 14 percent to 11 percent. The NDP has said they would increase it back to 14 percent.
Another highlight of the night was when Hoskins accused Hynes of not providing fact with his accusations. “We must refer to facts and not make accusations without facts.”
A surprise of the evening was when it was announced that the PC candidate declined an invitation to attend Tuesday’s debate.
St. Paul’s
The St. Paul’s provincial electoral district was established in 1999. It has a population of approximately 112,000 with 79,000 voters. The riding consists of parts of Forest Hill, Davenport, North Toronto, Summerhill, Davisville and others.
The riding’s first Member of Provincial Parliament was Liberal Michael Bryant. He was the incumbent until 2009 when he resigned. Eric Hoskins ran for the seat in 2009 and defeated PC candidate Sue-Ann Levy and New Democrat candidate Julian Heller.
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