NDP’s Horwath launches petition to get 300 schools off the chopping block

The Wynne government revealed Thursday that 300 more schools are on the chopping block, prompting NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to launch a petition campaign to block any further closures. 

Wednesday, the NDP revealed internal briefing notes from Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals which prove the government’s policy for measuring school utilization is wrong and misleading. It calculates fully-utilized schools as nearly empty by intentionally ignoring English as an additional language programs, child care programs, adult education programs and more.

“The rules for closing schools are broken – and until they’re fixed, not one more school should be shut down,” said Horwath. “Schools can and should be important community hubs. When they offer child care or adult education, they’re offering something incredibly valuable.” 

“Premier Wynne just doesn’t get it – intentionally ignoring those things and closing hundreds more schools will come at a huge cost to families, and to the province.”

Horwath said the Liberal government’s bad policies combined with cuts to education are hampering school boards. Her petition calls on the government to remove all 300 schools from the list of schools being considered for closure, review the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines, and fix broken utilization formula. The NDP has also demanded the Wynne government review the funding formula which is pressing school boards to close schools. 

Since 2011, 277 schools have been permanently shut down under Wynne’s watch.


Documents show Wynne government closing schools based on bad numbers

An internal Liberal government document obtained by the NDP shows that the Wynne government knows it's closing schools based on skewed utilization numbers. 

"The Liberal government’s own internal notes are clear: they’re closing schools based on incorrect utilization numbers, and they know it,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

The concern is revealed in a ministerial briefing note the NDP obtained through access to information laws. In part, it reads: 

“Utilization does not typically recognize all programs/pupils currently using school space, such as: adult day school, fee-paying pupils, classroom space used for supplementary programs like ESL, alternative and continuing education programs, and programs offered through community partnerships (e.g. child-care programs). Buildings used for these programs/pupils appear as underutilized/empty in current utilization calculations even if they are all full capacity. If these buildings are closed/sold, there may not be accessible space available to support those programs.”

“Premier Wynne is choosing to ignore things like childcare centres and ESL programs when it comes to making decisions about schools on the chopping block,” said Horwath. “She has closed 277 schools just since 2011 at a time when communities all over the province are fighting to keep their schools open. The government is ignoring the valuable programs and classes being delivered to communities.” 

The briefing note also points out that this Wynne government policy is at odds with the community hubs initiative – a program meant to use schools for precisely those things Wynne is ignoring.

“She’s saying one thing, and doing another,” said Horwath. “She talks the talk when it comes to using schools to offer so much more to communities – from English classes to adult education and child care – but, in reality, her policy is to completely dismiss those very important things.” 

Horwath has been calling for an immediate end to all school closures.




NDP’s Taylor calls on Wynne government for $15 minimum wage

Recognizing that the majority of low-paid workers in Ontario are women, Monique Taylor, Hamilton Mountain MPP, marked International Women’s Day by calling on the Liberal government to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. 

During question period, Taylor shared the story of a struggling woman who she spoke to recently at Queen’s Park. The woman works in the cafeteria at York University, where workers were on strike.

NDP: Liberal government failed cancer patients

This morning in question period, NDP Health Critic France Gélinas continued to push the government for answers about the shortage of urgently-needed cancer medications.

“Carmen Sebastian is a 68-year-old woman who has advanced-stage cancer. She is one of the 100,000 Canadian women who get diagnosed with cancer each year. On Friday, Carmen got a very disturbing voice mail, telling her that there was a province-wide shortage of chemo drugs and her treatment would be delayed indefinitely,” explained Gélinas, MPP for Nickel Belt. “Our health care system failed. It failed people like Carmen, who had her cancer treatments cancelled.”

NDP: Chemo drug shortage delays treatments, Minister unaware

NDP Health Critic France Gélinas says the Liberal government dropped the ball when it came to a recent shortage of a cancer treatment drug in Ontario and needs to tell Ontarians what it will do to ensure it doesn't happen again. 

“The last thing that cancer patients and their family want to hear is that their treatment will be delayed. Just think about it: you have cancer, your life depends on prompt treatment and you’re told that you will have to wait - that there’s a chemotherapy drug shortage,” said Gélinas during question period this morning. “That’s exactly what’s happening right here in Ontario. Now we know that at least 35 people in Richmond Hill have had their cancer treatments delayed.”

Wynne government’s disbanding of vegetable growers board puts farmers at risk: NDP

During question period Tuesday, Ontario NDP agriculture and food critic, John Vanthof, called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop jeopardizing the future of Ontario farmers, after the Liberal government interfered in negotiations between vegetable growers and food processors, and dissolved the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers board (OPVG). 

Instead of an elected board that is accountable to farmers, the negotiating rights of vegetable growers are now in the hands of a government appointee who answers to Premier Kathleen Wynne.


NDP nomination meeting gathers big crowd, enthusiastic support

With NDP Leader Andrea Horwath slated to speak to the crowd, over 100 people came to an uncontested nomination meeting Monday evening in Hamilton. The nomination meeting confirmed the candidacy of Hamilton-Stony Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller.

“More and more, we’re seeing people mobilize in Hamilton, and throughout Ontario, heading towards the 2018 election,” said Horwath following her remarks at the meeting.  “Ontarians need good jobs they can raise a family on, healthcare they can count on, better seniors care, and public schools that give kids a great start. And to get there, they need a premier that gets what they’re dealing with. They need a government that focuses on everyday families instead of just politics.

NDP to Wynne: ‘stop subsidizing the privatization of public utilities’

This morning in question period, NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns raised concerns that privatization of Ontario hydro companies is continuing, despite public outcry and government denials.

“Over the weekend, there was a credible report that Hydro One is negotiating to purchase Toronto Hydro. There were denials, but we’ve heard many denials before, just like before the last election when the premier denied that she was selling Hydro One,” said Tabuns. “This sort of deal-making is happening because this government is giving out fat tax breaks to utilities that are sold to the private sector.”

Wynne government’s fare-by-distance costs will hit GTA TTC riders hardest: NDP

During question period Monday, NDP urban transit critic Cheri DiNovo called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to back off a plan to charge all TTC riders a taxi-like per-kilometre rate that would force many GTA riders to pay more.

The Parkdale-High Park MPP demanded Premier Kathleen Wynne instead keep fares simple and affordable for all GTA transit riders, and get on board with the NDP’s plan to restore provincial funding for city transit operations.

Wynne Liberals vote against not-for-profit child care

An NDP bill to support high quality not-for-profit child care was shot down by Wynne Liberal MPPs Thursday.

Bill 98, introduced by Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife, would have ensured dollars earmarked for child care would go directly to quality, affordable, licensed non-profit or public child care. Fife expressed disappointment that 26 Liberal MPPs stood against the bill. 

“By committing provincial funding to not-for-profit and public child care, we could have given more families access to the affordable, quality care they need for their kids,” said Fife. “That Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals would stand and vote against not-for-profit care was a real disappointment to me, and to parents and child care advocates around the province.” 

The bill was supported by child care experts and families, including the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.

Some of the Toronto area Liberal MPPs who voted against high quality not-for-profit child care included:  Eric Hoskins, St.Paul’s; Glen Murray, Toronto Centre; Han Dong, Trinity-Spadina;  Cristina Martins, Davenport;  Arthur Potts, Beaches-East York;  Shafiq Qaadri, Etobicoke North; Mitzie Hunter, Scarborough-Guildwood; Brad Duguid, Scarborough Centre; and Harinder Malhi, Brampton-Springdale.

Bankers win, families pay with Wynne's $40B borrowing scheme

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says bankers will definitely win with Premier Kathleen Wynne's new $40 billion borrowing scheme -- but Ontario families will pay the price. 

Wynne announced Thursday she’ll pay about $40 billion in interest costs over the next 30 years in order to finance a hydro bill subsidy. The slapdash plan fails to fix the root causes of high hydro bills.

"The cost of electricity has gone up 50 per cent just since Premier Wynne took office, and she has no plan to stop the actual price of power from rising," said Horwath. "She’s spending $40 billion to buy some pre-election political relief for herself and her party – and failing to fix the system. We’re all going to pay for that, one way or another.”

Horwath and the NDP announced an extensive plan Monday that will save all Ontario households up to 30 per cent on their hydro bills. It includes immediate measures like eliminating time-of-use premiums and unfair, higher delivery charges, and repairs the broken hydro system permanently – including a return of Hydro One to public hands.

"Premier Wynne's scheme doesn't address the mess the former Conservative government and Premier Wynne made of our hydro system,” said Horwath. “She's still planning to continue the disastrous sell-off of Hydro one. She’s still planning to charge time-of-use premiums that punish parents for cooking dinner at dinner time and seniors for staying home during the day.

“We need a solution for the broken system – not just a $40 billion band aid for Premier Wynne’s political problems.”


Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath's letter to parent of student at school facing shutdown

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath sent the following letter to Joe De Matteis, parent of a student at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Elementary School, a Vaughan-area elementary school facing closure. 

Feb. 27th, 2017

Joe De Matteis
Our Lady Peace Catholic Elementary School

Dear Joe,

As you know, for families in Maple Ontario, and throughout the Vaughan area, community schools are more than just bricks and mortar. They are parks and playgrounds—often the central hub of the community.

Our Lady Peace Elementary School is a premier example of what schools can offer a neighbourhood and the families that reside there. The school boasts over 96% utilization and a thriving French immersion program. Nearly all students attending the school are able to walk to and from class, and Our Lady Peace is the only Catholic school in the area. Despite the success of this institution and the dedication of parents, students and education workers, Our Lady Peace Elementary School is on the chopping block.

The current accommodation review process incentivizes school closures and places schools like Our Lady Peace at a disadvantage. For instance, emphasizing past and current enrolment figures does not allow boards to adequately plan for growth in their community. Major housing developments planned in Vaughan at Rutherford and Dufferin will increase the need for a school in the future. Closing Our Lady of Peace will create a shortage of Catholic school spaces at a time when the need for spaces may be increasing.

Moreover, in 2015, changes to the pupil accommodation review guidelines limited community input and informed decision making. The minimum timeline for the entire accommodation review process was cut from seven months with four public meetings to just five months with only two public meetings. A new loophole even allows for an optional shortened accommodation review process, with no committee and only one public meeting—this process will only take two months. Reducing the length of time of this important process limits the ability of community members to participate in decisions that will impact their neighbourhood for generations to come.

Accommodation reviews and school closures are occurring at a time when the province should be investing in our schools. Ontario families were enthusiastic when the government announced plans to utilize schools as community hubs but so far, this enthusiasm has become disappointment. The province should be enabling and incentivizing boards to easily utilize schools as community hubs rather than forcing their closure. The government must make it easier for the York Catholic District School Board to work collaboratively with the parents and education workers at Our Lady Peace Catholic Elementary School to allow for creative and innovative solutions to keep this school open.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to this school and the community it serves.

Yours truly,

Andrea Horwath.

NDP pushes for action on Grassy Narrows

NDP Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Critic Michael Mantha called on the government to release a detailed plan for addressing the long-standing mercury contamination of the English-Wabigoon River.

This morning during question period, Mantha questioned the sincerity of the government’s promise to “[identify] all contaminated sites and [clean] up the English-Wabigoon River of the mercury that has been poisoning the Grassy and Wabaseemoong First Nations for two generations.” 

Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, urged the government to release details of an earlier meeting with Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Simon Fobister, asking: “Will the Premier tell this Legislature and the people of this province exactly what promises the Premier made to Chief Fobister in a meeting held with him on February 10?”

Experts on mercury contamination are concerned that the government is ignoring possible contamination sources.

“A report released yesterday, funded by this government, says there is ‘strong evidence’ of an ongoing source of mercury contamination at the old mill site down the river of Grassy Narrows, yet this government has said repeatedly that the mill site is not an ongoing source of mercury,” said Mantha. “Why has this government never bothered to test the river next to the Dryden mill?”

MPP Natyshak calls on premier to keep promise to reduce unfair rural hydro rates

During question period this morning, Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak, demanded that Premier Kathleen Wynne honour her promise to reduce rural hydro bills after sharing the story of an Essex woman whose hydro bill has skyrocketed since last year. 

“Mrs. Linda Eaton shared her hydro bills with me.  Last year, her January bill was $372.  The premier promised that bills would go down for rural ratepayers like Mrs. Eaton. But that is not what happened. This year, her January bill was over $500. And her hydro delivery charges have doubled in just two years,” Natyshak said. 

“Will the premier provide real relief for ratepayers like Mrs. Eaton, and reduce her rural delivery rates to what urban households pay, as the NDP has proposed?” 

Natyshak said families in rural Ontario continue to face ever-increasing bills simply because they live in a rural area. The delivery rate problem is only made worse by Wynne’s decision to charge time-of-use premiums.

“Mr. and Mrs. Eaton are seniors living on fixed incomes. They don’t have access to natural gas. They have no choice but to heat with hydro.  And they have done what the premier has told them in order to lower their bills,” Natyshak said. 

“They do their laundry and dishes during off-peak hours. They keep their living room temperature at 18 degrees. They even keep their kitchen at 13 degrees.  But their hydro bills keep going up, even though the premier promised they would go down. 

“Will the premier get rid of unfair rural delivery rates, and reduce the bills for families like the Eatons?”

On Monday, Ontario’s New Democrats released a plan for Ontarians to own more and pay less for electricity in the province. The plan would see Ontarians’ hydro bills cut by up to 30 per cent through a comprehensive plan to fix the system. The NDP will bring Hydro One back into public ownership, end mandatory time-of-use pricing and end premium delivery charges. The plan will start lowering bills immediately, and will result in billions of dollars being returned to Ontario instead of ending up in the hands of private and foreign corporations.

NDP statement on Grassy Narrows mercury contamination

NDP Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Critic Michael Mantha and NDP Environment and Climate Change Critic Peter Tabuns issued the following statement in response to new information suggesting that mercury is continuing to find its way into the English-Wabigoon River:

Horwath lays out plan for Ontarians to pay less for, and own more of hydro

Today Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath laid out her plan to cut hydro bills for everyone across the province by up to 30 per cent and to return Hydro One back to public ownership.

“It’s time for the people of Ontario to pay less for – and own more of – our hydro,” said Horwath. “Affordable, reliable public power will be the backbone of the electricity system under an NDP government.”

Lower hydro bills start with more public control of the electricity system in Ontario.  Along with returning Hydro One to public hands, the NDP plan lays out an end to the practice of paying for electricity Ontario doesn’t need, and an immediate review and renegotiation of bad private power contracts signed by Liberal and Conservative governments. Additional commitments built into the package include equalizing rural and urban delivery charges, capping private profit margins and ending Time of Use billing. 

“Electricity isn’t a luxury. It shouldn’t be priced like one,” said Horwath. “Instead of subsidizing hydro bills by taking money from hospitals and schools, I’ll lower the cost of power. Families will see immediate relief, and permanent change on their hydro bills. It’s time for a government that gets what families are dealing with – and takes action to make life easier in Ontario.”

With profits flowing to private and foreign corporations, Horwath said making hydro public again is the best way to get hydro bills under control and deliver long-term financial returns to the province. No rate increase would be required to finance the return of Hydro One to public ownership.  The NDP’s ambitious but achievable plan is one piece of a much-needed plan to make life more affordable for all Ontarians; and give the next generation the opportunity to build a great life.

Read the full plan HERE (pdf).

Our plan: Pay Less. Own More. 

Statement by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath on anti-Semitic graffiti

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, MPP for Hamilton Centre, issued the following statement on the recent discovery of anti-Semitic graffiti on a Hamilton-area trail: 

“I was saddened and disgusted to learn of the discovery of more anti-Semitic graffiti in Hamilton. For this discovery to be made only hours before I rose to speak at Queen’s Park to condemn prejudice and hatred is a stark and urgent reminder of how much work we have to do to stop faith-based discrimination and racism of all kinds, in Ontario and around the world. 

“As a New Democrat, a Hamiltonian, and someone who believes profoundly in the value of diversity, I reject and condemn this hatred. New Democrats stand with the Jewish community against all forms of anti-Semitism and hate, and we reject the politics of division in all its ugly forms.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in Ontario and no place in Hamilton. I know the vast majority of Hamiltonians join me in rejecting anti-Semitism, prejudice, and hate of any kind.”

Liberals play politics with winter power disconnections

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals refused Tuesday to support NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s motion to sever Bill 27 and end winter hydro disconnections – only to introduce the exact same motion on Wednesday.

“It’s painfully obvious that the Liberals are doing what they think is best for the Liberal party – not the people of Ontario,” said Horwath, who added that the NDP will support the motion.

“Last year, 60,000 households had their heat and power shut down because they were struggling to keep up with sky-high hydro bills. Kathleen Wynne didn’t stop dangerous winter disconnections then. This year, including yesterday, she’s refused to support the NDP’s calls for winter disconnections to end.” 

“Up to and including last night, we continue to hear about more disconnections. I wonder if the premier can tell us how many households had their power cut off while she was dragging her feet on this issue?” 

The motion was tabled by Horwath Tuesday morning, the Legislative Assembly’s first day back in session, and would have immediately severed and brought to a vote a winter disconnections prohibition clause in Bill 27. After voting down that motion Tuesday, Wynne’s Liberals’ Wednesday motion was identical. 

Horwath said that people are suffering from the high cost of privatized hydro, and there’s no room for political games in their lives.

“This isn’t a time for politics,” she said. “It’s time for a concrete plan to give families more security by delivering relief from massive hydro bills.”