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FORUM: Ford is sending Ontario backwards (Aug./Sept. 2018)

September 11th, 2018 · No Comments

Our elected officials matter now more than ever

By Jessica Bell

Doug Ford has been Ontario’s premier for just six weeks, and he’s dragging Ontario backwards fast.

First, Doug Ford is harming our schools. The Conservatives cut $100 million from the school maintenance budget at a time when our public schools are in chronic disrepair. A local advocacy group, Fix our Schools, used government data to calculate that schools in University-Rosedale need $271 million in repairs, and all the public schools in Ontario need $15.9 billion. We need more funding, not cuts.

As a parent, I can see how our school repair backlog hurts kids.

Now is a time for action to stand up for the Toronto we believe in, a Toronto that is thriving, green, and has a place for everyone.

In June, I spoke at Queen’s Park about Jed Sears, a student at King Edward Junior Public School. Jed said that without adequate cooling, his classroom temperature regularly exceeds 30 degrees in May, June, and September, something that affects his ability to learn. He said many kids in his school didn’t come to class when it was hot.  That’s unacceptable.

The Conservatives have also cancelled the updated 2015 sex education curriculum, which teaches students about consent, LGBTQ rights, cyber-bullying, and healthy relationships. I attended a teachers’ rally at Queen’s Park on August 14 where I heard student Rayne Fisher-Quann talk about how the 2015 curriculum is for the 275,000 students who were cyber-bullied in Ontario in 2015, the 284 boys she blocked on Instagram because they didn’t know the word “no”, and her sister who was bullied for two years.The 2015 sex education curriculum is about our kids’ safety and it must stay.

The Conservatives made the anti-democratic move of slashing the number of Toronto city wards from 47 to 25, and halving the number of school board trustees just 100 days before the election. University-Rosedale will now have just one councillor, and our riding will share a school board trustee with Toronto Centre.

Fewer elected officials means that we will have less access to City Hall. It will take longer to secure the help of our councillor and school board trustee when our child needs help at school, when we want to report a pothole, when we are applying for a committee of adjustment approval or speed-bumps, or when we want to have a say over a new development.

Why did the Conservatives gerrymander Toronto’s wards? They did it because they want to maintain Conservative control over City Hall, and they don’t want new progressive downtown elected officials in the newly-created seats opposing their plans to privatize public services.

Third, Doug Ford has gone backwards on tackling catastrophic climate change. This summer, the world has been plagued with extreme weather events from fires across Europe, the United States, and Ontario, to killer heat waves in Quebec and Japan.

The Conservatives’ response to climate change is to cancel over 700 green energy contracts, and introduce a bill to cancel Ontario’s cap and trade program and replace it with no climate plan at all. The bill to cancel cap and trade will be debated once the house resumes on September 24.

Some of you might be feeling hopeless by the Conservatives’ draconian behaviour.  Don’t. Now is a time for action to stand up for the Toronto we believe in, a Toronto that is thriving, green, and has a place for everyone.

I invite you to take action to stand up for a progressive Toronto. Here’s two strategic ways to get involved.

Join me and give to and volunteer for candidates that share your values in the upcoming Toronto elections. The advocacy organization, Progress Toronto, can help you identify and support progressive candidates.

Join our riding association and volunteer with us. Our outreach committee meets regularly to organize on key issues that affect University-Rosedale residents, from improving our schools, to defending our elections, to standing up for affordable housing, to making sure Ontario does its part to tackle climate change.

Jessica Bell is the new Member of Provincial Parliament for the riding of University-Rosedale.

Tags: Annex · Opinion