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FORUM: Queen’s Park roundup (May 2024)

June 14th, 2024 · No Comments

Underfunding schools, justice system, and interference at colleges & universities

By Jessica Bell

It’s been a very busy period at Queen’s Park. Here are the highlights. 

Parents stand up to pending school budget cuts

On May 8, I joined parents, students, teachers, and residents outside Kensington School for a rally to demand better funding for our public schools.

We hosted this rally because caring and dedicated parents at the school contacted our office to tell us Kensington is losing two teachers and will create a 4-5-6 split class in the 2024-2025 school year.

“The decision to have a three-grade split at our school is not based on learning outcomes. It doesn’t account for all of the range of abilities in the classroom. And it’s definitely not supportive of teachers,” said Rebecca Osolen, a parent at the school.

One of the reasons why schools are being forced to make tough choices like creating a grade 4-5-6 split is because of Toronto District School Board (TDSB) funding cuts.

The TDSB has already cut $64.7 million from its spending, and earlier this month, trustees approved an additional reduction of $17 million. Despite these cuts, the school board is still facing a $26.5 million shortfall for the upcoming 2025/2026 school year.

I want our kids to receive an excellent public-school education. Excellent public schools require investment from the provincial government, smaller class sizes, and more staffing; yet, so far, under the current government, per-student funding has fallen by $1,347 when factoring in inflation.

We are organizing events with other schools in the area to draw attention to how the cuts are affecting our children’s education.

The Conservatives want to rewrite campus anti-hate laws

We have received calls and emails about Government Bill 166. This bill requires universities and colleges to have anti-discrimination and mental health policies and gives the minister of Colleges and Universities the power to intervene in these policies.

Let’s be clear. Every university and college should have a comprehensive, balanced, and well-executed plan to support student mental health and address racism and hate on campus. This is especially important, given the very concerning rise in antisemitism, islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian racism in our city.

In committee, we heard from the post-secondary community that the vast majority of universities and colleges already have policies and services in place, but decades of chronic underfunding have compromised their ability to enact these policies.

I believe postsecondary policies should be developed through a process of broad consultation and engagement with those directly affected—students, faculty, staff, and communities—and informed by the best available evidence and subject matter expertise. I doubt overt political intervention on policies will improve student or worker safety on campus. 

Our backlogged courts are denying people justice

My colleague, MPP Catherine Fife, has been working on Bill 198 Lydia’s Law for nearly two years. She wrote the law to draw attention to the experience of Lydia, a young woman who had her sexual assault case against her perpetrator thrown out after two years because of court delays.

This isn’t a one off event: 1,326 sexual assault trails were withdrawn or stayed across Ontario in 2022 alone.  Too many cases are being dropped because courts do not have the staff or funding to try cases in a timely way.

Lydia’s Law would require the attorney general to provide statistics to the legislative assembly on the progress of sexual assault cases that have been in the system for eight months and not heard, and report on why.

Survivors from across Ontario had planned to watch the debate on Bill 198 this week in person, but that moment was taken away when the government sent the committee without debate or vote. The Conservatives occasionally send bills to committee to have them languish and die.  

Despite the political games, survivors from across Ontario attended Queen’s Park to hold the government to account. I felt deep anger and a sense of injustice listening to their harrowing experiences at court. These survivors of violence are not going to give up until our courts are reformed, and neither will we.

Jessica Bell is the MPP for University-Rosedale and the Official Opposition’s Housing Critic. She can be reached at or 416-535-7206. 


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