During question period at Queen’s Park on September 14, 2016, Education Critic Lisa Gretzky called upon Premier Wynne to account for the $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario’s schools, citing classrooms that are too hot in spring and fall … and too cold in the winter for students to learn:
From the official hansard:
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: My question is to the Premier. Schools across the province are crumbling and they have reached a tipping point. There is a $15-billion repair backlog, $3.4 billion in Toronto alone. Students and education workers have been in sweltering hot classrooms and will have to wear winter jackets in the classroom in the winter.
To make matters worse, Ontario’s teachers are being forced to load French and music lessons onto carts and transport them from classroom to classroom because of Liberal cuts to education. The Premier can shake her head all she wants, but the boards are even speaking out. Will the Premier admit that her misplaced priorities are forcing our young people to pay the price?
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I was only shaking my head because it is the reality that core French teachers and music teachers for many, many years in this province—itinerant music teachers—have not necessarily had a dedicated classroom. It has worked very, very well that teachers have moved from classroom to classroom. Certainly, my three children who went through the publicly funded education system in Toronto had exactly that situation, and it’s not unusual.
I think sometimes what happens is when there has been a school where there has been a dedicated classroom, and then enrolment may go up or there may be a change and then that changes so that the core French teacher is moving from classroom to classroom, that can cause an adjustment in the school. But it’s not an unusual practice and the kids get very, very good education in that way.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mrs. Lisa Gretzky: Back to the Premier. Premier, there are classrooms that are being closed and the teachers are being moved out of those classrooms. If you think it’s working, maybe you should actually talk to the education workers delivering the curriculum.
Recently, a school in Thames Valley had to close because of health concerns related to a lack of air conditioning. Our schools are in crisis. A teacher in Toronto was forced to spend $500 of her own money to install an air conditioner in her classroom because students were feeling faint and lethargic and she felt the environment was unsafe. Our children should not be trying to learn in classrooms without windows. I’m sure the Premier has windows in her office. They should not be in classrooms with poor air quality. Will the Premier immediately ensure that the repair backlog for schools across the province is remedied? And I’m talking about $15 billion.
Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that there needed to be an increase in funding in terms of the repair and renewal of schools. We added a historic $1.1 billion on top of an existing $1.6 billion. We have acknowledged that there is a need to continue to fund the renewal of schools. We will continue to work with school boards. The $1.1 billion that we put in on top of the $1.6 billion is funding projects around the province—did over the summer and continues to.
School boards make the decisions about how they use those funds. School boards have priorities. They take those funds and they apply them to the priorities.
We understand that there’s a need, Mr. Speaker, that’s why we put in over $1 billion on top of the billion dollars that was already there.