Tag Archives: Federal

We love “unsexy” investments in infrastructure

2016_05_30_Trudeau sexy investmentWe, at the Fix Our Schools campaign, are all for unsexy investments in public infrastructure. So we were thrilled to read about “bucks for the unsexy side of transit” by Edward Keenan in the May 7, 2016 Toronto Star and see that Justin Trudeau’s federal government has pledged up to $840-million for TTC maintenance. Yes, that’s right – maintenance of public transit!

While politicians are keen to make sexy investments in brand new infrastructure, they often forget the next logical step of allocating the required funding to maintain that new investment.

In Ontario alone, over $15-billion of disrepair has been allowed to accumulate in our publicly funded schools because our provincial government has chronically and grossly underfunded the maintenance of these important buildings – where 2-million childen spend their days.

Perhaps ribbon-cuttings for new roofs and new boilers in schools is warranted? Somehow, we need to make investing in the maintenance of our publicly funded schools sexy for politicians. 

To the Ministry of Education…

Each year, the Ministry of Education seeks input from various stakeholders before determining funding for school boards for the upcoming school year. The Fix Our Schools campaign has made a written submission in each of the past two years.

Here is the cover letter, which provides an overview for you of what Fix Our Schools submitted to the Ministry in November, 2015 for use in determining funding for school boards for the 2016/17 school year:

Fix Our Schools is a grassroots, non-partisan, parent-led campaign asking for safe, well-maintained Ontario public school buildings that are funded as an integral part of our public infrastructure – on par with transit.

All 72 publicly funded School Boards in the province face capital repair backlogs, for a total of over $15-billion of disrepair in Ontario schools. The $11-billion in capital grants to School Boards over ten years is insufficient to address this unacceptable disrepair. New funding solutions must be found. Please give immediate consideration to:

  • Revising O. Reg. 20/98 to allow all School Boards to access EDCs and use EDC money for repairs, capital projects or land purchase
  • Allocating some of the promised new federal infrastructure funding to increase investment in repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools
  • Allocating the capital costs of maintaining school buildings and associated green spaces used as Community Hubs, in proportion to usage by various public and community entities

The 2-million children who attend Ontario public schools deserve to have safe, well-maintained buildings; as do the countless children who attend childcare/early learning programs in these same schools; the adults who work every day in these buildings; and the community members who rely upon these buildings as important Community Hubs.

We trust that Kathleen Wynne’s provincial government will take the lead in working together with School Boards, Municipalities, other Ministries, and the Federal Government to find the funding solutions needed to Fix Our Schools.

Get public schools on the agenda via the federal pre-budget consultation process!

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s pre-budget consultations provide an opportunity to urge our federal government to prioritize school buildings as critical infrastructure. Please engage in this process by:

  • Asking questions at the the in-person pre-budget consultation in Toronto this Thursday, January 14 @ 7 pm at St. Margaret’s of Scotland Church, 222 Ridley Avenue (near Avenue & Wilson)
  • Provide written feedback on Facebook
  • Provide written feedback via the Government of Canada feedback form 
  • Tweet using the hashtag #pbc16

Here are some bullet points to help make it easy to ask questions in-person or provide written feedback! 

  • Schools must be considered critical public infrastructure in this country. Yet, we’ve allowed publicly funded schools from coast to coast fall into states of gross disrepair. 
  • In Ontario alone – there is $15-billion of disrepair in publicly funded schools, $1.7-billion of which has been identified as urgent and critical by the Ontario Auditor-General.
  • The Auditor-General has also confirmed that $1.4-billion per year is needed to maintain Ontario public schools, yet for the past five years our provincial government has only allotted between $150-500-million.
  • When your government was elected in October, you committed a significant increase in infrastructure spending. Premier Wynne was thrilled, stating this will allow Ontario “to do more – and to do it faster!”
  • My question is: “How will you work with provincial governments to ensure that publicly funded schools across Canada are considered critical public infrastructure and funded appropriately to ensure that the buildings in which children spend six hours each day are safe and well-maintained?”
  • I recognize that public education is a provincial jurisdiction but the infrastructure funding, policies and approach provided by our federal government can certainly impact how disrepair in public schools is prioritized and addressed by Canada’s provincial governments. 

Feds should fund larger infrastructure projects – not curling rinks and hockey arenas!

A group of Canadian economists has concluded that the federal government would deliver more benefit to Canadians by investing in larger infrastructure projects rather than smaller projects, which include many extra administrative costs.

A series of three research papers on federal infrastructure funding was released November 2, 2015 by the University of Calgary’s school of public policy. “Striking the Right Balance: Federal Infrastructure Transfer Programs, 2002-2015” by Bev Dahlby and Emily Jackson provides the insight above and states that, “by providing more in the form of block grants, Ottawa can leave smaller stuff to smaller governments, where it, and much else, properly belongs”.

So, while it is tempting for a federal government seeking favour from voters to dole out small infrastructure projects like curling rinks and hockey arenas to many communities across the country, the wiser investment would be larger infrastructure projects – like transit, roads and rebuilding our schools!

Let’s hope Prime Minister Trudeau and his new cabinet are paying attention!

 

A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”   

With the federal election underway, we have an opportunity to raise the issue of disrepair in Canadian public schools. Please take advantage of this opportunity. Speak to your local candidates and write them a letter urging them to invest in public schools as a critical element of our society’s infrastructure.

As proof of the famous Margaret Mead quote above, we wanted to share a story from early on in the Fix Our Schools campaign during the Spring 2014 Ontario provincial election…

At that time, we had not yet formally launched Fix Our Schools and the campaign only consisted of six parents who all lived in the Parkdale-High Park provincial riding. All six of us agreed that we would ask our local candidates and their canvassers about disrepair in our neighbourhood public schools.

We were pleasantly surprised when, a couple of weeks later, campaign flyers from these candidates were delivered to households and on those flyers, we saw the issue of disrepair in public schools was listed. There, in black and white, was proof that a few thoughtful, committed citizens talking about an issue could bring that issue to the forefront.

Our only regret was that we hadn’t started the Fix Our Schools campaign a year or two earlier so we would have been more organized and had a larger impact! Guess we’ll have to be patient and wait until the next provincial election…

In the meantime, we have a federal election underway and an opportunity for thoughtful, committed citizens to ask their local federal candidates about investing in schools as critical public infrastructure. As a thoughtful, committed citizen, please take advantage of this opportunity!

 

Letter to all federal parties: What will you invest in repairing & rebuilding Canadian public schools?

Fix Our Schools is sending the following letter to the Green, Liberal, NDP, and PC Parties of Canada; and to all Ontario federal candidates. Print it out to review with any federal canvassers that come knocking on your door or take it with you to a federal candidates debate.

To: The Green, Liberal, NDP and Conservative Parties of Canada

My son wore his winter coat at school this past winter because his classroom was twelve degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of disrepair in Canadian public schools:

  • In Vancouver, schools need approximately $1-billion of seismic upgrades to prevent collapse in case of earthquakes; and across British Columbia there are hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding maintenance in public schools.
  • In Ontario, all 72 public school boards have repair backlogs, for a total of over $15-billion of outstanding repairs – many of which are deemed “urgent” by the Province.
  • In Montreal, almost 40% of the 226 schools in one board were recently deemed to be in either an “excessive [or] advanced state of decay”.
  • In New Brunswick, two public schools had to be closed in 2010 because they were unsafe, forcing that provincial government to invest more in school buildings.

The 5-million children who attend Canadian public schools deserve better – as do the countless Canadian children who attend childcare programs in these same schools. Voters across the country consider their local public schools to be community hubs, and expect these buildings to be safe, well-maintained, and funded as critical social infrastructure.

Federal infrastructure money has been used for hockey arenas, curling rinks and gazebos. Surely, Canadians would agree that federal investment in school buildings is equally important? So, our question to the Federal parties is this:

How much federal infrastructure money would your party invest in repairing and rebuilding Canadian public school buildings – a critical part of our country’s infrastructure?

Kind regards,

Krista Wylie – Co-Founder, Fix Our Schools

www.fixourschools.ca: grassroots, non-partisan advocates for safe, well-maintained schools