Tag Archives: Infrastructure

Let’s fund schools as the critical infrastructure they are!

There is about $13-billion remaining to be spent by the federal government on infrastructure projects that qualify as part of the “New Building Canada Fund”, which was originally launched by the Conservatives. As highlighted in the April 25, 2016 Globe and Mail article entitled, “Liberals adding tourism, recreational works to infrastructure program”, projects such as hockey rinks and community centre repairs are now able to qualify. While this type of infrastructure spending is popular for communities, their long-term economic benefit is questionable – especially when compared to investments made in health care or education infrastructure.

According to Jamison Steeve, executive director of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, spending on health care, education and trade are the types of infrastructure that produce long-term gains in terms of high-paying jobs and increased productivity. Building a hockey rink, he said, only produces a short-term boost when looked at from a purely economic point of view.

Letter to Editor: Don’t forget our school buildings!

Fix Our Schools and former School Board Trustee Howard Goodman submitted the following letter to the editor of the Globe & Mail. While it did not get published, we felt it worth sharing with you! 

Don’t forget our school buildings

We applaud big-city mayors for being strong advocates for investment in public transit.  Unfortunately, there is no voice at the table for another piece of infrastructure that is vital to quality of life and economic development – our community-based public schools. 

Many school buildings in major cities were built for baby-boomers and after 60-plus years are overdue for major upgrades.  Roofs and windows, along with electrical, heating/cooling, and communications systems need to be replaced.  But the need goes beyond replacing worn out parts. 

Businesses want to hire people with strong creative, collaborative, and communications skills, and yet our current school buildings were designed for 19th century education when only 2% of children went to university in 1921.  The goal of schools then was to get boys ready for factory work and girls ready for being housewives or secretaries.  Classrooms that have the teacher at the front of the room with students at desks arranged in rows just don’t meet today’s needs.

It isn’t surprising that mayors are lobbying for commuters and ignoring students; schools aren’t within their jurisdiction.  The federal government needs to meet with the Chairs and CEO’s of the major school boards if our children and communities are to have the school buildings that they deserve.

Howard Goodman, EdVocate.ca  &  Krista Wylie, Fix Our Schools Campaign

Auditor-General’s Report confirms gross underfunding of public schools

The following excerpt from the summary of the 2015 Auditor-General’s report confirms that Ontario’s provincial government has grossly underfunded public school infrastructure in our province for many years:

“An independent assessment calculated that the Ministry of Education needs $1.4 billion a year to maintain schools in a state of good repair. However, actual annual funding in the last five years has ranged from $150 million to $500 million.

The $1.4 billion per year that is needed is for maintenance intended to KEEP buildings in good repair; and does not include the funding required to address the $15-billion of outstanding repairs that have been allowed to accumulate under provincial watch and funding for the past two decades.

If only some of the $37-billion that Ontarians have overpaid for electricity since 2006 has gone to repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools, 2-million children would be attending schools that are in much better shape!

 

 

“Not looking for marble and gold” – TTC Headquarters

Aging, decaying infrastructure is a problem in Ontario. While our focus is on public schools, the November 20, 2015 Toronto Star article entitled, “TTC wants to get out of ‘hellhole” headquarters” focuses on the administrative headquarters of Canada’s largest public transit agency.

While we appreciate the economic arguments presented in this article, surely the health and safety of people working in this building is sufficient reason to move ahead with solutions? Do public schools need to use economic arguments such as “lost productivity” to justify repairing and rebuilding schools for the students who inhabit these buildings for six hours each day? Our hope is that citizens of Ontario could simply agree that everyone in this province ought to work and learn in safe, well-maintained  buildings that provide environments conducive to working and learning!

Province mentions schools as infrastructure!

In a November 17, 2015 Government of Ontario news release, schools were noted as infrastructure!

“The government is investing more than $130 billion over 10 years in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, transit, hospitals and schools — the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history.”

Fix Our Schools considers public school buildings to be important public infrastructure. We are heartened to see our provincial government agree with us and start to refer to schools as infrastructure! This certainly confirms that the ask in our most recent letter-writing campaign to the Province is valid and reasonable:

“Will you increase funding of school infrastructure, given the promised new infrastructure funding from the federal government?”

If you haven’t yet sent this letter, click here!

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!

 

Ontario must fix more schools… and do it faster

Kathleen Wynne predicts progress on infrastructure in Ontario based on the federal election results.  “Now that we have a federal partner with the same priority, we can do more and we can do it faster.”

We want to ensure that Premier Wynne includes public school buildings on Ontario’s list of infrastructure priorities. Some of the new federal infrastructure money slated to flow to provincial coffers must go towards addressing the $15-billion of disrepair that currently exists in our province’s public schools.

To this end, Fix Our Schools sent this_letter:

Letter sent to Premier Wynne & All Ontario MPPs on October 27, 2015

All 72 school boards in Ontario have a capital repair backlog, for a total of $15-billion of disrepair in our province’s public schools.

The 2-million students who attend Ontario public schools deserve better – 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.

On October 19, Canadians voted for change. We gave the Federal Liberals a mandate to deliver on their promise to increase investment in infrastructure – even if this means running a deficit. In reaction to the majority win by the Federal Liberals, Premier Wynne said:

“Now that we have a federal partner with the same priority, we can do more and we can do it faster.”    

Fix Our Schools agrees with this comment by Premier Wynne. We hope her sentiment will be applied to addressing the $15-billion of disrepair in our province’s school infrastructure. The $11-billion in capital grants to school boards over 10 years is simply insufficient. More public schools in this province must be repaired and rebuilt – and we must do it faster.

So, as those with power over the funding of public schools in this province:

How much of the federal infrastructure money that is expected to flow to provincial coffers from our new Liberal Federal Government will you commit to repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools?

Public schools are a key component of our society’s infrastructure – and must be funded as such. We look forward to hearing back from you with an answer to our question.

Kind regards,

Krista Wylie – Co-Founder, Fix Our Schools Campaign

Timing not right for austerity

The Liberal Party of Canada’s economic platform included running a deficit budget for three years to increase investment in infrastructure. Given the election results, Canadians agree that stimulating our sluggish economy by investing in infrastructure while interest rates are so low makes sense.

On October 23, Globe & Mail’s Eric Reguly published a column entitled,”Justin Trudeau understands that timing is crucial to austerity.” In this column, Reguly agrees with the Liberals that timing is right to steer clear of the austerity economic policies proposed by both the NDP and Conservatives in the recent federal election. Reguly points to several Canadian economists who also agree that timing is right to run a deficit budget to stimulate our economy.

What does this mean for the economic policies of our provincial Liberal Party? Will Kathleen Wynne follow Justin Trudeau’s lead and consider increasing investment in infrastructure – even if that means straying from the objective of balancing Ontario’s budget by 2017-18? Likely not, given that our provincial government has already been running deficit budgets while the federal government posted a surplus budget this year. So perhaps, we are comparing apples to oranges here. But dare to dream for increased infrastructure investment in Ontario and with that, increased spending on repairing and rebuilding Ontario’s public schools, a critical part of our society’s infrastructure!

Canadians have spoken

Canadians have spoken. The election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals can be interpreted in many ways but clearly Canadians voted for change.

One significant change that the Liberals promised to voters was an increase in infrastructure spending – even if infrastructure investment meant running a deficit. This element of their economic platform differentiated the Liberals from the Conservatives and NDPs.

So, the election of a majority Liberal government has to be interpreted, at least partially, as Canadian’s endorsement of the Liberal economic policy to invest in our public infrastructure.

Given that public schools are a key component of our society’s infrastructure, it is worth noting that in Ontario public schools, there is currently a $15-billion repair backlog. Other provinces such as B.C., Alberta, and Quebec also face repair backlogs in their public schools. This situation across our country is unacceptable and untenable. Some of the federal infrastructure funding promised by our new Liberal government has to find its way to provincial coffers and be used to fix our schools.

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!