QUEEN’S PARK – Northern NDP MPPs are demanding that Doug Ford stop leaving out northern schools and provide the resources they need for a safe reopening in September.
NDP Deputy Leader John Vanthof and MPP Sol Mamakwa, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic, supported NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and her call for more resources for schools, during question period on Monday.
“Northern schools need additional funding and resources to manage COVID-19,” said Vanthof. “The Ford government needs to act now to ensure students and staff are safe on their return to school while this pandemic persists.”
“Far North, remote and Indigenous communities, whose schools and homes don’t have access to broadband, are being left out,” said Mamakwa. “Their remote locations mean students cannot access broadband anywhere else. Students in fly-in northern communities won’t be able to complete mandatory online courses to finish their studies.
“Our students deserve equitable access to technology and education, whether they attend a provincial or a First Nations school.”
Vanthof, who has been calling for expanded broadband — which the NDP believes is an essential service — said that lack of high-speed internet also makes it especially difficult for school boards to organize across vast northern distances. Vanthof said that Ford’s cuts to education and child care is making things much worse for schools and parents.
“In order to reopen, northern schools need more teachers, staff, and bus transportation while parents need more child care. Unfortunately the Ford government’s pursuit of cuts to education will result in less teachers and staff for students, fewer child care spaces, and lack of bus transportation when they are needed more than ever,” said Vanthof.
The NDP’s vision for a safe return to schools in September includes:
- Hiring more teachers
- Hiring more education workers, including educational assistants, custodians to keep classrooms safe and disinfected, and hiring more early childhood educators to operate child care spaces
- Sourcing more classroom spaces, including closed classrooms, libraries and unused provincial and municipal spaces, like recreation centres
- Extra funding to support students who are struggling and students with special needs
- A plan to address the needs of Black, Indigenous and racialized students whose communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19
Vanthof and Mamakwa are calling on Ford to support NDP Education critic Marit Stiles’ motion on Tuesday urging the government to implement these measures, and more, as part of an emergency action plan.