The Chair (Mr Cameron Jackson): I'd like to call to order the standing committee on estimates. We've been assigned seven and a half hours, but by virtue of the standing orders and the need to report to the House by the end of next week, we will be considering the Ministry of Education and Training both today and tomorrow.
I'm pleased to welcome the minister, the Honourable David Cooke, and his deputy, Charles Pascal. The committee is familiar with the process, so I will give the minister his opening time and then move to the official opposition. Minister, please proceed.
Hon David S. Cooke (Minister of Education and Training): Thank you, Mr Chair. I'll make a few -- these aren't, I guess, like the old days when I was in opposition, when opening statements were about two hours for each party, but I have a few minutes and then I gather we'll have leadoffs from the Liberal Party today and some opportunity to have an exchange.
Mr Chair and members of the estimates committee, I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to discuss our new ministry and its commitment to the lifelong learning culture for our province. And while we're here to talk dollars and cents, it makes sense to also discuss the future of education and training.
I want to touch briefly on where education and training fits on the public agenda, describe our own efforts to develop a new ministry of lifelong learning and then briefly present some key ministry initiatives required for our quest for a culture of learning.
It's no secret that the education and training system is under intense public scrutiny today. This is due in large part to the tremendous change that is going on in our world, in the economy, in society, in family life.
The public expects that the system will prepare students to thrive as individuals, to participate successfully in our rapidly changing world. People expect the education that students receive will help them develop the work skills and the personal characteristics they will need to contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of this province. They look to the training community to provide them with the skills needed in the new workplace.
Since becoming Minister of Education and Training last February, I have talked with many people, young people and adults, in communities throughout the province. I have been struck by their passion when they told me that the education and training system must be more responsive to them.
They told me loudly and clearly that the system needs to change. At the same time, I believe there is a great deal to commend the system for. We have talented, dedicated educators who are on the front lines of coping with the enormous changes in our society and providing high-quality education.
Education and training has a vital role to play in this government's plan for economic renewal. Accessible training, retraining and an education relevant to our times are essential elements to ensure the full participation of all Ontarians in a productive, healthy and successful economy.
I envision a system of seamless, lifelong learning opportunities from junior kindergarten beyond college and university to the workplace, and those learning opportunities will be accessible to all. I envision a system that places the lifelong learner at the centre of everything we do.
For instance, there has been public concern that students, parents and employers did not know how well our students were learning and whether they were learning what is needed to keep Ontario successful. We have established a wide-ranging examination of the elementary and secondary education system through the Royal Commission on Learning. Even while the commission is doing its work, however, we have instituted a number of changes that affect what is taught in our schools and how it is taught.
We are in the process of developing clear standards of quality and systems of measuring the results achieved by students. A foundation of this new commitment to accountability is The Common Curriculum. It is being implemented, but we are getting input from teachers on ways to refine the common curriculum.
The ministry must receive input and advice from external stakeholders on many aspects of our initiatives. However, with the integration of three former ministries into one -- Colleges and Universities, Skills Development and Education -- it was clear that we needed to review and streamline the advisory agencies and committees system.
We now have a committee at work streamlining our stakeholder advisory system with a view to improving efficiency and policy advice. Our aim is to reduce the number of advisory committees through consolidation and the elimination of redundant groups.
The activities of the Ministry of Education and Training encompass all aspects of lifelong learning. For instance, we are moving ahead with our belief in prior learning assessment, the notion that what people have already done or learned must count in their education. We have also established an innovative agency, the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board, to lead the development of a highly skilled workforce in Ontario.
My deputy minister and I were given a mandate to develop a new ministry, to innovate, to get beyond the superministries of the past which kept in place the hardening of categories that has made lifelong learning policy and program development difficult. In my view, it is important and necessary to consolidate the former ministries with OTAB and the Jobs Ontario Training initiatives in a new ministry.
We are well on our way to achieving our goal: a ministry which has the capability to work with partners across the learning sectors while retaining sector-specific expertise. We are grateful to the many partners who have contributed ideas as part of the shaping of our new organization.
We have high hopes for our new ministry. We want it to be responsive and efficient and to become a model of learning organization. We want to set an example by the manner in which we learn from working with many educational partners in the province. Two basic principles, accountability and equity, guide most of our policy initiatives in the restructuring of the ministry.
Without a strong accountability framework, we might as well close up the shop and go home. We cannot meet the needs of our learners without being accountable to them and to the public. We need to be clear about outcomes and purposes, how we're doing in achieving them, and presenting accessible information about our progress in implementing change where it is needed.
The Royal Commission on Learning has a key role to play in the ministry's attempts to shape an education system that is accountable to the people who support it and use it. This is the most far-ranging examination of our elementary and secondary system in more than 25 years.
The commission has a mandate to examine elementary and secondary school programs, teacher education, the organization of the school system and accountability in education. This is a major undertaking but one that is crucial if Ontario is to continue to enjoy a reputation of providing quality education to meet the changing needs of its citizens. To carry out this important review of education, we sought out and were successful in finding five people with a broad range of personal and educational experiences, with a knowledge of our system and with a passion to make the school system work better and serve the needs of our diverse population. We will have the commission's report and recommendations by the end of 1994.
Among the strongest voices calling for a more accountable education system are those of parents. I believe that to be truly accountable, the ministry must reach out to parents in a more meaningful way. We must inform them, listen to their views and involve them in the decision-making process. That is why I announced the establishment of the Ontario Parent Council, with 18 members representing parents in all areas of the province.
There has been intense interest in the parent council. We've received more than 1,000 applications. This advisory council will not speak for any single interest group, but will represent the views of all parents.
I expect the council to address specific issues of interest to it. I anticipate that there will be times when I will ask the council for its views on policies or initiatives that the ministry is considering. I look forward to this kind of input from parents.
Shortly after I became minister, I went on the road to listen to the public in a series of open forums in six centres throughout the province. I heard their concerns, their views and their suggestions. Much of what I heard led to the kinds of initiatives I am talking about here today.
It became clear that we had to change the way business has been done at the ministry. We must tear down some walls. We must become more open. We must share information and power more effectively and we must listen to our partners.
As part of our outreach, we have produced a number of publications to help the public to be informed. We have attempted to present these publications in a way that is clear and concise, in a way that cuts through the educational jargon or edubabble. For instance, we translated The Common Curriculum into plain language and made a commitment that all future ministry documents will be written in a language that people can understand.
This September, we produced the Back To School Report, a paper which informed parents of initiatives and directions in the elementary and secondary school systems. I should tell you that this particular document was co-produced by the Ontario Teachers' Federation, the ministry and the trustees' organizations, and all three signed off before the document went out.
In addition to these publications, the ministry has put considerable emphasis on consultation on a wide range of issues. We have had considerable success in getting feedback through meetings with stakeholders concerning initiatives in special education, French language, grade 9 testing, junior kindergarten, anti-racism, university accountability and post-secondary harassment and discrimination policies.
The feedback I've received from parents since I became Minister of Education and Training has been very strong and very clear. They want to know what is being taught and how well their child is learning.
In response to this need and following extensive province-wide consultation, we have introduced the Common Curriculum. It sets out what students are expected to know at key points in their schooling: grades 3, 6 and 9. Built into the Common Curriculum are standards by which to measure what students have learned as a result of their school experiences.
There are accountability measures built into the Common Curriculum, and it therefore establishes expectations for all students. We are also currently engaged in a continual evaluation of the Common Curriculum to ensure its clarity, breadth and depth. The Common Curriculum is designed for all students in grades 1 to 9 and it means that in grade 9 there will no longer be a different program for students of different abilities.
I should also indicate that the Common Curriculum document will be rewritten this fall, reflecting input and experience with the document up to this point. There were some comments initially that the document wasn't specific enough, that there needed to be some changes. That consultation process is going on now and we expect to reissue the document at the end of 1994.
Destreaming was probably the most controversial initiative we have implemented this year. As of this September, all boards except for a very few have stopped the practice of streaming grade 9 students into courses based on levels of difficulty: basic, general or advanced. We believe it was the right thing to do because we found that too many students from poor families or ethnocultural minority backgrounds were being streamed into basic courses of study in grade 9. Too often, students were put into basic or general levels because of reasons other than their ability. The introduction of the Common Curriculum plays a large role in ensuring that there are measurable standards of achievement for students in grade 9.
Another important ministry initiative also affects grade 9 students: universal reading and writing tests. Many grade 9 students in the province have just finished writing the tests, the results of which will count towards their final mark. By the end of the school year, every grade 9 student will have taken the tests.
The results of these tests will provide important information about the learning success of individual students and about education in general in Ontario. They will also give parents and students a clear picture of how well grade 9 students read and write and how well the education system is meeting expectations. We will use this information to determine how changes to the system can be strengthened to meet the changing needs of Ontario students.
During my term as chair of the Council of Ministers of Education this past year, all provinces agreed that the school achievement indicators program of testing math, reading and writing will continue and, by 1995, will be expanded to include science.
The province will also participate in the third International Mathematics and Science Study tests scheduled for May of 1995, with reports expected the following year. These international tests examine the education systems, including teaching practices and curricula, of Canadian provinces and other countries.
As I said earlier, we are focusing on accountability at all levels of learning. This year saw the establishment of the College Standards and Accreditation Council, which will develop consistent standards for all college programs. The council has the authority to define credentials, set standards and review and accredit publicly funded college programs. The council represents a significant step forward in ensuring all programs offered by Ontario colleges provide the vocational and life skills needed by students.
At the university level, last June I released the Task Force on University Accountability. I believe the task force's recommendations are a good starting point for developing a framework making Ontario's universities more accountable to government and the public. We have just received comments on those recommendations from the stakeholders and we will be developing an action plan for university accountability in the new year.
Learners come in all sizes and ages, all levels of intellectual and physical ability and many racial and ethnocultural backgrounds. They must have access to educational and training opportunities. Our schools, colleges, universities and the Ontario Training and Adjustment Board have to be open and accountable to the people they serve. They must be grounded in principles of equity, fairness and accessibility.
I'm particularly proud of the work my ministry has done in implementing the recommendations of the Stephen Lewis report. Recently, we appointed an assistant deputy minister to lead the anti-racism, equity and access division, whose influence will be felt both within and outside the ministry. This assistant deputy minister will guide the ministry in incorporating anti-racist policy in the ministry, school boards and post-secondary institutions and in curriculum development.
This division will ensure that all school boards develop and implement approved anti-racism and ethnocultural equity policies. By September 1995, all boards that have not done so must begin to implement their policies. The ministry has provided a number of resource documents to school boards to help them develop their policies, and ministry staff are available to help as well.
Last spring, a series of anti-racism round tables involving local school boards was held throughout the province. These round tables also included a variety of people from the community, from business and from the ministry.
The Jobs Ontario Youth program, under the leadership of my colleague Zanana Akande, was a tremendous success in finding summer jobs for minority young people who have been particularly hard hit by the recession.
Recently, I released guidelines to help colleges and universities review their policies to address harassment and discrimination. These policies cover all employees, students, members of boards, members of standing and ad hoc committees and all institution-sponsored activities, both on and off campus. The clear message is that we will not tolerate harassment and discrimination at our colleges and universities.
In this regard, we are also taking steps to see that the teachers of this province reflect the social diversity as well. We are reviewing admission requirements to faculties of education to ensure that qualified racial minority candidates are attracted to and enrolled in these programs.
We have addressed equity and access issues at the other end of the school system as well by moving ahead with the provision of junior kindergarten. The ministry recognizes that the early years of a child's life are pivotal in their intellectual and social growth. Half-day junior kindergarten will provide youngsters with the opportunities for a head start in developing their language, social and physical skills.
Bill 4, which received royal assent last July, requires school boards to establish junior kindergartens by September 1994. However, the ministry recognizes that some boards may have difficulty achieving this goal because of current economic conditions. So we have permitted boards to phase in the program over a three-year period. Full implementation means that a school board must provide a program for all pupils in its area whose parents choose to enroll them in junior kindergarten. Some boards have also come up with alternative programs that we have approved.
Another area in which equity and access play an important role is in the policies around education of exceptional students. We believe that, wherever possible, the educational needs of exceptional students should be met within their local schools. Research has shown that most children benefit from this approach to learning.
The ministry is currently developing new directions on the integration of exceptional students into regular classrooms. We have held a number of meetings with stakeholders and are now considering their views as we further refine policy directions.
However, the ministry recognizes that there are some students whose needs can be met more appropriately in alternative settings such as self-contained classes, provincial schools or residential demonstration schools. Options for future directions of provincial and demonstration schools are currently being reviewed by a special provincial schools project team in consultation with stakeholders.
This evaluation of the schools will ensure they are appropriately organized, managed and funded to deliver high-quality, cost-effective programs which meet the special needs of students. The project team is continuing public consultation, and we hope to establish clear direction by next June.
An issue that's very much connected to equity and access is violence in our schools. Students must have a learning environment free of the fear of violence. We've all read the newspapers and heard stories on the news. Recently, the deputy minister sent a directive to all school boards that when serious incidents of violence occur they must call in the police, report to the police.
Those in less populated and isolated areas of the province have the same right to high-quality education and training as those in our urban areas. In 1991, the ministry established the northern education project to examine the needs of small school boards in northern Ontario.
A draft final report with 40 proposals intended to ensure access and equity for northern residents was released to the public and given to the royal commission in time for its hearings in the north. The final edited report will be ready soon.
This year I also announced the implementation of the prior learning assessment initiative, which reflects my belief that what a learner has already accomplished or learned should count for something. As of this September, a comprehensive plan for granting of credit for experience and prior learning is being phased into the college system. This recognition of prior learning is very much in keeping with our philosophy of lifelong learning. It is expected that this initiative will make colleges more accessible to underrepresented groups.
The francophone population of Ontario has not had good access to the college system. Too many young francophones were not continuing their education because of lack of accessibility and culturally sensitive facilities. I was pleased therefore to be able to announce recently the establishment of two new French-language colleges and a permanent campus in Ottawa for the already established and successful Cité collégiale. These are to be open for business by September 1995.
One of the new colleges will be located in the Sudbury area, with satellite campuses throughout northern Ontario. The second college will serve the south-central part of the province. It will be a college without walls, using satellites and other distance education technology to deliver its programs. The new college will make use of existing classroom spaces in schools, colleges and cultural centres.
The college without walls concept is an example of partnership at work. We cannot accomplish what we need to without the help of many partners in education: students, parents, teachers, business and labour, community groups and other government ministries and agencies.
A unique example of partnership at work is the "culture of change" initiative between the ministry and the Ontario Teachers' Federation. This initiative in partnership came about because of the concern of many teachers about their ability to implement change at the rate it was needed. It was clear that if we expected teachers to implement initiatives such as destreaming and the Common Curriculum, we had a responsibility to help them in a practical way. So the ministry provided financial support for this professional development project.
Among other things, it set up an electronic communications network for teachers across the province to share ideas and information on implementing change in education. Initially, the target was to get 1,000 teachers using the system. In fact, there are 2,000 teachers sharing resources, ideas and their creativity.
Many of our partnership initiatives involve training and job-creation programs. One of the ministry's most successful programs in the high schools is the school workplace apprenticeship program, where students earn their high school diplomas while earning money in apprenticeship opportunities. Obviously, without the partnerships of employers, this program would not exist.
Our school work programs continue to show yearly increases in the number of students enrolled in them. Last year, for instance, almost 66,000 students took part in co-op education programs, an increase of 8% over the previous year.
The ministry has also established a new program: education-work connections project. This program has two main functions: to help students in the transition from school to the workplace and to keep kids in school longer. The partners in this initiative involve schools, employers and community groups.
The school-colleges linkages project will help to improve the transition of students from school to college. The results of this project will mean that more students are better prepared for college and therefore more successful. It means that fewer students will drop out before completing college. The project will also foster better cost-efficiencies by helping colleges develop plans for sharing facilities, faculties and eliminating duplication of courses.
This year saw the completion of the work of the Task Force on Advanced Training. Its report, called No Dead Ends, is a follow-up to the Vision 2000 project and makes a number of recommendations to ease student transfers from one type of post-secondary institution to another. The report provides a challenge to the post-secondary system to be more imaginative in crossing institutional boundaries to develop even more useful and appropriate programs of study. This is the kind of innovation necessary to build a more successful education and training system in an era of constrained resources. We are in the process of evaluating our specific actions in this regard.
The Ontario Training and Adjustment Board, OTAB, is perhaps the best example of innovation in partnership and power sharing. OTAB is an agency that will facilitate access to training and adjustment services for those who are laid off or facing layoff, for young people seeking to enter the job market and for others trying to re-enter the workforce. It will help individuals and communities adjust to the changes in technology, global trade relationships, competition and of course economic restructuring. It will lead the development of a highly skilled workforce in Ontario.
OTAB meets the very real needs to consolidate government programs, to eliminate duplication of services and to fill and identify gaps in the system. OTAB will also expand and revitalize the role for apprenticeships that link school with the workplace. It will evaluate and redesign training programs to ensure they are meeting the needs of Ontarians now and in the future.
It is being managed by those who know the system best. The partnerships represented on OTAB's board of directors include business, labour, women, racial minorities, people with disabilities, francophones and educator-trainers. A seat has been reserved for aboriginal people, should they choose to participate.
OTAB and the Jobs Ontario Training initiative are key elements of the government's strategy for economic recovery. Jobs Ontario Training is a three-year government strategy for getting long-term unemployed people back to work. Like OTAB, it depends on partnerships for success, with employers, with participants and with those who deliver the program to both: the community agencies, known as brokers.
Jobs Ontario Training offers opportunities that no previous government program has been able to deliver, training opportunities and long-term jobs; real jobs for real people. It's a practical way of ensuring that those who lost the most ground during the recession don't get left behind in the recovery.
In the 14 months since the program became operational, 32,600 jobs have been created and 22,000 filled. That's 22,000 unemployed people who now have jobs, who probably would not have jobs without this program. Our latest information shows that 45% of the Jobs Ontario Training participants were previously on social assistance, and the remaining 55% had run out of unemployment insurance benefits or were not eligible for unemployment insurance; 85% of the jobs are skilled occupations that require a minimum of high school. The average wage is $21,000 a year.
Jobs Ontario Training has the highest standards of accountability, through a system of staff auditing and monitoring procedures. For instance, Jobs Ontario staff monitor the brokers' funding needs and ensure that they have money to meet their commitments without building up a surplus. Staff also have random visits to brokers to inspect the books and to make sure the participants are in fact working and being trained. To manage our cash flow more closely, we have also reduced the three-month advance payments to brokers to two months. We are also working with brokers to manage their cash flow to employers.
In closing my presentation today I want to talk about how we will achieve our goal of an education and training system that centres on the needs of the learner, and how we will accomplish this in a fiscally responsible way.
It has been clear for some time that it is necessary to develop a fairer and more effective system of education financing. This has been the subject of extensive work both within the ministry and in conjunction with the Fair Tax Commission. We are also receiving input into this process from the Advisory Council on Education Finance Reform.
First, however, we felt we had to look in our own backyard. The ministry reorganization will result in considerable cost-efficiencies. But any major restructuring may bring with it some anxiety and dislocation and job loss for some. We have worked hard during our restructuring to be very open, to consult with staff, to keep them informed, to seek their advice and to provide personal and job counselling for those affected by change.
The early retirement packages were accepted by many staff, but that has meant a loss to the ministry in ministerial knowledge. We hope that the new corporate culture we are instituting will compensate for that loss.
As the ministry is going through this major restructuring we expect school boards and post-secondary institutions to examine their own operations and structures to find ways to cut costs and to put more money into the classroom, where it belongs.
The government's overall expenditure control plan announced last April resulted in reduced grants to school boards, colleges and universities. That obviously caused great concern. However, together with the social contract process, this has prompted boards, colleges and universities to look closely at their own operations to find cost-efficiencies and to innovate.
I appointed two fact-finders to look at ways of streamlining school board operations in Windsor-Essex and Ottawa-Carleton. Their reports present a number of possible solutions that other boards will want to consider. The royal commission will also find these reports valuable research for its work.
At the post-secondary level, there are a number of cooperative efforts going on. In one example, my ministry has given a planning grant to McMaster University and Mohawk College to investigate the feasibility of a single health sciences facility.
Many boards, colleges and universities are also taking advantage of the ministry's transition assistance fund to examine their operations and develop permanent, more cost-efficient ways of doing business.
In addition, we now ask school boards to examine their plans for new schools to see if they could include multi-use facilities shared with other community or municipal groups. Schools that include a library, recreation and/or day care centre are examples of good multi-use buildings.
We have taken on major initiatives this year: the restructuring of the ministry, the restructuring of education, the restructuring of the provision of training for jobs. But this is no less than the public expects of us; it is no less than they deserve.
While these are difficult times, I believe these are exciting times in education and training. We are moving ahead with initiatives that will reshape the way we approach and deliver education and training opportunities in Ontario. The work we are doing now will benefit generations to come.
Mr Chair and members of the committee, the goals of my ministry are important for all of us and our constituents, and the issues are extremely complex and at times very contentious. I look forward to questions and comments and the opening remarks from the opposition parties.
Mr Charles Beer (York North): I think, given the nature of today and the fact that my Conservative colleague isn't able to be here -- we talked a bit yesterday just about how we might proceed -- our sense was that, as we have two days, if it's agreeable to the minister, other members of the committee and the Chair -- in those two days we obviously can't cover everything in a ministry that covers such a vast array of programs. We would be quite agreeable to stacking the various votes so, in effect, we would be able to discuss a variety of topics, if that's agreeable with everyone. If it is, I was going to make a few general comments at the outset.
One of our colleagues, David Ramsay, is here today. He can't be here tomorrow. We wanted then perhaps just to start with some of the training issues, if that's all right, and I think be fairly flexible about people coming in on related questions and so on. We have approximately an hour and a half or so. I think there's a vote. Is that generally agreeable, Mr Chair, in terms of how we might proceed? What thoughts do you have?
The Chair: The Chair's in the hands of the committee. I'm guided by the standing orders with respect to certain aspects of time allocation. However, once opening statements and the minister's final response are completed, then the committee can order its business up any way it so chooses. I alluded earlier to the fact that we will probably only sit today and tomorrow since the standing orders require us to report to the House.
The absence of the third party critic has been noted. However, it has been the custom, and the committee can confirm now if it so chooses, that we can stack the votes to occur at the end of tomorrow's committee hearing. That would be the first issue, if that gives you any comfort.
Mr Beer: Then I will go ahead. First of all, Minister, I want to thank you for your statement. In preparing for these discussions, we felt that it would be a better use of time to be able to explore some of the areas, because in many regards, in many of the areas that you're talking about -- the goal of lifelong learning and then how do we go about organizing for that -- in terms of a number of the principles and the directions, there's not so much a difference of opinion around those as perhaps more specifically on some of the ways that we chose in terms of how we're going to get there. I think in terms of a number of major points you noted were things that were brought to your attention as you have been out in the province talking to people. I think it's not surprising that those are similar to what I'm hearing. Indeed, I suspect if we were to sit in at some of the meetings of the royal commission, we would hear those same views.
I think it is clear that at this point in time, there is a real window of opportunity in that people's minds are really focused on education and there is a desire to bring about some real change. It would seem to me there are perhaps four key public policy issues there and I want to note those and simply say that in discussion and exploring questions around those, we will do that over the course of the next two days.
First of all, I would agree completely that accountability is one of those key issues. What one hears time and time again is the need to have clearly defined standards, outcomes, that are expected from the system and then a clearly defined method of evaluating whether we have achieved those outcomes. Then, I think, thirdly, what kind of resources do we have in place in order to assist those students who aren't able to meet those outcomes whether because of learning disabilities or other problems? I think this issue around accountability, which really speaks of the overall quality of the system, is one that I just think all of us are hearing about and that's the one we need to address.
The issues that I know you have raised with your colleagues in the other provinces around the development of national standards are something which will follow from that. Clearly, we have to get our own house in order first, but I think, as one looks down the road, that we are all looking towards a greater commonality perhaps among the provinces in terms of how we deal with some of these issues. I think that is key and there are some questions we would be interested in exploring around the grade 9 test, and in more specific detail, where we're going to go with that.
The second major public policy issue, I think, that is out there revolves around governance. This is expressed in terms of, what really is the role today of school boards. What ought it to be? What is the role of the Ministry of Education? What should it be doing? I guess increasingly, people are trying to explore some other related mechanisms. "School council" is one of the terms that is often used and I think we're still trying to determine what exactly is meant by that, but if we are looking at a slimmed-down ministry in terms of administration and the same with school boards, is there still a need for some new kind of body or mechanism at the community school level that would be part of that governance system, not in opposition and indeed part of a partnership with trustees, with parents, with the community?
I think that with the community, we're not just talking about parents and teachers, but indeed others who have valid interests in the educational system and who we want to encourage to be part of that, whether we're talking about business, labour or just plain interested citizens who may not have any young people in the system.
In a specific sense, at this juncture we also need to talk a bit about labour management relations. I think anyone who looks at the current scene has to have concerns about the potential for some real problems. We need to look at the impact of the expenditure controls, of the social contract on what is happening. We have some specific examples, I suppose, in terms of what happened in Lambton and what is currently going on in east Parry Sound and in Windsor. We need to look at what are some of the options out there so that we can really try to ensure that there is as little disruption in the schooling of the children in the system as there can be.
Also in terms of governance and questions around the future direction the government is planning to take with respect to francophone education, I welcome both the statement and also the fact that the government has been able to move on the community colleges. That's very important and has been very well received within the francophone community, but I think there are still a number of questions around the question of elementary and secondary governance that we need to look at.
Finally, in terms of the ministry restructuring, there are some issues around how that is functioning in terms of dealing with or allowing to be dealt with the key areas in the elementary and secondary, coupled with colleges and universities and with training. This is one of those things where the ministry on paper makes every sense, but where there are clearly some organizational problems in terms of how to deal with all of that and the rate and pace of change.
The third fundamental issue is funding. You've made reference to that. We'd like to explore a bit with you what may be coming in terms of the Fair Tax Commission and also the work within your own ministry around funding, and whether it's still your intention or goal to try to bring in some kind of legislative framework or a white paper in early 1994 to address that.
The fourth area, which in a sense links all of these but which is very critical, and with the difficult financial times is made even harder, is the whole question of the integration of children's services and where education fits into that. More specifically, what is the role of school boards in providing a host of services that have grown up over the years that perhaps could be more appropriately defined as social or health-related services and yet are seen as very important? If the boards aren't doing them, who will be and how do we meet that?
We had a debate in the Legislature a few weeks ago. This is an issue that's been on the table. We've had the Children First report and so on, but I think we need to explore that. The question of violence is one that I think is also related, because obviously the reasons in many cases for the violence that occurs may go back simply to lack of supports, lack of services that are available to young people as we try to deal with that and, at the same time, trying to recognize that the school system can't be all things to all people and that it can't provide all of the roles of surrogate parents. But if we don't get that one right, it seems to me it makes it very difficult to come to some clearer definitions around accountability and governance structures and indeed funding.
In terms of the elementary and secondary areas, those are the overlapping issues that I think cover, frankly, most of the things you raised in a more specific sense. We'd like to take some of them on a specific basis and deal with them as we go through the next couple of days. I'm going to stop there and let David raise the training issues, and then we can get into others as well as the post-secondary.
Mr David Ramsay (Timiskaming): I'd like to thank the committee for its flexibility in allowing us to divvy up our time in this way to accommodate my schedule. I'd like to thank my colleague Charles Beer for doing that.
Minister, I'd like to zero in on one of my critic responsibility roles, and that is training. I must tell you that I was absolutely shocked that in a 20-page statement in estimates, where we would expect a little more detail as to the state of your ministry, less than one page has been dedicated to OTAB. OTAB, as you have said and your government has said, is a major initiative of this government, a major initiative that I think the general public believes is quite necessary in Ontario today, as we know the tremendous need for retraining of our population so that we can be part of that new competitive economy, an economy that is changing so rapidly that it's catching many of us flat-footed in regard to the skills that we have.
There has been a long chronology with your government in regard to this particular board. In the initial throne speech after you assumed power, you talked about adopting some sort of training and adjustment board that the previous Premier's Council had recommended. It wasn't till the fall of 1991 that we began the consultation. We had introduction of the bill a year later. Last winter, we had our second reading hearings under the previous minister, and I think just in that time there was the cabinet shuffle. Finally, on July 20, we had third reading, with royal assent the next day. So we've had a long history with the development of this.
Mr Ramsay: I will then give you the opportunity right now, because what I would ask you is that we would like to know how you are working on the implementation of OTAB. What is happening? What's happening with the implementation of the LTABs? Which of those groups are taking responsibility for what at this time? I think people are very anxious to hear this.
Hon Mr Cooke: Great. What I'll do is answer on a couple of the areas you referred to. The assistant deputy minister and the deputy minister are both here as well, and Joan Andrew is on OTAB and I think left a board meeting today where they were talking about bylaws and so forth, so she'll be right up to date as to where they're at.
The board, as you know, has been established, announced and the boundaries for the regions or the different LTABs in the province, as I recall -- and Joan will correct me if I'm wrong -- have been sent to the federal government with our recommendations. They've been there for a while, but other things have intervened. I'm sure the new minister will get to it as soon as possible, but that may take a little bit of time.
I don't know when we'll actually get a response back on the LTAB boundaries. Programs have been sent over to OTAB, so all the programs that were to be under the OTAB jurisdiction have been transferred at this point and the board is beginning work. That's where it's at in the broadest sense.
Dr Charles Pascal: Just to add, and I'll ask the assistant deputy minister, Joan Andrew, to fill in a bit as well, the boards have had probably about 30 hours of orientation, strategic planning, settling issues around bylaws and rules of work and quorum rules. The memorandum of understanding between the government and the board is going to take several months. That's a very important framework document in terms of setting priorities and accountability mechanisms, because as Mr Ramsay has pointed out, this is an incredibly bold and important experiment.
The process for choosing the permanent chief executive officer is well under way, and the LTABs, which as Mr Ramsay fully appreciates, are extremely important to the communities out there in terms of the transition from the CITCs to something new, await a four-partner process.
As the minister has explained, the issue of boundaries is being discussed between bureaucrats in our ministry and the federal government's human resources and labour ministry, and that has to be a four-cornered agreement with the provincial government, OTAB, the Canadian Labour Force Development Board and the federal ministry. But as the minister said, Joan has just come from the latest meeting and perhaps will want to fill in some of the pieces.
Ms Joan Andrew: The staff and the programs were transferred from the various ministries to OTAB October 1. OTAB has an operating budget of about $440 million a year; about 550 staff. There is staff from the old Ministry of Education youth employment services branch and literacy branch; almost all of the old Ministry of Skills Development, with the exception of federal-provincial relations staff and some of the corporate services staff, which stayed in the ministry.
Some of the Ministry of Community and Social Services programs were also transferred, and one small program from the Ministry of Citizenship and the Office of Labour Adjustment programs from the Ministry of Labour were transferred to the board October 1.
The board meets for two days every four weeks, approximately. They're halfway through their November meeting today. They're addressing issues right now of bylaws, of the establishment of councils. They have a subcommittee already established at the board to look at local board issues and to drive that process.
The minister, in his letter of transfer to the co-chairs of OTAB, indicated that the government's two top priorities for OTAB were the establishment of local boards and the finalization of the memorandum of understanding, because that's the accountability mechanism. We're working on that with the staff at OTAB.
Mr Ramsay: I appreciate that; thank you. I'm very concerned about the establishment of the local boards. Do you have a time line of when you would predict that you would be really commencing that in earnest and when you think it would be completed, the establishment of the local boards throughout the province?
Ms Andrew: The federal government has indicated that it has to brief its new ministers before it can get back to us, and because local boards are a four-way partnership with the federal government, it's not up to OTAB and the provincial government, I guess, to move unilaterally on the establishment of local boards. So at this point we've worked for two years on local boards in relative cooperation with the four partners and it seems unnecessary to move unilaterally.
I would think over the course of this winter the boundaries will be finalized, guidelines will be issued to communities as to how people become designated as local boards, and we will begin the process in one or two areas that are farther ahead than others on the designation of local boards. The phase-in of local boards across the province in the 25 or so areas that there will be will be staggered, I would think, over eight or nine months.
We're quite interested in local boards reflecting the communities they serve, and that there be a process in those areas to establish the local boards and establish accountability mechanisms and that they not be imposed from the top down. There won't be one day on which all local boards are up and running.
Mr Ramsay: What I'm concerned about is that it's my understanding of how OTAB is going to work is that most of the administration of programs will be delivered at the local level. First of all, let's discuss that. Is it a correct understanding that OTAB itself would not be administering programs but most of the programs would be administered at the local level?
Ms Andrew: OTAB right now does administer programs because it has inherited the old government programs. How it chooses to reform its programs and how it chooses to work cooperatively with the federal government in joint programming at a local level remains to be resolved. There are some programs, for instance, the sectoral training agreements, which always will be province-wide. If we have a sectoral agreement with the steel industry, that won't vary from locality to locality across the province. There are local programs, the Ontario skills development offices, that are quite localized and meet the needs of local employers as they come forward, so there'll be a variety of programs.
Our hope is that local boards, as they come up, will replace the functions being fulfilled right now by CITCs that are there right now, will start providing input in terms of the needs of local community, coordinating federal and provincial training programs in a local area to meet the whole needs of the community and will, over time, take on more responsibility for training and adjustment. When there are major sectoral adjustments to be made in the province, not everything can be handled locally. There obviously has to be some provincial and national agenda in terms of those kinds of major adjustment initiatives.
Mr Ramsay: In the legislation, one of the criticisms that we in the opposition had was that it wasn't specifically spelt out as to what the responsibilities would be of the LTABs. The legislation dealt with the establishment of OTAB and basically it was OTAB's responsibility to establish those local boards. Has that work really commenced where we have a sense now of what those responsibilities will be of the local boards? Have those regulations that would establish the local boards been started yet?
Ms Andrew: No, we haven't worked on regulations, partly because what local boards do is also a federal-provincial issue and we haven't had the freedom to discuss with the federal government recently what exactly it would do. We also have to sort out the legalities of a piece of Ontario legislation governing what their responsibility for federal programs will be. So we may only ever have regulations as those apply to Ontario programs, not the whole mandate of local boards. Even as the regulations come out, they may not reflect the whole mandate of a board. They may only reflect the mandate vis-à-vis provincial programming.
Dr Pascal: If I may, I think the timing, as Mr Ramsay said, in terms of moving ahead gives OTAB the freedom and the, if I can use the word, empowerment to begin acting as this province's arm in that four-cornered process.
It's not to say that there haven't been some ideas kicked around from the provincial point of view with respect to how those roles should be managed, but for us to discuss that publicly might be seen to be somewhat belligerent since again a four-cornered agreement really requires that there's a round table where there's some power shared around how that takes place.
It's really critical that this opportunity, this window, be exploited to deal with some of the problems of the past in terms of labour market planning and jurisdictional problems, in terms of who determines what the demand is and the supply issues vis-à-vis macrolevel planning in terms of a province or a country and how that's to be distributed in terms of resources and planning in local bodies to be called LTABs. This hasn't worked all that well in the past because of the lack of opportunities for all these partners to sit at the same table and plan.
Mr Ramsay: That's what I'm a little bit concerned about. I guess the two statements are making me a bit uneasy as there seems to be a lack of clarification of the roles and responsibilities in regard to training between the province and the federal government, yet we went ahead with this particular legislation.
I think most of us thought that the deal had been cut as to what the provincial role would be in regard to the federal government and that we were doing our end to get our agreement in place so that we would work with the federal government in cooperation to oversee training in the province of Ontario. You're telling me now there's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing back and forth with the federal government to really clarify how this is all going to be implemented.
Ms Andrew: No. I guess I'm saying there hasn't been too much to-ing and fro-ing because federal civil servants have been waiting to brief their new minister. I think we're in a particular period right now where civil servants at OTAB, at the provincial government, at the federal government, the Canadian Labour Force Development Board, probably have all developed options. We probably have some options to present to the minister.
All I'm saying right now is that in the absence of the new minister of human resources and labour being briefed on the issues, we have agreed, as part of a four-party agreement, that we don't have final positions yet on the development of local boards.
That's not to say there hasn't been quite a lot of work done on it and not to say we don't all have our own viewpoints and that we aren't very close to agreement. We're just trying to respect a process we've been involved in with the federal government for a couple of years. That's all.
Dr Pascal: I make the assumption from my most recent discussion with my federal counterpart, and I believe he's still the deputy minister, that he himself has provided leadership to a fairly major reorganization as well, which made some discussions difficult.
What there is is a fairly good understanding with our federal counterparts about what the outcomes to the new relationships are supposed to be in terms of coordinated planning, a much better impact for the dollars that are in the systems. With respect to the how, I think Joan Andrew has given you a sense of the difficulties. I would assume the federal government has a very strong interest in getting on with this in the next several weeks, getting back to it after the minister has been briefed by the deputy.
With respect to your original question, which is the importance of getting the LTABs up, I'm optimistic that we're probably looking at some early successes, probably in the late spring to late summer part of the year. As Joan has suggested, the implementation is not going to be monolithic. It'll evolve as quickly as possible where there's a readiness and where the community partners have already gotten to yes with respect to how the representation should evolve.
Mr Ramsay: I just have one more question, Mr Chair, on this and maybe I could address it to you. I don't know if you've seen this letter. There was a letter addressed to the minister on September 28 in regard to one such meeting that was held by OTAB to start establishing the LTAB steering committee. This was at the H.J.A. Brown facility on September 23, 1993, and it's from the institute of computer training. This person has a tremendous amount of complaints as to how these meetings are run. There's no agenda sent out, only a very skeletal agenda presented at the time of the meeting; no list of invitees or attendees there. The complaint is that there's an unequal amount of representation from the various groups that are invited here and then they start to vote on who will be the representatives from the various groups.
Mr Ramsay: The title of this letter is "Request for annulment of the meeting of the LTAB steering committee at the H.J.A. Brown facility on September 23, 1993." This is a letter I guess that was addressed to you, to the Premier and copies to everybody else around Queen's Park from the institute of computer training in regard to some of these meetings that I guess are already under way.
What I'd be interested to know is, and I can pick it up at a later time, if there's a response to this letter since it came at the end of the September and to see what's happening with some of these initial meetings where you are trying to develop the LTABs.
Ms Andrew: There is a response to that and we could provide it. Communities are organizing their own meetings and they aren't always easy meetings. OTAB is not organizing these meetings. I think in particular, if my memory serves me correctly on that one, it was a meeting of the private training community in trying to decide among all the trainers in a given area who would be on the steering committee. There was some dissension, as I recall, but it was a meeting organized by a group of people who have self-identified in that community as being a local board. It wasn't something organized by OTAB.
Mr McGuinty: I missed your opening statement but I've reviewed the written version here and a couple of the things that I wanted to get into were tuition fees. Obviously that's a big item on the student and university administrators' agenda. I want to talk to you about the income contingency loan repayment plan. Why don't I begin with that.
The Chair: Excuse me, Mr McGuinty. I was trying to be humorous. But what I was going to suggest was if we're going to change the formatting now -- I'm in the committee's hands -- I'm in a bit of a quandary because normally it would be fair that the minister would have time for rebuttal or closing statements based on the presentation of the two critics. Ms Cunningham has a commitment in her riding that she couldn't overcome, so I have to ask the minister if he wishes to proceed and do rebuttal time now or if he wishes to do that tomorrow and then we can go into a rotation for questioning. I just want to make sure that we have a consensus among the committee on what we're doing, and the minister would like to know just how we're going to proceed.
Hon Mr Cooke: If I might, as I understood from the two Liberal critics, I think that Charles raised a number of issues you wanted to get into more depth on with questions and answers and I think you were suggesting the same thing. I don't really need to have 30 minutes to rebut, and I'm sure that our members would also like to pop in some questions too. That's fine with me.
The Chair: That's fine. As long as everybody has agreement how we're doing it, then we'll do just fine. What we'll do then is that if you want to scope out an area you wish to work in and if other members wish to raise questions, then we'll proceed on that basis and the minister can call forward any of his staff he has with him today.
Mr Wiseman: I wanted to raise just a point for thought, that if the minister were to reply or to rebut for 10 or 15 minutes today just to the Liberal critics, then that would leave the minister 10 or 15 minutes to rebut to the Progressive Conservative critic tomorrow, should the minister feel the need to do that. I would hope that nothing we do here today would preclude that possibility tomorrow.
Mr McGuinty: I wanted to have you address, Mr Minister, this issue of an income-contingent loan repayment plan. There has been some experience with that in other jurisdictions in the world, I'm sure you're aware, although it strikes me that it's been rather limited. I believe Australia has had some kind of plan of that nature in place since 1989.
So we have not yet really been able to properly assess the effect of a substantial debt load on recently graduated students and the impact that has on the economy and their ability to spend and to do all those kinds of things that you do when you come out of school and are getting under way in life.
Hon Mr Cooke: We had some discussions in the ministry on this a couple of weeks ago. The pilot project -- I don't believe it's up and running. One of the difficulties that we will have with our pilot project is that the students it will be able to target will not necessarily be students of low-income families, because we can't integrate the two programs, the Canada student loan program and OSAP, until we get some kind of national approach to income contingency. So we will be able to get some limited experience with the pilot project. I think we're looking at 1,000 students, but it's not going to give us all the information we're going to need.
There are other provinces that are interested in pursuing this with the federal government as well. We didn't get terribly far with the previous government, but I think there are a number of jurisdictions that are more optimistic about moving in this direction with the current federal government.
I think the Council of Ontario Universities is looking at wanting to have a conference on this whole concept as well. I think they were suggesting that it might be done through CMEC. That's one option that could be looked at. Experts from other jurisdictions that have had experience with this could get involved. I believe McMaster is having a conference next month on this as well. So a lot of opportunities are going to exist. We'll have to test out fairly soon how the federal government feels about this and whether it's prepared to move on it.
I'm going to turn it over to the ministry, but one further comment is that I think one of the major problems we have with our current student aid programs is that there's not a lot available to middle-income students. I think the program is fairly successful, as it currently exists, for low-income students, but for middle-income students there are real difficulties. I think moving to an income-contingent program will not disadvantage at all the low-income students now who are using the Canada student loan program and OSAP, but it will have the significant advantage of being able to open up financial assistance to a broader range of students with a broader range of income and therefore result in post-secondary education being accessible to more students.
Mr Mackay: I'd be pleased to. First of all, as the minister indicated, we'll be providing 1,000 loans this year. The maximum value of the loans will be $2,500. This is a one-year program with two years to pay back the loan, so in effect it's a three-year pilot. We've had to constrain it in certain ways to fit it within that kind of time period.
There's really two things: that they not be eligible for OSAP, that they've applied and not been able to get it because of family income reasons, and, secondly, that they are in that last year of study.
In terms of where we are with the program, we're actually sending out this week detailed instructions to financial aid offices at colleges and universities with respect to how the program will work. This includes detailed instructions for students in terms of their applying and describing the program, how it will work, how the payback will be geared to their actual income over that two-year period.
For example, if a student is making below $20,000 they wouldn't have to start making any payments, and if they kept below that income threshold for the two years their loan would be completely forgiven. Students making, say, $35,000 would be expected to pay back the full amount over that period, and students making somewhere between that would be paying a portion of the amount back and then we would be forgiving the rest. We also have plans in place that we would adjust their payback after the first year if there was a change in income.
Mr McGuinty: Tell me, if we want to project this pilot project from its limited nature to a broader scale, how is this going to be of use to us if we're talking about a $2,500 loan offered in the last year to be paid back within two years? When we're talking about, at the end of the day, if you get into this ICLRP -- sorry to use that; income-contingent loan repayment plan -- if we're talking $30,000 or $40,000 in student indebtedness, I just don't see how realistically this kind of pilot project will enable us to assess whether a full-scale program will work.
Mr Mackay: I think you're right. One of the things we're doing is using the opportunity to provide some funds to students who otherwise wouldn't get them because their parents are failing to provide them the kind of support they need. In terms of providing us with detailed information on which we'd be able to base a future decision to go ahead with the program, I think you're right. Any income-contingent program, as they're conceived, has 15 to 20 years before it's fully self-financing, before paybacks into the program are paying out and covering the costs of all the loans that have been made.
It's an opportunity for the ministry to do a little modelling, like, how would we gauge repayment to income? We'll be able to look at how successful students are at paying back according to this very limited test. It'll provide us with a little experience in operating a program of this kind, but certainly it's just not on the kind of scale or scope that you would like to have.
Hon Mr Cooke: I think we have made it fairly clear to the other ministers in other provinces and the federal government that we would like to work with the federal government to develop this approach, but it's going to have to be done nationally. We think it's a good approach to move in and we'd like to do a lot more work on it. There's no use doing a lot of work in Ontario or any individual province if we're not moving on it at the national level, because it can't be done at the provincial level.
Hon Mr Cooke: I don't know whether all provinces would have to be in it. I think it would probably be difficult if you started having a few provinces in and a few provinces on the old Canada student loan program and so forth, but my reading of CMEC meetings, of ministers' meetings, is that there is substantial support for moving in this direction.
There was obviously a lot of fear in other provinces, and this province, of some of the directions the previous government was moving in, in terms of national student loans. So there was a lot of concern expressed by other provinces and a desire to move in a direction that was going to provide more accessibility. I know BC was very strong and actually was promoting this before Ontario was.
We've collected some figures here and determined that the number of students who are defaulting on their loans, and I guess making application for what's called the interest relief program, is skyrocketing. In 1987-88 there were about 2,100 applicants for that program, and in 1991-92 there were 6,100. In 1987-88 we had to write off $1.5 million in student loans; in 1991-92 we wrote off about $4.5 million.
My concern with the income-contingent loans is that we are at a time when our students are finding it extremely difficult to obtain employment at the end of the day, or even to obtain employment on a part-time basis during the course of their studies. They are having difficulty paying those loans. What we are considering here is increasing their indebtedness, because I'm assuming that the income-contingent loan repayment program will go hand in hand with an increase in tuition fees. I am wondering about the advisability of considering more indebtedness when they can't handle the indebtedness they have now.
Hon Mr Cooke: The whole concept, the whole principle of an income-contingent program is that the repayment is based on income. I think it's pretty fundamental fairness that if a person goes through our college or university system and becomes a doctor or any other professional -- we know the unemployment rate of university graduates is much, much lower than the unemployment rate of students who don't go to post-secondary institutions, so we know that the income is considerably higher. So why is it not fair to look at professionals who go through the system paying their loans back more quickly, whereas other students who would graduate and be at the very low income level, as has been explained, have a much different repayment schedule?
On the numbers you've quoted, and I'm sure Jamie will want to reply, it's not entirely fair to quote a number of $1.5 million or $4.5 million. A $4.5-million default out of what? The default rate of Ontario student loans has been virtually insignificant compared to what has happened federally. There is a whole series of differences, I gather, in the way they monitor and so forth, but Ontario has had 2%. It's been extremely low. I would suggest the numbers that you're quoting would still be in that range of the 2%.
The amount of money that's being provided right now for student loans in Ontario is very significant, very high. I don't know if that properly explains it. The numbers, I'm sure, always go up a bit in a recession, as you would expect, but still, there's no evidence in those numbers you've presented that would indicate that there's anything fundamentally wrong with the program or that there's anything that would be unexpected during a recession. The numbers are still extremely low. If anything, I would expect the default rates to perhaps even be higher than that during a recession, out of the total amounts of money that we're expecting to be repaid.
Mr Mackay: Further to the minister's point, since the inception of the Ontario student loans program in 1978, $580 million has been issued in Ontario student loans. We've only written off $12 million, which is the 2% figure the minister was referring to. The federal government gets some pretty bad press regarding the amount of CSL that's been written off. That's something they're working on with a couple of banks. We don't get exact figures from them on defaults. They promised us some by province so we can look at how we are doing.
The interest relief program that you referred to is a feature really that is designed to prevent students from defaulting. Yes, we have got an increase in applications for it over the last couple of years, but essentially what it allows students to do is postpone that time when they have to start making their repayments.
We normally give them a six-month interest-free period for Ontario student loans, at which time they have to come in, consolidate their loans and arrange with the bank to start making their payments on them. If they are making below $20,000, they can apply to us and they can get an additional 18 months before they have to begin repayment. So that gives them a full two years after graduation.
In fact we are adding a feature to that program this year with the new plan that, even for students who are making more than $20,000 and less than $30,000, they can have a portion of the interest deferred to sort of make that initial repayment a little easier for them. As I mentioned, I think that is really something that we hope will keep the default problem in check.
Mr Wiseman: I'm going to try and preface this question in as short a way as possible. I guess it comes from 14 years in the classroom that I'm premising this. For the longest time, I was using textbooks that were 10 years old. When you're teaching history, a decade out of date really puts you behind the eight ball.
At the same time as I was using a textbook that is out of date by 10 years, the amount of money being spent by the board on non-classroom delivering functions was going up. In the board where I come from, there are 500 portables in the public school system. The board is debenturing to build a $30-million administration building.
The year when the OACs were introduced, money was made available to buy new textbooks, but that money had to be spent in the fiscal year that the money was granted. But the textbooks were not coming until the following year, so in effect literally hundreds of thousands of dollars were being spent, and this is in 1988-89, on books that were only functional for about a year's period.
This seems to be going on and on and the classroom teacher I think is getting more and more frustrated with this and sees that simple things like rolling the budgets over from one year to the next or using money in a more progressive way don't seem to be happening. I'm just wondering how it is that the Ministry of Education can monitor the spending of this kind of money.
It raises a question of what should you be funding and how should you be funding it. Clearly, in my mind at any rate, the student is supposed to be the focus of where we spend our money. Yet I read numbers as high as 43% of the dollars that are being spent outside of the classroom in administration levels, in superintendents doing philosophical studies and passing these papers around to one another and it bypassing the classroom teacher up here in the clouds somewhere.
If you could answer that question in the next little while, I'd really like to hear how these changes are going to be put into place, because I look at the system now and I see lots of money being spent but very little of it making its way into the classroom.
Hon Mr Cooke: First of all, I'm not sure that under the current system we have the kind of control or quite frankly the kind of information that would allow me or anyone else to answer your question. I'm not sure we can give you specific numbers of how much money is spent in the classroom, how much is spent on administration, how much on coordinators or other positions that exist in the school boards across the province. Some of these data would be available, but not to the level that we probably should have them available.
Ultimately, I think we need to take a look, and one of the objectives of education finance reform has to be to allow the ministry to have more control over where provincial funds are spent so that there are more opportunities for provincial policy to be set with respect to expenditure of education funds. That's certainly one of the goals that we've set for ourselves in the education finance reform package.
We need to try to make the system more accountable at the local level too, so that parents and taxpayers always will have the opportunity to see how funds are being expended as well as the people who work for the boards. Teachers and caretakers and support staff should also have access to all the information of where money is being spent and be part of that partnership.
Hon Mr Cooke: There is certainly some information that is guaranteed under the Education Act. There obviously has to be some understanding as well -- and we've had some examples already of members of the public who have gone into certain school boards and asked for everything to be opened up, which is not entirely practical, because if every member of the public came in and did that, then we'd end up hiring more administrative staff in order to provide that kind of level of information. But there is certainly a reasonable and appropriate level of information that should be available.
Dr Pascal: Mr Chair, if I can just interject, if the question has been answered by the minister in terms of one of the objectives of education finance reform is greater accountability through transparency, that is, on what basis are core activities funded in some kind of equitable fashion, what's in and what's out in terms of core activities funded by the system at the local level and the need for more transparency at the local level, then maybe the question has been answered. But we're in your hands in terms of whether Mr Wright can add --
The Chair: Perhaps we might ask which of the school boards the auditor is auditing this year, because obviously that development of the last three or four years has raised the issues you're raising. The Provincial Auditor's examination has been to track moneys that have transferred to school boards to ensure that they were spent on the items as required. I recall some controversial computer packages that went to secondary instead of elementary in certain boards that should remain nameless. But there are several other issues around this.
Mr Wiseman: I raised this question with the auditor as well and he indicated to me that his jurisdiction in this matter is limited solely to the moneys that are being spent by the provincial government and that he is unable to audit a board, if I understood him correctly, in the spending of the money they raised through municipal taxes.
Mr Peter Wright: My name is Peter Wright. I am the director of policy and programs in Education and Training. During the course of the work that the education and finance reform group was doing, they did collect some information on spending by board. The sort of key thing that is being worked on in education and finance reform, at least one of them, is this notion of trying to identify what boards are supposed to be spending on, because at the moment that is not well defined. The sort of accountability and transparency you're talking about are indeed things that we will be bringing forward in respect of education and finance reform.
Mr Beer: I think we'll have a chance later to come back to some of the issues Mr Wiseman raised, but I'd like, just in terms of the time we have, if we could talk a bit about the labour-management issues. There are two things I'd like to raise, Minister.
One is, I'm sure -- indeed I know -- this has been brought to your attention because I believe you had a meeting with the Ontario Teachers' Federation a few weeks ago. I guess it really deals with the impact of the social contract and how it rests together with Bill 100 -- a number of concerns that have been raised in the east Parry Sound dispute that is under way. It's to do with the 60-day clause and, quite frankly, something I wasn't aware of before recent times, and I guess really is something that hasn't been used very often at all in the first 17 to 18 years of the existence of Bill 100.
The issue, as I understand it, is that after the fact-finder's report that a school board is able to make changes to a collective agreement, from the teachers' perspective in the current climate with the expenditure constraints and the social contract, this has been done -- I'm not sure of the statistics -- more this year than had been done in the previous time and it really is causing tremendous problems. It's the red flag in front of the bull.
In one article in the Windsor Star there was an interview with Tom Wells, a former Conservative Education minister who, in talking about why the clause was originally in, stated, or at least is quoted in the article as saying, that it was really seen as something that would be used -- I'm quoting here -- "as a very, very last resort."
I wonder, first of all, if you could just share with us your sense of not specifically individual areas that are having problems, but where this issues stands, how serious you think it is and what you see as your responsibility as minister in talking with both the teachers' federations and the boards to try to alleviate some of these pressures.
I think I would have to say, Minister, that the imposition of the social contract and the expenditure constraints, which are provincial policies, are ones that are certainly providing the framework for these discussions and I think there's a real worry that while at the present time we have the elementary and secondary teachers out in east Parry Sound, the elementary in Windsor, but there is the possibility of other strikes. I understand there may be a visit by some teachers next week to the Legislature to discuss this.
Could you perhaps share with us what you discussed with the federations at the end of October on this specific issue and what you think can be done to alleviate this specific problem in terms of the relationships between the boards and the federations?
Hon Mr Cooke: First of all, let me say, when you were making your opening comments, you referred to Lambton, Windsor and east Parry Sound and tied those three very nicely together and tied them to the expenditure control program, the social contract. You should be very clear that even the teachers in Lambton did not tie the social contract or the ECP to the problems that existed there.
In Windsor, I know the circumstances reasonably well. The board set its budget early on this year, before the social contract or the expenditure control program was even talked about publicly, and it budgeted for a reduction in compensation to all of its teachers and then came out and put minus 10% on the table right away. So it's convenient for the board there now to be saying that this relates to the ECP and the social contract; the fact is that this was dreamed up by the Windsor board before there was even such a program announced or worked on by the provincial government.
So I don't think that you should in all of these cases just make the assumption that because there's an expenditure control program and the social contract, this is what's driving this very serious and difficult situation across the province.
There have been some suggestions that were made, not in any great detail, by the federations in regular meetings that I have with them. I must say I'm quite reluctant to consider opening up Bill 100. I know exactly what will happen. I think the boards and the teachers would be somewhat reluctant to open up Bill 100 as well. When you're in the midst of a difficult and serious labour relations problem in the education field, as we are right now, I'm not sure that is the best time to be making reforms in the legislation that governs labour relations. What's the saying? Bad laws are made out of crisis situations. I've explained that. I've certainly put that position forward to the federations, that I'm reluctant to open up Bill 100.
I also know that you guys and the Conservatives, if there's an amendment to Bill 100, we'll come into the House, we'll have lengthy debate at second reading, we'll go out for public hearings and we'll travel the province on public hearings. In every area of the province where there's been a labour dispute in the last five years, we will have calls for the elimination of the right to strike, and that's something I'm not willing to entertain. I'm very firmly in favour of the right to strike. I think it has served labour relations well in the education field since it was brought in under Bill 100 back in the 1970s. So there was some suggestion; it wasn't anything that was given to me in writing.
I think the federations are very concerned, and I know that the trustees' organizations are concerned as well. We've somehow got to be able to work together to find some solutions in the next short period of time. This is not helpful to public confidence in public education, and I think boards should seriously consider what they're doing in some of the circumstances across the province, and teachers should consider their response too. Some of the boards have financial difficulties that have to be jointly addressed.
Mr Beer: I appreciate your comments. I would simply say as well that it's always been my position when we talk about the right to strike that you have to look at what the other options are. If you go back to the debate in 1975 when the Conservatives brought that in, I think a lot of the same arguments still apply. There may be problems, but by and large that bill has served us well, and if it isn't there, there were so many other things that went on prior to 1975 that can really exacerbate relations. So I'm not arguing here that that is necessarily the answer.
I think, though, that what we have had is that you had to bring in a specific bill with respect to Lambton, and I'm sure you would prefer not to have to bring in even one more, let alone perhaps half a dozen or 10. I don't think any government does. But in the Lambton situation, one of the things --
Hon Mr Cooke: It was made a little easier in Lambton -- I say this particularly looking at some of the people sitting out there -- because the OSSTF supported the bringing in of back-to-work legislation in Lambton.
Mr Beer: I appreciate that, but again I guess the issue I'm after is that we can sit and talk about the expenditure controls, the social contract, the change in the transfer payments, and we can have an interesting sort of political exchange. But where we're at right now, if I listen to trustees and teachers, is that there is a real concern around a kind of building explosion out there, and I think there is a provincial responsibility.
I understand that when one talks about collective bargaining, one has to say, "Look, you have the two parties; they need to be brought together to try to resolve that." But if there is a period of time in terms of this 60 days, and that seems to be really the crux of the issue, what I'm asking you is, do you see it then as something where you should be bringing together the representatives from the Ontario public school boards, the Ontario Separate School Trustees' Association, the Ontario Teachers' Federation, the constituent federations, to sit down and try to at least come to some kind of accord for the duration of the social contract?
I agree with you that clearly there are those out there who will see this in perhaps simplistic terms and just say, "Eliminate the right to strike and that will solve all the problems." I don't agree with that; you don't; I think most people in the educational field wouldn't agree with that. But I think we also know that if we got into a situation where there were perhaps three or four or a half- dozen strikes in the province, the pressure on you, let alone on the rest of us, to act -- and as you say, sometimes in those situations approaches are taken which one doesn't like.
Hon Mr Cooke: I'm somewhat reluctant to say too much more on this because I don't want any signals to be read by anybody that anything else other than settlements at the local level should be achieved.
You will appreciate that if I say the wrong thing in here, then there might be a signal to the boards of east Parry Sound and Windsor that -- "Well, let's wait," and that's not the message that should be read out of today. The message that should be read out of today is -- and I was very disturbed to see the chair, I think, of the East Parry Sound Board of Education on TV on the weekend saying, "We're ready to go to arbitration." In other words, the board isn't going to take on the responsibility for negotiating an agreement. "We'll wait until somebody sends us to arbitration." That's not helpful.
I don't want to send any of the wrong signals out of here today. To the two areas where strikes are occurring right now in the province, the message should be: "Get back to the bargaining table. This isn't good for public education."
I do, though, agree with one of the concerns you've expressed, and that is that if this continues across the province -- and I have said this to other people -- there will be a much louder call for the removal of the right to strike. That will be a natural response out of having seven, eight, nine, 10 strikes in the province. That should be something we're all concerned about, because I agree with you that Bill 100 has served the province well and anybody who would try to reverse that I think would see labour relations turned back 50 or 60 years in the education field and all sorts of strikes that would occur in school boards across the province. But that won't stop some from calling for that, and I think the boards and the teachers as well as the ministry have to be concerned about that.
Mr Beer: Could I just leave with you, then -- and again I understand your hesitancy to get involved directly where you may be sending this or that message to one side or the other -- simply that there may be a need for the minister to bring together the leadership to really sit down and say, "Look, here are the implications of this going on."
I think, in fairness to the other parties, I would still argue that given government actions over the last couple of years, whether in terms of expenditure controls, social contract or changes in the transfer payments, and with the demands that government makes that certain programs be done, that has added to the problem, whether it's specifically expenditure control or social contract.
But I think that in raising this today, it is really to say that I'm quite concerned as I talk to trustees and to the leaders in the federations that we need to come to some understanding around this 60-day question fairly quickly or we could find in 1994 that would be extremely messy.
Hon Mr Cooke: I can certainly tell you that this is occupying a lot of our time and certainly is number one in terms of the priorities that I have. We cannot allow chaos to develop in the public education system, and I will not allow it to happen. Options will be looked at, and no matter what the political consequences are, we will not allow chaos to develop in the public education system, period.
Ms Haeck: I really appreciate some of the comments on a range of topics so far. I had an opportunity to speak to a college instructor last week while we were off and doing our constituency work. I asked him how things were going, and he sort of rolled his eyes. So I asked him a number of things about the classroom, and one of the things that is of concern out there, and I know it has been there for some while, particularly with regard to the college system, relates to remediation.
The universities have undertaken to assist students who have left the high school to basically become better readers and writers, thereby ensuring some chances of success in that post-secondary endeavour.
Colleges have been, I would say, a little less inclined to undertake that, partly because -- at least when I was on the board at Niagara College, the comment was, "Well, the legislation says we take everyone, and we don't get into the remediation." The health sciences prep courses are the exception that I'm aware of.
This particular teacher that I was talking to last week raised the concern that he is seeing in his English classes levels of reading and writing at grade 4 as well as, then, people who have university degrees. He is finding this an extreme challenge to meet and obviously has some concern on behalf of the students as well for their ability to succeed in their educational courses.
So I'm wondering at this point what discussions or plans there might be in the ministry to deal with outcomes at the post-secondary level, particularly in the colleges, if those discussions have been ongoing. I know they were there when I was in the ministry two years ago, so I'm wondering if they are continuing.
My experience with the colleges, which predates my current position, has certainly led me to a different conclusion about what's taking place in the colleges in terms of guaranteeing success. I'm not saying "guarantee" in the contractual sense --
Dr Pascal: -- but doing things that are designed to increase the probability that with respect to inputs -- that is, dealing with what students are coming to college with and dealing with them as they are -- the colleges have been a place of innovation for a number of years. Not to deny at all the member's concern as expressed by a particular teacher, and there probably is tons more to do, but things like pre-college diagnostic testing and remedial loops that deal with gaps between what's necessary to compete towards certain outcomes in a class are being done in many of the colleges. Peer teaching and counselling: there are innovations around the college system in terms of that kind of support.
The schools-college project: Many of the schools-to-college articulation agreements around the province are designed to bring the outcomes -- we use the word "outcome" a lot in terms of our hopes in the name of accountability for all parts of our kind of non-system of educational opportunities as it is right now -- closer together in terms of the outcomes of a secondary school and the prerequisites required for successful participation in either university or college. Through those articulation agreements, there's a lot of school-board-to-college activity and the schools-college project is designed to bring a lot of research to bear in terms of good practice and some of the problems you've identified about that.
Ms Haeck: I just have another point to raise. There are a lot of students going back into various educational institutions because of obviously the unemployment situation that we find ourselves in across the country, not only in Ontario. As a result of that, you've got people who may have spent some time in the workforce who are making a range of choices by going back into the college stream and they may not have the advantage of the articulation agreements that you're talking about.
Dr Pascal: This is, and the minister referred to it in his earlier remarks, a prior learning assessment. It's not just ameliorating the deficits in terms of prerequisites for somebody coming into a program; it's also catching learners having learned something before and having done something right elsewhere. That's where prior learning assessment is incredibly important in the experimentation that's being led by the Council of Regents that is now beginning to bear fruit. It's important in that regard.
Mr Wright: I would add two points. First is that the ministry introduced, about three or four years ago, a remediation fund for the colleges. If my memory serves me, it's around $4 million, which colleges are given to help develop remediation programs for students. Particularly in reading and math, most of the work has been done. There have been things, as the deputy has mentioned, such as counselling, peer tutoring, self-directed learning packages done as well.
In terms of language proficiency, the colleges have also been working on a standardized benchmark set of competencies, so that when students come in, they can be given these tests and then we will be able to identify what level of remediation is actually required.
The final thing, which the deputy actually had mentioned already, is prior learning assessment. When a student has gone through that exercise, they will then have identified which particular areas the student may need additional work in before he can proceed or as he proceeds in his program.
Ms Haeck: Can I just follow up on that prior learning assessment, because this particular teacher mentioned that as well, with I have to say a fair bit of concern. The suggestion was that someone's just going to come in and say, "Well, hey, I can do this. I don't have to be tested in this particular area," this sense that the kind of standards that we've all been trying to set are basically going to be compromised by that particular exercise.
Dr Pascal: As with any innovation that is quite different from the way we've been doing business as learning organizations, the rigour that will be applied in terms of a student presenting a portfolio of work and the kind of diagnostic testing that will be required to get credit will have to be quite rigorous; otherwise the kind of concern that your friend or colleague may have will be well founded. We certainly appreciate that.
Again, with respect to a college located in Oshawa where my son began in September, he received a prerequisite skill learning package to fill out in a self-instructional way a month and a half before he began, got results about three or four weeks before he began and was turned around very quickly with advice. I won't go into real detail, because I don't want to breach the confidentiality of anyone, including my own son.
Ms Haeck: I appreciate the information and I'll make sure it is given to this gentleman so that he feels some assurance about what's coming down the pipe, or at least that there is a range of options for him and his students. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Wright. I don't know why the deputy is concerned about that. I recall, sitting in a select committee on education, hearing at length an intimate letter written to his child on the occasion of their birth.
Mr McGuinty: I wanted to ask a question arising from something Mr Mackay had stated earlier. Perhaps he could come forward again. That was in connection with the OSAP loans. If I understood him correctly, since 1988 the province has handed out loans totalling $580 million and only $2 million had been written off. Is that correct?
Mr McGuinty: I wanted to ask the minister as well, there has been talk of late of colleges and universities being deregulated and some people point to the program at Queen's, the proposal put forward by Queen's to privatize its MBA program, as something of the tip of the iceberg, which would lead us to see, I guess, a two-tier system of university-level education in the province. I'm wondering what the minister's position about that concept is generally and specifically with respect to the Queen's proposal.
The second point on the Queen's program, as I understand it at this point, it's at the very, very early stages of consideration at the university. This has not gone through any of the approvals process at Queen's University, and it's not something that we need to be overly concerned about at the ministry at this point, because it's an idea at the university that has a long way to go before it can be considered something that the university at the approvals level is seriously considering. I don't want to overreact to the concept of privatization of the MBA program at Queen's University.
If they did that, and I personally would not want to see that happen, that means there would be zero dollars from the provincial level going into that program; it would be completely unsubsidized; it would lack any subsidy at all from the provincial government. That would be the approach they would be taking, so it would have to be 100% full cost recovery, which is different from the concept of deregulating tuitions and allowing provincial money to continue to flow to universities and the universities just setting the tuitions on their own of whatever their institution thinks the market will bear for them. They're really somewhat separate issues, related but separate.
Hon Mr Cooke: I think I already indicated just a couple of minutes ago that I personally hoped it wouldn't happen. I've been reminded many, many, many times in the short period of time that I've been in this portfolio by the university sector that they are fiercely independent, autonomous institutions and will make decisions on their own. That's the tradition in this province and every other province, and we should respect that and I will respect it.
But I can still have a personal opinion, and my personal opinion is that I wouldn't want to see that happen. I don't think that type of an approach is appropriate for accessibility to our post-secondary system.
Hon Mr Cooke: We're right now, as you know, reviewing tuition policy in the province, so for me to say that I thought 25% or 24% or 30% was appropriate would be easily and quickly calculated as to what that meant in terms of tuition increase. That would be the assumption of what we were going to do. We haven't made a decision. We're reviewing options in the ministry and expect to have a decision made by the end of the year.
Mr Beer: I'd like to raise some questions on the funding initiative, particularly around what you're doing in the ministry. First of all, is it your intention to bring forward a bill in the spring of 1994 or the fall of 1994? Is that your intention? Could I just ask you that first? Is that the end of this?
Hon Mr Cooke: At this point, we've worked in the secretariat, as you know, with trustees and everybody else. Some ideas are there. The only reason I can't give you a clear answer is that I have to go to my cabinet. I have to go to my caucus with some ideas. They will make a determination. I certainly will be presenting some options to my cabinet and caucus colleagues.
Mr Beer: Would it be fair to say that one of the things you'd be considering would perhaps be a white paper, a green paper of some sort, as part of that process? What I'm after here is that we know we're going to have the report of the Fair Tax Commission in a few weeks. I think one of the things we need is kind of having a lot of the approaches on the table. What are the options? I think that would be useful.
Hon Mr Cooke: If we're to proceed, I don't think we could proceed without putting out some kind of -- and I don't mean for a long, protracted period of time -- discussion document, some of which, I think we could probably indicate, would already have been pretty firmed up. We would be consulting on technical aspects and other parts of it would be opened up for discussion.
While we've had a lot of consultation in the secretariat, it's been fairly closed in terms of the public hasn't been involved and not all trustees and teachers have been involved. I think we would have to send out some kind of a document and provide for a broader input into the policy.
Mr Beer: In terms of some of the fundamental principles that you think ought to be applied, what we have right now, we know, is the creation of history with the property tax and then the provincial taxes, the growth of the separate system, obviously, after 1984 and the pressures that exist right now which, while in part I suppose are separate board-public board, more fundamentally and increasingly are assessment-rich and assessment-poor.
Would you see, as part of the proposals you would want to bring forward, changes that would be directed towards each student; that there should be a level of support provided, regardless of whether one was within a separate or public, or assessment-rich or assessment-poor, but a clearer system of providing that support and probably fewer additional kinds of programs for special areas, but none the less perhaps looking at some of Metro's special needs through that way, in the same way one might look at distance problems in the north through certain kinds of special grants?
Aside from the labour relations problems you were talking about earlier, another very difficult area that we have in the ministry right now is the boards. They're having some financial problems, deficits, not related, as you know, to the social contract or the ECP. These are difficulties with lack of adequate resources in their own commercial and industrial base. I think it's something where we have to try to look at some fundamental change, but we also have to balance that with what is possible.
I don't want to propose something that brings about so much public concern or opposition that it's not possible to implement it. We have to look at some common sense used and how quickly it can be done and what's acceptable. I think the trustees' organizations that have worked with the secretariat have come to grips with some of that as well.
I know of your interest and your support in education finance reform, but then when you get to the bottom line on it, that's a little bit of what the $44 million was with Metro. I didn't detect any levels of support from either of the opposition parties when it came to trying to share some of the wealth of the Metropolitan Toronto school system, through the social contract, with the broader public either. So I know that while we'll probably all agree on the principles, I certainly will hope that you might be more supportive on education finance reform than you were on sharing Metro's wealth.
Mr Beer: I think there are two things here. I would agree and would say to the minister that I think one of the most important things with the funding changes is that we know, that we're not surprised, that we don't get blindsided, especially if we get proposals that really are very new and different and where, as you know, having been on both sides of the House, governments have gestation time to develop policies, to think them through. But when they hit, the play in the first few days may be critical in terms of one's understanding of what it is and how to respond. Part of the answer is that we share that.
Hon Mr Cooke: But the suggestion that was made by some people, that what should happen to the $44 million in Metropolitan Toronto is to lower property taxes in Metropolitan Toronto for the public school ratepayers, is directly contrary to any concept of education finance reform, because you know that would have exactly the opposite impact on the Catholic school board of Metropolitan Toronto and would drive the --
Mr Beer: No question on the principles. But again, even when one sits down with the Metropolitan Separate School Board and the Metropolitan Toronto School Board, there are some areas where I see a number of the issues in a similar way. Indeed, what we're identifying now are some particular issues that are really relevant to Metropolitan Toronto, whether it's Metro separate, Metro public, and I wouldn't drag that in, in terms of what we're going to be looking at.
Hon Mr Cooke: Certainly in terms of process, I can assure you that as we get further down the road in terms of our thinking and as soon as I possibly can -- I haven't taken everything to cabinet yet -- you and anybody else in your caucus, and certainly the same for the Conservative critic, will be invited to come over for a full briefing to give you our latest thinking before a discussion paper goes out.
Mr Beer: Yes. I appreciate that. It's just that with this issue, as it was with Bill 30, there's nothing like education to really potentially tear at the fabric of the Ontario strand, if I can call it that way, and this one will be critical. We'll have one shot at it. It's one of those issues, I think, that comes along perhaps once in a generation where you have an opportunity to do something. I think we would want to work with you in doing that -- Mrs Cunningham has expressed the same thing -- and we'll take you up on that offer.
We had discussion among some people after one of the Remembrance Day parades I was attending. We were reminded of our wonderful days at school and how nasty we were as students occasionally, but it is brought home by various media reports, and I believe there was one this weekend on CBC Radio again, about things happening in our schools.
I'm wondering if you are able to comment on what you're aware of as the situation here in Ontario, because I think sometimes the reports are somewhat exaggerated -- and yet I don't think we have a firm handle on all of the statistics -- and what, if anything, at this point the ministry has discussed and is able to divulge to us here.
Hon Mr Cooke: At this point I'm not sure whether the reports are exaggerated or not, but I certainly know there's the perception and perhaps the reality that there are more incidents of violence in our schools now than there have been in the past. Certainly there's more coverage of it.
It's not just Metro. I was up in northwestern Ontario a couple of weeks ago, in Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout and Fort Frances, and in each of those communities it was raised. I did a radio phone-in show. That was virtually the only topic they wanted to talk about, with the exception of -- I think we spent the first few minutes talking about the new federal cabinet. I don't know why people would phone about that, but they did.
So it's not just a Metro issue. In a way, I'm quite thankful that it isn't, because I think the ministry needs to show some leadership. Too often the response outside Metropolitan Toronto is that everything that is done in the Ministry of Education is -- "Well, you're doing it for Metro Toronto." This is a province-wide issue, and I think there's a consensus that it's a province-wide issue.
We don't have a good handle on the statistics. There's not a reporting mechanism to the ministry, and that's one of the first things we talked about in the ministry. We've now given some direction to school boards about reporting to police and getting police involved when they appropriately should be involved, but I think we have to get a better handle on the statistics.
The questions of Scarborough policies: If you go ahead with zero tolerance and a child who brings a weapon into the school is then expelled, what is the long-term impact of expelling that student? One of the articles in the newspaper on the weekend was suggesting that we're actually creating the potential for gangs of expelled kids to come back into the school system and cause problems because we've expelled them. We really have to look at this and not look for simple solutions.
But it's an urgent problem. The secretariat has been working on a specific policy for a bit of time now, and I expect to review it shortly. I was hoping we'd have something by the end of November, but I don't think we will. We're not going to just put out a policy for the sake of putting out a policy. We want to make sure there's something there that people can talk about that will work and is credible.
Ms Haeck: If I can add one supplementary to this, I think many of us are convinced there is some linkage of racism to the violence in the school issue. I have at least seen one incident myself as a result of being there for a speaking engagement of the separation of the black students from the white students. They did this on their own, because obviously there was a sense that they were not getting along. One doesn't expect to see that in St Catharines.
I'm wondering to what degree anti-racism policies are being fleshed out. Again, one tends to think of it as more a Toronto issue, but it isn't; it's obviously all across the province, dealing with a range of groups.
Hon Mr Cooke: The Legislature passed Bill 21 in July 1992. Coming out of that was a policy memorandum to school boards requiring school boards to develop anti-racist policies. We sent out some guidelines and some time lines to the boards whereby they must submit their policies to us. Under Bill 21, we have to approve of those policies.
There are a number of boards in this community and elsewhere that have developed policies long before we ever thought of Bill 21, so lots of good work has been done. But there needs to be more consistency and we need to beef up the policies across the province. We've dealt as well under this with the questions of curriculum and, to some extent, employment equity in the teaching field, so access to our teachers' colleges.
Mr Beer: Can I just do a supplementary on that, just while we're on the topic? The other thing, just to note, you mentioned about Bill 21. If I recall, in our discussion in Bill 4 last spring, one of the issues that came up -- because part of the changes there were around the power by the board, by the school, to expel or to suspend a student for a certain period of time, and then that could be continued, but there would be a certain process.
One of the things that the committee did in discussing that bill was to look at, then what is the responsibility to, in effect, try to direct that student? This isn't in all cases violent acts; there may be others. But it seems to me it's still part of the solution, which is in many cases parents, even an older student or guardian, are not aware of what are the supports in the community that are going to be able to help that student.
I believe that what we've put into the act in effect was an obligation that the board in some way, through the principal or superintendent -- that one of the things that would have to happen to a student who is expelled for a longer period of time is that those supports would have to be identified and ways found to bring the student in contact with that.
I raise that. I know we don't have time to continue here, but I think it really does then speak to that broader issue around how we integrate a whole series of services, especially in these difficult times. If these kids are out of school, what happens then? That doesn't mean that the problem has gone away; it has just moved off the school campus. Yet as a society we've got to come to grips with it.
The Chair: I just want to make a brief comment. I'll use some prerogative of the Chair. But I recall OSSTF and the secondary principals' association invited a representative from each of the three caucuses to respond to the question, what is the single largest challenge for education in the new decade? I believe it was 1990, just prior to the last election, because Karl Morin-Strom represented your caucus and I think Sterling Campbell spoke for the Liberals at that session and I spoke for the Tories.
I had indicated that I thought violence was the largest single challenge, the toughest one, and three days later, a student at General Brock High School in my community walked in with a gun and shot a student and put three people in hospital. But when I was revisiting that speech some time ago, I recalled that one of the buzzwords we were working with was "prevention," and nobody seems to be looking at the angles of prevention and program that we're teaching in our schools. One of the things that one of the committees of this Legislature looked at was ADR, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. There's a whole wonderful body of knowledge around its application in schools.
The United States did this out of necessity, because down there they're losing kids and teachers at an alarming rate. But I think it's ironic that the President of the United States has given an award to a Toronto school for showing leadership in this, yet our own government or our own ministry is not pursuing it.
It does change the paradigm of power structures and unions and the labour movement and some of their curriculum needs. But frankly, if we're looking at teaching mediation to young people, maybe it'll work in the school classroom instead of a principal, an authoritarian person, hitting them with expulsion. It has ideological implications, but it empowers young people to deal with conflict in their own families, gender power and so on.
Hon Mr Cooke: Yes, but with all due respect, the ministry is doing work in that area. There's been a considerable amount of work done. There are several school boards that are involved. We don't run the school boards, but we've been working with the school boards in developing policy in this field. The reason why we have some leadership in the province is, I think, because the ministry over the years has provided that leadership. So it's not entirely accurate.