Local MPP Steve Clark is certainly staying in the news these days; probably an inevitable result of being a Minister in the current Ford government. For a few weeks there, his excellent reputation among the people of his riding seemed to have become somewhat tarnished, with loud criticism coming from all directions, following the release of the provincial budget in April.
The increase in class sizes, the axing of the Inter-Library Loan system, the elimination of the 50 Million Trees program, the reorganisation of the provinces Health Units, all of these issues, and more, created anger in communities across Ontario, even leading residents to take to the streets to protest on one or more of those issues.
But Steve is hitting back, not literally, of course. After a public demonstration by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation outside his Brockville office recently, as well as communications from the Upper Canada District School Board discussing possible cuts to programming following the release of the provincial budget [See May 22 issue of the Times], Steve Clark issued a statement on May 27 in which he announced increased funding for the UCDSB.
The Board will receive over $342 million for the 2019-2020 school year, an increase of $927,495 compared to the previous year’s funding. He also pointed out that the 2019-2020 Grants for Student Needs (GSN) allocation to UCDSB represents the largest allocation in the board’s history. In an unusually sharp response to the Board’s comments on cutting programs, Steve said: “It’s disappointing the board did not wait for complete numbers before going to the media and engaging in fear-mongering tactics.”
There did still seem to be a difference between the list of programs receiving the extra funding, and those listed as being in danger of reduction by the Board. There is also concern on the Board that day-to-day operations could be affected, leading to job cuts. However, the recent announcement by the Premier and Steve Clark that budget cuts are being at least delayed, may well alleviate that concern.
Even before that decision was made, Steve emphasised the need for the school boards across the province to become more cost-effective in their operations. “Our government expects the school board to continue to run an efficient transportation system, and to find efficiencies throughout their board. It’s what Ontarians expect. In turn, they can expect that we’ll stand by important services like frontline staff, busing and support for students,” he said.
MPP Clark also confirmed that funding remains in place for all school capital projects. “The local board has applied for approvals on a child care addition in Kemptville, as well as a school addition to North Grenville District High School,” he noted. “Our government continues to make important investments in our communities.”