Government Plan Freezes Classroom Sizes, Invests in Special Education, and Holds the Line on Wages and Benefits
TORONTO — Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, welcomes the government’s additional, reasonable proposals at the negotiating table to fight for the priorities of students and parents, with a single focus on ending this impasse.
During the negotiation process, the government tabled proposals with each of the education sector unions, which included substantive moves on lower than proposed but not lower than on the ground class sizes, support for students' unique learning needs, full-day Kindergarten, as well as reasonable proposals on merit-based hiring and compensation.
Despite these consistently reasonable moves, the teachers' unions continue to reject the government's student-centric proposals while simultaneously focusing on significant increases in compensation, particularly enriching generous benefits schemes.
On Tuesday, the government is announcing the most recent proposal put forward to all teacher unions, with a focus on getting a deal:
- A commitment to a funded maximum average class size of 23 in secondary schools - leaving them essentially the same as 2019-2020;
- Replace the previous Local Priorities Fund with a new, student-centric Supports for Students Fund, which allows boards more flexibility to address students' unique learning needs, including special education, mental health, and STEM education;
- The Supports for Students Fund would continue at the same funding amount of the Local Priorities Fund.
- A commitment to maintain full-day kindergarten; and
- Reasonable increases in wages and compensation.
The government is also announcing a policy to give parents the ability to opt their children out of the mandatory online courses required for graduation.
The government is calling on the unions to cancel future strikes during this period to allow for good faith bargaining. Moreover, the government continues to make the case for the advancement of merit-based hiring.
"The time to end this is now. Parents are frustrated, students are losing educational days, and teachers are uncertain about their future," said Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. "I am asking the teachers' unions to return to the table, in light of this reasonable offer, to reach the agreement parents want, and students deserve."
These proposals demonstrate the government's commitment to getting students back in the classroom, investing in our students' potential while supporting the school boards' planning processes.
"This is a balanced plan that reflects the priorities of students and parents, maintaining class sizes, investing in students' unique learning needs, and holds the line on the reasonable increase in wages and compensation we are offering."
"If the unions reject this most recent, student-centric offer, parents should rightly be asking what exactly are the priorities of the unions," concluded Lecce.
“This is another reasonable step in the right direction, to ensure that students remain in class,” said Smith. “It is time for teacher union federations to work with all parties in good faith to reach a deal and put an end to continued strike action that disproportionately affects our children.”
- The Government’s plan includes no changes to class size for our youngest learners in Junior Kindergarten through grade 3. There are no changes to class size for students in grades 4 to 8. Provincial funding, and legislated class size restrictions, would change for grades 9-12 to reflect an average class size of 23. This is effectively the same as 2019-20.
- The Ministry of Education provides the framework, funding, and flexibility needed to support school boards in meeting class size requirements for all grades across the province. Local school boards are responsible for class organization.
- The Ministry of Education will continue to move forward on a made-in-Ontario online learning program that will ensure student flexibility, technological literacy and a wide selection of
- courses. By expanding and modernizing online learning, students will have greater flexibility, more choice, and will graduate with the skills needed to enter the workforce.
- The Ministry of Education understands that parents know best how their children can adapt and learn through online courses, by giving parents the option to opt out of the mandatory online courses required for graduation. As students prepare to enter Grade 11 and 12, parents will have the opportunity to engage with their child’s guidance counsellor to determine whether online learning is appropriate and beneficial for their child.
- The Supports for Students Fund will provide a total of $148 million, an amount equivalent to the remaining amount of the previously negotiated Local Priorities Fund, in the last round of bargaining.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2020
Quinte West - Ontario is investing in community health centres to create a better care experience for patients and to build more capacity within the health care system to help end hallway health care.
Today on behalf of Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, was in Trenton to announce Ontario is investing more than $14 million for the construction of the Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre (BQWCHC) on Catherine Street across from Quinte Health Care’s Trenton Memorial Hospital (TMH). The Trenton satellite site project will increase primary care capacity in Trenton and surrounding community.
“By creating a modern and spacious permanent home near TMH for the Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre satellite site, the Province is helping residents find more convenient access to the care they need,” said Smith. “This one-stop health hub will promote collaborative patient care and ease the pressures of hallway health care in our hospitals.”
Under the BQWCHC Trenton satellite project, patients and families will have access to patient-centred and integrated health care services, including:
- Primary health care;
- Dietitian/nutrition counseling;
- Mental health services;
- Health promotion and prevention; and
- Chronic disease management.
This project is part of the government’s commitment to invest $27 billion over the next 10 years in health infrastructure projects across Ontario.
“As part of our comprehensive plan to end hallway health care, we’re investing in innovative models to bring better care closer to home,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Patients across the province are waiting too long for care and finding it difficult to navigate a disconnected and confusing health care system. One of the ways we are going to help solve this problem is by investing in innovative health care models, like this one right here in Trenton.”
BQWCHC Executive Director Sheila Braidek and Board President Brad Harrington expressed their gratitude that the Province’s commitment has allowed the project to proceed.
“This new building will allow us to expand our health promotion and community programming and to better accommodate our primary health care services. BQWCHC has always been a community health hub. This project will expand what’s possible,” said Braidek.
“This project has been in the works for a long time and it is very exciting that we can now build a permanent home for BQWCHC,” added Harrington. “We extend our sincere appreciation to the Province of Ontario for its generous support of this important capital project. We would also like to thank Quinte Health Care and the City of Quinte West for their support.”
Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison was also pleased with the development.
"We couldn't be happier that this project is getting the funding it needs to move forward," said Harrison. "Quinte West residents will benefit from increased access to a variety of resources and services that will be available at the new facility."
Quinte Health Care donated land to allow the project to proceed. President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Clare Egberts said the preventative care offered through the Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre is an important element of the local health services delivery model.
“Quinte Health Care was pleased to donate the land for this project as we know that the Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre will have a positive impact on our patients and will help support the work we do at the hospitals by providing enhanced prevention, screening and health promotion. We are thankful that the Province of Ontario is investing in this project,” said Egberts.
The development will occur in two phases: Construction of the new building, followed by decommissioning and disassembly of the existing modular site at 70 Murphy St. During the construction phase, services will continue at the Murphy Street. The total square footage of those sites is 7,200 square feet. Harbridge & Cross Ltd. has been selected as the preferred contractor following a request for proposals process held in Fall 2019. The anticipated completion date of construction is Summer 2021.
Ontario has a comprehensive plan to end hallway health care, which includes making investments and advancing new initiatives across four pillars:
- Prevention and health promotion: keeping patients as healthy as possible in their communities and out of hospitals.
- Providing the right care in the right place: when patients need care, ensure that they receive it in the most appropriate setting, not always the hospital. This includes investing in community-based health services.
- Integration and improved patient flow: better integrate care providers to ensure patients spend less time waiting in hospitals when they are ready to be discharged. Ontario Health Teams will play a critical role in connecting care providers and, in doing so, helping to end hallway health care.
- Building capacity: build new hospital and long-term care beds while increasing community-based services across Ontario. This includes expanding access to community health centres.
Smith encouraged Loyalist College, local health providers may benefit from standalone nursing announcement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2020
Belleville - Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, believes Loyalist College and the Quinte region will benefit from Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano’s announcement this morning the Province is planning changes to allow colleges to offer standalone nursing degree programs.
Romano announced that pending a regulatory amendment under the Nursing Act, 1991, all colleges and universities would be able to apply to offer standalone degree nursing programs subject to receiving necessary approvals from the College of Nurses of Ontario and the government. Previously, colleges were required to partner with universities to be able to grant degrees.
“These proposed changes will allow colleges — including Loyalist — increased autonomy and a chance to deliver excellent nursing education in one location,” said Smith. “That will lead to improved access for students who don’t have to leave their community to pursue their education.”
Smith noted Loyalist College has been a keen advocate for the proposed changes. Currently, students in its collaborative nursing degree program spend two years in Belleville, then complete their bachelor’s degree with two years at Brock University in St. Catharines. The college’s President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ann Marie Vaughan said the distance between communities is not only a barrier to program participation, but it also may be having an impact on health services in the area.
“Fewer than five per cent of our collaborative nursing degree graduates return to work in the Bay of Quinte region where we really need them,” said Vaughan. “Providing students with the option to complete their nursing degree at Loyalist will improve health care delivery in our communities by attracting more individuals into nursing professions here.”
Vaughan said Loyalist believes it is positioned well to develop a sustainable, in-demand program due to its demonstrated faculty expertise and academic excellence in health-related programs as well as its state-of-the-art integrated health and human studies learning environment on the third floor of the Northumberland Wing. The Province supported the redevelopment of that wing.
Carol Smith Romeril, the Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Quinte Health Care said the local hospital corporation is “delighted with this great news for Loyalist College and our community. We look forward to welcoming students and graduates into our care environments.”
The policy changes may also allow for laddering pathways that could see personal support workers and registered practical nurses stay in their communities and train to qualify as registered practical nurses and registered nurses, which are both in need in the region.
Smith believes there is a clear benefit for the Quinte region in allowing students to complete their training here.
“Students completing their courses and practical placements in one community have a chance to develop professional and personal connections there,” he said. “Upon graduation, it is only natural for them to build on those ties as they start their careers.”
Romano said changes like the provision of standalone nursing programs show Ontario remains responsive to the needs of its people.
“Safeguarding Ontario’s competitiveness and building Ontario’s economy means ensuring our postsecondary institutions are training students for the jobs of today and the future. That is why Ontario is introducing a new pathway for nursing education, to offer greater choice for students.”
- To become a registered nurse in Ontario (and a member of the College of Nurses of Ontario), students must obtain a baccalaureate degree in nursing.
- Except for Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, which have independent nursing programs, all other institutions in Ontario offer nursing programs for future registered nurses through a collaborative partnership.
- Since the collaborative nursing education model was implemented in 2000, postsecondary education and health systems have grown and evolved. Many colleges now have experience in delivering and managing degree programs.
- Successful implementation of this new policy is dependent on the Ministry of Health working with the College of Nurses of Ontario to amend a regulation made under the Nursing Act, 1991.
- Providing institutions with the option to continue a collaborative partnership or offer a stand-alone program for future registered nurses allows greater flexibility in meeting particular needs in local communities, while continuing to equip students with the skills and training necessary to meet the standards of care Ontarians deserve from our healthcare professionals.