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McGuinty Must Stop Rural School Closures

(Queen's Park Report - June 3, 2008) The Progressive Conservative Caucus is putting rural school closures at the top of the legislative agenda this week through the introduction and debate of a motion calling upon Premier McGuinty to suspend any and all board-recommended rural school closures.  It is our belief that the government’s promised funding formula review and an assessment of alternative uses for rural schools should be completed first.

Our initiative comes on the heels of research indicating that 37 of 72 school boards in Ontario are currently undertaking accommodation reviews involving more than 300 schools and affecting over 100,000 students.

In Simcoe-Grey the story is just as bleak.  Currently, there are six schools undergoing an accommodation review, which is essentially, depending how you look at it, the final step before a school is allowed to close.  Among those are Elmvale District High School, Stayner Collegiate Institute, Alliston Union Public School and Our Lady of Assumption in New Lowell to name just a few.

The list does not include facilities like Duntroon Central Public School that always seem to come perilously close to closure.   In fact, Duntroon is one school I fought very hard to keep open back in the mid-1990s.  When the Board wanted to close Nottawa Elementary and bus the students to either Duntroon or Collingwood, I joined the fight and we won a brand new school for Nottawa.  The same goes for Admiral Collingwood.   It was supposed to close leaving Collingwood with only 3 schools until we fought to have it replaced, which it was.

Schools are often the heart of rural communities.  As Dalton McGuinty said in 2002, “If a rural community loses a school, it's not the same as shutting one down in downtown Toronto where there's another one six blocks away.  What you're doing is robbing the community of an important component. It's the heart and soul of a community. If you don't have a school it's really tough to attract and to hold on to young families.”  I agree, which makes me wonder why years later he is so bent on stealing the heart and soul right out of Stayner, Elmvale and New Lowell, among others.

The fact is Mr. McGuinty has lied.  During the last election, on September 18th, Mr. McGuinty walked up to a podium at Newburgh Public School outside of Kingston and said, “Rural schools help keep communities strong, which is why we’re not only committed to keeping them open — but strengthening them.”  Keep in mind he said that after being Premier for 4 years and having had years to review all of the data on finances and enrollment.  At the end of the day, his election proclamation was nothing but a lie and worst of all, he knew it as he enunciated it.  

So this week I am going to speak in support of my party’s resolution to suspend school closures and I am going to talk passionately about the importance of keeping our own local schools open.  Unlike Mr. McGuinty, I mean it.


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