What a beautiful couple of weeks we have had—kind of like the July that we didn’t have!
I wanted just to touch base with you as the new session of the Legislature comes back. This week will be a very political one with the by-election in St. Paul’s happening this Thursday, September 17th, the return of the Legislature on Monday and the ongoing conjecture in Ottawa about whether or not we will have a federal election this fall.
On St. Paul’s, I’ve been out with a Don Valley West team in the riding four times now and Eric Hoskins, our candidate is doing very well. Everyone who has met him has been impressed and the response has been good at the door and at the subway stop. If you have a chance between now and Thursday or on Thursday to lend a hand, I know that Eric and the campaign team would appreciate it. The campaign office is at 556 St. Clair Avenue West and the campaign phone number is 416-489-8683.
All of our nearly 5000 publicly funded schools have been open now for their first week (some have been open for two weeks because of the late Labour Day) and I hope that all of you who work in or go to school have had a great start to the year. From my perspective, we have lots to look forward to this year—especially the planning for the introduction of the full day programming for 4 and 5-year-olds which we will begin to phase-in in September 2010. Thankfully, and because of the good work of all of our school boards, and staff federations and unions, every collective agreement in the province has been settled for a four year period to end in 2012 so all of us in education can focus on students and their success and opportunities in an extended period of labour peace.
Of course, we’re going to face challenges both in education and as a government. Although the economic downturn seems to be abating, it will be some time before we are able to say that we are solidly on the road to recovery—the measures we have laid out in our last budget must be implemented and we need to continue to pressure the federal government to work with us. Those economic realities will have an influence on all of our budgets, including education, and I will work closely with my colleagues to protect the significant gains we have made over the past six years.
I think, as a government, we have done a very good job bringing community and stakeholder voices into our policy and decision-making processes. That will continue as it did this summer when Minister Watson conducted consultations around the province on the future of affordable housing. At the same time, there are always going to be challenges and differences of opinion—that’s the nature of public discourse. So, there are people who have contacted me over the summer with concerns about the generation of wind power and the installation of windmills, about our decision around the harmonized sales tax and about our attempts to put legislation and regulation in place to make it clear that school boards are accountable for student achievement and how that achievement should be defined.
On all of these fronts, there will continue to be discussion at the end of which our policies will be stronger. My commitment to you is that in each of these cases and the myriad more that are already engaged or will spring up this year, we will continue to reach out to the community, and I hope that as these issues arise, you will continue to keep talking to me!
All the best for the next few weeks!
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