Queen's Park Highlights - October 31, 2014

Date posted: Friday, November 07, 2014 11:42 am


Premier Kathleen Wynne spent the week in China on her first international trade mission since taking on the mantle of premier. She was replaced in the hot seat during Question Period by Deputy Premier and Treasury Board President Deb Matthews.

1. Education Ministry moves forward with Updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum 

On October 30, Education Minister Liz Sandals announced that the government is finally moving forward with an updated and current curriculum document for Health and Physical Education. A revised curriculum was shelved in 2010 when former premierDalton McGuinty gave in to a few religious leaders who expressed concerns about the curriculum’s sexual health components. 

The government’s plan is to consult with parents in November. One parent from each school will be involved in an online survey seeking to get parents’ views on the age-appropriateness of specific topics. Onsite meetings will be held with the provincial parent organizations. 

The updated curriculum, which the government reports will include only minor changes from the 2010 version, will be released in the New Year. The release will be followed by teacher in-service prior to its implementation in September 2015. Details regarding the in-service are not yet available. 

To read the news release, check here

2.Opposition Parties Polar Opposites in Attack on new Child Care Legislation 

Two opposing viewpoints about child care are fuelling the Opposition party attacks on Bill 10, the government’s proposed modernization of child care legislation that, among other changes, increases the government’s authority to inspect and fine unlicensed home child care providers. The PC Party is voicing concerns on the part of independent home child care providers that the changes will put them out of business; the NDP is accusing the government of not doing enough to regulate the sector. The independent operators are organizing rallies in various communities to protest the legislation. 

Education Minister Liz Sandals has rejected the Tories’ claim that 140,000 “independent child care spaces” will be lost. On October 30, PC Education Critic Garfield Dunlop asked the Minister to provide her own estimate of the impact of the legislation on the sector. Minister Sandals replied:

“Actually, I’d love to hear how he calculated 140,000…I’m very happy to tell the member opposite that, in fact, we have, since we came into government, licensed 130,000 new spaces, and that’s actual licensing data, that we have those new licensed child care spaces.”

Mr. Dunlop’s questions were followed by NDP MPP Monique Taylor who pointed to the recent Ombudsman’s report that is critical of the shortage of inspectors for the new child care enforcement unit. She stated:

“It’s no wonder illegal daycares operate with impunity, taking advantage of families without getting caught. There simply aren’t enough inspectors to do the job.

“How can the minister possibly defend having just one inspector for every 22,000 kids in daycare?”

Minister Sandals responded:

“I’d like to talk a little bit about the findings of both the Ombudsman and our ministry. When we looked at the old way in which inspectors were organized, they were responsible primarily for visiting, reviewing, issuing and renewing licences, and then, coincidentally, had additional responsibility to respond to complaints about unlicensed care. 

“What we’ve done is created a new unit whose only responsibility is to respond to complaints about unlicensed child care. That move to create a totally dedicated enforcement unit that will only worry about complaints on unlicensed child care has been endorsed by the Ombudsman. In fact, his recommendations include moving ahead with setting that up, and I’m very pleased to report that that unit has been set up.”

In answer to a supplementary question, the Minister added:

“The Ombudsman said, in his report, that “the government and the ministry have taken positive steps and made concrete plans to improve the process for dealing with complaints about unlicensed daycares....In the past year, the ministry has made genuine and focused efforts to rise to the challenge of ensuring that Ontario has a proactive, timely, risk-based, and effective system for monitoring unlicensed child care operations.” 

“I would like to repeat that all the people in this unit will do nothing but respond to complaints and make sure that any directives they issue have been completed. When we get Bill 10, they will actually have the ability to impose fines; they will actually have the ability to close down daycares which are unsafe.”

3. Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues reports on Work on Violence against Aboriginal Women 

On October 27, in response to a question from backbench MPP Ann Hoggarth, Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues Tracey McCharles reported on what the government is doing to address the issue of violence against aboriginal women. A principal point of her response was to point a finger at the lack of action on the part of the federal government:

“As we talked about in the House here last week, during the member from Kingston and the Islands’ private member’s resolution, the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group and the National Aboriginal Women’s Summit steering community are leading the development of a socio-economic plan for aboriginal women and girls. 

“The discussion last week at the summit began the development of this plan. I was very pleased to be there representing our wonderful province, along with my colleague the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs. We met with leaders, provincial ministers, and senior officials from Canadian provinces and territories to discuss the approach. Unfortunately, the federal government wasn’t there, but we did focus on issues around murdered and missing aboriginal children.

“Our budget for this year includes $2 million over two years to support our Joint Working Group on Violence Against Aboriginal Women. This includes five aboriginal organizations and 10 ministries. It’s the only committee of this kind. We look forward to the continuing results of that plan in about 18 months.”

4. Minister reports on Status of Services for Developmentally Disabled 

On October 28, Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek reported on the status of the government’s response to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Developmental Services released in July 2014. The Ministerreported:

“Our $810-million budget investment in developmental services will, over the next three years, address many of the select committee’s recommendations. It will provide new direct funding to 21,000 people, addressing the current Special Services at Home and Passport wait-lists. It will help more than 4,200 adults with developmental disabilities find the supports they need to navigate key life changes such as leaving school or finding a job. It will provide residential support for 1,400 people with urgent needs, and it will promote service efficiency and new community living partnerships to make greater inclusion a reality for many more Ontarians. 

“I am proud to say that thousands of people are already benefiting from our budget investment. We have already approved new direct funding for 6,000 families for Special Services at Home and nearly 1,900 adults under Passport. 

“We have also approved new residential supports for more than 350 people this year, and people are transitioning to their new homes as we speak. Our housing task force has already started its work to find new and more effective ways of providing residential housing for people with developmental disabilities.” 

“…My ministry will work with the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure’s Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities. This council is working with the employer community to increase the participation of people with disabilities in Ontario’s workplaces. As was announced last Friday, the Honourable David. C. Onley will act as a special adviser to Minister Duguid in this regard.”

5. Labour Bill referred to Standing Committee for Review 

On October 29, Bill 18, the Stronger Workplaces for a Stronger Economy Act, 2014, was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government for review. The bill includes: 

  • provisions to institute regular cost-of-living increases to the minimum wage;
  • increased protection for foreign workers employed as live-in caregivers;
  • changes to provisions affecting unions’ ability to apply for bargaining agency status and employees’ ability to declare that a union no longer represents them;
  • an updated definition of “worker” in the Occupational Health and Safety Act that includes secondary students who are in workplace co-op placements; and
  • greater protection for workers employed through a temporary help agency who are injured at work.

 

For more information, check the website of the Ontario Legislature.

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