Tuesday, February 5, 2013

And the next minister is?

With Kathleen Wynne's swearing in scheduled for Feb. 11, I haven't seen too much chatter on her choices for cabinet, other than some backing away from the cabinet table. With only 10 MPPs who supported her candidacy, if the premier-designate sticks to backroom-style politics those 10 could be up for some promotions.
In terms of those with cabinet experience under this government, here are some thoughts. Of the list, I would imagine, if I were in Wynne's shoes, I'd keep London North Centre's Deb Matthews at the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. Perth-Wellington's John Wilkinson barely kept his seat in 2011 thanks to his term as environment minister coupled with rural reaction to wind-farm developments. However he could land back in cabinet in some other portfolio. I would imagine Glen Murray would slide back into research and innovation, if that ministry continues to exist. If not, Murray's strengths could see him in municipal affairs and housing or perhaps back at training, colleges and universities. Kingtson and the Islands' John Gerretsen has held a number of portfolios since 2003. Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale's Ted McMeekin only made it to cabinet in McGuinty's last shuffle, but Wynne has already indicated she wants to serve as premier and minister of agriculture and rural affairs for at least the first year.
Of course my interests are in education.
Given the current state of things due to Bill 115, education will continue to be a key political post. Many have said current minister Laurel Broten will be axed from the post and either demoted to a less-glamorous cabinet post or to the back bench. Broten didn't support Wynne in the race, but Wynne has said she won't rip up the contracts imposed under Bill 115. There could be merit in keeping Broten in the post at the beginning of this refreshed cabinet's term-- the education sector unions won't like it, but Broten might deserve the opportunity to find a way out of the mess that is in place right now.
Of the rest on the list of supporters, only Guelph's Liz Sandals draws my eye. Another former trustee turned MPP, Sandals was also the MPP who served as parliamentary / legislative assistant for a good chunk of the time that Wynne was minister. She then followed Wynne to transportation after that shuffle. She's not yet been in cabinet and this might finally be her time.
Outside of the list of supporters, Ottawa Centre's Yasir Naqvi has also done the parliamentary assistant gig (under Leona Dombrowsky) and as OLP president I've seen other writers muse his time in cabinet is due. The current PA is Mississauga-Streetsville's Bob Delaney, who like Sandals was first elected in 2003.
Any other suggestions?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Thoughts on the PCPO white paper

The paper came out with some aplomb by the party as it rolls out various policy papers on different issues to build the foundation for any pending electoral campaign. You can read it for yourself here-- though I would recommend downloading the PDF and reading the whole paper as the online version only includes the "paths."
(As an aside, the bulk of this white paper was launched at the Ray Friel recreation centre in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans, which happens to be the very first pool I worked at as a lifeguard/instructor.)
I'm struck by two main thoughts after reading through this white paper.
  • Does the party know what the current government is actually doing in education? The paper mentions changes and implementing policies that are already underway -- take community use of schools as an example. Would a PC government do much more than what is already in place? They commit to increasing after-hours use of school buildings yet those policies (and subsidies for non-profit groups) are already in place. Another example is what it says on the Specialist High Skills Major programs-- again, what would a PC government do that's different than what's already being done? There were a couple of other "paths" where I was also left wondering whether the party was admitting it would just continue current practices or setup something dramatically different than what has been developed over the last nine-plus years.
  • The money questions could kill any effectiveness in this platform. There are many mentioned in here-- from implementing full-day kindergarten (the party has flip-flopped on this program so many times I've lost count), to class-size averages and programs to the ubiquitous reduction of "non-teaching" staff. Some come right out of the Drummond Report, which made good points that should be addressed but also showed a bean-counter's approach. There needs to be more detail provided by all parties on whether there could be a determination of some standards in staffing levels / non-teaching support levels and then ensure those standards are implemented and staffing adjustments made relevant to declining population. The white paper suggests too many of the increases in spending were irrelevant to improving student experiences and outcomes, but neglects to take into account many of these investments were added after being cut or drastically reduced by previous governments.
Coverage of the launch focused on the "defining a teacher's job" section of the report, given the current state of extracurricular activities in public schools as a result of Bill 115. But like always, there's other substance to this policy paper. From school organization to new standardized tests (Grade 8 science) and new school construction there's enough to chew on here.
I'm curious to see what the other platforms would look like heading into any pending election. As a casual observer of such things, I'd say this is the strongest policy document on K-12 I've seen from the PC Party of Ontario in some time. With former minister Kathleen Wynne set to be sworn in on Feb. 11, I'll be equally curious to see whether any eventual Ontario Liberal Party platform expands on what she mentioned in her leadership platfom.
Which leaves the Ontario NDP-- will they have an education platform? Rather, when will they tell us about it?