Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spreading the love, government style

Media across the province are in the process of being advised of a series of upcoming announcements relating to an April 21 Ontario Ministry of Education announcement on facility and capital dollars for "green" schools. Boards have already been notified by ministry memo of their share on $400 million of a $550-million two-year pot of green. Those dollars are to be used for audits, energy management systems and high-efficiency heating, cooling and window projects.
Asking the ministry when the remaining $150 million for capital expansions and improvements might be announced brought an answer of "soon."
The advisories of the pending announcements at the local level fall into this April 21 cash. It's also extremely typical of how the McGuinty government enjoys spreading the education love around the province. It's actually a pretty beautifully orchestrated way of getting lots of positive coverage. Save the juiciest announcements for Premier Dalton McGuinty -- like, say, the Pascal report that we're still waiting for. The big but routine budget, program, policy items can be hit by Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne.
On good-news items that have an impact on local schools, this government does a good job of farming those out to local MPPs. Within the span of a few days, the announcements generate tonnes of media hits across the province and I think that creates goodwill.
Unless, of course, your riding voted Progressive Conservative or NDP in the last election-- in which case, you don't get a local announcement. The good things coming to your area get included in the list of things a Liberal MPP puts in his or her announcement, after the projects in his/her own riding.
So, for example, say you live in Fergus and your MPP is PC'er Ted Arnott (a former parliamentary assistant to the last Tory education minister Liz Witmer, for those keeping score). Too bad-- you'll have to travel to Guelph, to the office of someone like, oh, I don't know, Liz Sandals, to hear all about how some school in Fergus is getting money to replace a smattering of inefficient portables with a permanent, energy efficient extension at the closest school.


Anonymous said...

You are dead-on Ed. Reporter!!

Here's the rub. How can the public be insured that all of that green loot will actually be spent on "green" initiatives. What checks and balances is there that the taxpayer can look to to see that they're getting value for their taxdollars?

Or will the money be put towards the latest item boards are wanting parents to fundraise for....SMART boards?

Education Reporter said...

Well, the boards will have to report to the ministry on how they spent the money. This is the way it's been with all the Good Places to Learn grant money.
The capital projects are subject to ministry approval, hence the Friday announcements. No project, no approval, no money.
I seriously doubt any SMART boards could even qualify for this grant or would be purchased with them.