School’s chaos, premier Ford could cut minister Lecce in the next shuffle
TORONTO – The controversy over schools in Ontario is not going away. Twenty-four hours after the provincial government’s decision to continue remote teaching until the end of this school year, it has infused the political climate, provoking accusations and poisons during the last parliamentary session in Queen’s Park before the summer break. But not only that.
The decision by Doug Ford and The Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, was voted against by trade unions and numerous experts, together with associations in the health sector. In short, the choice to go ahead with schools closed until September does not like it. Also because, as NDP leader Andrea Horwath rightly pointed out, Ontario is currently the only Canadian province with schools still closed and, at the same time, it is Canada’s jurisdiction with the most closing days accumulated during the pandemic.
On the other hand, the executive squares around the conservative premier and defends the decision to go ahead with online classes, sending those back to class in September. Ford himself, in explaining his decision, stressed that reopening schools for two to three weeks would pose a potential risk to the road map on the reopening of the economy. Phase 1 is scheduled to enter on June 14, but it is the premier’s intention to accelerate and start reopening earlier, perhaps from next week.
But many did not even like this contrast between the needs of the school world and the needs of the various production sectors that paid a heavy price for the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially during the third wave.
The Children’s Health Coalition, an influential umbrella organization that also includes Sick Kids, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and Children’s Mental Health Ontario, has written an open letter to Ford criticizing the decision to keep schools closed. The letter points out that the premier deliberately decided to ignore recommendations made by experts, virologists, pediatricians and medical associations.
“During the pandemic – it says in the letter – children and young people have made enormous sacrifices, from the loss of lessons in the classroom to the postponement of surgical operations and therapies. Until now, there has been inadequate attention to their needs. For many children, the decisions made by the government will have an impact on their learning, development and physical and mental health not only now, but also in future years.”
Very harsh words, they throw gasoline on the fire in an already overheated situation.
Now Ford faces a dilemma. Closed the Queen’s Park sessions until next autumn, the premier will have carte blanche and can devote himself to the cabinet reshuffle. And in the shuffle could also end Lecce itself, which would become the scapegoat of the government’s contradictory policies on school during the pandemic.
Or Ford could build a wall and defend his minister to the end, just as he did with Merrilee Fullerton, the minister in charge of Long Term Care, even at a time when the opposition has blamed her for the disaster – between deaths and infections – in long-term care homes. The premier will decide in the next few days.