West Ferris Secondary School hosted an education forum for the candidates from the Progressive Conservative, New Democratic, Liberal, Northern Ontario, and Green Parties last night to create an open dialogue and hear what each candidate’s plans for the future of education should they be voted into office.
Each candidate gathered on stage in the Commit to Excellence Auditorium and, under the scrupulous guidance of a moderator, outlined their platform moving forward in relation to the Near North District School Board, and other educational boards as a whole.
“Politicians have to realize that the kids are the future and they have to look after the educational needs.” Moderator and retired Nipissing University Professor Jack Jones stated last night as he proposed that the successful candidate would need to be aware, analytical and actionable regarding issues within the education system.
The candidates answered questions surrounding student achievement and well being, labour relations, and funding. Stephen Glass of the Liberal Party expressed views on expansion and investing in infrastructure. Henri Giroux of the NDP stated intentions to cap classroom sizes and hire more teachers while re-writing the funding formula, and the Green Party candidate Kris Rivard had a focus on jobs, people, and planning.
Trevor Holliday of The Northern Ontario Party stated that there would be a strong focus on committing to mental health services within the school system; going so far as to commit twenty percent of his earned wage back into mental health programs should he be elected. Vic Fedeli of the Progressive Conservatives drove his point home of putting the children first and investing in students, stating that everybody needs to be a part of the solution.
Through a few barbed comments and thinly veiled jabs one would expect when having five politicians under one roof, the underlying messages of maintaining and growing staff and facilities, investing in future generations, building relationships with indigenous communities, and moving forward into the digital age were expressed across the panel.
The candidates were taken to task by a public that was seeking answers to the future of an education system that they feel has some glaring holes that need to be patched. About 40 people were in the audience.
A quiet expectation could be felt in the crowd as students, parents, and the public at large was able to voice their concerns by asking questions regarding issues like having more trades professionals as administrators in classrooms, as well as health and physical education classes that were inclusive and reflective of the diversity of all students.
Questions surrounding the reduction of contract faculty at universities and colleges were also put to the candidates. Other issues raised included more mental health support in schools, additional frontline children’s services, changing or eliminating the EQAO testing, and the idea of adopting a one school board system.
Last night the message from the audience was clear: when it comes to their vote it is no longer a matter of show and tell, the elected candidate must now show and prove.