Oh, I know, parents love the full-day JK/SK program, also referred to as the ELP (Early Learning Program). But, think about it. Before it started a few years ago, the same 3 1/2, 4 and 5 year olds did very well attending school for only half a day, with the other half of their day in daycares or with grandma. In fact, they likely did better because a full day for a 3 1/2 year old is very long indeed.
Anyway, one of the reasons young parents like the ELP is because it is ostensibly free. But, like all those entitlements we hear about in Greece, they are not free at all because all Ontario taxpayers are paying for the program — actually going into debt to pay for it. Meaning, it is far from being a free program. Meaning, those same kids who are attending ELP now will still be paying for their pre-school education when they are retired.
Yes, Early Childhood Educators were supposed to run the program, which would have made it somewhat less expensive. But the teachers’ unions insisted that only a “qualified” teacher during the entire day would suffice. Never mind that individuals with an ECE diploma are actually better qualified to teach such young children. I know, I used to train both!
But, do the Ontario Liberals have the stomach to do the right thing? Think about it. There is allegedly a $16 billion deficit. According to Blizzard’s calculations, the full-day ELP will be $1.5 billion annually once fully implemented. It is also known that it will costs a couple of billion dollars to maintain the Teachers’ Pension Plan, payments which are guaranteed under legislation. There is another $3 billion outstanding for teacher sick-leave pay outs upon retirement. And, none of those potential savings, now or in the future, involves a pay freeze for the education sector.
You have to laugh though, just how Drummond expects McGuinty to implement any of these savings. Blizzard says he’s — wait for it — critical of the way Mike Harris made his sweeping across-the-board cuts to public services. So, just how does Drummond think you can make cuts without cutting services?
Magical thinking because it can’t be done. Imagine, for example, when McGuinty’s “jewel in the crown” for his time in office — the ELP — is cut. Thousands of Ontario parents and their children would be disrupted which would have far more impact than any cuts Mike Harris ever made.
I know because I worked for a Harris era MPP. The only real cuts were to welfare payments and public programs that were duplicated throughout the province. For example, Housing Help programs were cut in communities where there wasn’t a housing crisis. For the most part, the rest of the cuts were out of each ministry budget.
And, no there were no cuts to health care or education between 1995 and 1999. As I have stated in other posts, the $400 million cut from hospital budgets was re-allocated to long term care and home care. Similarly with education. The actual annual budget went up. What happened was that the funding formula was changed so that both Catholic and secular systems received the same per pupil dollar. That was about fairness, not cuts.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the McGuinty government actually does about the (and our grand-children’s and great-grand-children’s) Ontario deficit, if anything, apart from wringing their hands and blaming Mike Harris.
Endnote: Remember, in the spring of 2003, the Ontario PC government of Erne Eves balanced its budget. Between then and the October 2003 election, a few months later, we had the SARS crisis, which is why the Liberals were handed over a $5 billion deficit. That deficit was not due to over spending or mismanagement, as is the case with the McGuinty deficit. It was because of a contagious health crisis.
Yet, the Liberals have tripled that debt and they and Drummond have the nerve to blame Mike Harris, when he had already retired in 2002, at the time of continuous balanced budgets. Here is a link regarding the 1999 balanced budget.
Note also this CBC source about the 2003 budget tabled outside the Legislature and critiqued by none other than Don Drummond. I note that the media distrust was very similar then to the way it is now about all things federal Conservative Government.