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Del Duca says he would reverse Ford’s education cuts

Del Duca says he would reverse Ford’s education cuts
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The front-runner for the Ontario Liberal leadership would reverse Premier Doug Ford’s education cuts and repeal a controversial law capping public-sector wage increases if elected.

Steven Del Duca, who served as a minister in premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet, said he would make those changes should he become Liberal leader on March 7 and win the next provincial election in 2022.

“We need a government that will invest in students,” said Del Duca.

“Ontario needs to be a world leader in education. We need to focus on and celebrate student achievement,” said the former Vaughan MPP, who lost his seat to Progressive Conservative Michael Tibollo in the June 2018 Tory landslide that ended almost 15 years of Liberal rule.

“That’s why it’s so important to restore effective and appropriate class sizes to our education system. Doug Ford is obsessed with laying off as many teachers as possible,” he said.

“He doesn’t care if the layoffs come from high class sizes or from mandatory online courses — education to him is no more than a line item on a budget spreadsheet.”

Del Duca’s comments come as public high school teachers threaten to hold another one-day strike Wednesday, one week after their first daylong walkout.

“I believe every student in this province should be able to go as far as talent and effort take them. The fight for world class education is a fight for fairness and a fight for opportunity — every student in this province deserves a chance.”

To that end, Del Duca would return average class sizes for Grades 4 through 8 to the previous ratio of 23.84 students to one teacher from the Conservatives’ 24.5.

A Liberal government led by him would also keep average high school class sizes at 22 instead of the Tories’ proposed 25 students, which is a key sticking point in the ongoing labour strife with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

As well, it would restore Ford’s program cuts, such as the “learning opportunities grant” and “focus on youth” program.

Del Duca said he would repeal Bill 124, the Tory law that limits public-sector pay hikes to one per cent annually and “pass new legislation to prohibit future governments from imposing arbitrary wage freezes and caps in advance of collective bargaining.”

Unions are planning a constitutional challenge of the PC bill because they believe it violates the charter rights of their members.

Similar legislation in 2012 from Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, which imposed pay freezes on teachers, was found to be unconstitutional in 2016 even though Wynne had already repealed it.

Also in the contest to led the Grits are MPPs Michael Coteau (Don Valley East) and Mitzie Hunter (Scarborough Guildwood), who are both former ministers.

The field is rounded out by Kate Graham, who finished third in London North Centre in last year’s election, Alvin Tedjo, the runner-up in Oakville-Burlington North last year, and Ottawa lawyer Brenda Hollingsworth.

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About 1,500 delegates, who will be selected by some 30,000 eligible party members at meetings across the province on Feb. 8 and 9, will vote for the new leader at a Mississauga convention on March 7.

The six candidates debate in Windsor on Thursday, followed by debates in Sudbury on Jan. 12, Ottawa on Jan. 22, Markham on Feb. 1, and Toronto on Feb. 19.
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