QUINTE WEST — It was a less than stellar greeting received by Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith and Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy when they arrived at the Trent Port Marina Thursday to share what they called “positive” remarks about the provincial government’s first year in office.
Dozens of members from a variety of teachers’ and public service employees’ unions awaited the politicians carrying flags and placards and chanting “shame, shame, shame” because of cuts to education by the province.
Smith, who became Minister of Children, Community and Social Services during the provincial government’s massive cabinet shuffle two weeks ago, and Bethlenfalvy, MPP for Pickering-Uxbridge, simply smiled and walked into the marina to address members of the Quinte West, Belleville and Prince Edward County chambers of commerce.
Before the speaking engagement began, teachers union members were stating their case against government cuts.
“They need to look at other ways of making cuts and making changes, so that we can trust the government. That’s not what they were voted in for. They were not voted in to slash our health care, they were not voted in to slash our social and community services, or our education system or the autism funding that supports so many. They were not voted in for those reasons,” said Angel Sperry, from the Ontario School Board Council of Unions.
When it was suggested the government was blaming school boards for staff cuts, Sperry replied, “The government gave the budget to the school boards to deal with and they have to find a way to run their schools with what they’re given, so that’s a nice way of just putting it off and onto school boards and taking no responsibility or accountability for what this government has done. They are the ones who have slashed the budget, they’re the ones who have cut the student funding and the school boards are trying to do what they can to make their schools work. They have no choice with the money they are allotted to layoff frontline workers. I disagree with that and think it’s a big copout for the government to take no accountability, something that we try and teach and educate our students about is taking accountability, and this government lies about what is happening across this province, but the educators, we know what’s going on, we live it.”
Scott Morrison from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation said while speaking into a megaphone, “We understand that Todd Smith is coming here today to quote unquote celebrate this government’s achievements. The last achievement I saw Todd Smith celebrating was a video he posted online standing in a corner store, in front of a cooler saying how cool it would be if he could pick up drinks, alcoholic drinks for his family for the weekend. Todd Smith, that is not an achievement, a buck a beer is not an achievement, nor should these be the priorities for our elected leaders. Shame, shame, shame.
“This government has made enormous cuts across the system that affect everyone and I believe that’s why we are all out here today. But they have been especially hard on the children and the students in the province of Ontario. Shame on them,” said Morrison before starting a chant of “Cuts hurt kids, cuts hurt kids”.
“This government hopes we go away, but we won’t back down,” Morrison said.
Quinte West Mayor Jim Harrison tried to address the crowd of protesters, saying, “I’m glad that you’re standing up for your rights. I retired in ’97, do you remember the government that was elected at that time (Mike Harris’ Progressive Conservatives)? What you have to remember is governments make decisions based unfortunately on the dollar.” That’s when the mayor was shouted down by the crowd and walked away. MORE