Bill 160 goes to a House vote tomorrow
By Sara Marett
The province's controversial education reform Bill 160 will finally meet its destiny tomorrow as it goes to the legislature for third and final reading.
As Members of Provincial Parliament vote on the Bill, the future of public education in the province may drastically change as areas such as classroom size, teaching time, preparation time, educational tax rates and the roles of principals will be altered under the Bill.
Government House Leader Norm Sterling explained the numerous amendments to the bill were extensively discussed in the House over the past week. "It is a time allotted piece [on Thursday] and at 5:45 [p.m], barring any unforeseen change of minds, a vote will be called," he said.
Sterling said speaker Chris Stockwell is committed to closing the public gallery of the legislature if there are protestors risking the safety of themselves or others, or if they are intimidating members of the House.
"I do expect the gallery will be open, however," Sterling said. "I think there will be a few people in here on Thursday I'm actually thinking about scalping tickets," Sterling joked.
As the voting on the bill draws nearer, teachers continue to put pressure on the MPPs to vote against it. In London, it appears their efforts may not be enough to change the minds of MPPs Bob Wood, Diane Cunningham and Bruce Smith, who have all publicly voiced their support for the bill.
"Diane Cunningham and Bob Wood are certainly towing the [Conservative] party line," said Peter Chapman, president of the London/Middlesex chapter of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation.
"Wood can't even explain the bill and Cunningham won't talk about it she just wants to stay in the cabinet," Chapman said. He added his group is not planning on attending the legislature tomorrow but will continue to protest outside the MPP's offices. He said tomorrow night, London teachers will gather at Victoria Park to create a "circle of light" with candles to protest the bill.
Bruce Smith, MPP for Middlesex county and parliamentary assistant to Education Minister Dave Johnson, said he completely supports Bill 160 and believes it is a cornerpiece to taking Ontario's education system into the future. "It contains quality initiatives for a renewed education system."