Volume 91, Issue 25

Thursday, October 9, 1997

about face


An open letter to Premier Harris

By Brian Thornton
Teacher Haileybury Public School

Dear Mr. Harris,
I was shocked to see you on television recently warning the citizens of this province that teachers and boards of education can not be trusted to run education in Ontario. If not teachers and locally-elected trustees, then in whose care should we place our children Mr. Premier?

Should we trust you Mr. Harris – the man who just presented himself with an $860,000 pension cheque from the taxpayers of Ontario? Odd, I didn't realize you were retiring. Fortunately, you reminded taxpayers they should be pleased with your pension cheque as in the former system you would have received almost twice that much. Thank you for clarifying the situation, Mr. Harris. I knew there must be a good reason you were receiving this princely sum.

Perhaps we should trust your Minister of Education, John Snobelen, who was captured on videotape saying he would create a crisis in education. How ironic that you should appoint a grade 11 dropout to run the educational system, yet, John must be a very talented individual. He has taken almost $1 billion from education and claims to have improved the system. When the media asks if he intends to cut another billion dollars, he becomes very evasive and refuses to clarify his intent. One wonders how much more cutting must occur before we can expect to see improvements in the educational system. What an interesting theory – massive cuts in funding lead to improvements in education.

Your Minister of Education also implies he will reduce class sizes while at the same time getting rid of 5,000 to 10,000 teachers. Gosh, now I'm really confused. Silly me! Maybe Mr. Snobelen is right; perhaps we teachers do need to upgrade ourselves. We just can't understand your math. But wait – here comes a news flash. "Snobelen says he hopes to hire as many as 10,000 new teachers." Then your Minister informs us 7,500 teachers will retire by 1999 and 6,500 will retire through early retirement packages. My math and yours, Mr. Premier, still suggests a shortfall of at least 4,400 teachers in the province of Ontario. How will John reduce class size with that kind of shortfall?

Let me present the perfect solution, Mr. Harris. Why not offer the same retirement packages to teachers as you did to yourself? I suspect that almost every teacher in the province would immediately resign were you to make such an offer. Oh sorry, I keep forgetting – you didn't retire. You would much prefer to collect pension money along with your regular salary.

Heaven knows how I would survive on that meagre $860,000, but I would certainly do my best in the interests of education and I would definitely encourage any of my reluctant colleagues to do the same.

Thank you Mr. Harris for listening to my concerns. I know that with you, the students of Ontario will always remain a priority.

To Contact The Letters Department: gazoped@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997