Marit Stiles MPP, Davenport

Government of Ontario

Internal documents show government ignored safe schools advice

Published on January 22, 2021

QUEEN’S PARK — Internal government documents revealed by the Toronto Star show that the Doug Ford government was advised to have a classroom cap of 15 and a large in-school asymptomatic testing program— but Ford chose half-measures instead. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Education critic Marit Stiles are again demanding investments to make schools safe, now.

“Parents, teachers, education workers and children are living with anguish, frustration and fear about education right now. There have been more than 7,300 school-based cases of COVID-19, and thousands of families are struggling to manage at-home learning because their school is closed, or they don’t feel safe there. Doug Ford has had the expert advice, the power, and the money to fix this – and he chose not to. He chose saving money over saving kids’ health and their education,” said Horwath.

“I’ve been very clear about what I’d do if I were premier today – and it matches the expert advice we’re seeing in these documents. Cap all class sizes at 15. Invest in a massive in-school testing program. Test, track, and support so anyone who might have COVID-19 does not go to school, which is why I’m fighting for paid family-care days.”

Stiles said Doug Ford was cutting both education and public health before the pandemic started – and the expert recommendations to invest more in schools and lab capacity called for the opposite.

“Ford was cutting public health and our children’s schools before the pandemic, and he doesn’t want to spend on those things for our families now,” said Stiles. “When it comes to fighting a pandemic it’s go big or go home, literally. It’s clear from these documents that Ford knew what needed to be done and instead tried half measures, rather than invest and take action. As a result, Ontarians paid the ultimate price — with devastating illness, more spread of the virus, and mass school shut-downs.”

The advice given, but not taken by Ford, didn’t come cheap. According to an auditor general's report, the government hired consultant McKinsey to create an organizational structure for the pandemic response, to advise on the child care and school reopening plans, and to advise on economic recovery, all at a combined cost of $4.8 million.