Watch above: Where Tim Hudak is spending his time in the final week of the election. Sean Mallen reports.
OTTAWA – Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak promised Monday that his pledge to cut 100,000 public sector jobs won’t take a toll on special education classes, but said schools would be different under his government.
He said the cuts will target some 9,600 “non-classroom personnel” considered expendable by the Drummond report, which examined Ontario government spending across the board.
“We’ve got to make some choices… but what do I want to see? What does our plan involve? Making sure that special education students get the best quality of education possible.”
He said that with education spending up at a time when there are fewer students in school, it’s time to take a close look at the system and programs such as full-day kindergarten, which was brought in by the Liberals and will be in every elementary school when classes start this fall.
In Depth: Ontario Election 2014
“More money, fewer kids and our test scores have either plateaued or gone dangerously down in areas like mathematics,” said Hudak.
“Some of these programs do have merit. But we’re in a realm of not if a program is good or bad, it’s what can we afford.”
The Tory platform calls for increasing class sizes, which could affect the number of public school teachers, and reducing the number of early childhood educators in full-day kindergarten classes.
Hudak said the steps are needed to balance the budget within two years – a target he intends to hit by letting go public sector employees and not replacing those who stop working.
The Liberals claim Hudak’s plan would see upwards of 22,000 educational workers lose their jobs: 10,000 early childhood educators, another 10,000 support staff and “thousands” of teachers.
“The total cuts in education alone could total 30,000 jobs and $2 billion, once the extra cuts Hudak needs to balance the budget in 2016-17 are factored in,” the party said in a news release.
In a video released Monday, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario – which had earlier feuded with the Liberals over a bill forcing a wage freeze – made a plea for the electorate to back anyone but Hudak in tight races.
“Every vote against the Hudak Conservatives will be a vote for education and for a better future in Ontario,” President Sam Hammond says in the spot.
At the Ottawa event, Hudak also backtracked on earlier comments that his Tories would not fund the second phase of the city’s light-rail project. He now says they’d be open to talking with Ottawa on funding its transit needs once the province’s books are balanced.
Ontario voters go to the polls on Thursday.
© The Canadian Press, 2014