NEWS

Office of the Premier

Notes for remarks by

Dalton McGuinty

Premier of Ontario

August 17, 2011

Premier’s Remarks To ThE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS FEDERATION OF ONTARIO ANNUAL MEETING

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Thank you, Sam, on a number of counts.

Thanks for your commitment to students …

Including two decades teaching phys ed …

Helping young people in Hamilton have fun as they learned to be healthy.

Thanks as well for your commitment to the profession we both hold in great respect …

For leading the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario …

And for speaking up on issues that matter to our teachers …

So they can do their jobs to the fullest …

Which allows our students to reach their full potential, too.

I hope you’re all enjoying a well-deserved break.

And I want to thank you — and all the educators you represent — for teaching our children to love Ontario …

And, fulfill their potential in Ontario …

So that we can all enjoy a stronger, more compassionate Ontario.

And I want to thank all of you as ETFO representatives …

For giving a voice to educators …

And providing a direct line to what’s happening in the classroom.

I need to know the issues that matter to you …

Because you matter so much to our students.

When my four children were growing up …

Their teachers … and their school secretaries, caretakers and all the support workers …

Were all important role models in their lives.

Their school family was part of our extended family …

And your influence for good was something Terri and I were grateful for.

Because not only were our children learning …

Their days were happy.

I think all families appreciate that.

You are there in our conversations at home.

Not just after supper during homework …

But during supper … when our children tell us how you made them laugh …

Or in the park … when they share lessons you taught them about nature …

Or on Monday morning … when they can’t wait to tell you everything they did.

It is a deep …

Profound …

Meaningful …

And lasting bond.

So lasting in fact that, when it was time for my son, Connor, to choose his profession … he chose teaching.

Just like his mom.  

Who had been influenced for good by her teachers.

A lot of how we see ourselves as adults …

Comes from the way our teachers saw us as kids.

The encouragement in their face …

The pride in their eyes …

Told us how we were doing …

Pushed us to try harder …

Gave us pride in ourselves …

And made us see what we could become.

Teaching is more than a job …

More than a profession …

More, even, than a vocation.

It’s a gift.

John Steinbeck once said:

“Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

So thank you for sharing your gift …

Captivating our minds …

Lifting our spirits …

And for helping Ontarians find their own talents.

If you think about it, you’re a part of all our achievements.

It was our teachers who shaped …

Our nurses and doctors who deliver outstanding health care …

Our entrepreneurs and skilled workers who strengthen our economy …

Our engineers and manufacturers who are making Ontario, North America’s leader in clean energy …

Our police, firefighters and other emergency personnel who keep us safe …

And all the many other ways … 13 million Ontarians … contribute to a stronger province.

C’est pourquoi, tous nos efforts pour bâtir une province plus forte …

Et pour appuyer la réussite aux quatre coins de l’Ontario …

Dépendent de la réussite de nos élèves …

Et de la réussite de nos écoles.

Grâce au travail acharné de chaque membre du personnel de nos écoles …

Et grâce à l’aide des parents,

Nos élèves réussissent aujourd’hui mieux …

Et contribuent à rendre l’Ontario plus fort.

That’s why, in all we do to keep building a stronger province …

So much of our success across Ontario …

Depends on achievement for our students …

And success in our schools.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone working in our schools …

Together with students and parents …

Our students are, indeed, doing better … and making Ontario stronger.

In 2003, only 54% of students were meeting the provincial standard for literacy and numeracy.

Today it’s 68%.

In 2003, only 68% of kids were graduating from high school.

Today it’s 81%.

I want to take a moment and thank you for those real, measurable and meaningful results.

Behind those numbers are some great stories about schools that turned things around …

Working as a team …

And putting in a lot of extra hours.

The information we get from tests helps us to further improve the system.

And because this is measurable progress …

Something you and I can point to with pride …

It makes Ontarians themselves proud of their schools and their teachers.

And that’s very important to me.

But you and I know there’s a lot more to the story.  

There are the many ways, big and small, that you provide individual help to kids in your classroom …

Not to mention the time you take with kids after class …

Or volunteering to coach …

Or introducing students to your own favourite book or a great article on the web.

So, yes … I’m proud of our test scores …

Proud of the fact that they’ve led to new investments in education, year after year.

It’s worth noting that, since 2003, inflation has gone up 17%.

But we increased education funding by 42%

That’s over $6B.

Enrollment dropped by 120,000 students.

But we’re funding over 12,000 more teachers.

Rising test scores – measurable progress – helped me do that.

But I’m even more proud of what our rising test scores truly represent:

The outstanding efforts of you, our educators …

Who go above and beyond, every day, for our kids.

So, thank you.

And Ontarians thank you.

They believe in you.

They believe in public education.

They want collaboration and cooperation …

Not confrontation.

That leads me to another number I always keep in mind: zero.

That’s the number of strikes that we’ve had in Ontario since 2003.

The fact is we now have a cohort graduating this spring …

Who went through middle school and high school with …

No strikes …

No cancelled sports seasons …

No postponed school plays …

And no days lost in the classroom.


I would guess that, here in this room …

We have teachers who have never walked a picket line …

Or had to deal with the frustration of wasted teaching days.

So let’s be clear about the choice before Ontarians in the upcoming election.

Because the PCs are expressing many of the same attitudes they held the last time they were in government …

When they targeted teachers …

When they deliberately created a crisis in education …

When they cost a whole generation of students their shot at playing for a school team …

Or starring in a school play …

When they gave up on public schools …

And wanted to introduce a private-school tax credit.

And the leader of the NDP thinks our increased grad rate is, and I quote …

“Nothing to celebrate."

I couldn’t disagree more.  

We are graduating over 20,000 more students every year, now.

I’m proud of our students …

Proud of our teachers …

Proud of the progress we are making together.

I know that I have asked a lot of you these past years …

With things like our literacy and numeracy strategies …

And the pace of that change.

And now, full-day kindergarten.

But we did those things with one goal in mind:

Make Ontario’s publicly funded education the best education anywhere.

And we knew that the best asset we had was our teachers ….

People who will come together …

Work through any challenges …

And do whatever it takes to give our children the best possible start.

I’m not sure you know just how globally celebrated our progress has become.

And by that I mean your progress, achieved in the classroom.

Ontario has received nearly 7,000 international visitors coming here to learn how we achieve so well in our schools.

I’ll just give you one example of what other places are saying.

When, the US National Center on Education and the Economy recently released a report on what they need to do in their country in education …

They cited Ontario as an example to follow.

They noted that our students score in the top ten in the world …

And our rate of postsecondary education beats pretty well all the competition.

They looked at all the things we did to make that happen.

But, for the most part, they boiled down Ontario’s education success to one simple sentence:

And I quote:

“[In Ontario,] they made a point of trusting teachers and the teachers returned their trust.”

My friends, there’s no doubt about it.

This trust that we have built together, for our kids …

Has provided the foundation for the progress we’ve achieved.

That’s why I will continue putting my trust in you.

Here’s a specific.

You’re telling me, I should have greater faith in your professional judgment when it comes to assessments.

We all know that students need to be assessed regularly.

That’s just smart pedagogy.

Assessments should support good teaching.

But if assessments start to get in the way of good teaching …

That’s a problem we need to address.

That’s why, right now, we’re working with you to develop the first-ever provincial guidelines …

To set clear goals and standards for ongoing assessment in the classroom.

Together, I am convinced we can find the right balance.

Just as I am confident the next round of collective bargaining will find the right balance.

We respect the bargaining process …

And the results of that process.

We don’t do as the NDP did.

We don’t tear up collective agreements.

The next round of bargaining will be vigorous.

As usual.

My responsibility is to take into account our financial circumstances.

To pretend otherwise would be irresponsible on my part.

And, I am confident, the result of that process will be fair for our educators and our families.

Our relationship must be built on a bedrock of respect, trust and cooperation.  

And understanding.

I need to understand your responsibilities.

And you need to understand mine.

That’s the only way to keep moving forward.

And moving forward means following through on early learning …

By fully implementing full-day kindergarten …

And doing it with heart, with commitment, and with a passionate belief in its worth.

You know, when we were moving FDK through the Legislature, the Opposition opposed it.

Now, they’re telling us they support our plan for education.

But for the last eight years, they’ve been opposing our plan for education.

They opposed smaller classes …

Opposed more teachers …

Opposed cleaner, safer schools …

Opposed agreements we reached.

And, they opposed full-day kindergarten.

They said it wasn’t worth the investment.

They called it a frill.

They said parents didn’t want it.

Now, on the eve of an election …

And after the excellent job you did implementing FDK …

And after parents embraced FDK …

They have made a half-hearted flip flop … and said …

Maybe it was a good idea, after all.

But you and I both know we can’t trust them to fully implement a program they’ve never fully supported.

Let’s face it, their heart’s not in public education.

Mine is.

It’s my single greatest priority.

There is nothing more important to me as a parent and a premier …

Than doing everything we can to ensure our kids reach their potential.

We know the PCs have a $14 billion hole in their platform.

And we know what that means.

It means cuts.

To our schools and our health care.

To programs that support our most vulnerable.

And I have to tell you I was very disappointed when the NDP opposed the Ontario Child Benefit …

Which is giving up to $1100 per child each year to more than a million Ontario children in need.

And there was a time when they championed the environment and clean air.

Well, now they oppose our clean energy plan.

Instead of supporting an exciting new industry with new jobs manufacturing solar panels …

They would rather subsidize gas …

And all the jobs that creates outside Ontario.

It’s disappointing.

You just have to look at what’s happening in the global economy to see how important it is to keep strengthening Ontario.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the very serious problems they are having in the US economy.

And the European economy.

Well, we’re all connected now.

We’re all part of the global economy.

So, if things get really bad in those places, it puts Ontario at risk.

That’s why the big question for our generation is:

What do we have to do to grow stronger?

What do we have to do to protect ourselves against outside economic forces we can’t control?

Or, to put it another way, what do we need to do today to secure a bright future for our children and our grandchildren?

Well, for one thing, we need to keep improving our schools because the global competition is working hard to improve theirs.

I can think of two areas where we need to work together …

To improve the education we offer Ontario’s children.

Here’s the first one.

We both know that for our kids to succeed in life …

They need more than reading, writing and math.

A good education is about more than good test scores.

We need to foster creativity in our students.

We need to develop skills like collaboration, team building, critical thinking and problem solving.

Kids will need all these talents to succeed in life …

And in the global economy.

I’m going to need your help to bring that new focus to our schools.

We also have to look for new and better ways for teachers to help teachers.

Specifically, I’m talking about experienced teachers helping newer teachers so they get the best possible start in the profession.

I’m going to need your help to get that right, too.

I’m not making any bones about it.

I want Ontario’s schools to be the world’s best schools.

Because our kids deserve it.

Because we can do it.

And because the best schools are the foundation …

For the most caring society …

And the most successful economy.

It’s a challenging time in the global economy.

And there are no easy answers.

The PCs and NDP would have you believe there are.

They will tell you that all we need do is …

Make government more efficient …

Or give everyone a few more dollars every week ...

Or attack the rich …

Or attack the poor.

You and I both know that’s not going to help Ontario grow stronger.

Fighting amongst ourselves doesn’t work.

Our parents taught us that.

We need to work together.

And that’s what Ontarians have been doing for 8 years.

Working together to make Ontario stronger.

You know how our schools are stronger.

Well, so is our health care.

We used to have Canada’s longest wait times.

Now we have the shortest.

And 1.3 million more Ontarians now have a doctor.

And we’ve all worked hard to strengthen our economy.

This year more full time jobs have been created in Ontario than the rest of Canada combined.  

And we’ve been seizing new, clean energy opportunities ...

Shutting down our dirty coal plants …

And creating 50,000 clean energy jobs.  

We’re doing some tough things, together.

Like rebuilding our electricity system …

Because it needed doing …

And there’s a cost to that.

That’s why we have taken 10% off electricity bills ...

To help families cope with the cost of building a new electricity system.

And we’re modernized our tax system …

Cutting family income taxes by $355 every year …

And adopting the HST.

These are not easy things.

They are essential things.

They make Ontario stronger.

You need only look to struggling economies to see what happens if you don’t do hard things to make yourself stronger.

Do you know who my greatest political inspiration is?

My mom and dad.

They devoted themselves to me and my nine bothers and sisters.

They often did hard things.

For us.

Well, now it falls to our generation to do what it takes to make Ontario stronger for our children and our grandchildren.

Building the world’s best public schools makes us stronger.

Building the world’s best public health care system makes us stronger.

Building a strong and competitive economy founded on the creativity of our people …

And by aggressively pursuing opportunities in areas like clean energy …

Makes us stronger.

My friends, our plan is about a lot more than winning the election.

It’s about winning the future for Ontarians.

There is a lot at stake …

And I need your help.  

We have built a lot together.

Now, we need to keep it together in a challenging time.

This election presents a clear choice:

We can keep moving forward together …

And stay on track …

Or we can go off track …

And turn backwards.

I’m for moving forward, all of us, together.

I’m for giving our children the best education …

Our families the best health care …

And all of us clean, renewable energy that creates thousands of jobs as we shut down coal.

I’m for doing what our parents and grandparents did for us:

They worked hard.

They worked together.

They built a bright future.

They gave us … Ontario.

The greatest province in the best country in the world.

Thank you.

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