Posts Tagged Budget
(York School Board Trustee Nancy Elgie Tenders Her Resignation via Youtube)
Yesterday York Region District School Board [YRDSB] Trustee Nancy Elgie told her constituents via a Youtube video that she would be stepping down as a Trustee, months after uttering a racial slur by “mistake”. In the almost 10 minute heavily edited statement on youtube, Elgie stated that the whole situation is a misunderstanding, and she didn’t mean to say those hurtful words to a parent in York Region. Elgie went on to say that there is no “sanction” under employment laws for trustees under which she was investigated and she felt was wrong (Elgie under the employment investigation was ordered to take “equality training” as a sanction). She also stated she didn’t resign immediately because she wanted this to be a teachable moment for the kids and the community. I fully agree with this being a teachable moment for the community in Georgina, and also within York Region.
Over the past several months there has been a lot of questions as to why the York trustees chose to investigate this matter as one that suits “employment law” rather than the appropriate trustee code of conduct. By treating this incident under employment law, the board and its trustees effectively shielded Elgie from accountability measures that were put into place nearly 14 years ago by the Province of Ontario to deal with trustee conduct (who are publicly elected officials). Trustees are NOT employed by the board. They are employed by the tax payers of this province and the YRDSB had no authority to make this matter one of employment law.
YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers (who is a defeated Liberal candidate in York-Simcoe and long time YRDSB trustee) posted up a statement after a tremendous amount of public pressure was put on the board to follow through with a code of conduct review on Elgie. Carruthers stated:
The Education Act does provide Trustees with the ability to initiate a Code of Conduct complaint when a colleague commits a breach. The Trustee Code of Conduct process is complex, has limitations, must be conducted in private and its outcome is not always able to be made public. We are unable, under the rules that govern us, to even let the public know if we are proceeding with a Code of Conduct complaint. The process typically takes months, is expensive and, should a breach be confirmed, Trustees are limited in terms of what sanctions can be applied.
If the YRDSB followed through with a code of conduct complaint after Elgie was sanctioned under employment law, the board would have needed to take Elgie to court to argue the board erred in law and sanctions needed to be under the trustee code of conduct. This would have cost the tax payers and the board massive amounts of money had Elgie fought the board legally on this.
Under the trustee code of conduct, not much can be done to sanction a trustee other than short term suspensions. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was recently questioned on the lack of “teeth” in the trustee code of conduct, too which her reply was basically – we put that in over 13 years ago, and its better than nothing. Last year the Ontario Auditor General found the Wynne Liberals gave a $22 million blank cheque to the school unions, and just this month gave teachers across the province a 4% raise.
The huge problem not just the YRDSB is having – but boards across the province – is protectionist behavior. Protect their own, rather than be held accountable for their mistakes, which continues to this day even when the YRDSB is under investigation. This should be of great concern to the tax payers of Ontario.
York trustees on February 13th, 2017, one by one urged Elgie to resign, effectively throwing her under the bus to protect the “institution” and once again tried to sweep the misconduct of other trustees who fought to wrongfully protect Elgie from a code of conduct review under the rug. Wynne has stated in a presser earlier last week that the province has sent in investigators to the YRDSB to uncover why the YRDSB did not follow through with a code of conduct complaint, and to determine if other trustees are in violation of that code of conduct as a result. Wynne also stated that the investigators she has sent into the YRDSB may make recommendations to the province in order to tighten up and properly sanction trustees around their code of conduct laws.
Now that Elgie has stepped down, the residents of Georgina need to ask themselves; is this cover-up of misconduct by Elgie at the YRDSB an isolated incident? Over the later part of the week, the Toronto Star was in contact with Elgie, and her family for several days. Several of her constituents came forward to the Star regarding Elgie’s conduct as a trustee. The Toronto Star over these several days questioned the family and Elgie herself on several situations where she was seen to be dismissive and non-responsive to concerns of the community. In one instance the Toronto Star brought up:
“Desiree Makuto, whose son was videotaped being beaten and racially taunted by classmates in a high-profile incident at Sutton District High School in 2014, said she called and emailed Elgie for support, to no avail.
“She never did respond — she was surprisingly silent on the issue,” said Makuto. “… She had an obligation, a role to play.”
Elgie’s son Stewart dismissed the concerns of the community stating to the Star:
“these allegations are a disappointing attempt to re-write history and smear the record of a trustee who has earned consistent praise from her colleagues and constituents over the years.”
There was growing pressure for Elgie to step down over the past few months, and her resignation seems to have come following serious questions from the community she serves on her conduct, and leaves serious questions about the conduct of other trustees and the board in its wake. If we are truly looking to reform the YRDSB, than we must take a good close look at the protectionist behavior these institutions are well known for, and why it’s been allowed to continue in law for so many years while the province has known about the problems of conduct, and developed legislation with nothing meaningful in play to stop it.
As a resident of Georgina in which Elgie has served and parent myself, one can only hope that the members of my community will elect someone who understands that the role of a trustee is to hold the board to account, knows the problems in our local schools, and can properly and effectively advocate for ALL in their constituency. A board meeting will be held on February 21st, 2017 to discuss whether the board will appoint a replacement or rightfully allow the community of Georgina to go to the polls.
(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Likely To Read From A Blank Book On School Board Accountability)
Over the past few months, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) in Ontario has been embroiled in controversy surrounding governance, accountability, and racial tensions. The governing Liberal Party of Ontario promised to get to the bottom of these systemic issues at the YRDSB by appointing two “arm’s length” investigators to the board to look at recommendations on how to solve systemic issues, rather than using the independent Provincial Ombudsman who in 2015 was given the legal authority and jurisdiction to look at the specific issues the YRDSB investigators have been tasked to look at. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals who have a long history of throwing blank cheques at the education unions are all that serious about systemic change at the YRDSB which would require legislation with the ability to hold those in the system to account.
Two weeks into getting the investigation set up, the YRDSB investigators (Patrick Case + Suzanne Herbert), are already hearing from a staggering number of parents. These two investigators appointed by the province seem to be ill-equipped to handle the sheer volume of complaints coming in, to which the province’s ombudsman would have been better equipped to handle. I had a conversation with Patrick Case on twitter yesterday. Here is that conversation:
Both Case and Herbert are widely connected to the education sector in Ontario. Herbert was a deputy minister in Ontario, including deputy of education (way to close to government for my liking), while Case served as former trustee for the Toronto District School Board which has had its fair share of problems. While I don’t question these investigators credibility to pin the vast majority of problems with board governance on YRDSB Director J. Philip Parappally and a few “rouge” trustees implementation of more equality training board wide, and quietly sweep this controversy under the rug to avoid any drafting of accountability legislation to deal with systemic problems province wide; I do not see how this investigation would be beneficial to the kids the public education sector serves. The only beneficiary to this investigation as it stands right now would be the education unions who have deeply embedded themselves in Wynne’s government.
Racial intolerance in any profession or work place is wrong, against our values as Canadians, and most importantly against our civil rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. One of the root causes for racial intolerance at the YRDSB is the lack of accountability on staff, directors, trustees. It’s a symptom of a much larger problem in the province. The lack of accountability in the education sector is province wide, and if we are truly looking to send a message that racial intolerance is not accepted in our public school system, than it is law and legislation with teeth that is needed to hold those in the education system to account, not non-binding “recommendations” from a rushed, arm’s length investigation.
A much better more responsible approach would be to slow down, allow the community to appropriately respond to identify systemic issues, and ensure that the investigation is done in an independent way, rather than recommendations that in the end will duck any real legislative accountability and favor political donors over that of our school children due to the closeness of the investigators to the legislative process. To do otherwise would only serve to pass the buck to the next school board to have issues due to the lack of legislative accountability, and put more of our children across the province at further risk.
(The York Region District School Board Acted To Protect Trustee Nancy Elgie From a Code of Conduct Review)
This week has been a very tough week for the York Region District School Board (YRDSB). After Tuesday’s emotional meeting with parents, and bizarre apology for racial slurs by Trustee Nancy Elgie, the Ministry of Education has appointed two investigators to come in and make “recommendations” on how to improve leadership and equality at the York Region District School Board.
Today, Ontario’s Minister of Education appeared on CBC’s Metro Morning to discuss the issues plaguing the YRDSB and did not commit to removing Nancy Elgie as a trustee after several calls from the community for her to step down. One of the reasons why, is because the YRDSB treated the racial slurs coming from this Trustee’s mouth as a human resources complaint, rather than a code of conduct complaint thus protecting her from the accountability mechanisms that are in place to hold trustees publicly accountable under board bi-laws.
By treating this as a human resources complaint, her fellow trustees at the board can not hold Elgie to account on those racial slurs on code of conduct violations and neither can the Ministry of Education. Nor can they speak publicly on it as a result of this complaint being confidential. This is precisely the problem at the York Region District School Board who continually ducks from public accountability, and I fail to see how exactly trust can be instilled back into this institution without Elgie’s outright dismissal which is unlikely to happen as a result of her racial slurs.
Patrick Case, a University of Guelph political science professor is one of the two investigators the Ministry of Education has sent into the YRDSB. In a recent interview Case stated:
“People need to look at the process as one that will take time. It’s not that the two of us are going to go in there and sprinkle pixie dust. What people should be looking for is steady progress, rather than a quick fix.”
What I think is likely to happen, is that these investigators will come in and provide “short term” solutions to equality. However, for long term solutions the board and its trustees need to be held accountable if those solutions are to be solidified within the board. Otherwise this “investigation” by the Ministry seems to be rather a public relations stunt by an unpopular premier looking to solidify votes in the 905 rather than acting on the issue of systemic racism at the YRDSB which requires that Trustee Elgie be held to account publicly under the Trustees code of conduct.
This isn’t just a YRDSB problem. The school boards are set up as self governing with public representations and accountability. If the public can’t hold a trustee to account under codes of conduct, than this is going to send a message province wide, that if you become a trustee in the school system, you can do and say what you want without fear of being held accountable. That’s not a system that has the best interests of the children and communities they serve. In fact this is and already has made our kids less safe as a result, and this systemic racism will stop short term, but it’ll be business as usual at the YRDSB a few months after the public attention has gone away.
No matter what these “investigators” recommend, if trustee accountability is not put forth regarding Elgie than those recommendations are meaningless and nonbinding.
During the Ontario election Kathleen Wynne made it part of her election platform to bring forth accountability legislation that would see greater public scrutiny and accountability of the public sector by expanding the Ontario Ombudsman’s powers to investigate wrong-doing. Wynne was elected with a majority and the accountability act received royal assent on December 11th, 2014. The act (also known as Bill 8) expands the Ombudsman’s powers to investigate municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals, and law enforcement.
Several sources have written into Mind Bending Politics stating they have recently filed complaints with the Ontario Ombudsman’s office on the public sector, however the Ombudsman is still powerless to investigate. His office along with the people of Ontario are currently in limbo as to when the accountability act will come into force. When approached over twitter Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin seems to have been left completely in the dark by the Ontario Government as to when this legislation is coming into force, and when to start investigating complaints.
Over the next few days, the Regional Municipality of York will spend a total of $15,000 of tax payers money on a luxury resort to hold secret budgetary meetings (which should be fully open to the public to begin with) while the region is currently in about $2 billion in debt. This is precisely an example of the lack of public accountability on municipalities.
The accountability act is sitting on the desk of Treasury Board Secretariat Deb Matthews, while Matthews’ office figures out exactly how to implement it. Mind Bending Politics has reached out to Matthews’ Office for comment. Ann Doose spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat did not offer any specific timetable as to when the act will come into force, however had this to offer:
Bill 8 impacts several other acts that are already in force and we are working on a timetable to proclaim the changes. We will be working with the Ombudsman and affected organizations to determine the best timing for proclamation.
Marin has responded to the government’s comments stating:
I look forward to the consultation and the proclamation. Operators are standing by.
The York Region and London Anti-bullying coalitions have worked with many concerned parents across the province regarding school board accountability, and they are also eagerly awaiting the implementation of the accountability act. Karen Sebben of the York Region Anti-Bullying Coalition has stated that there is some uncertainty as to exactly how this bill will be implemented. Sebben stated:
We have been communicating with the Ombudsman’s office and will continue to do so to gain clarity on what this means for education. While the government already has a process in place to deal with financial concerns in school boards, it will be interesting to see what Bill 8 will do that is different. Shifting investigation responsibilities with less power to affect change is something we are keeping our eyes open for.
Sebben added that both coalitions hope that the Ombudsman’s new powers (when implemented) will further extend to school boards to ensure student safety is taken seriously.
All Marin, Sebben and the people of Ontario can do is wait while this file collects dust on Matthews desk as municipalities like the Region of York, take full advantage of the delay in secret behind closed doors luxury budget meetings.
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The Conservative government keeps telling Canadians that everything is fine, and we will balance the budget despite many economists and the Parliamentary Budget Officers’ (PBO) views we will be posting a deficit due to falling oil prices. According to the PBO, Canada will find itself with a tiny deficit of only $400 million for 2015-2016. Such a tiny number compared to the overall scheme of things, yet the Conservatives reputation of the economic stewards of the country is coming under fire by opposition parties.
Rather than actually coming clean and being honest about the situation (which Canadian politics so seriously lacks), the Conservatives are pivoting to security issues to get away from being held accountable for a very tiny deficit. The Conservative base is mainly built on fiscal responsibility and law and order. Civil liberties is also a big part of the Conservative base.
The Conservatives on Friday will table it’s anti-terror legislation, which is turning out to be a big part of their election platform. Will this be a good idea in the Conservative political war rooms? I think they should have just stomached the deficit, and ran on the economy.
This anti-terror legislation is expected to diminish the privacy rights of all Canadians to give tools that the RCMP and other law enforcement has publicly stated in the past that it doesn’t need. This is to respond to the shootings on the hill last year (which was a law enforcement failure not a policy one). Constitutional experts state that Canadian law already provides for greater investigative tools for law enforcement, and laws that diminish our constitutional rights in the name of security is really not necessary. The legislation is also expected to further militarize our police forces, in large part because the RCMP didn’t have carbine rifles (that had long range capability) available a few years ago when some nut job was running around shooting police officers in New Brunswick last year. The RCMP only had shot guns and pistols available for the first few hours of the ordeal due to being poorly equipped. Do we really need to arm our law enforcement with tanks, armored personal vehicles, semi-automatic weapons, because the RCMP didn’t have long range rifles available a few years ago? You can’t fight ideas with guns. You fight ideology with the education and information targeted towards extremists.
I wrote a blog a few weeks ago that politicians around the world came together in defense of democracy and self-expression after the Paris attacks, when at the same time attacking those very fundamental pillars of freedom to catch a few nut jobs. If the Conservatives want to run on security, it might be best to put forth policies that will actually work rather than just throwing money at the security establishment which in over a decade, hasn’t worked in reducing extremist terror and nut job attacks. In fact they are increasing at an alarming rate due to this failed policy, and we have become less secure as a result.
The boys shouldn’t get their toys until they can demonstrate they need them. Just maybe we would be able to save ourselves $400 million in tax payers money as a result, and the budget would be balanced. That would be the less tone deaf thing to do.
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