As a result of Doug Ford’s campaign promise to scrap the province’s cap-and-trade system, Ontario’s new Tory government has cancelled a $100-million fund earmarked for school repairs this year. The School boards were notified about the cut on July 3 that the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund would be eliminated and that only work contracted on or before that date would be covered.
“Please maintain detailed records of the contracts that have been signed as ministry staff will contact boards to collect information on the scope of the work underway,” the memo advising school boards to stop spending the cash that was allocated in April immediately.
Toronto District School Board chair Robin Pilkey said the move is disappointing because that board has a $4 billion repair backlog. The TDSB had budgeted $300 million for upkeep this fiscal year, including the $25 million it was awarded specifically from this fund, and now faces difficult choices.
“Losing $25 million is a big deal to us,” she said. “Our repair backlog is so large that every piece counts. We’ll have to make decisions in the next few weeks whether we don’t do those projects or we take the money out of … other funds and scrap something else.”
“The board had planned to use the funding to repair windows, lighting and complete other mechanical work in its schools. It’s unlikely much of the money has been spent, however, because the board must hire contractors through the proper procurement process, which takes time,” she added.
The province has an approximate $15 billion repair backlog at its 4,900 publicly funded schools.
Stephen Seaborn, spokesman for the education advocacy group Campaign for Public Education, said the cut will hurt schools across Ontario.
“It’s bad,” he said. “It was done just like as if it was nothing. There was no discussion about what would be done about the budgets of the schools.”
NDP legislator Peggy Sattler said the Ford government’s decision to cut the fund will hurt Ontario’s children.
“Kids finished the school year in sweltering classrooms, and by winter, they’ll be wearing their coats and mittens at their desks,” Sattler said in a statement. “There are water fountains that aren’t safe to drink from and roofs that need to be replaced.”
“With a multi-billion repair backlog, Ontario’s schools need investment, not cuts,” he added.