Ontario’s Tory government has cancelled a $100-million fund earmarked for school repairs this year, a cut that comes as a result of Doug Ford’s campaign promise to scrap the province’s cap-and-trade system.
The province has an approximate $15 billion repair backlog at its 4,900 publicly funded schools.
School boards were notified 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.
The memo, obtained by The Canadian Press, advises school boards to stop spending the cash that was allocated in April immediately.
The memo read, “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.”
Toronto District School Board chair Robin Pilkey said the move is disappointing because that board has a $4 billion repair backlog.
She said, “Losing $25 million is a big deal to us.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, she said.
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 said.
“It’s not like you get the money on May 1 and can spent it on May 15,” she said. “It takes a while to get the money flowing.”
Stephen Seaborn, spokesman for the education advocacy group Campaign for Public Education, said the cut will hurt schools across Ontario.
Seaborn said the cancellation of cap and trade has clearly had unintended consequences and cutting funds for the renovation program is a prime example
“My message for the premier is watch what you do,” he said. “It has huge implications for 2 million school kids across the province.
Ford campaigned on a promised eliminate cap and trade and revoked the regulation laying out the program as one of his first acts after he was officially sworn in on June 29.
Ford’s spokesman Simon Jefferies said the Tories received a strong mandate from voters to end cap and trade.
In a statement he said, “To ensure an orderly wind-down of programs funded through the cap-and-trade carbon tax, the government will honour arrangements where contracts have already been signed and orders have already been made.”
“Decisions to continue any specific initiatives will be made on a case-by-case basis.”