Nearly a month after the Provincial government initiated a new round of lockdowns amid the third wave of COVID-19, there’s still no sign about when we might be able to start the process of re-opening. Liberal leader Steven Del Duca has some concerns about the way the pandemic response is currently being managed in Ontario, and he appeared on CFRU’s Open Sources Guelph last week to share them.
Del Duca appeared on Open Sources a few days after the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) reported that Ontario will have cumulative shortfall in the education budget of $12.3 billion by the 2029-2030 school year. The Liberal leader has been very focused on educational issues, and made a stop here in back in March to make the point that parents need assurance that schools will be safe.
“I think about my own daughters, and there’s nothing that I would like more than for them to be back in a classroom, seeing their friends, seeing their teachers and getting that in-person instruction,” Del Duca said. “But I also want to have that peace of mind knowing that the school is safe, and the classroom is safe and healthy.”
According to Del Duca, he and the Liberal Party are presently working on their own back to school plan that will include spending on improved ventilation in schools, reduced classroom sizes, more funding for cleaning and custodians, and creating outdoor learning pods where possible. Del Duca said that this is not a partisan exercise, he genuinely wants Premier Doug Ford to steal his ideas.
“Doug Ford needs to be planning for this right now, and I’m really scared as a dad that he hasn’t even begun to plan for September, and how our kids and the system can be successful,” Del Duca said.
The Liberal leader also criticized the Premier for one area of pre-planning that he’s apparently focused on, next year’s Provincial Election.
“There have been dozens of media articles written in the last month about how his campaign team is now in place,” Del Duca explained saying the Ford’s recent silence has been about keeping a low profile after he took a misstep with the new emergency orders.
“He’s kind of gone into hiding, he barely speaks in public anymore, and all of that is because Doug Ford got the scare of his life when he suddenly saw his newfound popularity during COVID evaporate when he made so many reckless decisions to reopen prematurely back in February,” Del Duca added. “He’s still scared because he’s focused on one thing and that’s getting re-elected in June 2022 instead of focusing on the 15 million people who call Ontario home, people who need leadership right now.”
Last week marked the beginning of the one-year countdown to Election Day 2022, and Del Duca said that while the pandemic has changed everyone irrevocably, he believes the issues in next year’s campaign will focus on the future.
“I think people will want to see the plan going forward and make sure that we’re never left vulnerable like we were in March 2020 ever again, whether that’s on the production of PPE, or a school system that can transition effortlessly,” Del Duca explained.
“I think we are a caring and generous people here in this province, and during this pandemic, we’ve found new and creative ways to look out for one another, but I think we’ve also seen a lot of the gaps that we have in society and seen them get ripped even further apart,” Del Duca added. “I believe government does have a responsibility, a moral obligation if you will, to step up and help encourage more empathy.”
You can hear the whole interview on Open Sources Guelph, download the episode on your favourite podcast app at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.