Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk issued her annual report this week. Not surprisingly her staff discovered and uncovered sums of money that were spent ill spent.
Among her findings, as reported by CBC, Ontario disbursed more than $200 million to businesses that weren’t eligible for pandemic relief programs. Of course, we understand that errors will occur when government is called upon to deal with immediate human and business needs, especially during an unrelenting period of crisis (in this case public health) and when eligibility criteria may be vague or misapplied. The “loss” of so large an amount of funds is never to be condoned or justified.
What strikes us, however, as utterly unjustifiable is the juxtaposition of the $200 million mis-expenditure against the government’s unbending refusal to spend any funds to protect children in independent schools (including Jewish schools) against the very same pandemic perils for which they justified the expenditure of some $30 billion in Covid-19 relief. According to the CBC, “pandemic programs for businesses totalled $11.2 billion, or about a third of the money allocated for provincial COVID-19 relief.”
Our quarrel is not with the attempt by Queen’s Park to aid individuals and businesses fight the pandemic. Our quarrel is with the heartlessness of the government in not spending even the smallest penny to protect children in independent schools from that same pandemic, as if these children were not also threatened by Covid-19.
And as we have pointed out in the past, even when the federal government gave Queen’s Park $763 million to spend specifically to help schools protect their children from Covid, the Premier and the Minister of Education disbursed none of it for the health and protection of the 150,000 children in the independent schools.
The government points with self-congratulations to its record of public assistance for pandemic relief and protection purposes. But we also know that Queen’s Park perpetuates discrimination in the education sector even, as we can now see, in relation to the health of our children during a public health crisis. In this regard, the government simply remains heartless in Ontario.
Moral suasion, private lobbying, public advocacy and plain parental pleading have failed over the past quarter century and more to get Ontario to ends its discrimination in education funding. The courts now are our only option to compel Queen’s Park to do the right thing.
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Shabbat shalom. Chanukah samayach.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE),
December 3, 2021