Premier Wynne Goes To Summer School in The Sault

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With children as the star attraction, Premier Kathleen Wynne seemed to be most at home when engaging with students from Northern Heights Public School. Grade 8 students, Konnor Strachan, Gavin Smith, Hailie Levesque, Grade 4 student Keira Strachan, and Grade 7 student William McDonald offered Premier Wynne the 411 on all things Northern Heights Public School. A tour of the evolving work in the school gym and upgraded stage, as well as Mrs. Cole’s classroom, provided space for much discussion on school lunches, the breakfast programme, the sport of 4 square, the school garden, outdoor recess activities, generous volunteers, and on kindness as a goal for everyone.

20160808_140602One of the youngsters spoke about a ‘Character Assembly’, which is a monthly activity in the Northern Heights school gym, where 4 students are chosen from within the student body for recognition of awesomeness.

Premiere Wynne was at Northern Heights Public School today, as part of a Northern Ontario tour. Monday it was announced, ‘Ontario government is investing $300 million for infrastructure upgrades and repairs to keep schools in a state of good repair. Northern Heights is currently undergoing a major refurbishment funded by a previously announced investment for school repairs in the Algoma District School Board.’ (press release)

20160808_140527Premier Wynne said today, “We know that half of the existing public schools in Ontario are more than 40 years old.”

“Young people spend so much of their  time in school buildings that we need to make sure they are clean, bright, safe, and places that inspire learning; That are designed so that they facilitate learning. Buildings that we can all be proud of. Schools are important centres for communities; places where our children can succeed.” she said.

20160808_140157The  investment dollars are meant to support existing infrastructure, and existing buildings that need up-keep and crucial upgrades. “What was a state-of the school 40 years ago, isn’t a state-of-the art school now. We need the money to make those upgrades necessary.”

Premier Wynne stated, “The $300 million over two years, is to ensure that schools across northern Ontario are safe, modern places for students to learn. Four school Boards that serve this region will receive a total investment of more that 62 million dollars, making that 25 million dollars more than what was originally budgeted.”

She further said that the funding is part of a “2.7 billion dollar investment across Ontario to improve schools.”

Premier Wynne visited ‘Contact North’ in Elliot Lake earlier on Monday, and stated that adult learning is an important investment for moving education forward. “Where adult learners find their way back into the education system.” she said.

20160808_143925Algoma District School Board Trustee, Vice-Chair, Gladys Wiggans travelled from Elliot Lake to be part of today’s announcement, joining several Senior Administration and Board staff from the four School Boards in the District.

Algoma District School Board’s Director of Education, Lucia Reece was on hand for Monday’s announcement as was Northern Heights Public School Principal Marg Dodds and Vice Principal Sue Flammia.

Monday was the third day in the northern Ontario tour for Premier Wynne. With one week, travel to approximately a dozen communities, and 18 stops as part of the agenda, Wynn reflected on a personal connection to education in Sault Ste. Marie. Wynne’s grandmother Eva Crummer was a teacher in The Sault in the 1920’s, where ‘The Tech’ now exists on Wellington St. W.

20160808_151048 Wynne said “From a very early age, I connected education with Sault Ste. Marie. The reason I got involved with provincial politics, was because of education. My political career has been grounded in the importance of education.”

Premier Wynne began the press conference by acknowledging the traditional territory of the Huron-Robinson Treaty area, Batchewana and Garden River First Nations.

Saultonline asked Premier Wynne what steps the provincial government is taking to address the issues, as raised in the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Specifically, Article 62 which speaks to education. With an eye to incorporating First Nations education into curriculum going forward, Premier Wynne said: “This is very much a priority for our government. We (as a government) are implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I believe, as does Commission Sinclair, that education is the most fundamental thing that we can do. We are working right now, the Ministry (of Education), to write into the curriculum, mandatory sections on Treaty Education, on Residential Schools; Pieces of curriculum that children have not had access to over the years.” Reflecting on her generation, Wynne said “We didn’t learn about that side of our relationship with First Nation and Métis People(s) when I was growing up and going to school.   We (Ministry of Education) are putting those components into the curriculum now.”

20160808_144550 Premier Wynne looked to the future as a place where generations of students going forward will have a wider frame of reference for building Indigenous and Non-Indigenous relationships.

A current strategy for development of an Anisniabek Education System (AES) was mentioned, and continues to be work in progress. AES is a collaboration between the Federal, Provincial and Anishinabek levels of government and can be found here: http://sayyestoaes.ca/.

Questions were asked about Essar Steel Algoma. MPP David Orazietti and Premier Wynne both spoke to the issue. “We have already put supports in place, including last summer’s $30 million dollars. We’re committed to the steel industry in Ontario. We need a strong steel industry in North America as well as internationally.” said Premier Wynne.

When asked about further commitments on the part of Ontario’s government, Wynne said, “We’ve been working with Essar for some time. The process is going on presently, and we want that process to unfold in a good way. I don’t think it is prudent for me to jump in to the middle of the process at this point.”

Wynne shared that when she travelled on a recent trip to India, she met with the Ruia family, owners of Essar Steel Algoma.

With respect to any potential sale of Essar Steel Algoma, Sault MPP Oraziette said, “August 18th (2016), the Court will have another opportunity to consider potential buyers.  Our government has been committed to strengthening Essar Algoma, including the Cogeneration facility, which allowed the company to save a considerable amount of money, and for our government to make a strategic  investment into the community.”

Thunder Bay – Superior North, MPP Michael Gravelle, Minister, Northern Development and Mines was also present and is travelling as part of the Northern Ontario Tour.

MPP Oraziette stated that “MPP Michael Gravelle’s Ministry is where the (2015) 30 million investment from (prov.) government to Essar Steel Algoma flowed through last year.” In July 2015, as part of a Plant Optimization and Expansion Project, Essar Steel Algoma received 60 million dollars, 30 million of which was in an interest free loan from the federal government. The repayment of that loan is supposed to be made within  10 years.

When asked about OLG’s (Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.) modernization process, Premier Wynne affirmed the provincial government’s commitment to building a strong employment and administration base in The Sault.  “Final decisions have not been made, We’re waiting for the report. The commitment to head office jobs stands.”

On Saturday, August 6, 2016 Premier Wynne embarked on weeklong visit to northern Ontario schools, hospitals, businesses and First Nations.

‘The Premier will visit more than a dozen communities, including Sudbury, Espanola, Little Current, Elliot Lake, Blind River, Sault Ste. Marie, Batchawana Bay, Wawa, Fort Frances, Emo, Dryden, Kenora, Sioux Lookout, Moosonee, Moose Factory, North Bay, New Liskeard and Kirkland Lake.’ (https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2016/08/premier-kathleen-wynne-to-visit-northern-ontario-august-6-12.html