Bits and Bites Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair

Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

The Real McCoy or a clone! What’s your preference?

'To this retired teacher with a 32-year career, Dalton McGuinty is a hero'

By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuintyI woke up from a nightmare this morning! I was in a classroom where there were way too many students. I was teaching a math lesson and the blackboard was so old the chalk wouldn’t write. Similar dreams pop up once in a while when I have to deal with an unpleasant situation or when events get my dander up.

So what’s happening? Never mind, the personal stuff will be resolved in due time. I have been following what’s happening in our provincial arena. Dalton McGuinty has stepped down. People have criticized him for all kinds of things (deficit, cost overruns, E-Health and ORNGE and now, public board teachers and certain unions turning against him).

To this retired teacher with a 32-year career, Dalton McGuinty is a hero. I remember all too well the mess Mike Harris left behind in the education system. He cut back services, imposed new programs with absolutely no back-up material. Our school libraries became ghosts of their former glory. We lost valuable specialists and yes, many people left the profession. This is where my old teaching nightmares come from! I remember long, unpaid weekend hours of building material to teach the new curriculum. “Putting the cart before the horse”… that’s exactly what Harris did!

Under McGuinty (the education premier), the Ontario education system became a world leader. Full-day kindergarten became a reality and to my mind that is an excellent investment. I placed my daughter in private full-day kindergarten in 1979. When she started Grade 1 at our local school, her teacher was impressed by her social skills and preparedness for her first year. On the first day, she was organizing games for her new friends at recess. Today’s children are bright and more aware. They are ready for schooling and benefit greatly from the social and motor skills and basic learning the kindergarten offers. These skills are long-lasting and are often the basis for later success throughout their school years. More than ever, students are going to college and university and are offered a wide array of programs to choose from. Take the time to visit a university or college campus. The proof is in the pudding!

Yet, our Harris clone (Hudak) announced that if elected premier, he will cancel full-day kindergarten and increase class sizes. That’s enough to feed another nightmare! Instead of going forward, let’s move backward! The teacher in me cringes! During my last teaching year, I had seventeen students. Much was accomplished. One student won a public speaking contest, others, a City of Ottawa writing contest. We put together fun social studies and science projects… Teaching and learning was fun!

Invest in people and the whole society benefits! In health-care, McGuinty’s Liberals invested in hospitals, doctors and nurses, which resulted in Ontario having the shortest wait times in Canada and more Ontarians having access to a family doctor. That’s precious! During the Harris days, I lost my hospital — the Riverside. I was the last patient in ER the night it closed. It was a very sad moment. Some nurses were crying; I felt like crying too! We also lost the Grace and almost lost the Montfort. But you should see the Montfort today! Thanks to the movement spearheaded by Gisèle Lalonde and the Liberal government’s investments, Montfort Hospital is now a first-class teaching hospital. Our province is recognized for its cancer research and best cancer survival rate.

And that’s not all! The McGuinty government took important measures to make Ontario’s energy future not only sound but also safe, safeguarding the environment at the same time. Our lakes and rivers have recovered nicely after years of toxic pollution. Getting rid of coal-fired generation and investing in reliable electricity systems has made a huge difference. And to top this, our auto production is at its best.

So now, as Dalton McGuinty makes his exit, I wish to thank him for all the positive changes and I hope our first-ever female premier, Kathleen Wynn, preserves what we have acquired. No half-measures! No clones!