Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Remarks On 2nd Reading of Bill 75

MR. SPEAKER:

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER:

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to speak on this bill today. It's obviously generated considerable interest, as the motion later will clearly demonstrate. I understand there are quite a few people signed up who wish to speak to the Committee on Law Amendments and who are looking forward to speaking to the members of that particular committee. I guess we'll debate that a bit later.

I haven't been here that long, I guess. I've been here about eight years, and I can't remember a time when I was getting real-time messages from people watching the live feed of Legislative TV from across the province and commenting on the things that are said in Question Period or the things that are said during the debate.

Maybe we should start by saying thank you to the government and the Premier, because as one of the teachers who was here last night, Tim Halman, said to me, "Experience is the greatest educator in life." Over the past few months, and especially the past few days, many Nova Scotians who had no idea how the Legislature operated - or, frankly, even cared that we were here, most of the time - have learned a lot about what we do, how it works or doesn't work, and how they have their voice heard.

I guess if we try to look for positive things coming out of different events, that's a positive. People are paying more attention to what's going on here. As well, somebody just sent me a note and said they didn't want people to start learning about what was going on in the education system in this way, that teachers have been trying to fix this for a long time silently and working behind the scenes. They can't do it anymore so that's why we're here.

I think a good theme for this debate might be a quote that I actually read as I was going through some old documents today: "Education isn't a line item in a budget, it's our future." Mr. Speaker, I just want to repeat that for everybody, to make sure they got it: "Education isn't a line item in a budget, it's our future." That was the slogan for the Liberal education platform in the 2013 election, yet now every press release and every comment that has come out from the Premier on this issue has talked about the need to balance the budget. That is the specific opposite to what he promised and what the slogan was, which was that it wouldn't be a line item in the budget, it would be treated as something outside of that. That's something that I ran on at the time, that I stood up for and that I'm still standing up for. That's one of the many reasons why I think this debate is so important.

You know people are learning through this process the difference between free votes and whipped votes and with the Premier's comments the other day that there will be a free vote on this, people are contacting their MLAs - or some MLAs, I guess, probably not all - asking how they'll vote. I want to be clear, everybody is entitled to vote the way they believe. If you vote differently than I do, that's democracy and that doesn't mean that you are wrong, but I do believe that you owe it to your constituents to explain why you choose to vote a given way on a bill, on either vote, yes or no, and to answer those questions and defend it.

It has to go beyond "because the Party told me", because at the end of the day we are all elected as individuals. The constitution makes it quite clear that we are not elected as members of a Party, we are all elected as individuals first. That's the way it is, which means that when a constituent asks, the answer is not to start ignoring your Facebook messages or the email in your office. You have to respond at a certain point, in an hour or two hours or whenever we will have a first vote on that and people will really want to know at that point. If you really believe in this bill, then you need to be prepared to defend that to your constituents and explain why.

I want to spend the bulk of my time today talking about what this bill is supposed to do, what it doesn't do, and the problems in the education system. One of the things I want to say at the outset because this debate, especially once the inclusion committee was mentioned, started igniting fears and passions, especially among parents, people who have physically challenged students, intellectually challenged students and so forth.

I think we need to be very clear that a discussion on inclusion must not dehumanize students or anybody with any kind of disability. Some of the discussion over this issue over the past few weeks has bordered on talk returning to the 1900s and I don't think that's intentional. I don't think anybody has made comments on either side of the House in any intentional way to do that, but it has come across that way. Every student deserves the opportunity to learn, to be supported and thrive in a safe and caring environment. Every teacher deserves the opportunity to teach and be supported in a safe and caring environment and it's up to us, as elected representatives, to ensure that happens.

Now I've heard it said a few times that we need committees to figure out what's wrong and I guess that's one of the fundamental disagreements we're here to debate today. I don't think we need any more committees, we've had a lot of them. Just in my time in the Legislature we have had a lot of committees on education. In fact, the current Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, when she was Minister of Education under a previous government, had a committee on special education to deal with inclusion issues that is still there and is still technically on the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's website. What's happening with that committee? Why do we need another committee looking at the same sorts of issues? There also appear to be many solutions to the problems we're currently facing which don't seem to have been put on the table by either side. I think we need to discuss some of those.

I want to share with you today some of the stories of the many parents, teachers, and students who have reached out to me. I want to say, most of the people who have reached out to me are parents. Second is students, and then teachers. I've heard some people say they've only heard from teachers. Well, I've heard from more parents than anyone else. I'm not going to stand here and tell you everybody is against this bill. That's ridiculous. We all know there are people who support the bill. There are people in this House who support the bill. That's true.

Nobody can claim to have a monopoly on the feelings of Nova Scotians. But I do believe that the majority of Nova Scotians are concerned about this bill. Even many of the people I've spoken to who thought they supported the bill, when they found out what it didn't do, had significant misgivings because it wasn't going to solve the problems they were concerned about, and I'm going to talk a bit about that.

I believe that voting for this bill is akin to saying that the real issues in classrooms, from violence, to outcomes, to addressing supports for students who need assistance, don't matter because this bill puts addressing all of those issues off to some future point. I believe that this bill is a choice, saying that putting off problems for committees and the future is okay. But I don't think it is.

I want to start by taking us back briefly to December when the government originally was calling the Legislature back and locked students out, saying that the safety of students was at risk. That was a bit strange because the examples they gave concerned teachers showing up only 20 minutes before class, but that's what the contract allows. I wondered at the time whether anybody bothered to look at whether the province would even be covered for an accident outside the contracted teacher hours. Sure they might be supervising, but are they even covered? I understand that there were letters released from superintendents. I recognize that. But the example I would give is that at that point there was no indication that any teacher in this province or any principal would do anything that was going to put students at risk.

Yet today at Ian Forsyth Elementary School, the fire doors were blocked by snow when the students arrived - an issue I've raised previously in this House. The accessible stairs that were put in for a student whose case I raised in the Legislature in the last session were blocked with snow. There is a stairway and ramp that are supposed to go into a classroom that are inaccessible because of snow. All along the outside of the school where the doors to the classrooms are - the only alternate exit - every single one of those doors was blocked; I'll table the photos of that.

What I want to know is, how is it possible that December 5th was a potential safety issue for students, when blocking of the fire exits and blocking of the accessible ramps and stairways at an elementary school is not a safety issue? It's a double standard. All it means is that that was a safety issue for political expediency.

As I talk about the school system and what the options were, I want to talk briefly about my own experience in the education system. Mine was not typical because I did not fit the mould, which I'm sure will surprise nobody here. I got that in first before I got heckled because I knew it was going to come. In elementary school, I was chosen last for sports. I was bad at every sport including dodge ball. I felt left out all the time and I don't know why. I had friends, but I still always felt unaccepted. In fact, I was terrible at sports and I still am. You don't want me on your hockey team - I'm going to tell you that right now.

AN HON. MEMBER:

What about the Leafs?

MR. YOUNGER:

I don't even think I could make the Maple Leafs.

But I found things to do. I was in school plays and I'm going to tell you how I came to know the school community. I was in Grade 5 and I had one of the leads in a school play at Christmastime, and my father died. The thing was, my father was very involved in the school. I was 10 years old and my father used to grow the plants for the Spring Fair and he made this stand, that we still have in my mother's basement, and the whole bit to sell these plants. He was involved, and years later they would come to name a section of the library at Bel Ayr Elementary after him because of his contributions.

Everybody came out. I went a couple of weeks after he had died and still did the school play. The teachers were there, the friends were there, and it was how I came to really understand that, despite sometimes feeling left out there was this community. So even though I was terrible at sports and all those things, it didn't really matter.

At the time, the Dartmouth school system had a program called Full Time Enrichment, which was basically if you did well on these logic tests you could get put in this program. From Grades 6 to 9 I was in this program and there were a lot of people like me. Some of us didn't fit in as well - some did - and in a way I guess we were our own group IPP. It had pros and cons and to this day has pros and cons, but it was a way that the school system had found to allow people to excel in their own way and at the things that they were able to accomplish.

It was through the teachers that I met in those programs that I found the sports that I could do - even though I was still not great. I joined cross-country, which I could do - I just always came last, and I became a competitive kayaker. Those sorts of things I found because of them. I experienced school debating and that's where I found the interest in science and went on to Prince Andrew High School where I was fortunate and had many great teachers. This would surprise probably many of the people who I now hang out with who were friends in Prince Andrew, but it wasn't until I became an adult that I realized that some of those people felt they were my friends. Some of the people that I hang around with now from high school, I had no idea even liked me at the time. Maybe they didn't.
High school for a lot of people is a turning point and we only need to look at the connections that people have to their teachers. We often think about teachers as women - I think because the majority of teachers are women, as far as I know. But of course in my case, and I said I didn't quite fit the mould - because my father had died, in Grade 5 it was the male teachers who pretty much became role models. So some of those people I have seen over the years - like Rees Matthews, Cliff Coveyduck, Robert Dawson, Cliff Hutchinson, and a bunch of others who made a difference.
The thing was that for many students, high school becomes a defining time and that's where some of our greatest issues are, and greatest issues that we aren't addressing. Grade 10 was the year that I ran away from home, yet Grade 11 was the year that I won the National Science Fair. Then in Grade 12 I got scholarships because of those teachers, that helped me go off to university. There are similar stories all over the place to this sort of thing.

So I mention this because I think we are underestimating sometimes the role of teachers when it comes to the difference in any kid. I was the nerdy, geeky kid from the single parent household who didn't feel they fit in. I wasn't rich. I wasn't poor. I didn't fit in any mould, but the teachers made a huge difference.

Teachers often times spend more time with students than they do with parents, and we expect a lot from them. Increasingly, we're asking them to take on tasks that distract them from teaching. So today we learned that we are facing, on Friday, the first strike by teachers in this province in the entire 122 years of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

It was said before me that this problem didn't happen overnight. Nobody can sit here and blame this government and say all these problems are their fault. This has come a long way, but this is the chance to fix it. This is the opportunity to say we're prepared to actually fix this and start putting in place the supports and things that we know are needed today - not by setting up another committee. We've already had the committees. We have dozens and dozens of letters and reports from teachers who are all pretty much from across the province saying the same things about what is needed as the immediate steps. Where they differ is on some of the longer-term stuff, but there are immediate steps that are required.

So I sit here, and I ask, what is this legislation intended to solve? Is it classroom conditions? No, because it just sets up committees. I might add that one of the major committees in this was promised last December, so it wasn't a new committee in this last contract offer.

Maybe it's set up to solve wages and service awards. Yes, it does address that, but it strikes me that, in the many thousands of emails from parents, teachers and students, that that isn't what this fight has been about. Has it been a priority for a few? It probably has. There are 9,300 teachers, as far as I know, so I'm sure it was the number one priority for a handful, but that is so rare.

In fact, a lady from the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board - it's interesting because a lot of the letters I've received are actually from the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. Her name is Amanda Hernandez, and I'm going to quote from the letter later too. She said:
Have you noticed that the things I'm asking for are strictly student based? Did I mention at any point a raise or other money for my pocket? No, because that's not what I'm fighting for. The future of this province means more to me than that.
I have tons of letters here saying the exact same thing. The Premier wrote a letter to the Speaker, which I can also table - I'm sure everybody has seen it by this point - in which he is asking for the Legislature to be resumed. In it he said:
The withdrawal of services in our school system has caused harm to the learning outcomes, their university and college eligibility, as well as their athletic aspirations. This is not acceptable and can no longer continue. Our students deserve better.
That was his reason for recalling the Legislature, but here is the problem. The legislation doesn't solve any of the issues that he has actually recalled the Legislature to solve. In fact, in the briefing the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development gave two days ago - with the sessions it's getting a bit tricky to determine - when she did that briefing, she acknowledged that in fact, there was no way to force teachers to take on the duties of extracurricular work, helping people at lunch time, coaching teams, writing reference letters, or any of those things.
Unlike what we've heard from the Premier and the minister that they want to get teachers back in the classroom, they have been in the classroom. In fact, they have been using all of their time to teach rather than just some of their time to teach. So from that perspective, from an academic point of view, students have actually had more teaching time, not less, which is sort of part of what we're all fighting for here - to have more focus on teaching.

I think the minister, to some extent, acknowledged a little bit of that when she said that, yes, maybe there is a problem with TIENET and all these other programs. I don't pretend to fully understand the issues of using TIENET and the others, but I understand they're an issue. I understand that they take time. I have friends across this province who are teachers who are entering grades - not just grades, but data that serves very little purpose - at 11 and 12 o'clock at night on a regular basis because that just happens to be when they finished everything else from the day.

I have friends who when work-to-rule stopped for a short period of time - and this was a term teacher who didn't even know if she had a job the next day, when she heard work-to-rule was going back Monday stayed up through Sunday to make sure all of the marks were entered into the computer system. That's the kind of dedication that exists.

We talk about this return to normal. If we think that stuff is going to come back, I think we better start thinking differently. Today I heard about a school where the entire school of teachers has said that they are not going to be doing anything but work-to-rule. If it's not in the contract or Education Act, forget it.

Another teacher, Aaron Peck, posted publicly - and I'm going to read you what he wrote because I think it's important it reflects quite a few letters I've received from teachers in every single part of this province:
Here is the new reality [the Premier] has created for Nova Scotia schools. I will do my job and not an ounce more. I will not volunteer my time. I will not do any extras at my job. I will not contribute my intellectual property to enhance or further my profession. This means I will attend mandatory meetings and professional development, but I will sit quietly and do nothing. I will not supervise clubs or sports. I will not attend graduations, proms or any other extracurricular event. I will only work the required hours of my job. I will hang up the phone, stop what I'm doing and walk out the door when my shift is over. I will not buy school supplies or other materials to support my classroom. That is my employer's responsibility. I will no longer find work-arounds or use my personal data when things like wi-fi don't work. I will simply put in a tech request and teach. I will understand the contract to the letter and do absolutely nothing more than what it says. This is the result of infringing on my constitutional right to fair and collective bargaining as a member of a union.
I received his and it was the first one I had received and I said, wow, that's quite a statement. So then today I hear somebody say their entire school agreed today that they're going to be doing the exact same thing. Then I started getting letters from other teachers. Some of the other Opposition members have as well saying, no, this is going to be a permanent protest.
So what does that do? Did work-to-rule cause problems and issues sometimes? Sure. But let's all acknowledge that any kind of job action causes some sort of hardship. That's the point of a job action, but is it better to have a union or some other body say, this is the work-to-rule guidelines that everybody is going to follow or is it better to have a scenario where 9,300 teachers decide for themselves what they are and are not going to do? In every single class room you have a different experience. I actually think the former is probably better for students and if we are truly here for students, why don't we do the right thing for students and recognize that we actually can't solve the work-to-rule complaints because other than a couple of things

(Interruption) I'm just going to take a break because somebody would like to make an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER:

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ZACH CHURCHILL:

I would like to thank the member for this. It is my great pleasure today to introduce in the west gallery my wonderful, beautiful wife Katie Churchill, and for the first time to introduce our new three-week-old daughter, Cecelia Louise.

I just want to say this has been an incredible experience to become a father and it has given me renewed purpose in this Chamber and in life in general. I know that the love of my family will carry me through many obstacles that I will undoubtedly be facing in life. I do want the House to give my family a warm welcome, please. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER:

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


MR. YOUNGER:

Certainly I offer my congratulations to the minister and his family as well. There's nothing like having a baby in the Chamber to change the entire mood, all of a sudden, of everybody.

I was talking about what this potentially does and is it better for students with the legislation or without. Let's accept that everybody is here for the students. The government thinks we have to do this for our students and in the Premier's letter that I tabled, it said that our students deserve better. So does this make it better? I don't think it does. You now have 9,300 different versions of work-to-rule in the province. Is that better than having consistency and knowing what's going on? I don't see how that's possibly better. There were options, but they haven't been taken. I think that there are options the government could have taken to start recognizing some of the challenges and done some things which may not have cost money.

Let me give you an example. A good friend of mine, he's in a group, we go down and do a Navy SEAL obstacle race down in the United States. He coaches hockey and so forth, and he has worked with Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon and all these guys; in fact, he gave my son one of Sidney's hockey sticks the other day. He was one of the people who was really upset because he was like, the kids aren't getting to do the sports stuff. I said, okay, well, why aren't they? And somebody else said, why aren't the parents volunteering? He said, they are volunteering, but a teacher has to be there because it's a school team.

I don't know when this rule started. I can guarantee you teachers did not create it. My understanding is that it is some sort of strange insurance rule, but apparently if you have a sports team - and I assume it would be the same if you had a debating club or chess club or a theatre group - that you have to have a teacher supervisor present. So in some cases that teacher happens to also be the coach or the instructor, so they might be the hockey coach.

In other cases, I found that the teacher brings their books along, sits in the rink - 6:00 in the morning or on the weekend or in the evenings - because a teacher needs to be there because it's a school team. Now ask yourself: Is that really a good use of a teacher's time - keeping in mind that this is something that they're sort of "volun-told" or "volun-pressured" to do because without some teacher going, the kids aren't going to have their team. You can understand the pressure that might cause.

Wouldn't it be better to solve that problem around insurance? The Premier talked about athletic accomplishments - "athletic aspirations" were the words he used. Would it not be better to solve that problem as a gesture of goodwill to teachers and say we know some of you are still going to want to be involved in these things, but those weeks where you're sitting there and you have all this stuff to do, you have all this marking to do, we're taking that pressure off. The parent and volunteer coaches can go coach - you don't need to be there. They can still be associated with the school. Why can't we solve that issue? That issue shouldn't cost a single dime to solve, but would help with the workload. That's just one small thing, but there are lots of things like that that are taking the time of teachers and putting pressure on them that doesn't need to be there.

In the bill that we have before us, one of the things the minister has done is taken away the two days that were offered, and nobody knew what they were. I agree with the Premier, it didn't seem like anybody wanted them. Somehow there was a miscommunication, misinterpretation - I don't know how they got there, but they got there, they didn't want them, they're gone. But they just took them away. They were willing to spend that money and now the government is not willing to spend that money.

There was a teacher who made an observation - and let's assume their math is correct for now - that the amount of money that those two days would have cost would have hired 122 EPAs. So let's say they were wrong because they miscalculated on benefits - let's say it's 100 EPAs, so we'll round way down. What is one of the biggest issues we are hearing from teachers in this province and parents? The lack of EPAs. Why does that matter? Well, we rightfully try to include as many people in classrooms, and I think that creates a very rich learning environment for students, but there are some people who require support to be there. That's just the way it is. They should be there, but they require the supports. So you have to ask yourself how somebody can be put on a high-needs IPP without having an EPA funded for that.

I have appeared at appeals for people at the Halifax Regional School Board to get them on IPPs, and I had actually always assumed until a couple of years ago that once you got on there, if you actually had a need for - if this was something that actually should have an EPA there that would come with it once it was approved. In fact, I thought that was why the board was so reluctant in approving them at the time, because they didn't want to have to then argue to get the funding for those positions. But it turns out that isn't the case at all.

Outside of the fact that EPAs are dreadfully paid, the reality is that it is almost impossible in some classrooms for a teacher to deliver the program that they are being asked to deliver without the proper supports in that classroom.

There are numerous stories of classrooms - in fact, there was one I got today where they had nine IPPs and 14 adaptations in one class, so that's 25 students right there. I don't know how many students were in the class, but let's say it was 30 because somebody in that class has to not be on an IPP or an adaptation, so let's say it's 30. That means 25 students in that class are not - 23, sorry. I was thinking in my head, that number's wrong, it's 23. So you have 23 students - that means that there are at least 24 lesson plans. Think about that. Can you imagine teaching 24 lesson plans? Split grades are hard enough.

In some places - I'm sure that in some of the more remote areas we probably have three grades that are split, let alone two. Just think about that for a second. Can you imagine having to create that many lesson plans and then not having sufficient EPAs? It's just crazy.

On top of that - I don't want to dwell too long on the no-fail policy, but I do want to point out something. The minister yesterday - or this morning really - in Question Period insisted that the no-fail policy has never existed. Almost as soon as she said that in Question Period, emails over here started going off as teachers sent us the no-fail policy from her own website.

I looked at it and it relates to, again, IPPs and adaptations, and so what I think appears to be happening is - and I have to look into it further because granted this was less than 24 hours ago - we're playing at semantics. You've got a class that, say, for the sake of argument, has 30 students. There are 23 students on adaptations and IPPs, which means there are 23 students at least who fall under the no-fail policy. That's pretty much a no-fail policy.

If that understanding is correct, then is the minister correct that there isn't actually a no-fail policy? Well I guess technically she's correct, but the reality of the situation is not that. The reality of the situation is that there is, in fact, a no-fail policy that applies to a heck of a lot of students, if not all students because you can then imagine - why would you as a teacher want to fail your students who are not on IPPs or adaptations while moving on the other ones? I mean, you're just going to create a whole bunch of other issues.

I spoke last night in both Question Periods about another issue in the classroom that I think could be solved today. I don't know whether it will take some money, but on this one I don't care, and that's violence. If anybody is willing to stand up and argue that if it takes money to end violence in classrooms, that they're not willing to support it, I can't wait to have that debate.

In 50 seconds or 45 seconds or whatever you get in Question Period it's hard to go through all the examples, so I'd like to read a few of them:
At 17 weeks pregnant I was assaulted by a student. I was thrown into a locker. He then took a binder and continually hit me in the stomach. The student was always supposed to have two people with him.
When I worked in junior high at a learning centre, I had a microwave thrown at my head. The student literally ripped the microwave out of the wall and threw the microwave. The student then turned, attempted to grab the live wires, and with the two of us in the room we had to evacuate the rest of the students.
The answer to that was not something through the code of conduct. It was, you knew what you were getting into when you took this job. I don't know why that's okay. I don't know why we're not saying that - again, even as a gesture of goodwill we're going to make it a priority to address that. Why is that okay for the other students in the class? And don't for a second think, oh, this is students with disabilities because it's not. There are violent incidents from students regardless of whether they have a disability or not. There are students who are not on any kind of adaptation or IPP at all who can be just as violent towards students because that's just what they are and they know they can get away with it.

There are a few problems. One, it labels all students with that by saying they're all bad students. We've seen those movies about the teacher that goes - in fact, Waging Peace is a documentary that was done about a junior high school in my riding, Caledonia Junior High, that Edy Guy-Francois came in and turned around because that was the situation there. Why did we go in and fix that school? Now that school is a well-performing school and yet we're not willing to address this when other teachers come forward.

This other teacher writes: Over the years I have had chairs thrown at me, buckshot thrown in my face. I've been sworn at, called names, and verbally abused by parents. I've had kids throw temper tantrums, a kid bring a knife to school and come to class high.

A knife is bad enough - today at Citadel High School there was a kid with a gun. We get reports of kids with a gun and we never know if that's true. They arrested the kid - 17 years old - arrested him in Dartmouth on Parker Street and he had a handgun. This is what we're dealing with in schools and yet a committee is the solution. Unfortunately, a committee is not the solution.

There are a lot of these stories coming from parents and teachers. I've read you a number of them from teachers and a couple from parents, and I want to read something from a student. I'm not going to read it all because it will take my entire time. I think she's still in the building somewhere, but you've all heard Kenzi Donnelly talk. In fact, she starts her note saying:
I know you're probably all sick and tired of hearing from me by now, but I guess if that's the case I'm doing my job. I'm a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Prince Andrew High School and I started Students for Teachers.
She goes on to talk about the conditions that they're being faced with. She says:
The conditions we are being faced with in our classrooms far outweigh those of work-to-rule. We are not getting the best education possible when we are stuck with large classes. We need to have access to one-on-one time with teachers during class time, which we are not getting enough of because of the data collection and the number of students in the class.
Let me tell you about the number of students in a class. When the new semester started up at Citadel High, there were math classes there with 49 students. That was more students in an almost brand new school - brand new to me - than there were desks. At what point did it become acceptable in this province to have classrooms where people have to do a version of the cakewalk to get a seat in the classroom? In what version of Nova Scotia did it become acceptable for kids to have to sit on the floor in a classroom because there weren't enough places for them to sit? It's not the only school. I heard that and I went, that's a one-off story, that doesn't happen very often. I've now been shown examples of that in high schools - high schools in particular - across this province. Why on earth is that okay in Nova Scotia?

That doesn't even get to the resources. I could talk for the next two days about stuff in the textbooks. I've had people send me scans of textbooks that are so - it's so sad you just want to laugh. Apparently, Pluto is still a planet in some of the science textbooks. In Grade 9 geography, Nunavut isn't a territory. We still have the Northwest Territories and Yukon. I'm sure the teachers correct that when they get to that and they say, no this is what it is. I honestly don't know offhand what year Nunavut became a territory but that was a long time ago.

So we've got to be able to replace those things and fix them. Sure, ancient literature and ancient European history isn't going to change a lot, so that's okay, but when it comes to science or geography - I mean, geography doesn't change that much, although lately it seems to be changing by the week in some parts of Europe.

Why are we giving people the wrong tools? What's going to happen when these people graduate and go to university or they go to community college or they go out into the workforce? I remember a couple of years ago I met with the DSTN folks - and I say that's funny because now here we're talking about yet another owner there. They said to me at the time when I was down touring - they were still making wind towers at the time - that the biggest problem they had was finding employees who were sufficiently literate to read the technical manuals. The biggest problem that this employer was having was finding people sufficiently literate to understand the manuals and the safety programs to build the wind towers.

Now we all know that in the case of that, finding employees didn't end up becoming their biggest challenge. We all understand that at this point, but the fact that was pointed out as an issue has got to point directly back to a failure in the education system. I can't imagine a world where even the world's most amazing and best teacher could possibly ever teach kids in a class when they have 23 or 24 different lesson plans; when they have children who deserve and have a right to and need EPAs and can't get them; when they do not have the support of their principals or the Education and Early Childhood Development Minister to deal with violence; when they don't have the ability to deal with real everyday ongoing issues in the classroom; or when they have more students than they have desks. That is a classroom management exercise. That is not education. That is not teaching. And it's not right.

It is not fair to the students and if we are to believe that the reason we are here is because of the students and what is best for the students, this bill frankly does nothing to improve anything for students. We've had the committees. Time and time again we have not only had the committees, we've had the reports.

The minister has been the Minister of Education under two different Parties and had committees report to her, including the Freeman report earlier, which I know was not overly well received by many teachers, but what happened to the stuff they did like in that and that the public did like in that? Why didn't we have a discussion about that? Instead we're starting the whole process all over again, and in two years from now we'll say, well, maybe we need another committee. That's not going to be good enough. The problems are there now.

These stories about teachers and students experiencing violence in the classroom are happening this year - not 10 years ago. They're happening this year. The stories about Citadel High and other schools with more students than desks at periods - that's this year. That's within the past couple of weeks.
The stories that we are hearing from parents and teachers and so forth who have more students requiring EPAs but can't get the funding for the EPAs are happening now, and yet, hiring more EPAs is going to cost money, but has anybody ever figured out what the costs of not addressing these issues are

I think this is a fight worth having. I truly believe that the foundation of the future of our economy - our health care system, our entrepreneurs, our inventors, our doctors, our lawyers, our welders - is all based on the fundamental of having a working education system and it doesn't work. The Premier believed that in 2013 when we were on the campaign trail. In fact, some of what I am saying right now are the very things that he was saying.

A lot of people today have argued about things like the constitutionality of the bill or is it going to go into court and is this fair treatment. All of those are legitimate issues. Easy to spend weeks and weeks on education here, discussing this. I am fighting this because the education system isn't working and I don't sincerely believe that it is working for teachers. I don't think it's working for parents, and I really don't think it's working for students. I don't think that's because of work-to-rule.

I think that's because there are issues that everybody seems okay with putting off for a year or two or three, and I'm just not okay with that. I wasn't okay with it in 2013 and I'm not okay with it now. I stood up here in Opposition when the NDP was in government and said many of the same things. I can't believe that I'm still saying the same things again.

In another stage of this debate I will get to talk about some of the other stories that people have sent me. I've got hundreds of them here, and that's just in the past few days. I could go back to the ones I've been getting since December, but that's just in the past few days stories people sending me, and I know other people are receiving them because I've seen your emails copied on them.

I'm going to leave this sort of where I started to say that I do respect the fact that everybody in here has the right to their own view on what's the best way to go here, but I also firmly believe that if you're prepared to support this legislation then you need to be able to write back to your constituents or call them back and explain to them why you believe in it. Don't ignore them. If you truly believe that you should be voting for this bill, then in your heart you should have no problem calling those constituents and explaining to them why you believe what you believe and why you're voting the way you do. Thank you.