By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Stepping into his new role as Opposition education critic won’t be much of a change for Whitby-Oshawa MPP Lorne Coe.
In the aftermath of Patrick Brown stepping down as Ontario PC leader in reaction to sexual assault allegations, interim leader Vic Fedeli shuffled his caucus and replaced Brown with Coe in the education critic position.
However, education is not a new portfolio for Coe, as he is also the postsecondary critic for the party, and was previously in the associate education role.
“I’m very pleased to take on this position. What has occurred is certainly a broadening of the work I’d already started,” he says.
Coe says he’s travelled throughout the province and engaged with education associations and organizations, such as the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.
“I’ve discovered what they see as some of the challenges and some of the solutions,” he says.
For the Durham-area MPP, it’s become clear there are facets of Ontario’s education system that are in need of improvement.
Among the priorities laid out in the PC’s 2018 election platform include the expansion of a financial literacy pilot project which was launched at approximately 20 high schools in Ontario last year.
“We need to do a better job of teaching financial literacy,” Coe explains, pointing to a 2015 CIBC study that found that 82 per cent of Canadians between 18 and 34 felt they lacked “financial knowledge and investing confidence.”
“The students clearly want it,” Coe states.
Another area of focus is improving math scores across Ontario.
“Through my engagement with teachers associations, we have some of the best teachers in the world, yet there is still a challenge with math scores.”
The PCs have also promised the appointment of a task force of former teaching professionals to “best inform a curriculum update” that would include consultation with current teachers.
Coe says his party is also seeking to enact a complete moratorium on school closures until the accommodation review process (ARC) is overhauled.
“As I travel the province, urban and rural schools are closing all across Ontario, in my view, without proper guidelines and oversight,” he says.
Although a moratorium has been put on closures of rural and northern Ontario schools, urban schools across the province remain in jeopardy.
“They’ve made no commitment to fix the ARC process,” he says, adding there should be more consultation with parents, local businesses, and municipalities when considering the future of schools.