May 30, 2014
WELLINGTON – The PC Opposition Caucus is calling on Education Minister Alan McIsaac to come out of hiding and agree to meet with concerned parents from Miscouche Consolidated School.
Members of the PC Caucus met last night with the group which represents 55 families whose children attend the school. “We heard loud and clear their frustrations over the fact the Education Minister refuses to meet with them. We also heard loud and clear that they will not back down until that meeting is held,” said PC Education Critic James Aylward.
Time and again, parents in attendance expressed they are not a “mob”, or on a “witch-hunt,” terms used by the Minister to describe the group; rather they are parents who are looking out for their children’s safety and best interests.
“The concerns described to us last night are legitimate and reasonable – this is no mob, this is a group of Island parents doing the best for their kids. Parents such as these are the heart and soul of any school, and Minister McIsaac needs to meet with them immediately. His refusal to do so is shameful and embarrassing,” said Aylward.
During the course of the meeting, parents told Aylward and Opposition Leader Steven Myers that they have repeatedly asked to meet with Minister McIsaac but have been told that the School Board is following ‘policy and protocol’, yet no one will provide them with copies of that policy.
“These parents represent over half the families whose children attend Miscouche Consolidated School. It is shameful that the Minister simply refuses to meet with them to discuss their legitimate and ongoing concerns.”
Aylward said that the PC Caucus went to Miscouche to meet with the parents and hear their concerns first-hand.
“The Minister should not expect this group of concerned parents to go away quietly,” Aylward concluded. “We heard loud and clear that what they want is a meeting with the Minister. They are not being heard, and they made it very clear to us last night that backing down is absolutely not an option for them.”
May 29, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Opposition Leader Steven Myers is continuing his call for Education Minister Alan McIsaac to show leadership and address the challenges in the education system, as public discontent continues to mount across Prince Edward Island.
“We are no longer talking about a small handful of individuals who are upset with the state of education in PEI,” stressed Myers. “Organized parent groups, the business community and even the Minister’s own hand-picked school board are calling for him to make the right investments in our children’s education.”
Myers pointed to recent media reports indicating that the English Language School Board plans to challenge the Minister on his cuts to education.
He further highlighted the recent call from the Greater Charlottetown and Area Chamber of Commerce for the Ghiz government to implement a provincial education strategy, stating that “high-quality education helps ensure a strong labour market, makes the Island an attractive option for newcomers, and provides stronger prospects for young Islanders.”
Myers stressed the need for McIssac to pay close attention to these concerns and make the right investments for our children’s future, today.
“A strong education is the basis of success not just for the individual student, but for the entire province,” said Myers. “There is no question that government needs to get their spending under control, but to do so at the expense of our children’s education is irresponsible, counterproductive and flat out wrong.”
The Opposition Leader stressed that McIsaac is neglecting his responsibility as Education Minister by turning a blind-eye towards the short-comings in education.
“Minister McIsaac stated repeatedly during the spring legislature that he believes there is nothing wrong with education in PEI and that he is content having Island students rank last place in PISA testing.” said Myers. “Last place may be good enough for this Minister, but it is not good enough for parents; it is not good enough for his school board; it is not good enough for the business community and it most certainly is not good enough for our students.”
May 28, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Health Critic James Aylward is renewing his call for Health Minister Doug Currie to track and investigate cancer cases in Prince Edward Island.
“The yearly Canadian Cancer Society’s statistics released this morning show an estimated 900 new cases of cancer in PEI in 2014, and sadly 370 cancer related deaths,” said Aylward.
The PC Opposition for the past two years has been calling on government to hire a cancer specific epidemiologist to investigate the possible causes for the province’s high rates of cancer and to determine if there are common sources, common areas where cancer is occurring and to recommend potential prevention measures.
“Cancer is the leading cause of death in our province yet the Minister is failing to figure out why,” said Aylward.
The Stratford-Kinlock MLA said he was disappointed that the Minister has not prioritized the need for a cancer epidemiologist to try and get a handle on what is happening in this province.
“We have the highest rates of cancer in the country. We need to identify the root causes so that they can begin to be addressed, and to ensure the health and safety of our Island population.”
May 27, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Opposition Leader Steven Myers is raising serious questions about the absent and failing education leadership in Prince Edward Island.
Myers was responding to reports that Education Deputy Minister Sandy MacDonald is attempting to leave the Department of Education for a new position at the University of Prince Edward Island, after an intensive application process dating back to January 2, 2014.
Myers further pointed to Cabinet records which show Minister MacIsaac was absent from the province for a staggering 32 days in the first 3 months of 2014, a period which overlaps the Deputy’s application process.
“We now know exactly why the Minister and his deputy were so clueless and out of the loop, contributing to the crisis of our education system,” said Myers. “The Minister was absent from the province, and at the very same time his Deputy was busy seeking a new position elsewhere.”
“Time and time again, the absentee Minister and checked-out deputy were too busy looking after their own interests to be bothered with serious education issues in this Province,” Myers added.
Myers referred to a number of recent developments, and believes that each is a direct product of the Minister and Deputy’s refusal to pay attention to education issues in PEI: the Minister’s refusal to meet with and address the serious issues raised by the courageous parents of Miscouche; the national embarrassment surrounding the exchange student from BC; the destructive and short-sighted reading recovery cuts; and the Minister’s refusal to discuss or disclose a $17,000 secret school closure report prepared by his Department.
“These simple examples are in addition to the ongoing crisis in our education system, where students are a full grade behind the Canadian average in math, and struggling with literacy,” Myers summarized. “The effect of absence of the Minister and his Deputy is obvious, and it is not good.”
May 22, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Opposition Leader Steven Myers is calling for Education Minister Alan McIsaac to release his secret consultant’s report on how to close small schools.
It was discovered earlier this week that the Department of Education spent $17,000 to commission this study with the intentions of finding “efficiencies” within the Island school system. The Minister later reported to the media that school closures will not happen at the present time – but didn’t rule out future possibilities.
“Clearly there is a hidden agenda at play here. Why else would this Minister feels justified to spend $17,000 on a report telling him how to closes small schools, while he is cutting teaching positions and essential programs like Reading Recovery,” asked Myers.
Myers also referred to a communications plan the Minister is putting in place “in case” school closures take place.
“There is no ‘in case’ involved here. He is obviously preparing for the storm that will ensue when he tries to deprive rural families of fair access to education,” said Myers. “Alan McIsaac owes it to these Islanders to make his secret school closure report public.”
The Opposition Leader sent a letter to the Standing Committee on Education last Friday requesting that the Superintendent of the English Language School Board appear before the committee to answer questions regarding cuts in education. Myers says the veil of secrecy surrounding school closures will now be another point of discussion at the committee meeting.
“Both Minister McIsaac and his superintendent need to come clean about their plan to close small schools and need to do so immediately.”
May 20, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Opposition Leader Steven Myers is dismayed by comments from the Superintendent of the English Language School Board, indicating that school closures are once again being considered. Superintendent Cynthia Fleet announced today in the media that the Board is developing a new process to consult with communities to avoid the “pitfalls” that occurred in the last round of school closures on PEI.
“I am both surprised and upset that this important announcement was not made during the sitting of the Legislature so that it could be debated and discussed,” said Myers. “Perhaps the Minister of Education was not aware of these plans, in the same way that he was not aware of cuts to programming and other major events in Education. Either way, it isn’t right or fair to Islanders.”
Recently, nine Island Schools were advised that the Reading Recovery program, a key tool in promoting literacy among students in Grade 1 and 2, were being cut, primarily in rural PEI. “Now we are learning that the plans go much, much deeper, and that school closures are back on the table. To say that this will be a further attack on education in rural communities is an understatement,” Myers added.
Myers is calling upon Education Minister Alan MacIsaac to finally take an active role in his Department, and get to the bottom of these apparent plans to close schools in rural PEI.
“This Minister has so far been unable to make himself aware of what is actually happening in his own Department, and that is unacceptable. If there is a plan to close rural Island schools, this Minister needs to step out from behind his unelected Board and explain to Islanders what is really happening.”
The creation of a new communications policy for rolling out school closures and consolidations is a clear indication that cuts are already planned, according to Myers. The Department of Education, not the Board, paid $17,000 for a consultant’s report on how best to deal with school closures.
“I fear what this government has planned,” stated Myers. “If no closures or consolidations were already in the works, a new communications policy would not be necessary. The Minister needs to get up to speed, and come clean with Islanders about the Ghiz government’s continued attack on education in rural PEI.”
May 16, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – Opposition Leader Steven Myers has written to the Chair of the Standing Committee on Education and Innovation, calling for immediate action in relation to ongoing cuts to vital educational programming.
“Just this week we learned that the Ghiz government is cutting Reading Recovery, a vital literacy program for Grade 1 and Grade 2 children. These cuts are predominantly in rural schools, which is both shameful and disturbing,” said Myers.
Also of grave concern to Myers is the failure of Education Minister Alan McIsaac to offer any leadership on the issue of cuts to personnel, services and programs in Island schools.
“The Minister constantly shifts blame to the School Board and Superintendent,” Myers pointed out. “Either the Minister does not know what is happening in his own Department, or he does not listen to Island parents and front-line educators when it comes to priority programs.”
Myers is urging the Standing Committee to meet immediately, and call English language School Board Superintendent Cynthia Fleet to appear before the Committee and answer questions about the recent cuts to teachers and programs. Myers is also calling for the Committee to allow and invite Islanders to make public submissions on these key issues.
“It is clear that the Minister and the Superintendent are not listening to parents and teachers when it comes to achieving the best outcomes for our students,” Myers stated. “Parents are taking the opportunity to protest the Ghiz government’s lack of vision.”
Myers added that, “if Minister MacIsaac and the Ghiz government won’t meet with or listen to these important voices, the Committee must give parents and educators the opportunity to have their voices heard. They must finally be given the means to deliver their important message loud and clear: give our Island children the tools they need to succeed.”
May 14, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Opposition Leader Steven Myers says the spring legislative sitting showed just how out of touch the Ghiz government is with the needs of Islanders.
“This government has no concept of the struggles that so many Islanders are facing,” said Myers. “After years of wasteful spending, they under spent millions in vital services – forcing PEI’s most vulnerable to pay for their mismanagement.”
Myers cited how government left unspent $2.3 million for social services, $1.2 million for mental health and addictions services and $4.5 million in rural development funding. He added that Islanders are coping with the highest tax rates in the country, record high gas and food prices and cuts to education when students are performing in last place academically.
“When we speak of government getting their finances under control we are referring to wasteful spending on things like failed lottery games and unwanted highways,” said Myers. “We will never stand for saving dollars by letting Islanders go hungry, depriving them of mental health and addictions services, at the expense of rural economic development, or to the detriment of our children’s education. Never.”
Myers added that it is abundantly clear that the Ghiz government’s focus is misguided and without leadership or vision.
“This government has racked up a $2.3 billion debt that our children will be forced to pay; their prosperity plan has failed; our children’s education system is in shambles, and they are content with that,” said Myers. “The Ghiz government lacks any vision for the future and they are completely out of touch with what people living in PEI are dealing with.”
May 09, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC Opposition Leader and Innovation Critic Steven Myers raised concerns about government favoritism towards select business interests, which serves to highlight inequality in access to government financial support.
“ I question why government regularly gives taxpayer dollars and perks to successful and connected businesses when so many other Island businesses are struggling just to get by,” said Myers. “We believe that all Island businesses should be granted fair and equal opportunity to government support.”
Myers pointed in particular to the Murphy Brewery, which has received close to $4 million in loans from the current government. This money was used to first upgrade the provincially owned site, then to purchase it from the provincial government.
“It is mind-boggling that government loaned $2.1 million to upgrade a property which they owned, and then turned around to loan a further $1.2 million to have it bought off them,” Myers stated. “Furthermore, as the security for these loans is the property itself, government seems to have more invested in this brewery rather than the owners themselves.”
The government has also given the Murphy Brewery the multi-year contract to run the PEI Beer Festival as well as the contract to be the official exclusive beer of the PEI 2014 festivities.
“This brewery appears to be a priority investment area for this government,” Myers said. “Islanders wonder why such a successful business group with extensive holdings continues to turn to government for financial backing.”
Myers and the PC Caucus believe rather than picking favorites, all Island businesses should be given fair, equal opportunity for accessing government financial support.
May 07, 2014
CHARLOTTETOWN – PC MLA for Stratford-Kinlock James Aylward raised questions regarding the cloak of secrecy which Environment Minister Janice Sherry has cast over the pending decision to lift PEI’s deep water well moratorium.
“For months the Minister has claimed she is basing her decision on science, yet to this day she still refuses to disclose any of this information to the public,” said Aylward. “The questions remain – what is she trying to hide and who is she trying to protect by keeping this information secret?”
The Stratford-Kinlock MLA then pointed out that Sherry failed to attend any Environment Standing Committee hearings which discussed this moratorium and has since neglected to respond to the recommendations which the committee has put forward.
“It goes to show how apathetic this Minister is about this issue when she doesn’t even attend these meetings and pushes the committee’s recommendations to the backburner.”
Aylward noted that as PEI’s only source of drinking water, our ground-water is not something the Minister can fool around with.
“The Minister is toying with the most fundamental resource we need to live. It is not something she can waver on,” said Aylward. “Despite the public concerns and despite committee recommendations, she continues to fail to show leadership and be honest about how she plans to address the fate of PEI’s deep water well moratorium.”
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