Wednesday, 28 September 2011

What Voters in Oak Ridges-Markham are saying about Energy and Education!

Brian Weller

BY Brian Weller | BLOGGER

Oak Ridges-Markham

Hello Speak Your Mind readers, my name is Brian Weller and I am your 'community blogger' in the coming Provincial election for Oak Ridges-Markham voters. I live in Markham and share your concerns! Over the course of the campaign, I will be bringing your questions forward to your candidates and each will have the opportunity to respond so send your questions to

Check back here often to see what your candidates have to say. The initial set of questions relate to energy and education and I've asked all candidates to respond. The comments below are from the candidates who have responded to date.
I hope you find Speak Your Mind not only interesting but informative. We have an important decision to make together come October 6th.

 Oak Ridges-Markham candidates were all asked the same questions and I received responses from Liberal candidate Dr. Helena Jaczek, Green Party candidate Trifon Haitas and NDP candidate Joe Whitfeld.


Question #1 - it has been reported that Ontario already has more than enough electricity for current needs and Samsung's output will command a premium price, averaging 17 cents a kilowatt hour in the first year and rising to 18.2 cents a kilowatt hour by the end of the 20-year agreement. That compares with a current average price in Ontario, including power sold both under contract and on the open market of 7 cents a kilowatt hour. As a result, much of the power produced by Samsung will be exported, at prices of 3 to 4 cents a kilowatt hour. Is this factual? if yes, do you have plans to deal with this discrepancy?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “ that Ontario’s partnership with Samsung is creating 16,000 direct and indirect jobs in Ontario, injecting $7 billion of investment into our economy and providing us 2,500 megawatts of clean wind and solar electricity.Right now, four manufacturing plants are getting ready for production in Windsor, Tillsonburg, London and Toronto. Last month, the Ontario Liberal Government made some important improvements to the agreement because our Samsung partners wanted the same one-year commercial operation date extension that was provided to all other FIT contract holders in February, 2011. In exchange for that one-year extension, Ontario gained significant improvements that make this an even better investment opportunity for Ontarians. Under the revised agreement, the economic development payments to Samsung are reduced to a maximum of $110 million - down from a projected $437 million when the deal was first signed. That's a 75 per cent reduction and will save Ontario ratepayers $327 million. These payments will only begin after the manufacturing plants start operating, job commitments are met and the solar and wind projects begin producing clean energy. Should job levels fall or a plantclose, payments will be reduced accordingly. The Samsung agreement means thousands of new clean energy manufacturing jobs in Ontario and new renewable energy to power our homes and businesses. The Samsung agreement will provide the necessary power to help meet Ontario’s electricity demand over the next 20 years.”

Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #2 - it has been reported that Ontario Hydro has been a net exporter of power at a loss, twice in 2011. Specifically, last New Year's Day, Quebec and New York took our surplus wind generated power and the Ontario taxpayer had to pay them $1.5 million! is this factual? If true, why were the wind generators not turned off? And then on August 28th and 29th, Ontario exported power to New York and Quebec again, this time at a loss of $6.6 million. is this factual? If true, why was this allowed to happen again and what would you do to ensure that this doesn't happen a third time?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says that, “Ontario’s position as a net exporter of electricity provides benefits to Ontario economically and enhances system reliability. Since 2006, Ontario has gained over $1.6 billion (net) from the electricity market, and over $191 million so far in 2011. This positive trade balance goes towards costs in our electricity system that otherwise would need to be paid for by Ontario consumers. Ontario is entering into a period where coal-fired units are being retired and nuclear units will soon be brought offline for refurbishment. Adequate electricity supply must be in place before that can proceed. It has taken hard work and substantial investment to achieve this energy security given the abject state of the electricity system we inherited eight years ago. Since 2003, Ontario Liberals have added 8,900MW of new and refurbished energy supply and have a Long-Term Energy Plan that secures our energy future through 2030. Part of that plan is having Ontario coal-free by 2014, something that we are on-track to achieve. We’ve shut down eight coal burning units so far and will shut down an addition two units by the end of this year. This summer, one of the hottest on record, our electricity system was more than able to handle the demands place on it during peak hours on our hottest days – without power warnings, without emergency imports, and without emergency generators.”

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says he will "fight so that we do not allow Ontario to be a net exporter of power at a loss again

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #3 - It has been reported that Ontario's Green Energy and Economy Act prohibits competitive bidding for power projects. do you agree with this?if yes, why?if not, why?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says "a cornerstone of the Green Energy Act is to build clean, distributed generation by providing incentives for participation by Ontarians themselves. Through the Green Energy Act, Ontario has created a fair, open and transparent process for both large and small investors and companies. The Green Energy Act and Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan have put us on the right track to rebuild our electricity system, clean up our air, and create good jobs for thousands of Ontario workers."

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says, “we need "competitive bidding to ensure Ontarian's get the best deal for our tax dollar."

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

 Question #4 - it has been reported that Ontario's Green Energy and Economy Act is in clear breach of World Trade Organization rules and is inconsistent with Canada's federal WTO obligations. Is this factual? The European Union and Japan have both complained. Is this factual? If yes, has this ACT put the Ontario taxpayer in a precarious position? If yes, could the WTO force a withdrawl of Ontario's Green Energy and Economy Act?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “Ontario’s FIT (Feed-In Tariff) Program is consistent with Canada’s international trade obligations under the WTO. We will continue to work with the Federal Government and our international partners to ensure that our position is well understood, and our economy’s interests and those of clean energy manufacturers in Ontario are protected. Ontario is already emerging as a clean energy powerhouse. We have attracted over 30 domestic and international renewable energy companies, created over 20,000 jobs and attracted over $20 billion in private sector investment. It is no surprise that others internally recognize our leadership.”

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #5- it has been reported that Green Energy is thriving in Europe and Australia and elsewhere without 'feed-in' tariffs. Is this factual? If yes, why was it necessary for us to have a 'feed-in' tariff?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “Ontario’s FIT program is largely modeled on the example of Germany who has successfully entrenched themselves as the European leader in renewable energy. Recently Japan brought forward a FIT Program of their own based on the programs in place in Ontario and Germany. In just two years, our Green Energy Act has managed attract over $20 billion of investment in our economy and create over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in Ontario – and on track to reach 50,000 jobs by 2012.”

Answer: Joe Whitfeld of the NDP says "this is not true, Australia has had feed-in tariffs in the states of Southern Australia and Queenland since 2008. Today, every state in Australia has adopted a 'feed-in' tariff system. Furthermore, the global leader in solar energy is Germany who produce 9,700MW of solar power under a 'feed in' tariff system. Large and skilled photovoltaic companies have developed in Germany while public awareness on the efficiency of renewable energy has spawned an action plan for Germany to rely solely on green energy by 2022. Italy also has developed a successful 'feed-in' tariff system. Every two months, Italy installs more solar panels than California does in a single year. Italy currently generates 1,110MW of solar power. The feed-in tariff system is proving to be an important component to the transition to clean, renewable, and efficient energy."

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says, “yes, it is necessary to have a 'feed-in' tariff."

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #6 - It has been reported that new infrastructure under the Ontario's Green Energy and Economy Act costing $80 millio to fund to help build electric car charging stations across Ontario was just announced. Is this factual? What are the benefits and what are the drawbacks?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “more cars are built in Ontario than in any other province or state in North America. Recently, Toyota announced that they have chosen Woodstock, Ontario as the location for the manufacturing of their electric RAV4 EV. Magna is investing in its E-Car initiative right here in Ontario, as well. Electric cars are already here in North America and Ontario needs to be prepared as these new cars take to our roads. That’s why we were proud to announce an $80 million fund to kick-start the widespread availability of electric charging stations in Ontario. The fund will encourage public and private sectors to come forward with proposals to build, test, and expand the availability of recharging facilities.”

Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #7 - It has been reported that there are not enough transmission wires installed to transfer 'Green Energy' power from where it is being generated to where it is needed in Ontario's present electrical distribution system! is this factual? If yes, how will you deal with this?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “since 2003, we have invested almost $8 billion building new infrastructure and upgrading over 5,000 km of transmission lines. Our Long-Term Energy Plan builds on the progress made to date by setting out five priority lines for expanding our transmission grid by 2018. These investments will strengthen the reliability of our existing system, while allow more clean, renewable power to connect to the grid.”

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party responded that he would "localize the power grid."

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #8 - It has been reported that the much-loathed debt retirement charge will remain in force for another 4 to 7 years, according to Ontario Electricity Financial Corp, the agency set up to hold the $7.8 billion debt that remained when Ontario Hydro was broken up. Is this factual? If no, why? A political leader has said ratepayers have already paid the $7.8 billion and will cancel the debt on Ontario Electricity users' bills. Is this factual? If no, why?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “the previous PC Government’s failed attempt to privatize Ontario’s electricity system saddled Ontarians with more than $19.4 billion in stranded debt due to the breakup of the old Ontario Hydro. To make matters worse, even-though the PC government was collecting their newly introduced Debt Retirement Charge (DRC), they managed to balloon this debt load to about $20.6 billion by the time they left office in 2003. Since 2003, strong management has steadily reduced the stranded debt and the associated interest payments. The most recent review by the Auditor General confirms that the remaining debt sits at $13.4 billion -- and the DRC is on track to be eliminated by between 2015 and 2018.”

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question: An Energy question from a taxpayer – “How are we supposed to conserve energy when the costs to get hydro exceed the cost of the hydro we use. The bill was $251.13, up from $143.81 the month before and included $86.27 delivery charges, $10.22 regulatory charges, $9.90 debt reduction, and $28.89 for HST. Come on. This is insane and it needs to stop. Doesn't anyone realize most people just can't afford to spend over $3,000 a year for hydro?"

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says, “we need to first eliminate the HST and then look for alternatives to bring down the cost to consumers."

 Further responses about our Energy from our candidates will be posted, as received.


 Question #1 - It has been reported that student math results have been slipping for the last two years. The Education Quality and Accountability Office reported the number of students meeting the provincial standard is slipping.Is this factual? If yes, why do you think math results are slipping?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “the numbers cited are correct. While it is true that math has been the most challenging area of testing in recent years, we have made progress since 2003, with Grade 3 scores rising by twelve percentage points and Grade 6 rising by five percentage points. Because math results have been a challenge, we our increasing our focus on this area. Two ways we’re doing this is through investments in the Homework Help and Summer Learning program. As of September 2011, the Homework Help program has been expanded from 31 school boards into every English board in the province. 600,000 English-language math students in Grades 7 to 10 have access to live, free, interactive online math help from certified Ontario teachers. Additionally, we are expanding our Summer Learning programs, to help students who are struggling in Grades 1 – 3. Last year, 1200 kids participated; this year, the program will serve 7500 kids and will be expanded into every school board in the province.”

Answer: Joe Whifeld of the NDP tells Speak Your Mind that "we need to alter our methods of assessment. Last year he was 1 of 40 educators hand picked from 2,771 elementary teachers in the Durham District School Board to participate in an innovative program for mathematics entitled ICLIPPS. The program is based on inquiry learning and encourages children to use manipulatives such as base 10 blocks, fraction strips, and other tools. The children were very engaged in this style of learning.The vast majority of teachers, including myself, will tell you that the EQAO test needs improvement. $36 million is ineffectively spent ever year on this program. In EQAO, children are expected to sit in a chair for 6 hours a day for two days straight with simple pencil to paper testing. The test is not a reflection of an individual’s intelligence, nor a proper indicator of their ability. Any adult writing EQAO would also have test fatigue. I do not understand why we demand our kids to write tests in th same manner as law students writing the bar exam. We can include in-class samples of student work. Let's fix the real issue. Our provincial government needs to adequately fund our schools."

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says "we need to make learning math more fun for children."

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question:  Should teachers commit to an extra year in teacher's college or receive additional on-the-job classroom training or both?

Answer:  Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “we want to make sure that the future teachers of Ontario have the best education possible. We're doubling — and improving — the time teachers spend educating for their careers. Ontario's new two-year program would mean that student teachers would spend more time in the classroom. Ontario teachers would also get more professional development opportunities in the first three years of teaching to support them as they grow in their careers.”

Answer: Joe Whitfeld of the NDP says "no to both"."Last year, the Ontario College of Teachers released in their Professionally Speaking Edition that they were pleased that there are many qualified Ontario Certified Teachers who are employed in different industries besides education. Despite the positive spin, there are thousands of people in Ontario with a degree from teacher’s college that will never see the inside of classroom unless they go back to school themselves. As each year passes, there is a growing gap between retiring teachers, and the new teacher’s fresh out of school. Roughly 7,000 Ontarians will graduate from teacher’s college and not be able to find employment. How can we say that new teachers need more education when the vast majority of people coming out of teacher’s college can not find work? New teachers are having a difficult time just cracking the supply list. The only people who benefit from this policy are the people charging 7,000 students another year of tuition. Let’s generously say that an additional year of school will cost $10,000 between tuition and expenses. An extra year of teacher’s college will put our new teachers in debt by an additional $70 million. Every good teacher is a life long learner. I have the privilege to work at a great school, R.H. Cornish Public School in Port Perry, Ontario, which has offered various professional development programs. I do my best to be involved in any opportunities that strengthen my ability to be an effective educator."

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says, "teachers should commit to an extra year in teacher's college and receive additional on-the-job classroom training."

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question #3 - It is reported that bringing back a full fall report card and eliminating the progress report so teachers and parents can identify how the child is comprehending the curriculum as early in the school year as possible be a step in the right direction? Do you agree with this? If yes, why? If not, why?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “we consulted extensively with parents, teachers and other stakeholders before making changes to the Fall Report Card. The changes reflect the feedback we received. Parents want clear and understandable information about how their child is doing early in the school year. Teachers told us that they often don’t have enough information in the first six to eight weeks of school to fairly evaluate a student’s work. The Progress Report Cards gives feedback to parents and students about six different learning skills and work habits.

Joe Whitfeld of the NDP believes that, "we need to try the progress report for an additional 2 years. One of the most important goals that teachers must address during the first few months of the year, are the development of a child’s learning skills. Learning skills are based under 6 categories: responsibility, organization, independent work, collaboration, initiative, and self-regulation. The progress report allows the teacher to meet a parent early in the school year to discuss whether a child has any behavioural issues that may hinder academic success. This teacher/parent relationship allows the discussion of effective strategies that may enhance the ability of a child to perform in the classroom. To adequately assess the value of the progress report, we must allow the administration of this program to continue for at least 2 years."

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says "we need full disclosure of where each child needs improvement."

 Responses from the other candidates to this question will be posted, as received.

Question: An Education question from a taxpayer - schools used to be run better by teachers and the local community with less ministry interference. Do you agree with this statement? If yes, why? If not, why?

Answer: Dr. Helena Jaczek of the Liberals says, “our government respects the important role of school trustees, boards and school principals and believes that sound local decision-making is essential to student success. School Trustees are elected in accordance with the Education Act at each municipal election and are responsible for the operation of the public school system. Public school trustees are a critical link between communities and school boards. They ensure public schools meet the needs of students and are responsible to their communities for the quality of education provided in local schools within an approved financial framework. At the same time, the ministry has an important role in coordinating and bringing boards together. The ministry works closely with school boards to ensure that initiatives like our Student Success strategy are implemented effectively. By working together, we ensure that our schools are safe, with high quality standards, while at the same time allowing for local decision-making to reflect individual circumstances.”

Answer: Joe Whitfeld of the NDP believes "successful schooling is based on great leadership and a strong community of learners. With our without ministry interference, a great principle can inspire teachers. A great teacher can inspire his or her students in any system. And a strong and committed community can become engaged in the school environment. Regardless of who our education minister may be, teachers in Ontario are passionate and will do everything to ensure that our students grow."

Answer: Trifon Haitas of the Green Party says "yes, each local community has it's own unique circumstance that they are better equipped to manage."

Further responses about Education from the other candidates will be posted, as received.

 Next week, we'll be discussing Tax relief so stay tuned. This will be your opportunity to Speak Your Mind.

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