May 2, 2012

ORAL QUESTIONS

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Mr. Peter Tabuns: The question is to the Minister of Education. Every day, 1,500 of our students are bullied in schools here in Ontario. For months, the opposition and the government have been engaged in infighting on anti-bullying legislation, blocking each other’s initiatives. When will the government and the opposition stop the infighting and get on with passing anti-bullying legislation.

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I’m very pleased to have a chance to reiterate once again in this Legislature our willingness to make sure that Ontario has the strongest anti-bullying legislation possible.

When we introduced Bill 13, we brought it forward as part of a comprehensive strategy to eradicate bullying in our schools. We’ve talked about the fact that each and every one of us has a role to play. As legislators, we have a role to play too. I have a role to play as Minister of Education, and I have done that. I reached out across the aisle to Mrs. Witmer. I took the best of the ideas that were in Bill 14. I reiterated in this House that we continue to stand by that commitment. There are good ideas in Bill 14, and we will make sure that those are part of our comprehensive strategy.

What can the members on the other side of the House do, Speaker? They can vote for this bill and get it into committee.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Peter Tabuns: This government tries to portray itself as blameless, and the simple reality is that this government has rejected our initiatives to bring both bills together in committee, so that we can have the public hearings, so that we can have the debate and an anti-bullying bill. This government set things up so that we couldn’t have the hearings on Bill 14. That would have moved forward the anti-bullying legislation. At the same time, our students are dealing with the bullying situation.

Minister, will your government, today, support putting both bills forward into committee so that we can actually get on with it?

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister of Education.

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Let’s focus on the kids. When we focus on politics instead of the kids, kids lose out. So far, 13 times the bells have rung on Bill 13. Our shared job—all of us—let’s support a time allocation bill, let’s get this bill to committee, let’s get it out of committee, and let’s get supports in our schools for September. Let’s listen to those like Jer’s Vision and the GSA Coalition. Let’s listen to their advice. Let’s put kids first. Let’s put politics aside, Speaker. Let’s put kids first and get the supports in our schools this September. Kids are counting on us to be the grownups in this situation.

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. New question.

ANTI-BULLYING INITIATIVES

Ms. Dipika Damerla: My question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, as you know, back in November—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew, come to order.

Ms. Dipika Damerla: —we introduced the Accepting Schools Act. The only goal of this act is to make our children safer in our schools, regardless of their background, their sexual orientation, creed, colour—

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke is now warned.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Prescott-Russell is not helping the matter at all.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): And I don’t need any help from you.

Member, continue.

Ms. Dipika Damerla: Speaker, there’s a real danger that this bill will not get passed this year because of the tactics and the obstructionist ways of the official opposition.

Interjection.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities will come to order.

Ms. Dipika Damerla: If these protections are not in place, the only people who will lose are our children. So my question to the minister is: What are we doing to ensure that we can pass this bill before schools reopen in September?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I’d like to thank the member from Mississauga East–Cooksville. I’d like to assure the member and this entire House that on this side of the House we will do everything that we can to have this legislation in place and supports against bullying in our schools this September. But, Mr. Speaker, time is running out. There are less than five sitting weeks left in this session, and we’ve been talking about eradicating bullying in this House since November. During that time, the PC Party has delayed the second reading debate 13 times. On 13 separate occasions, they voted to obstruct legislation to help kids. We’ve had 19 hours of second reading debate. We’ve repeatedly said: Let’s get this bill to committee; let’s make it the best bill possible; let’s pass a time allocation bill.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Dipika Damerla: Thank you to the minister for that great answer. I’m really disappointed in the official opposition because they’ve chosen to block this legislation. On this side of the House, as you know, Speaker, we supported Bill 14, which is Elizabeth Witmer’s bill. We supported this bill because we believe that anything we do to help kids is a step in the right direction. It’s a shame that the official opposition doesn’t share this view. Minister, I ask you: Is the official opposition showing good judgment by blocking this legislation that would help our kids?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: Time and time again, we’ve heard the members of the Progressive Conservative Party say that they’re ringing the bells and holding up the vital work of this House because they’re mad about other issues. Their focus is on something else. The member for North York said that there were bigger issues than anti-bullying legislation, and 13 times the members have voted in favour of bell ringing instead of kids. Speaker, I say to the members opposite and to their leader: Our kids need your focus to be on them. They need you to put aside partisan politics and focus on them. During debate, the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke said, and perhaps he’ll listen: “It is time to get down to the business of doing what is right for all children here in the province of Ontario and stop playing political games.” I call on the opposition and their members to heed this advice. Put Ontario—

Interjections.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated. I would remind the minister and all members that when I say thank you, that should be the end. New question.

DEBATES

ANTI-BULLYING ACT, 2012 /
LOI DE 2012 SUR
LA LUTTE CONTRE L’INTIMIDATION

Ms. MacLeod moved first reading of the following bill:

Bill 80, An Act to designate Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in Schools and to provide for bullying prevention curricula, policies and administrative accountability in schools / Projet de loi 80, Loi désignant la Semaine de la sensibilisation à l’intimidation et de la prévention dans les écoles et prévoyant des programmes-cadres, des politiques et une responsabilité administrative à l’égard de la prévention de l’intimidation dans les écoles.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? Carried.

First reading agreed to.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member for a short statement.

Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Many of you in this House will recall that this bill was previously Bill 14 under the name of Mrs. Witmer, the former member from Kitchener–Waterloo. You’ll also recall, Mr. Speaker, that earlier today I requested unanimous consent for this bill to remain in committee under my name and that we move immediately for a vote on Bill 13.

This bill, however, designates the week beginning with the third Sunday in November in each year as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in schools. The bill also amends the Education Act to deal with bullying by pupils that occurs in schools. It covers bullying that occurs on a school site or public property within 50 metres of a school site during an activity conducted for a school purpose, through the use of technology provided to pupils by a school or through any technology if it affects the orderly operation of a school. A school board is required to provide instruction on bullying prevention, remedial programs for victims and perpetrators of bullying, professional development programs for teachers and information for the public.

The Minister of Education is required to develop a model bullying prevention plan to assist school boards. In turn, school boards are required to establish a bullying prevention plan. Teachers and other persons who work in a school are required to report to the principal acts of bullying that they observe in the school. If, after conducting an investigation, the principal believes an act of bullying has occurred, the principal is required to take the action specified in the bill and to submit an annual report to the school board on acts of bullying in the school. The board must forward the report to the minister, who is required to include a reference to it in the minister’s annual report to the assembly.

Speaker, I also move that this bill be moved by unanimous consent back to the committee on social policy.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member for Nepean–Carleton has asked for unanimous consent to move the bill immediately to committee. Do we agree? I hear a no.

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