Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: I’ve got a question today for the Minister of Education. Minister, as you know, bullying is an issue that everyone in this province identifies with. We all know someone in this House who has suffered profound and long-lasting effects as a result of bullying. As parents in the province of Ontario, it’s an issue that’s especially important to everyone.
That’s why I’m so disappointed that Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, has stalled in second reading debate. The opposition has chosen to continuously delay debate on legislation that’s going to help kids in Ontario schools. You’re running out of time to have Bill 13 in place in classrooms when kids return to school this September.
Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister: What are you doing to make sure that this legislation gets into our schools by September?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I’d like to take the opportunity to recognize the former member of Kitchener–Waterloo. She was a strong voice in this House and she was well regarded by all parties for her dedication to the province and to her constituents.
Before she resigned her position she had a private member’s bill, Bill 14, that was also on anti-bullying efforts. Like Mrs. Witmer, the government believes in putting kids first. That’s why I worked hard with Mrs. Witmer to incorporate the best ideas from Bill 14 into Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. Late last week, on the John Tory show on Friday, Mrs. Witmer acknowledged this work. She talked about the Accepting Schools Act, Bill 13—that it would be amended to include Bill 14. She said that she was confident Ontario would pass strong anti-bullying legislation.
I’m calling on the members opposite to work with us, to move Bill 13 out of second reading debate so that the legislation can be amended and passed in time so that it can be in schools this September.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Mr. Kevin Daniel Flynn: Thank you, Minister. It’s a pleasure to hear that there is some collaboration that is taking place on this issue.
My own constituents have clearly expressed to me that they expect to see this government put aside politics when the well-being of our kids is at stake. One of my constituents sent this message to me. It said, “Bullying is a big problem in schools, and there is no room for partisan politics on this” issue.
I couldn’t agree more, Speaker, and that’s why I have another question for the minister. What are the next steps for Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, to get it into our schools for this September?
Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I know that the member has been present during much of the debate on the Accepting Schools Act. That’s because we’ve had a lot of debate on the Accepting Schools Act. It has been debated for second reading for almost 17 hours, but the PC Party has chosen to delay the debate 10 times; 10 times we have listened to the bells ring instead of moving this bill to committee so that we can focus on the best interests of our kids. We can move amendments to Bill 13 once we get to committee.
There are good ideas in Bill 14. I reiterate my commitment to make this bill the strongest bill possible, but we cannot take those steps as a Legislature unless we stop the game-playing, we stop the bell-ringing and we get Bill 13 to committee.
Mr. Monte Kwinter: Mr. Speaker, our government understands that education is the key to building a stronger economy for our sons and daughters.
In order to grow and learn, our children have to feel safe going to school every day. That’s why I’m proud to support Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. We’re doing more than just telling bullied kids that it gets better; we’re working together to make it better now. For the first time ever, we’re defining bullying in legislation so that every student, teacher, principle and parent knows what we’re talking about when we say that bullying is not okay in our schools.
The McGuinty government knows it’s incumbent on each and every one of us inside the Legislature on both sides of the aisle and across the province to make sure that every Ontario student feels safe, included and welcome in our schools. We’re all committed to making things better for our children.
That’s why it’s vital that Bill 13 is passed quickly so that new protections to prevent bullying and protect kids from homophobia can get in schools in time for September. I call upon the official opposition to stop delaying the passage of this important legislation. Let’s work together to make sure kids who are being bullied get the help that they need.