RENFREW COUNTY (Pembroke) — Families and students in Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke are feeling the pinch from Conservative cuts to education and other vital public services.
NDP candidate Eileen Jones-Whyte says students and parents she speaks with tell her they are experiencing real distress and difficult choices.
Staff cuts in education, she says “Mean some high school students do not have access to the courses they need to get into their choice of college or university course. Some high school students can’t even get the courses they need to graduate this year, it might mean, for some, spending an extra year at school to get the courses they need, or transferring schools. I know of students who are not going away to school because of the reductions to student funding, or are taking on more debt.”
Ms. Jones-Whyte said cuts will have dire social, health and financial consequences which will be felt widely now and later. “People need to be able to look forward to a future where they can feel more secure and more hopeful in their lives,” she said. “At this point, we’re going the wrong way.”
“Our current MP and her party, when they were in government raised the retirement age, closed post offices, closed Veterans’ Affairs offices, replaced disability payments to veterans with a lower lump sum payments, cut public services, muzzled public servants and attacked democracy.”
The NDP, she aid, calls for more investment in public services and extending public health to include free dental care for families earning less than $70,000 and pharmacare.
“The NDP calls for the richest people and the most profitable corporations to actually pay a little bit more so that everyone sees the benefits of growing our economy,” she said.
At a rally here last week, she heard from trade unionists about the affects of Conservative cuts on the people they work for and about what they fear might be coming at the federal level.
“There are more people in the county going into poverty,” said Michael Wright, President of Renfew and District Labour Council. “I work with the foodbanks in Renfrew and it is just the number of people we are seeing turning up at our doors saying how it is affecting them.”
Christian Sell, local president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, told her about the cuts public school boards are dealing with. He said, “In some cases it seems like we have turned back the clocks to one room school houses.” He said Renfrew County is down 25 teachers, with 150 courses not being offered.
We know there are fewer caring adults in our buildings. We are really worried about our at risk kids, fewer graduates, he told Ms. Jones-Whyte.
She heard from Amy Scholten of Legal Aid Renfrew County about the crisis they are facing after $133 million cut from the provincial legal aid budget this year, with more cuts coming.
Ms. Jones-Whyte said, “It’s just unacceptable how these cuts are affecting the most vulnerable in society, just to give tax breaks to the Conservatives’ wealthy friends and the corporations.”