OPSEU President Smokey Thomas sent a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne to reinstate the Ontario Ranger program and reopen Ontario Place to demonstrate her commitment to invest $295 million, over two years, to help young people find jobs.
May 3, 2013
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Queen's Park
Dear Premier Wynne:
Re: Immediate actions for your consideration
Yesterday, I was part of a group from OPSEU at Queen's Park to witness the presentation of your government's budget.
We had hoped your Finance Minister would adopt a new approach. After analyzing the presentation we were disappointed at the continued restraint shown towards public services and public employees. We hope this is not an indication that you have abandoned your community service focus as a politician with a sense of social justice.
There are simple ways to prove your commitment without a lot of cost and fanfare.
These actions would provide substance to your commitment to invest $295 million, over two years, to help young people find jobs.
1. Reinstate the Ontario Ranger program cancelled last fall by your predecessor Dalton McGuinty.
The Ontario Ranger program provided an opportunity for young workers to gain knowledge of resource management. More than 78,000 Ontario youth have participated in the 70-year old program.
The program provided 17-year old students across Ontario with the opportunity to work in remote areas of the province through an intense eight-week program. This low-cost program was as valuable to the young workers as it was to the province. Students were paid the minimum wage and were required to cover their own room and board.
Your government claimed the Ontario Ranger program was replaced with the Ontario Stewardship program which is not the case. Your own website shows this resulted in a cut to 46 per cent of the jobs as this program is entirely different. Former Toronto Mayor and MP David Crombie and MP Olivia Chow are two notable former Ontario Rangers.
With a simple stroke of a pen this program could again be up and running at a very low cost for the benefit of youth, their communities, and Ontario in whole.
2. Immediately reopen Ontario Place
As you may already know when the McGuinty government closed Ontario Place in February 2012, 600 summer jobs, held mostly by students, were lost. Ontario Place and its water park were affordable activities for families in the city of Toronto.
Not everyone can afford an out-of-town vacation, or ownership of a cottage in Muskoka or Georgian Bay.
The Ontario Place infrastructure now stands abandoned behind barred gates. The water slides are still in place, the bumper cars are safely stored, the picnic tables can be seen from beyond the fences and the grounds remain in good shape, unused.
You could, in keeping with your plans to promote youth employment, open the water park this summer. This simple act would mean hiring hundreds of young workers as lifeguards, cleaners, parking attendants and fast food workers. Along with the employment this would offer, revenue would also flow in from patrons.
I would invite you and your partner to join the community-based "Rethinking Ontario Place" group this Saturday, May 4, for a Jane's Walk from Exhibition Place to Ontario Place. The walk will commence at the last stop of the 509 and 511 streetcar routes at Exhibition Place. The walk is intended to highlight the iconic architecture at Ontario Place, accessibility issues to the park, and the importance of public space.
I urge you to accept these recommendations. With or without a new budget they are simple to execute and the right thing to do for the health of our youth and the community.
I hope you are sincere in your commitment to young people. Please do not hesitate to call to discuss these ideas further.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas copy: Executive Board Members