Ontario’s education minister made it clear that he did not support a call by teachers to participate in a P.A. Day virtually due to solar eclipse safety concerns.

“I think every citizen on Earth will be showing up to work,” Stephen Lecce told reporters earlier this week.

“Every front-line worker from nurses to transit workers will be going to work. And I expect the same for our educators.”

The comments are the latest in a string of criticism by the minister on how some Toronto school boards are handling the April 8 solar eclipse.

Toronto school boards voted last month to change their PA Day from April 19 to April 8 due to the eclipse, citing the dangers of looking directly at the celestial event and safety considerations around traffic and commuting.

The York Region District School Board (YRDSB), however, said it could not change its P.A. days due to “contractual obligations” and “prior commitments.” Instead, it will be ending class early so that students are dismissed before the peak eclipse time, between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Lecce immediately said this was not a solution he was comfortable with.

“School boards have the prerogative to use [P.A.] days if they want. What I don't support is closing schools without giving access to children to their educators.”

eclipse

The next day, the union representing Toronto’s Catholic teachers urged the school board to allow virtual P.A. Day participation for its members due to the solar eclipse, citing safety concerns.

“It is my expectation, and the expectation I've set at the highest levels with all directors, that educators will show up, work with our kids, support them as they do every day, and that extends on the day of the solar eclipse,” Lecce said Thursday.

Here’s what else happened at Queen’s Park this week:

Court challenge after ‘unhinged’ judges commentary

Non-profit organization Democracy Watch has said it plans to file a court case challenging Ontario’s decision to appoint two former staffers of Premier Doug Ford, who also happen to be lobbyists, to a committee that picks judges.

"The changes the Ford government made to the judicial appointments process give the Attorney General too much power to make partisan political appointments, and that's unconstitutional. And that's why we're challenging it in court,” Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, told CTV News Toronto on Thursday.

"These statements and actions by Ford over the last week and the appointments recently just make it so clear that it's a partisan political system."

The statements made by the premier include “quadrupling down” on his decision to appoint “like-minded” people to appoint “like-minded judges” in Ontario.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles has called the conversation around the judicial committee “unhinged.”

“We heard some very unhinged responses from the premier yesterday trying to make this about law and order. He's very clear that the intention is here to politicize the courts, to put conservatives into the judge role,” she told reporters at Queen’s Park.

“We know that what's really happening here, what's really going wrong in our courts right now, is the fact that they're so deeply underfunded and understaffed.”

More on the political appointments can be found here.

Will Ontario opt into national pharmacare?

The answer is in the details—of which the minister of health says she needs to review.

Sylvia Jones repeatedly said this week that she needs to wait and see what is inside the pharmacare deal reached by the federal Liberals and NDP before deciding whether the province should participate.

The legislation includes a commitment to cover diabetes medication and birth control through a single-payer system. Provinces would need to agree in order for residents to reap the rewards. The federal government will likely provide provinces with funding in order to include these medications into their plans, such as OHIP.

Alberta and Quebec have already declared their intent to opt-out.

The highly anticipated university and college funding

The Ontario government will continue to freeze tuition for post-secondary education for another three years. This comes five years after they reduced tuition by 10 per cent and then froze it.

The freeze will expire the year of the next provincial election.

Jill Dunlop

The province has pledged $1.3 billion over three years that can be used to stabilize post-secondary institutions that are struggling, but advocates are warning this isn’t enough.

A government-commissioned report recommended an increase in tuition as well as an additional funding for post-secondary education, warning that an overreliance on international students is causing a “significant threat” to their financial sustainability.

Here’s a breakdown of what is changing.

More big cheques – but not for Mississauga

More Ontario cities received funding through the province’s Building Faster Fund for meeting their housing targets.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • $1.24 million for Belleville
  • $1.72 million for Welland
  • $2.6 million for Whitchurch-Stouffville
  • $3 million for Brantford

Toronto and Brampton received their funding last week.

The City of Mississauga, however, has been rejected for funding after reaching 39 per cent of its housing targets.

No more Ontario money for FIFA

The Ontario government has said it will not provide Toronto with more than the originally promised $97 million to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, despite ballooning costs.

“Our total commitment will not exceed $97 million,” a spokesperson for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport said in a statement to CTV News Toronto.

“The decision to make this one-time investment was made after exercising due diligence and following careful review and consideration.”

BMO Field

In part due to inflation and the addition of an extra sixth game, the costs to host the FIFA World Cup have increased by about $80 million.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow lamented the costs, telling reporters that she was “saddled” with the deal by her predecessor. Regardless, she said it’s an exciting time for the city, and council will be exploring sponsorships and other revenue options to make up the cost.

Other bills, regulations and conversations

  • The Ontario government is considering financial sanctions of up to 25 per cent for breaching a school board's trustee code of conduct.
  • Eligibility has changed for the Ontario Electricity Support Program. More information can be found here.
  • Child-care wait lists have ballooned across Ontario due to $10-a-day daycare, with officials warning the province could be short 8,500 early childhood educators by 2026.
  • Ontario is investing $1.6 billion for two new buildings at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • A ban on the use of celebrities for ads promoting online gambling in Ontario is now in effect
  • Click here to read the premier’s reaction to the death of former prime minister Brian Mulroney