Updated statement on high school closures in Kingston

Community members have asked me again, as the Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, to weigh in on the possible closure of KCVI, LCVI or QECVI. I understand that a decision from the Limestone District School Board is expected soon. I realize that people want to know what their elected federal representative thinks, even though the issue is outside the jurisdiction of the federal government.

I will repeat and add to a previous statement I made on this issue.

First let me say that I have a personal stake in this issue. I grew up in central Kingston and my family lives there now. I attended LCVI. My daughter attends a small elementary school nearby.

I understand that fiscal sustainability is important and that, with changing demographics and aging infrastructure, there are pressures that the Limestone District School Board faces. These pressures force painful decisions that Board members were elected to make.

School closings are never easy. Nor are they a new phenomenon, as anyone who is familiar with the repurposed old school buildings scattered throughout central Kingston will understand.

It is not surprising that students can form a great attachment to their schools. School life is a substantial part of the lives of young people and is integrated into the lives of families and communities. I believe in the importance of densification and mixed neighbourhoods as a path to a more sustainable city. The presence of schools is a key element to fostering more diverse neighbourhoods. Many stakeholders benefit from them.

The future prosperity of Kingston and the Islands, and indeed of Canada, requires excellence in the education and training of our youth. It also requires that quality post-secondary education be broadly available.

Both are important if our community is to compete and succeed in the global economy. We know, for example, that the lack of certain skilled trades is currently a bottleneck for the Canadian economy. To relieve such bottlenecks over the next decade, we must begin by having as many Canadians as possible successfully complete their secondary education.

All young Canadians must have the education and training opportunities to participate fully in the creation and sharing of Canada’s wealth. All levels of government have the ability to respond to national challenges, such as growing income inequality, by ensuring equality of opportunity from an early age and continuing until adulthood. We need to meet these challenges without compromising the value of excellence that is demanded by the modern economy.

I congratulate those who have organized community meetings, advocated for various stakeholders, and sought creative solutions to the problems faced by the School Board. Thank you for your service.

As I wrote earlier, my first duty is to serve the people of Kingston and the Islands and to be present in Ottawa when required. I am sorry I could not be present at the community meetings, but I have the responsibility to be present for meetings, debates and votes on Parliament Hill, and to keep track of what the federal government is doing and how that affects the people of Kingston and the Islands.

I believe that I should refrain from taking sides publicly on issues to be decided by elected School Board officials if these issues are outside the jurisdiction of the federal government. They will be accountable for decisions, not I. Therefore I believe that I should not publicly apply pressure on them. I believe the best way I can make a constructive contribution is to give a national perspective and state my values in those areas that are relevant to the School Board’s decision.

On that note, I wish to thank those who serve as elected officials on the School Board. You have a difficult job. I will respect your decision.

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