31 May 2008

To infinity, and beyond - redux

Planetspace, Inc., an American company that lost in its bid to develop NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems phase one demonstrations, is lobbying the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for financial assistance for an unspecified venture.

Planetspace was one of 13 companies in the race to develop the commercial orbital system but lost out earlier this year to Orbital.

Mark Doucet, of Cabot Capital Network Projects is the registered lobbyist. Doucet has registered to lobby the Premier's Office, the Business Investment Corporation as well as the business, finance, tourism, innovation and transportation departments for a "financial incentive request".

The Globe and Mail reported last year that Fred Doucet, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, was lobbying the Government of Canada for $45 million to support development of a space tourism venture as part of the Nova Scotia project.

Fred Doucet, president and chief executive officer of Fred Doucet Consulting International Inc (FDCI), is listed in the federal government registry as a lobbyist for Planetspace. Mark Doucet is listed in the registry as a vice president of FDCI.

Fred Doucet's name popped up early in 2008 as the go-between who arranged meetings been Mulroney and German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. He denied knowing anything about financial transactions alleged to have taken place at the meetings.

Fred Doucet is reported by the National Post to have been a business partner of former Premier Frank Moores in Government Consultants International.

Planetspace signed a deal in August 2006 with the Government of Nova Scotia for 300 acres of land as part of a plan to develop an orbital launch facility. Bond Papers reported the Nova Scotia deal in July 2007.


Energy Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (Part 1)

[Update: 02 June; added chart of EnerCorp organization]

Several e-mail requests arrived asking for some comment on the energy corporation bill currently before the House of Assembly.

In the interests of helping people to pick apart the aspects of the discussion, here are some general observations on the bill, the Energy Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador(EnerCorp) and some of the issues that have turned up in the House of Assembly and news media.

The one characteristic of the current discussion is that many of the people commenting publicly have not read any of the documents or pieces of legislation shown below.

Anyone wanting more detail can contact your humble e-scribbler directly at horridlm at gmail dot com or the usual bondpapers at hotmail dot com.

In Part 1, we'll set the table - so to speak - by giving links to some general information. In Part 2, we'll look at some of the specific issues raised in the past two weeks.

1. Legislation

To start out, you can find several pieces of legislations that apply to this discussion. These will all come up later in this post to one extent or another.
2. Energy Plan

Released in 2007 after a decade in development, the energy plan describes in very general terms the government's intentions for the energy sector.

3. Energy Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador

From the 2007 energy plan:
This Energy Corporation will be wholly owned by the province and will be the parent company of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (NLH), Churchill Falls Labrador (CF(L)Co) Corporation, other subsidiaries currently owned by NLH and new entities created to manage the province’s investments in the energy sector. This will provide a structure that permits both regulated and non-regulated activities to exist and grow within separate legal entities.
EnerCorp is not Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro with an expanded mandate.

That approach, implemented with changes to the Hydro Corporation Act in 2006 was abandoned in 2007 with the introduction of two new bills, one of which created the energy corporation and the other covering the Hydro corporation.

Under the new approach, EnerCorp is the parent or holding company, with a revised Hydro Corporation as a subsidiary. Among other things, Bill 35 will change or will allow changes to how these and any new subsidiaries are incorporated

While Hydro had several subsidiaries, these are now all subsidiaries of EnerCorp separate from Hydro.

This includes Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation (CFLC0), for example the joint venture with Hydro Quebec to manage Churchill Falls. Twin Falls Power Corporation, a joint venure with two private mining companies to supply power to Labrador West is a subsidiary of CFLCo. Gull Island Power Corporation and the Lower Churchill Development Corporation are also now subsidiaries of EnerCorp, not of Hydro.

The old structure can be seen in this chart:

The new structure can be seen more clearly in the EnerCorp strategic plan.

This is Bond Papers' version of the same chart:

4. Some other jurisdictions

29 May 2008

Say goodnight, Hedy

That's Hedley.

Harvey Korman, one of the finest comedic actors of the past century died today of complications from an aortic aneurysm. He was 81.

Korman is best remembered as part of the cast of the Carol Burnett Show but some of his finest work was as Hedley Lamarr, the villain in Mel Brooks' 1974 western spoof Blazing Saddles.

In memory of Korman here are two clips, one of Korman with Mel Brooks as Governor William J. LePetomane.

The second one, well it's just short and sweet.


23 May 2008

The politics and challenges of education reform in post-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador (Part IV)

by Philip J. Warren

Challenges For The Future

Looking ahead, there are several challenges in elementary and secondary education that, I believe, need to be addressed. I plan to highlight five of these.

Focusing More on the Teacher and Learning

Many post-Confederation reforms in Newfoundland education did not focus on the teacher in the classroom, but rather on the structure and governance of education. Reforming structure and governance is much easier that improving the teaching-learning process. And when it's done, its gives the appearance of political action by the government in power. As important as organizational changes are, the real challenge is to provide caring, well-educated teachers for the classrooms of the Province, working in a supportive classroom environment. Providing such teachers and such an environment is the single most important factor in improving education, even more important than class size.

I'd like to make a comment or two about the preparation of teachers. It's important for Memorial University as a whole to consider the preparation of high-quality teachers as a top priority. Budgetary and personnel decisions should be consistent with that vision. In addition to providing the resources to guarantee excellence in pre-service education, the University should ensure that the Faculty can also focus on the continuing professional development of teachers. Professors in the Faculty should be rewarded for their service in this area, as they are for excellence in teaching and research. And facilities and resources for teacher education at Memorial should be constantly upgraded. We've only just begun to examine the potential of technology to transform education at all levels.

As a Province, we must continue to address teacher workload issues and provide more support services for teachers, particularly in the increasing number of small schools. While we've made significant progress in these areas recently, in response to the ISSP/Pathways and Shortall reports, there are still too many schools, urban as well as rural, that do not have adequate teaching resources; adequate secretarial, maintenance, and computer-technician staff; adequate bathroom and lunch facilities for teachers; or a comfortable and healthy place where teachers can relax when they're not teaching. Too many teachers who work with children with special learning needs, including the gifted and the talented, lack the necessary supports. Much more must be done to support teachers working with our aboriginal children.The housing needs of teachers who serve in many isolated areas of the Province are not being met. These conditions undermine the enthusiasm and motivation of teachers, and, therefore, negatively impact student learning. They must be addressed.

Promoting Greater Parental and Public Involvement

The meaningful involvement of the public, particularly parents, is another area where reform is necessary. Greater parental involvement can be justified on the basis of efficiency and effectiveness, as well as democracy. Parents can have a huge impact in working with and motivating their children, reinforcing their school-time experiences. What the ISSP/Pathways Report said about the parents of special needs children can be used to describe the feelings of too many other parents: they often feel powerless and marginalized.

I believe that Newfoundland school districts are now too large geographically for effective parental input, using the current model. Ways must be found to increase the involvement of parents and the public generally in school board elections and educational decision-making. Effective school boards are essential to the future development of education, as are effective school councils. We must decentralize more educational decision-making in this Province.

As Denise Pike and her associates at the Federation of School Councils have demonstrated, school councils can contribute significantly to the improvement of student achievement and performance. The time has come for the Department of Education to make the development of a comprehensive parent involvement policy a major priority.

Investing More in Educational Research

Investment in research has been virtually neglected as a part of our strategy in education reform. The reality is that we don't know how to solve many of the educational problems that we face. Certainly, there are no quick fixes or magic bullets. The best way forward is to take the best evidence that we have, try a variety of strategies that seem to have some empirical or conceptual support, assess their results, communicate our findings to all involved, and make changes accordingly. As Gerald Galway has rightly concluded, we need much more evidence-based decision-making in education.

It's interesting to compare the place of research in educational policy-making today with its place in health care. Research in health care has received funding from the Federal Government, something that's not likely in education. The Province, therefore, must address this need, in co-operation with the University and its other partners, because more research, both qualitative and quantitative, will help improve teaching and learning in the classroom.

Providing Sustained Bottom-up and Top-Down Leadership

Local leadership, at the school district as well as the school level, is vitally important in the improvement of education. We must act immediately to increase the pool of potential principals, for example, and improve their working conditions, for it is they who set the tone for teaching and learning. The leadership of principals may be the second most important factor (next to the teacher) in the improvement of student learning. This Province needs a comprehensive leadership strategy in education.

Education reform must be accompanied by sustained leadership from the top as well, focusing on longer-term as well as shorter-term goals. Cabinet ministers tend to establish agendas shortly after their appointment, but all too often, before much has been accomplished, they are moved to another portfolio, and new briefings required and new priorities established. Keeping successful Ministers of Education in their portfolios for longer periods of time would facilitate sustained leadership at the Provincial level. Ministers, of course, must be supported by highly-qualified officials in their Department, who, along with the Minister, keep in constant touch with what's going on in the field.

Recognizing the Political Nature of Reform

Education reform is very much a political process, requiring expert planning and a great deal of hard work. Change in education is very slow, and never moves in a straight line: the direction is determined by the forces at work at any one point in time. And there will always be opposition. Individuals and institutions have a predisposition to maintain the status quo in response to external demands for change. Those who oppose change or lose something in the process will often persist in their efforts to undermine its implementation. Educational leaders must understand the politics of change and be able to work with all stakeholders in the policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy evaluation processes.


I'd like to conclude where I began, by suggesting that education is now in a period of relative quiet and calm. In fact, things are too quiet in education today. With few exceptions, one being the discussion around the importance of establishing an effective appeals process for special needs students, education has received little attention in the media. Education was not a significant issue in the last provincial election. While important changes have been made recently to improve the system (limits on class size in certain grades, a new approach to teacher allocation, the expansion of distance education, more emphasis on the fine arts, which I consider vitally important, and improvements in programs for special needs students), much more must be done, now that we have more financial resources. Education must remain a high political priority in the Province's financial decision-making as it competes with such things as health care and the environment.

I can't conclude without making one more general comment. As a society, we must be more cognizant of the impact of a child's home conditions on education, and what must be done in this regard. There is a strong link between socio-economic background and educational achievement. Studies continue to show that family background is the single most important predictor of educational outcomes: that a child's education is seriously affected by poverty, unemployment, poor housing, poor nutrition, inadequate health care, low levels of literacy in the home, and the absence of appropriate early childhood education programs. There are too many students who come to school unprepared to benefit fully from school programs. It may sound utopian, but these issues must also be addressed.

Newfoundland and Labrador is now known throughout Canada for its unique culture and its oil. Let us also be known across the Country for our commitment to equality and excellence in education. That policy would lay the foundation for the Province's future prosperity and the long-term welfare of all our people.


22 May 2008

The politics and challenges of education reform in post-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador (Part III)

by Philip J. Warren

The 1990s – Reforming the Denominational System

For those who don't recall, let me provide a little more detail about the denominational system. When Newfoundland joined Confederation, the Province had the most denominational school system in the Country, a system that had its beginnings over a century earlier. Five separate church systems -- Roman Catholic, Anglican, United Church, Salvation Army, and Seventh Day Adventist – had emerged, four with representatives in the Department of Education. In addition, there was a relatively small Amalgamated system, largely non-Catholic. Individual denominations had the constitutional right to have their own school boards and schools, to hire and fire teachers, to receive provincial funding on a non-discriminatory basis, and to have denominational colleges. Pentecostal schools were officially recognized in 1954.

After Confederation, the system became the subject of growing criticism. Increasing enrolments, fiscal restraint, and demands for improved programs, facilities, and services highlighted the problems of duplication inherent in the system. One result was a further increase in the number of Amalgamated schools and the integration of five denominations mentioned earlier. The Integrated system served nearly 60 per cent of the Province's enrolment. After that, Integrated, Roman Catholic, and Pentecostal school boards established a number of shared or joint services, in an attempt to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.

A new Government was elected in 1989, with a caucus that included several political activists (Hubert Kitchen, Rex Gibbons, Chris Decker, Pat Cowan, Roger Grimes, myself, and later Ed Roberts). After considering all the options for improving education (and we did consider every option), the Government decided to establish another royal commission, to study, among other things, the denominational system. The Commission's main recommendation was the establishment of a single interdenominational system as the most cost-efficient and effective way of dealing with the demographic changes and educational challenges confronting the schools, while retaining many of the benefits of denominationalism,

The Commission also recommended that, where numbers warranted, children should be provided with opportunities for religious activities and instruction in their own faith; that the 27 denominational school boards be replaced by nine publicly-elected boards; that the three denominational education councils be dissolved; and that school councils be established at the local level to encourage local, collaborative decision-making and site-based management. If implemented, these recommendations would, in effect, end the denominational system as it had existed since the mid-1800s.

In what may have been a bit of wishful thinking, the Commission pointed out that, just as, in 1969, five churches joined together voluntarily to form a single Integrated system, now, in 1992, it was possible for all churches to create a new system which would preserve the valued Christian character of schooling, and, at the same time, recognize the educational, economic, and social advantages of participating in a fully co-operative venture. The churches strongly rejected these denominational recommendations.

For six years, following the release of the Report in 1992, there was extensive lobbying, long periods of negotiations, periods of stalemate, two provincial referendums, a provincial election, a change of Premiers, several court cases, and political threats and counter-threats. In 1998, legislation was finally adopted in the House of Assembly, leading to the abolition of the denominational system. The story of that period in our history is a most interesting one.

Forces Influencing the Reforms of the 1990s

There were many interrelated forces that influenced the denominational reforms of the 1990s. Four of the most important were: (1) the growth of secularization and the declining credibility of the churches, (2) the influence of special interest groups and the media, (3) the Royal Commission, and (4) sustained political leadership.

The Growth of Secularization and the Declining Credibility of the Churches

The reform of the denominational system in the 1990s was influenced by a major ideological transition in the Province – the growth of secularization. Secularization is the process by which traditional religion and religious rituals lose their influence over society as a whole, and other institutions take over their functions. In Newfoundland, religion once permeated all aspects of our way of life, even athletic activities, the selection of many government employees, and even the appointment of cabinet ministers.

While in the early 1990s, many citizens considered themselves religious, and identified with a particular denomination or religion, the extent to which religion influenced their lives had declined. This was reflected in the decline in church attendance in most denominations, the difficulty of raising funds for church use, the shortage of students for the priesthood and the ministry, the significant growth of interfaith marriages, and the unwillingness of an increasing number of people to see the church as the preeminent ethical and moral authority in their daily lives.

This growth of secularization, of course, was associated with urbanization, industrialization, and a higher level of formal education. It was also associated with the controversies surrounding abortion, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and the role of women in the churches. More important was the impact of the highly-publicized sexual abuse cases involving priests and other clergy, and the subsequent hearings and reports of the Winter Commission and the Hughes Inquiry. Some say that, at that time, the churches lost their moral authority, in a province in which, until the 1960s, they had retained power almost unknown elsewhere in Canada, even in Quebec.

These forces, among others, resulted in a change of public opinion about denominational schools. That change was reflected in many surveys, particularly those by Mark Graessar of Memorial University and my own studies. While the findings were sometimes ambiguous, and even contradictory, we found growing support for a single, interdenominational system, and almost unanimous support for interdenominational sharing, provided religious education was included. More and more people criticized the traditional system because, they believed, it resulted in too many small schools, the duplication of facilities and programs, excessive school busing, the discrimination of non-Christians and non-religious, and the discrimination of teachers in hiring and firing. These survey results were widely debated, as were publications such as Bill McKim's book entitled “The Vexed Question: Denominational Education in a Secular Age.”

The Impact of Special-Interest Groups and the Media

Many special-interest groups supported the school reform movement in the late 1980s and the 1990s. One such group was the Newfoundland Teachers Association (now the NLTA). With the publication of “Exploring New Pathways” in 1986, the Association launched the first major criticism of the denominational system since the 1964 Royal Commission Report. Roger Grimes was the President of the Association at that time. The criticism was based largely on efficiency and economic grounds, rather than ideological ones.

The fact that the NLTA supported the Government in the 1990s was important because the Association was made up of teachers of all denominations. While Pentecostal teachers had a separate voice within the Association, and sometimes disagreed with the Association's stand on denominational issues, such was not the case for other teachers, including Roman Catholics. I've done some research on why that was so, and will report accordingly in the future.

Another association that became increasingly involved in the debates of the 1980s and 1990s was the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Association. During and after the entrenchment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that Association strongly criticized the denominational system for limiting (1) the lifestyle rights of teachers, (2) the rights of non-adherents of the system, including non-Christians, and (3) the rights of non-adherent parents to run for election to school boards that educated their children.

Other groups, such as the business community and various coalitions of parents, also played an important role in supporting the reform. The St. John's Board of Trade, for example, echoed the views of the 1986 House Commission on Employment and Unemployment, linking education with economic growth and calling for the reform of denominational education. The NL Home and School Federation and the Education First Group, a diverse coalition containing persons of all religious and political persuasions, were very influential during the referendum campaigns. Change which tapped into that kind of public support was likely to be successful.

And, then, there was the influence of the media. For three or four decades after Confederation, few journalists criticized the denominational system, and those who did received little visible public support. That changed over time, for obvious reasons.

The media played a very significant role in the promotion of the work of the 1990 Royal Commission. They gave extensive coverage to the hearings, the recommendations, the negotiations, the referendums, and the court cases, often supporting the Government's position. Through newspapers, radio, television, and films, the media became a powerful influence on how people saw the denominational issue and how they responded. There was no doubt that they helped to set the reform agenda in education, greatly influencing policies, politics and values. Many supporters of denominational education believe, to this day, that they were unfairly treated by certain journalists and certain media outlets.

The 1990 Royal Commission

The Government believed that having a Royal Commission study the very sensitive denominational issue as part of a more comprehensive review would not only demonstrate the Government's commitment to providing a better education, but also its willingness to provide strong leadership in these challenging times. The Government knew that there were political risks associated with the Commission's appointment, but it was prepared to take that risk, knowing that when the report was completed, it could choose to take no action, some action, or accept the recommendations entirely.

Looking back, perhaps the most important contribution of the 1990 Royal Commission was that it provided, at a very important point in time, a vehicle for the public discussion of educational issues. In the process, the Commission captured a surprising amount of public attention and provoked the most lively debate in years. School boards, teachers, students, parents, and the general public were truly engaged. The Commission conducted a considerable amount of research and traveled widely to examine developments elsewhere. In addition to its recommendation on the denominational system, it made recommendations on improving the operation of school boards, the curriculum, instructional time, teacher education, the education of children with exceptional learning needs, and even the way we fund education. In the end, unfortunately, the implementation of many of these latter recommendations was overshadowed by the debate on reforming the system.

Sustained Political Leadership

With few exceptions, politicians and political parties in Newfoundland have been careful in their dealings with the churches. Even after Confederation, a political “understanding” between the churches and politicians remained in tact, where one seldom criticized the other. The churches often remained quiet on social and political issues about which they should have been concerned. And few politicians publicly questioned the authority of the churches.

The Governments of Premiers Wells and Tobin were responsible for providing leadership in the reform of the system. As a rationalist in policy development, Wells, like Trudeau, believed that the state should aggressively promote economic and social justice. He saw a modernized school system as the key to our future in a knowledge-based economy. That philosophy was reflected in the Government's newly-developed Strategic Economic Plan. To achieve the new order, the school system had to be made more efficient, more cost-effective, and more responsive to the needs of children.

While Wells preferred the single, unified, interdenominational system proposed by Williams, and wanted to reach a consensus with the recognized denominations, his Government negotiated what he considered a compromise Term 17 amendment, between what the Commission recommended and what the churches were demanding. That proposed Amendment provided for separate denominational schools where it could be demonstrated that such schools had sufficient numbers of students to provide quality education. Under the proposal, the Province would have both uni- and inter-denominational schools, operated by common school boards. The proposal was unacceptable to the churches.

While the constitutional amending formula did not require a referendum for approval of the compromise proposal, the Government decided to hold one in 1995 to give the public an opportunity to debate the issue and decide. Wells refused to aggressively campaign in the referendum. In the end, the proposed Amendment was approved by a narrow majority -- 53 to 47 per cent -- with a relatively low voter turnout. Much more could be said about the Wells Amendment and the referendum, but I'll leave that for another time.

The essence of political leadership is knowing when to think and act quickly and when not. Building on what Wells had accomplished, Tobin (with Minister Roger Grimes) acted quickly and decisively to complete the reform process. After the Barry court case in 1997, which halted the implementation of the Wells proposal, the Premier sensed that the political mood of the Province had changed, and support for the Government had increased. So, he called a second referendum on a fully public system, eliminating denominational rights entirely, with some provision for religious education.

While not being critical of Wells, Tobin sought to distance himself from the first referendum campaign. He presented a clear and straightforward question to the public, and campaigned aggressively, focusing not only on the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the denominational system, but also the philosophical arguments on which it was based, particularly that Christians should be educated in separate schools. He claimed that the real issue was the correction of a “moral wrong” inherent in the system. By using this argument, he shifted the campaign from primarily economic grounds to the greater welfare of all students and society generally.

With the enthusiastic support of many special interest groups, and individuals of all religious and political persuasions, the referendum was successful, with 73 per cent voting in favour. The Government was assisted by the fact that, unlike the first referendum, the Roman Catholic campaign was not well organized, had few funds, and had lost some of its supporters and enthusiasm.

In my research, I've reviewed the political campaigns of the churches to preserve the system, and the Government to reform it. I will comment on these findings in the future, including the important debate concerning minority rights.

Part 4...

-50_bond -

21 May 2008

The politics and challenges of education reform in post-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador (Part II)

by Philip J. Warren

The 1970s – The Equality and Efficiency Agenda

The major changes of the 1960s were followed by more moderate ones in what might be called the “sagging” 1970s. The 1970s were a period of declining birthrates, declining school enrolments, and declining expectations. School enrolments, which had peaked at 163,000 in 1972 (more than double the figure in 1949), declined dramatically. To deal with these declines, the Moore's Government appointed the Crocker/Riggs Task Force, which reported in 1979. That Report made important recommendations, including ones for managing decline instead of managing growth.

The equality issue continued to be an important one throughout the 1970s, influenced by the human rights movement in Canada and the civil rights movement in the United States. In fact, the period saw a change in the meaning of “equal opportunity,” from the “equal-access” version of providing students with the same chance to be educated, to the “affirmative action” version, whereby students would be given unequal help to compensate for differences in their background, their abilities, and even where they lived in the Province.

Another important development during the 1970s was the acquisition of collective bargaining rights by teachers. Collective bargaining granted teachers and their Association more presence and power, not only in matters of teacher welfare, but also in education generally.

The 1980s -- The Quality/Excellence and Accountability Agenda

During what I would label the “sobering” 1980s, increased attention was focused on improving quality and excellence in education. We saw a return to the more traditional philosophy of education, with emphasis on improving instruction in the basics, particularly the areas of language, mathematics and science. The importance of measuring progress through testing and examinations was also stressed.

In Canada as a whole, there were demands for testing at the provincial level to determine how well provinces were doing and how they and the Country ranked internationally. This led to the school indicators project initiated by the Canadian Council of Ministers of Education.

At the high school level in the Province, the curriculum was extended and Grade Twelve added in the early 1980s. One of the criticisms of the extended program was that, while it increased school retention, it did not result in higher academic standards, particularly in challenging the more able students, and better preparing graduates for post-secondary education. It was argued that the new program increased retention at the expense of providing a rigorous and solid academic education.

The breadth of the high school program placed real strain on smaller high schools in particular. Consequently, an Advisory Panel, chaired by Professor Frank Riggs, was appointed to make recommendations to improve the quality of teaching and learning in these schools. In early 1988, a Task Force (the Crocker Task Force) was appointed to examine the teaching of math and science in the Province generally. Its recommendations were important in helping to address some of the problems in these subject areas.

The equality agenda was promoted not only with the expansion of the high school curriculum, but also the introduction in 1987 of a new approach to special education, with student placements and level of service determined by a program planning team which took into account the educational needs of the student and the services available in the school. Under this policy, students would receive some or all of their instruction in a regular class or in a segregated unit, depending on the severity of the students' needs and disabilities. This was the beginning of the ISSP/Pathways program.

There's no doubt that the Premier of the day, Brian Peckford was anxious to modernize education, but, like Mr. Smallwood, he wanted to do it within the existing denominational structure. He was a reformer with a nationalistic bent, advocating more industrialization and greater provincial control of our natural resources, but he refused to challenge the denominational system. In 1982, he enthusiastically supported the efforts of the churches to have Section 29 included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protecting denominational rights against a challenge under the Charter. He spoke strongly in favour of the system when, in 1987, the Pentecostal Assemblies received full recognition by way of an amendment to the Constitution Act.

One of Mr. Peckford's Education Ministers, however, was much more open to reform. Lynn Verge strongly supported all aspects of the equality agenda, particularly equality for women. She believed in the importance of involving all stakeholders in educational decision-making. She was the Minister when the Province increased the proportion of elected school board members from one-third to two-thirds, with elections scheduled to coincide with municipal elections so as to increase public interest and participation. I'm sure she wanted 100 per cent elected, but had to compromise with the churches.

Part 3


20 May 2008

The politics and challenges of education reform in post-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador (Part I)

by Philip J. Warren


It's been argued that education goes through cycles, where periods of heightened public criticism and change alternate with times of stability and calm. Certainly, that's what's happened to education in this Province since Confederation. We've had our share of educational changes and reforms, as well as periods of relative calm and public satisfaction, like the one we're now experiencing.

I plan to discuss some of these post-Confederation reforms and their results, in context. What were the major ones in elementary and secondary education? How did changes in our demographic, social, and economic way of life help to shape them? What was the political context in which they occurred? For my purposes, I've defined a reform as a plan or movement, largely government-directed, which attempts to bring about a systematic improvement in education, province-wide.

Because of time, my comments on the reforms of the 1950s 60s, 70s, and 80s will be brief. I'll discuss the 1990s in more detail, because it was then that the Province experienced one of the most significant educational changes in its history: the reform of the denominational system. While I'll discuss the reforms separately, of course they overlapped and were interactive. I'll conclude with some of the more important challenges with which I believe elementary and secondary education in Newfoundland and Labrador is now faced.

The 50s and 60s – The Access and Equality Agenda

The 1950s and 1960s were decades of dramatic physical growth and expansion in Newfoundland education. Largely because of our high birth rate and heightened expectations as a result of Confederation, enrolments doubled between 1949 and 1964. The numbers of teachers and classrooms more than doubled during that period. (Would you believe that Newfoundland had 1266 schools in 1964-65, compared with 280 today.) The education agenda, then, focused primarily on providing greater access and equality: building more schools, educating more and better teachers, improving school retention, and reducing inequalities between rural and urban schools.

To increase access and enhance equality, the Government developed several new programs, including the construction of regional and central high schools. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, over 100 such schools were constructed and many elementary schools consolidated. These consolidations were made possible by an improved network of roads which had reduced the isolation of many Newfoundland settlements. Programs of scholarships and bursaries were expanded so that many high school students could leave their small communities and attend larger schools elsewhere.

In the late 1960s, major changes were made in the governance of Newfoundland education, including changes to the denominational system. The Anglicans, United Church, Salvation Army, and Presbyterians fully integrated their educational services. Religious leaders like Bishop Robert Seaborn, and leading educators such as Cec Roebothan, and John Acreman, were particularly important in that process.

Other structural reforms, including the reorganization of the Department of Education along functional lines, the elimination of literally hundreds of small school boards (we had 270 school boards in 1964), and the further consolidation of schools, were prompted by the work of the 1960s Royal Commission. The primary goal of that Report was to provide greater equality of educational opportunity, particularly for students in rural areas of the Province, and to make more efficient use of our scarce financial resources.

A word about the politics of the times. Premier Smallwood was very passionate about the importance of education, not only for personal development, but also to address social problems and promote economic growth and development. He firmly believed that the real hope of Newfoundland lay in education. Later in life, he described his accomplishments in education, particularly the establishment of Memorial University, as his second most important legacy.

I believe that the Government brought about a virtual transformation of our educational system during the 1960s. Somewhat ironically, Mr. Smallwood later became a victim of the revolution in education over which he presided. The new generation of educated voters became a major force in his political demise.

Part 2...


19 May 2008

Sir Robert Revised

The original idea for the Sir Robert Bond Papers was for an occasion series of academic papers or thought provoking essays along the lines of what comes periodically from some of the country's thin-tanks.

The first in the series was "Which is to be master?", originally available as a pdf and later serialized.  In the event, Bond Papers evolved into something else.

With the Victoria Day weekend now behind us, and with me still on a self-imposed hiatus, Bond Papers returns with a series of posts faithful to the original intent.

philDr. Philip J. Warren is synonymous with education in Newfoundland and Labrador. Born in New Perlican in 1933, Dr. Warren holds a doctorate in education from the University of Alberta. He was chairman of the Royal Commission on Education and Youth (1964) and as minister of education in the first Wells administration, he was part of the drive to further reform in the province's education system.

Few can rightly claim to have had such a profound effect on education in the province. Dr. Warren was a teacher and principal before he joined the faculty of education at Memorial University in 1962.  Countless teachers have been influenced by him both in the classrooms at Memorial and through his writings.

Dr. Warren delivered the opening address at a recent symposium on education sponsored by the Harris Centre and the Faculty of Education. The text of his address will be presented here in a series of four posts beginning on May 20. For those who wish to see the full presentation, the Harris Centre has posted a video.

As noted in the introductory materials from the symposium, Dr. Warren is currently working on a book on education reform which places the efforts at change in a social, political and economic context. If the speech is any indication, Dr. Warren's book will be required reading for anyone seriously interested in the future of our province.