Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker is encouraged by the Liberal government's announcement Wednesday regarding rural and northern schools.
A moratorium has been placed on Ontario school boards putting up any new schools up for potential closure.
Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says the ban will be in place while the government overhauls the process in an effort to strengthen rural and northern education. However, she says it does not cover any schools already under consideration or recommended for closure.
Walker says he's pleased that it appears they're finally listening.
"We've been pushing this for a long time. I wish frankly that they had come to us and asked us beforehand, and we could have saved some schools. I'm still heartbroken for those schools that have been closed. But at the end of the day, I'm glad they're listening, I'm glad there's a moratorium. The devil, of course, is always in the detail and we'll continue to hold their feet to the fire."
Walker notes that this is too little too late for schools in Paisley, Markdale and Chesley, and warns this could be a ploy for votes in next year's provincial election. He goes on to say a moratorium on school closures should have come sooner, but enough people have made their voices heard.
"At the end of the day, I just want to applaud people across the province who have stood up and said to this government this is the wrong move, you're doing things that are going to be detrimental to the province, and I'm pleased to see this," he says. "They still have to agree to put the community impact back in, or these things could continue again."
Walker insists that he still thinks the funding formula for rural schools is outdated basing it on number of students, and if that doesn't change school closures will remain a problem. He says it's too bad this release comes on the heels of recent closures in the area.
"I just feel sick for those schools that closed that could have been saved," he says. "If they had approached this with an open mind and said we know there needs to be changed, how should we do it? I've said to this government over and over, all you have to do is work with us, and we'll find a way to find a middle ground that finds an outcome to benefit Ontarians across the board."