Toronto, Canada – The Ontario government has spent nearly 2 million dollars allocated by the Ministry of Education for autism awareness and anti-bullying program initiatives in order to help battle bus companies in court, according to recently released documents.
With changes made to hiring processes that purportedly favour large school bus companies, smaller outfits have faced a subsequent reduction in the amount of contracts awarded to them by school boards. By utilizing funds reserved under “Education Program – Other”, the Ministry has been able to pay legal fees for both the school boards and large bus companies who are the defendants in the case.
The Independent School Bus Association argues that the Ministry is effectively waging a “war of attrition” by dragging out the case, utilizing a series of motions in hopes of eventually bankrupting the claimants.
The Ministry staunchly argues that the funds that have been used for court fees fell within the predetermined “budget line” with Liz Sandals, the province’s Minister of Education, claiming that student programming has not been redirected towards school bus procurement models. Sandals has also asserted that new hiring practices implemented in 2012 involving the selection of school bus companies are fair and are therefore equitable for both large and small bus companies.
Sandals in a statement said,
“No funding was removed from student programming in order to address the changes to the school bus procurement model.”
However, Karen Cameron, executive director of the Independent School Bus Operators Association told Sammy Hudes reporting in the The National Post,
“The school boards don’t want to be going to court, the operators don’t want to be in court, but the ministry behind the scenes is continuing this fight by using program funding.”