Opening Statement

Saturday 29 October 2011

Our TSU Chalkers Pub Night!

TSU rocked the Chalkers Pub on Marlee St in Toronto's west end on Friday Oct 28 after school. Whew! Most of us can't believe October is almost over and mid term marks will soon be due. After a lot of hard work debating and approving our annual budget on Thursday night, over 70 teacher members decided it was now time to join in and kick back their heels for some well earned chicken wings and beer.

Membership Services hostess supreme Theresa Oakley once again made sure it was a TSU party to remember. TSU teachers from across the city could be found holding court after a long day at school engaged in a little lively scholarly debate, heady reviews of recent educational meetings, among other things. Beginning Teacher Chair Helena Suite rallied our new teachers near the pool tables to make sure they all knew about our next meeting on Monday at the Second Cup. She was joined by Ad Hoc Sped Chair Linda Witney who swooped by before heading off home to the countryside for the weekend . She's certainly deserves a well earned weekend rest enjoying the spectacle of the autumn leaves before her committee meets again next Wednesday to work on it's report for our TSU executive and LCBT.

Sparky Stelmacovich was back from retirement to remind us of how beer should be drunk at a pub. Dr. Don Schmid speculated on the significance of the NDP seat gains in our recent fall provincial election. Counsellor Bianka Hudak and I renewed acquaintances, while President Rene Jansen seemed quite relaxed and happy to just make the rounds chatting with our members in a much more casual setting beyond the constant grind of school and office.

1st VP Gerard Ardanaz enjoyed a leisurely game of pool, free from board and office business if only but for a short while on a Friday night. Teresa Placha could be seen enjoying some good laughs with Ms. Oakley and crew at the sign in table. Barbara Swit with a drink and pool cue in hand received numerous pats on the back for all the challenging issues she brought to the foreground at last night's budget meeting. The Mackasey + D'Addario Clans graced us with their presence and joined in some good natured banter and joking around. The new teachers once again couldn't help but be drawn by Ottavio's engaging conversation and Italian charm. Teachers from St. Marys, Fraser, McGuigan, Dante, PJ2, St. Basils, Brebeuf, McLuhan. Madonna, Percy Johnson, St. Mikes, Libermann, Brother Redmond and Don Bosco to name but a few were among the ranks of the many members who joined us  for some good old TSU merriment and mirth.

As I later headed back out to my car in the late October cold of evening, I pulled my coat tight around me, tipped my hat to the side, and enjoyed a hearty laugh with my fellow teachers. Despite the inevitable challenges of the school and union year that set in by this time of year, I knew that there is no place I'd rather be right now than teaching here in Toronto with the rest of my TSU colleagues!

Coming Next: My Budget Notes.....Please stay tuned. I look forward to sharing my own news and views about the meeting here! It was a very interesting night!

PS: Please enjoy the party photos in my slide show at top left of this site.

Monday 24 October 2011

Hooray Laurel Broten: Our New Minister of Education!

Congratulations to MPP Laurel Broten [Etobicoke Lakeshore] our new Education Minister!!! I myself take great personal joy in her new appointment after having known and worked with Laurel for over 10 years on her campaigns from 2003 through 2008. Although I am still a proud member of her riding association, please know it was Bianka and Mark from TSU who saw her through her third election victory this fall. They are hardly strangers to Laurel either. Mark is retired now but still helps her out. Bianka is our main TSU executive point person, having been the one on TSU full time release this time around. So continues a long and happy working relationship between Laurel and OECTA TSU.

Laurel made Ontario history a while back when she became the first woman minister to get pregnant and have children, two twin boys, while in cabinet! She has previously served on Premier McGuinty's Liberal cabinet most notably as the Environment Minister, and the Minister of Child and Youth services. OECTA worked closely with Laurel on the new province wide Kindergarten program. It was a very fruitful and rewarding relationship that will serve our youth and their families well.

In 2002 our TSU PAC at the time decided to embed teacher reps in the riding's of each provincial election candidate who we considered educationally friendly. It proved a very positive way to organize our teacher support in the Toronto riding's. At a loss where to go, I called up my college buddy Rob Foote. He's made a good name for himself as a succesful Liberal campaign manager. Rob and I used to be the President and Program director respectively at CFRE Radio Erindale during our university years. That's a great story I can share at a later date. The point is, I asked Rob to recommend a good candidate from our list who was not only top notch but a pleasure to work with, and he introduced me to Laurel. He couldn't have made a better pick.

Laurel has solid credentials at her lawyer's office down on Bay Street Toronto, as does she supporting and promoting the women's shelters in her own home riding of Etobicoke Lakeshore. Eight years in government and Laurel still walks door to door, regardless of whether it's an election year or not, meeting her constituents personally to hear their concerns! You will find her at every civic function and town hall meet always eager to answer questions or engage in a good debate. Anyone who works with Laurel invariably enjoys it so much they keep coming back, myself included. She is genuine and sincere, highly professional and yet down to earth. Laurel is the real McCoy. She's a politico you can really believe in!

I sincerely regret that I was not released by TSU to work on her campaign this year as originally planned.Still I look forward to continuing to work with her and see her now off the campaign trail, wearing another hat, since I am no longer on TSU PAC. Yup, that's over. I think I all ready told you how I will be focusing on the Ad Hoc Special Education, Beginning Teacher and Religious Affair Committee portfolios, as well as helping Dave with the Solidarity grants instead in my role as your TSU 3rd Vice President this year.

I know Laurel has always been very interested and concerned about our youth. We have discussed my own Special Education classes, most notably the Autism Developmentally Delay Multiple Exceptionality [AU-DDME] one at James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic Secondary, my school where I teach. Our TSU Ad Hoc Special Ed Committee is working on an indepth review of our board's special education programs. So far the teachers, department heads and even our board superintendants have shown a lot of interest in contributing to the project as a group effort, and we look forward to making a number of reports and important recommendations to our TSU executive, our Local Collective Bargaining Team [LCBT], and of course first and foremost you our members.

It would be interesting to talk some more about this directly with Laurel, in time, as she settles into her new job as Minister of Education. My understanding is that right now Laurel is catching her breath after the vigorous election campaign. She's cracking open the books on her new ministry as she sets up shop. I would never want to seem pushy or opportunist as a teacher politico myself, that's not my own style, nor is it Laurel's. Still, I do look forward to seeing and helping her again as soon as I can.

So, once again, congratulations to Laurel Broten. It is with a huge sigh of relief, I'm sure, that we all welcome her back as our new Liberal Education Minister, after having again helped keep the provincial Tory's at bay! Please know, as teacher's we couldn't have done better than with Laurel. We can rest assured we will continue looking forward to making our education system one of the very best anywhere working together with her!

Victoria, Laurel and I have fun and talk shop.

Thursday 20 October 2011

7 Hopefully Helpful Tips for Teachers

Tip #1: If anybody tells you they've figured out the teaching profession they are mistaken. With this in mind please take what you will from my post. I make no such claims. Indeed, after 26 years teaching I still scratch my head and wonder just what the heck I'm doing and what is really going on. I do know this: I teach an autism class of very challenged and aggressive students in a very disadvantaged part of town. Day in day out. Year in year out. I am perfectly happy with that. At OECTA TSU, your teacher union, I have reached and stayed put at the Third Vice President position. I'm a small wig, rather than a big one. I suppose I could get all rah rah rah and chant "I'm number three! I'm number three! I'm number three!...." Somehow it lacks a ring to it. :-) Be that as it may please know I love my job at school and at TSU. I feel quite effective in both cases. Overall I am very happy and content with how everything has worked out. Sure, I'll never be the Minister of Education. Nope. It's true! And by golly nobody but nobody called me up when they were looking for a new Director of Education recently at our board. Oh well. Good luck Bruce! Alas, I never have and never will at this stage of the game find fame and fortune, let alone the Rosetta stone explaining all we need to know about teaching. Still, I'm happy with my lot and suppose I learned a few things along the way. I hope against hope that these tips might be of some help to others, especially for our BT's, new Beginning Teachers. Use them or ignore as you see fit. This is just how I see things.

Tip #2: Every few years there will be the "newest latest greatest plan to save the education system". Perhaps it's a new philosophy of learning or a new type of pedagogy. You name it. They invariably come and they go. Names and claims will be made. You could slavishly and uncritically jump on board. You might even be expected to do so by admin, the public, or the education powers that be. Warning! Please beware! In every such new education plan there's usually some very good ideas and a whole lot of nonsense. Think critically. Feign interest even if it makes you shudder. Try to give it a good shot. Find out what sometimes works best in some situations for both you and your students. Add that to your long term inventory of teaching strategies and beliefs. Otherwise smile and bide your time. Nothing is everything. All things come to pass.

Tip #3: Promotions and careers can be made through uncritically heralding, aiding and abetting even the most stupidest of these educational "theories". Warning: "Yes people" do not make for a healthy educational system. Brown nosers are useless in the long run. Would you want to spend the rest of your career pretending everything is great! We just end up with dysfunctional  administrations and school boards. As the latest greatest people and ideas come and go, you may very well just end up getting dumped down the road when they move on or lose favour anyway. Maybe you'll be delegated to the sidelines in some crummy admin role. You'll be expected to jump through ridiculous hoops to prove yourself for the rest of your career. Very futile. You might  just end up accomplishing little more than compromise yourself and the integrity of our profession. Yes, there's some money and glory in it, for some people some of the time, but is that why you really went into education? If so either get a life or try the business world instead. In our profession you will end up pretty petty and small minded at best if that's how you think. Don't be afraid to speak out in a constructive manner. You will be doing us all a favour and have little to loose.

Tip #4: Success doesn't necessarily mean coming out on top of the education heap, at school, the board, or the Ministry of Education. Success can mean feeling happy and fulfilled through simply teaching and helping others in a direct and meaningful way. A teaching vocation, at it's most grassroots level starts and can even end in the classroom with your students years later when you retire. Think about this: Suppose everybody just tried to make their own little corner of the world a better place for the others they find there. Would it be more successful than a grand plan to change the whole world or even save it from itself? In Ontario teachers get paid enough to live a comfortable life. You will never be rich, famous or very powerful. It's unlikely you will ever command large armies of staff and students to great acclaim but the holidays are great! Success, whatever that's supposed to really mean, can basically lie within ourselves, through serving others and being true to yourself and your higher instincts. It can happen whether you end up the Grand Poo Bah of Education or just another teacher making a small difference in your students lives. You are never "just" a teacher. Yours is no disgrace.

Tip #5: As a teacher you are a professional, and in Ontario Canada, a highly qualified one at that. The board must've realized that when they hired you. The competition is pretty stiff. There are a lot more teachers than jobs these days. Plus the standards are very high and the work is quite demanding. In Ontario our schools are easily amongst the most diversified, challenging and yet the best in the world by most any international standard. You wouldn't be here unless you are a professional teacher! Act accordingly, but also, don't take any guff, be it from admin, parents, your students, or even the average man and woman in the streets. In the final analysis be true to yourself, and your students. Think critically and stand your ground. Often everybody thinks they know best what you should do, but you are going to be the one who has to go do it. Good teaching is a pretty serious responsibility. Hopefully the rescue party is on the horizon. The Ministry of Education is now focusing on the importance of our professional decision making skill in our classrooms. Then again, this could end up to be just another "latest great plan" [See Tip #1]. Stand up for teachers when you are speaking to strangers or friends. If in doubt about what you are being told or forced to do at school, please contact your teacher union. We know the contract and the education act. We adhere to board and ministry policy and of course school law, maybe more than anybody else these days, including the school board. We will advise you accordingly and offer assistance or meet with you and/ or your superiors when need be.

Tip #6: New teachers have verve and zest. You revitalize the whole education system, especially at your own school. If anybody could keep that up for their whole career, we wouldn't need to be revitalized, right? Pace yourself accordingly. What takes forever and is trying to the umpteenth degree will with time become manageable, if you don't snap and lose it or burn out first. Enjoy your holidays without guilt. Your salary is spread out over the whole year, not just your time at school. Contrary to popular opinion you do not get free holidays. You earned them. It all averages out. If you were just paid during the months you work, each paycheck would actually be a lot higher, but then you would get nothing over the holidays. Also, you put countless extra hours into fulfilling your many professional duties at school and home. That includes evenings weekends and holidays. Don't forget teaching is one of the highest ranked jobs in terms of stress too. Have a life outside school with time for yourself, family and loved ones, or you will go nuts. It's hard sometimes but very necessary for your long term health and well being to survive and flourish.

Tip #7: It's very important to know you are a teacher union member and also to understand and appreciate our contract and our teacher superannuation retirement plan. Get involved early in your career to find out more. OECTA TSU is not some vicarious communist plot. It is your elected teacher union, and we are here to serve you. In the most basic terms, you get a contract that sets your salary, benefits and working conditions. They need to be negotiated with the board. The agreement does not come by the grace of God or the sheer generosity of the TCDSB. Also, your principal and colleagues might be great right now. Everything seems to be hunky dory and anyway you are just so busy teaching class. Everything can change with time! Sooner or later odds are you will need TSU for help or as a resource. Your Principal's responsibility is to perform a very difficult balancing act between the needs and interests of the students, the parents and the teachers at your school. Sometimes they may very well feel it's important to make decisions that are not in your favour. The decision might even seem downright wrong to you. With even the best of intentions they and even your colleagues might not be able to help you. You elect a teacher's union, with a staff rep in each school. We are here to serve as your advocate at school when need be. This is not some mad threat to your freedom and our way of life. We are a big part of the process at work in our schools. I will address the issues of teacher unionism further in another upcoming post. Suffice to say it's good to get involved in TSU and find out more. Please know you have both a great pension and a pretty good school contract through years of hard union work. There are a lot of folk out there in our mean old world who do not think that should be so. Snooze and you lose. For starters please join your TSU BTC: Beginning Teachers Committee. I sent you an email application, or you can get one online at

Give joining our BT new teachers group some serious thought. A BT is any TSU member with 5 or less years of experience with our board. Stay Tuned. There's definitely more to come yet in this blogspot thread.

Monday 17 October 2011

Welcome New Teachers!

I am honoured to be your OECTA-TSU executive liaison for the Beginning Teachers Committee [BTC]again this year. The committee is open to all of our TSU teachers with 5 years experience or less at our board. The number of active BT members can vary. As a new teacher you can be pretty busy and quite understandably sometimes can't attend a meeting or event. Other times you can attend and get involved with this or that. We usually end up with a small core group of BT's who are very active. Then there's a a lot of members who participate when they can, as you find your feet and get on top of things at school.

Our BTC usually has three or four meetings a year, and hosts two events; the TSU Volleyball tournament and the Madison Pub. Many members also attend the OECTA Provincial spring Beginning Teachers Conference with your colleagues from across the province.

Dinner and coffee shop meetings have often proven popular in the past. We choose a secretary and a chair but otherwise keep it quite informal. The BT's will brainstorm ideas about what you would like to do at TSU and also just network. You know, you may well be working with the group of BT's who started with you now for the rest of your career. It's really good to get to know each other and can help you out a lot as the years go. BTC can help be your support group. You will be facing the same challenges and experiences. Hopefully you will also carrying on TSU's important professional work and responsibilities years after the rest of us have retired.

My BTC approach as your TSU executive liaison is that this is your committee, as it should be, and that my job is to just help support you on executive and  facilitate your different pursuits, based upon the decisions you yourselves make as beginning teachers. My hope is that someday you can replace us and do the same for other new members. TSU has built a very strong and effective teachers professional union and educational advocacy group, especially since the Harris years. We need to hand it over to you when you are ready, so that we don't lose all we've fought for and worked so hard to gain as teachers. It would be tragic if that were to happen through sheer apathy and it's attend default.

Consider this; TSU works with the school board on joint committee issues like Joint Safe Schools [JSS], Health and Safety [JHS] and Professional Development [JPD] giving you, as a teacher, a key voice in the board decision making process. We work with OECTA Provincial Government Relations in consulting with the Ministry of Education as teachers to give you a voice in the educational policy making process. TSU is your union and professional association working to safeguard our students, our teachers and our schools. And OECTA-TSU negotiates your work contracts for our salary and benefits. We also work to guarantee you the best work environment possible for our teachers and the students we teach.

Our BTC committee has prepared a budget proposal for the activities and events they wish to do this year. Last year and this years committee wanted to create a BT web page where you could post and share all the info and tips you think you need as BT`s. Your committee wants to continue with the yearly BTC Volleyball Tournament and Madison Pub. They are also also discussing hosting regular BT coffee club meets across the city to involve more BT`s in sharing helpful tips and discussing your interests and concerns. A BT camping weekend has often been discussed in years past but has yet to get off the ground. A skiing trip is being discussed. Our BTC committee members want to continue these activities with your help. They have submitted a budget proposal to be approved at our TSU October Budget Meeting. The BTC headed by our new Chair, Helene Suite from St. Mikes, needs you to come out on Oct 27 to vote to approve the budget.

Our TSU executive has always been quite keen on helping to provide whatever our beginning teachers want and need to make your committee work best for you. Your input and involvement is a very important key to TSU's continuing relevance and success.You are the future of our unit! What better way could there be for you to contribute? Meet your BT colleagues and becoming involved in our various activities by joining this years BTC!

You can contact our TSU office at [416-633-5502] for an application or come to our next meeting to see what we are all about yourself, and fill out one there. More details will be officially forthcoming through TSU. I have distributed an email application for our BT's who would like to apply for our committee as well. I look forward to meeting and helping you on the Beginning Teacher Committee as your executive liaison.

You are the future of teaching! Consider getting involved in TSU with your BTC! I promise it will be very interesting, and a lot of fun!

Please continue to visit my informal blogspot for more teacher and union news and views, and don't forget to also pass on my link to your TSU friends who might be interested in it as well. We haven't received an updated TCDSB list off all our new hires from last spring on yet. Maybe you know who they are?

I can be contacted though the TSU office, by my gmail address at, or by using the comment bar below this post. Hope to see you soon!

Oh by the way! Check out the unofficial "According To Youtube: New Teacher Tips" at the bottom of my blog page....Could we do better on our own BTC made Webpage?

Our TSU 2010-11 BT'ers with their Toronto Elementary colleagues at the OECTA Provincial across Ontario BT Conference in Niagara Falls. We will be going again this year. Join our committee to learn more!

Thursday 13 October 2011

Photos From Eleven Years Of PAC!

Yup. I served on TSU PAC [Toronto Secondary Unit Political Advisory Committee] as chair or executive liaison for quite a spell. I remember my first meeting in September 2000. Only Rene Jansen and George Kolos from the TSU executive were there. I soon became chair by default and continued to work for the next three years in the lead up to the 2003 Ontario Provincial election. PAC eventually got an army of teachers together. We helped elect an education friendly Liberal government after about eight years of all out war between the teachers and the Mike Harris Tory [Conservative] government. I stuck with PAC throughout the 2007 election, and finally through the lead up to this fall.

PAC's come and PAC's go. I can only wish the next crew good luck and hope they carry on the very successful strategic support model we developed with OECTA Provincial. Bottom line is PAC's a lot more than just talking, planning and strategizing. It's really hard sticking with it, and even carrying out the work yourself if need be. Often you may find that it seems everybody always knows what everybody else should do but not everybody is willing to actually go do it themselves.

In politics there's never any shortage of hot air, such is the nature of the beast. Go figure. When things go well everyone loves the accolades. When it doesn't, well it's much easier just to complain, blame everybody else or disappear. Maybe that's just human nature.

I've always believed that PAC is about service. We shouldn't just be in it for ourselves or our own political causes. Anyhow, since I don't drink beer, liquor, wine or whatever everybody else was having on the political circuit, I can now joke that these problems have always just been so much water off my back. The members who were truly there to serve never got caught up in all that nonsense either. Thank God!

I had a great 11 years at it. I truly enjoyed myself. I have been truly honoured by meeting and working with so many great and dedicated people from OECTA, the other teacher affiliates, education and union groups. OECTA's "Consider the Cost", and "Who Speaks For Children?" campaigns were especially outstanding in serving our profession, our students and our schools. Kudos to Cheryl and Vic! Then there were the politicians who ranged from the holy to the profane. Well, more about them later!

It's a welcome relief that the PAC responsibilities are now off my shoulders, as much fun as it's all been. Politics will always be in my blood but now I can focus on some other new initiatives for our unit more so than politics, politics and more politics all the time. I am excited and looking forward to that.

As we move beyond Election 2011, I am taking this opportunity to share with you some of the photos I've snapped over the years. What a long strange trip it has been! I met a lot of pretty interesting people and have a lot of great stories to tell, that's for sure. I will write about more of what I learned for you like I did at the end of my last post, if you read that far, about the "political party's". I will post some more goodies from time to time; the tasty and useful things to know.

Long ago Janet suggested that I ask if we could take a photo with whomever I was meeting. Why not? What fun it turned out to be! Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words. You have to be a little ballsy, or maybe just crazy to go for it. But I did and the only person who ever said no was Tim Hudak. Janet got his picture with me anyways! Ha ha.

I am sharing some of these photos with you on the slide show at the top left of my blog screen. I will add ten new ones a day for the next bit. You can click on the photos to enlarge them and then also go see the earlier ones on my Flickr account. The photos were taken at various places and events. They don't imply that the cast of characters, both good and bad, agree with my own teacher and union news and views on this blogspot. Nor are the photos being officially or unofficially posted to endorse them on behalf of anybody, not even necessarily myself. If you will recall in my last post ["Thanksgiving Appendum, Compendium Etc"] I said that I've always felt that to politically advise, one needs to be able to meet and talk with just about anybody whether you like and agree with them or not. Here they all are. Please enjoy! I hope you have as much fun as I did. Wow!

PS: The only politico I never could bring myself to talk to was Premier Mike Harris, and that's because I heard if you did you'd turn into a pillar of salt! Maybe someday though, who knows? ;-)

        Me: "Tim! Tim! Give it up lad!" Tim: "No way!" :-)

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Thanksgiving Addendum Compendium Etc

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving weekend! Yes, In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving now, not in late November like the United  States. I heard it's because Thanksgiving was an agricultural holiday, dealing with the autumn harvest, and being further north, well, the season changes earlier.

Anyway we drove out of Toronto east on Highway 401, north on  the 404 then east through the countryside to the town of Uxbridge for our family dinner. The leaves were bursting with colour; crimson red, bright orange, yellows and more. The hustle and bustle of the big city was far behind us. It was quite magical. Nice and warm too. I enjoyed a little snooze on the porch inbetween festivities, just in short sleeves, with a cold drink beside me. Indian summer. That last little reprieve before the frost and cold temperatures settle in, all the leaves fall off the trees, and we huddle down for the winter onslaught ahead. Here in Southern Ontario we get four very distinct seasons that pretty much change like clockwork. Maybe they've been off a little the last ten years or so, but this weekend was very nice. Autumn is pure Canadiana!

I would think champagne corks were popping at Thanksgiving dinner tables across the province in all but the most true blue Conservative households. Whew! It's still sinking in. A month ago it looked like we were heading towards a Conservative landslide in the Ontario Provincial election. So by now we would've been bracing for a bunch of union bashing, and slashing and burning of public services, like in Rob Ford's Toronto, but province wide, as Tim Hudak commences to turn Ontario into Wisconsin North just like his Republican buddies did down stateside. But nope. Of course we were one seat shy of another Liberal majority, so things still could be volatile, but as my good buddy, and hard core politico Dave T. writes from Simcoe Ontario;
A win is a win is a win! I'll take a McGuinty minority over a Hudak government any day.
Ha. Me too. Heads are still definitely spinning. As our colleague and former TSU Bagman Bill D. writes from his retirement villa in Niagara Falls;

Now for me, I am a fun loving caring promoter for the Liberal candidate in Niagara Falls _ Kim Craitor!  It sounds like he defeated that a..h...., Lepp but I am still nervous.  The Fort Erie vote in the area I was scrutinizer went contrary to my expectations.  Even though Craitor had a 600 lead a number of polls had not yet reported.  Not sure where they were from.  Craitor was interviewed this morning as winning so I hope things do not change. I was glad to see Zimmer win in Willowdale.
Yes election day was full of surprises! I haven't heard of any recounts yet. Indeed, Elections Ontario is closing up it's polling booths and putting away the ballot boxes until next time, but it seems there's still some work to do. As retired TSU'er and Chair extraordinaire Tony E. reports from the Elections tomato patch out his way;
I do enjoy your blog. I was tempted to toss you a few ideas before you went to Cuba but I was too busy with election matters. I survived polling day but there is still a load of stuff on my plate related to the election.
It's a big job. Each election Tony helps set up, run and then wrap up affairs at a polling station or two or three. I've unsuccssfuly advocated hiring Elections Canada or Elections Ontario to run our yearly OECTA TSU elections for us. Perhaps a bit pricey at $10,000, but think of all the confusion and grief that could solve. See my posts on last May's election in my blog archives for more information on what happened last year. Now of course there's the possibility of telephone and online voting too...

So what's up on the TSU teacher's union front now that the election is over? My Beginning Teachers, Religious Affairs and Ad Hoc Special Education Committees have all had their first meetings, chosen  chairs as required and prepared a budget proposal for the 2011-12 school year. The Finance Committee meets tonight. TSU Executive meets Wednesday Oct 12. We'll need to have a balanced budget to present to you but of course some difficult decisions as always will need to be made. Budget Night is Thursday Oct. 27. Please come out to look it over and join in the debates. No use complaining later!

Interviews for this year's LCBT Local Collective Bargaining Team are Wednesday Oct 12. Appointment times have been sent out. The competition could be pretty stiff this year as we have had a lot of very active members learning, preparing and doing the leg work heading into this year's negotiations, so we should get a good team.

Thursday October 13th is the Committee Chair's meeting. This is your chance to learn more about chairing a TSU Committee. Also in discussing your interests, ideas and concerns about your committee work directly with our executive. If you are a chair, please plan to attend.

Sunday Oct 16 and Monday the 17th are our two day Staff Rep In service at the Kingsbridge Centre. Please make sure your rep or if need be a designate is there. There is so much you need to know at school, especially as we head into a contract year.

Did you know there are also training sessions available through our TSU office for your LLSAC team? None of this union biz is easy anymore. It's all by contract. We've got to do it right and make sure the school board does too. Remember LLSAC will look over your staffing model and report back to your staff, so you know it's been set up fairly and done right.

About the slideshow "My 11 Years On PAC". I decided after showing the Ontario Election related photos that I might as well take this opportunity to post the rest. As a part of my job as either PAC executive liaison and/ or chairman between 2000 to 2011 I talked to everyone, of every political stripe and it was pretty interesting. I suppose I could write a book or just post a few stories here every so often. The latter sounds easier and like more fun. At any rate there's photos of Prime Ministers, Premiers, leaders of the opposition and that's not to mention the Harris henchmen. Yup I talked to them too! One can't politically advise effectively unless you talk with everyone regardless of whether you like and agree with them or not. I always find it's interesting to actually meet the politicos up close and in person to get a better sense of their character, which is very, very important.

Okay okay, so let's have a larf or two. Who had the best parties? Not as in "political" party but the kind of party they have after the meetings, conferences, fetes and what not? Well here's an overview, from what I heard of course... heh heh sort of rule of thumb;

NDP: Great if you like discussing and debating documents and policies. Expect a cash bar with plain white bread and cheese slice sandwiches wrapped in cellophane. Somebody in a plaid workshirt is wearing too much Aqua Velva after shave lotion. Festivities don't go on too long, as everybody heads off to caucus [no pun intended].The Barenaked Ladies [the band type] might show up and play sing-a-long songs on acoustic guitars, probably fairly early in the evening. Don't mention Bob Rae. Interesting people but not necessarily a whole lot of fun. Definately more pumped at a protest or demonstration where the adrenalin really flows.

Liberal: Expect wine and cocktails, R+B or Eurodisco music and a fancy buffet. Great hot roast beef sandwiches carved and served by the chef if the Premier is in attendance. Lots of suits, it's a dress up affair but open neck. Hardly any of the guys wear ties anymore except on stage. Maybe a sports jacket with a rather pointless scarf wrapped rakishly round the neck. Spot the slinky cougars. Older Libs stand around drinks in hand reminiscing about Trudeau while the young Liberals listen intently. Everybody will get drunk, dance and stay up very late.

Conservative: Expect liquor, beer and a huge buffet table. Very well dressed, stylish and assertive wives lobby the room for the cause. The guys are all sensibly dressed in pressed pants, plain shirts and black polished shoes. Perhaps more business than lawyer suits unlike at the Liberal affairs. There's lots of great rock music and good joking around until somebody invariably makes a red neck remark about "welfare bums" or something of the like. You look around. Everybody laughs "har har har" and thinks it's real funny. Look carefully and you might see Mike Harris making the rounds.

Well what do I know? I suppose they are all lots of fun after a few drinks. I don't drink anything stronger than soda myself. Each "party" did have their moments though! Never a dull moment but in time you can grow weary of it all and it gets to be like a chore.

So back to business. It looks like a pretty busy month still ahead. I have a few new blogs with various themes coming your way as I switch out of election gear and get back to the teacher and union news and views at hand. Stay tuned and happy teaching etc.

Friday 7 October 2011

Liberal Win! Some Election Notes

As of this morning the official counts in the Ontario Provincial Election are:

Liberals =53 seats with 37% of the popular vote!
Conservatives=37 seats with 35% of the popular vote!
NDP=17 seats with 23% of the popular vote!

The McGuinty Liberals are one vote shy of a majority! There will be recounts and these numbers could change a little this way or that, but in the end it won't matter much. The result is a minority government and this is not necessarily a bad thing. It is very typical in many parliamentary democracies. If all three main partys work together for the common good of Ontarians it can be very responsive, with an internal dynamic that can result in balanced decisions. It's no longer a case of any one party or group of interests mostly getting their way and making arbitrary decisions whether the rest of us like it or not. There is much more need for consensus building.

Majority governments are more stable and indecisive, that's true. But Ontario is election weary and the coffers of all three parties must be pretty bare. We are stuck with a minority government, like it or not, for some time I'd bet. Maybe a full term of four years? We'll see. If the parties are here to serve the people of Ontario like they say, they will need to work together. If it's about posturing, power grabs, internal party politics and dirty tricks we could end up with another federal minority government debacle like we've seen in Ottawa; just a lot of bickering, as opposed to a reasoned debate with give and take.

Perhaps an all or nothing government majority is not always best. A month ago we were looking at a Conservative landslide. The gloves would've been off pretty fast as Hudak came after the unions. Our collective rights are guaranteed by law. Still we might've had to fight him all the way up to the supreme court before we could overturn his plans for us. What did he/ does he have in mind? Remember, according to former Conservative Education Minister John Snobelen the only mistake the Harris Conservatives made was not going after the teacher's fast and hard enough. It's a message most likely not lost on Tim Hudak, who you recall sat on Harris' cabinet with Snobelen during the so called "Common Sense Revolution" So we have got a reprieve for now anyway, from four or more years of pure grief.

Now what if Mr. Hudak can quit the personal attacks on Mr. McGuinty and maybe even talk with us? It might be hoping for too much but we will see. He gained seats for the party, he will be around for awhile, but he was heading for a majority and decidedly lost. We will need to watch him carefully.

Andrea Horwath perhaps did best. She could now well yield a balance of power in shifting the Liberals to centre left on more issues. She can gain experience, work on her profile, and fine tune her party and skills in the new minority government at Queens Park. On social issues one wouldn't be too surprised if she and the Liberals can find a lot of common ground. Economically speaking though, can she and the NDP come up with more than the old socialist bromides and people's party promises to appeal to the middle mainstream vote, and provide a viable Liberal alternative which could actually govern? Will labour give her enough room or will they go for her throat at some point like here in Toronto with Mayor Miller during the garbage strike? Hello Rob Ford! I suspect Andrea will be the most interesting party leader to watch.

And what of Mr.Guinty? True he has pulled off a hat trick with three Liberal wins in a row. Still, he lost seats and faces the need for party renewal without a plethora of new talent to draw upon. Perhaps it would've been better if he had put off any decisions on the HST until after the election and/ or stepped down two years into the last term. Taken a hit for the party. How would the Liberal's have done with a fresh leadership face and some plausible deniability for whatever ails us in the province of Ontario? And what happens to his mid term retirement plans now? If you ask me, wife Terry McGuinty didn't look terribly pleased on stage with him during his victory speech last night.

Questions! Questions! Questions! The final numbers don't even add up quite yet. Well, this post is obviously a work in progress, as is our new Ontario provincial government. I will have to get back to you later dear readers. In the meantime I hear school bells ringing...........................

Wednesday 5 October 2011

OECTA, Diversity + The 3 Party Platforms

OECTA members should have received the two latest "Speak For Children" bulletins outlining and comparing the party platforms for the Liberals, Conservatives and the NDP. It's useful to review these and consider which party would be best for our education system and the province as we get ready to vote Thursday, October 6th.

It seems the NDP's popular "just plain folk" policy thrust aptly covers working family issues. In education it's pretty thread bare. An education platform wasn't added until later on in the campaign. It lists a few motherhood issues like fundraising and so on. Much of it concerns colleges and university tuition. There's a lot of emphasis on equality and access issues throughout.

Having put the spectre of the Bob Rae years behind her, Andrea Horwath is now coming out on her own as a force to be reckoned with. She has done well during this campaign in identifying and establishing herself in the public eye.  Andrea has the confidence of OECTA, and an increasing numbers of Ontarians. The NDP must now figure how the party can move into the middle mainstream of Ontario politics in a convincible way without alienating their old left wing support. If the NDP ends up holding the balance of power on election day they will certainly find many opportunities to do so. On the other hand if there is too much Liberal and NDP vote splitting, and the Conservatives come down the middle to form a majority government, they might just as quickly find themselves rendered redundant.

The Liberal education platform seems quite detailed, without any big ticket expense items. It follows Dalton's steady course as "Premier Dad" in strongly supporting publicly funded education as the keystone of the party's platform; for economic growth and renewal we need a well trained and educated workforce. As usual the party has squarely placed itself in the middle of the Ontario political spectrum. The Liberals straddle economic issues with a cautious right of centre approach, and social issues with a more  left of centre approach. McGuinty's firm managerial hand writing is all over the party platform, and is being further reinforced constantly in his final speeches and t.v. ads as we race towards election day on Oct 6

The Conservatives continue to throw out wedge issues as a negative divide and conquer strategy squarely from the political right. Despite claims of being in support of education and health care their platform creates an economic tax "black hole" that the province won't be able to crawl out from without inevitable service cuts and expensive user fees. Lacking a clearly defined or upfront Ontario political vision, Tim Hudak's Conservatives continue to hammer away at the same old scapegoats; union bashing, foreigners, and chasing welfare cheats. Don't forget his promise to create prison chain gangs to clean up our streets. Their latest is the homophobic fear mongering about equity and inclusivity issues in our schools. It's all supposedly a ridiculous Liberal plot to force children to cross dress and gender bend nursery rhymes into tales of homosexual lust and sin. The Conservatives must think our teachers are pretty stupid if they really believe that's what is going to happen.

Hudak knows many Catholics in our province are quite concerned about gay lifestyles being openly displayed in a Catholic school setting. Or with Gay Straight Alliance Clubs being set up too. However, the Conservative position is clearly fear mongering at its worst. Recent flyers and outrageous claims ridiculously take equity and inclusivity points out of context. They are exaggerated wildly to feed the flames of anger on both sides of the issue in our own church community, while antagonizing many secular groups on the outside as well. When opposition to equity and inclusivity issues is dressed up as hate literature, the flip side is that public funding of our Catholic schools on human right grounds is called into question.The Conservatives are clearing playing with fire and brimstone in this final ugly twist to their campaign. Whatever political advantage Hudak might gain could well leave lingering flames that will continue to burn long after the election is over.

Equity and inclusion, as it pertains to gays and lesbian issues has been a particularly divisive denominational verses human rights issue within and outside the Catholic school community. It's even been argued that it could be indicative of an even more deep rooted schism within the very Catholic church itself. For Mr. Hudak to play this card in a last minute dash for votes is highly reprehensible.

The TCDSB's new Director of Education, Bruce Rodrigues, has acknowledged in his welcoming address to our school community the recent amendments emphasizing our school board's predominant denominational rights. Short of naming Gay Straight Alliance Clubs and implementing them in our schools, a school board policy is now in place to deal with the furor from last spring.

That Mr. Hudak should revive the spectre now only further emphasizes in this writer's mind, how desperate he must be. It seems he will say and do whatever it takes to win, without concern for the effect that could have on the well being of the province as a whole. Please remember also, that in opposition and on the campaign trail he can say or promise voters anything that strikes his fancy. It's disheartening to see him be so careless and callous. Is that the sort of leadership that we want?

I realize many of my readers who still oppose the boards new equity and inclusivity policy are sincerely concerned about protecting family values. My father, John Chiarelli, was also an educator. He was a strong advocate for pro-life in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. He attended the rallies and protests well into his seventies until he died of a sudden heart attack a few years ago. I often feel it is only right that I carry on the good fight, and indeed, a pro life position was one of the TSU election platforms I ran on last spring. I wish to see this very important family value be more widely acknowledged by both board and union, especially during Respect for Life week. Like many I am concerned that it often seems to have fallen by the wayside over the past decade or so.

I myself see pro-life in it's widest sense as a positive movement to help protect families and young parents, so they can raise their children well with strong values, which include respect for life and each other. Without proper social services and a public support net one fears they will increasingly decide to go the abortion route rather than try to raise their child. Tim Hudak's Conservatives argue that tax cuts will put more money back in the family pocket, but at what cost?

Mr. Hudak has been quite disingenuous in attacking Premier McGuinty as the "tax man" while promising his party won't raise taxes. He has not promised to roll them back either, and outside of shuffling spare change around a bit, he plans to keep all the current tax programs, including the HST in place if elected. At the same time he promises to increase spending on healthcare and education. Simple math tells us that there will need to be deep service cuts and high user fees that will hurt these very same struggling working parents and families the worst.

That isn't a very positive election promise for creating the kind of Ontario I want to live in. We need to look after each other, and the less fortunate. My Ontario does not include everybody just looking out for themselves. It is here that the unborn child is most likely to fall through the cracks of our family values in the face of desperation and pure naked self interest.

We live in an increasingly secular world, of that there is no doubt. Mr. Hudak's negative campaigning continues to pit rich against poor, civil rights against denominational rights, and look for scapegoats; be they unions, welfare recipients, or foreigners. Whomever strikes his political ire is to blame for our current economic woes. He's desperate to create and inflame wedge issues that will only serve to divide us in Ontario.

Before we vote on October 6 each of us must ask ourselves two questions. Look over the OECTA "Speaks for Children" literature. You have the party platforms, broken down in much greater detail than I could hope to duplicate here. You have a list of recommended education friendly candidates to consider. We all need to think carefully about everything that has been said and done during this fall's election campaign by the three main party's and ask ourselves: Who speaks for our children best? And what kind of province do we really want?

As Catholic teachers we know that education is the bedrock on which any strong community will thrive and grow with opportunities for all. We may not like every rocky road that takes us down, but as educators we can and do make a difference. Let's vote to continue to make Ontario a great place to live despite all the problems we collectively face. Educate yourself. Make an educated vote. Please speak out for our children by electing an education friendly government on October 6th.

Sunday 2 October 2011

A Dead Heat: Who Will Win + How?

[Post-script: Of course McGuinty will say no coalition, to hint otherwise would say he lacks confidence that he can win. Also, if swing voters feel safe they might stay with the NDP on election day rather than seek safety under the Liberal Tent. The NDP is guarded about the possibility of a coalition too. Under either a Liberal or a Conservative government they hold the balance of power, coalition or not, so there's no need to show their cards just yet.]

Election day is Thursday Oct. 6 of this week. Both the Liberal and Conservatives seem tied in a dead heat, if we are to believe the polls. Neither the Federal or the Toronto Municipal election polling numbers have turned out to be very accurate over the last year or so. In short, election day may just come down to a crap shoot, a roll of the dice as to who will win, and what happens afterward. It's still any one's guess. Let's examine this further.

Vote percentages don't necessarily match the actual seat numbers that will result for each party at Queens Park. For some interesting projections on this see Their seat projections are based upon polls from over a week ago, and therefore don't take into account the televised leaders debate. Then again the recent polls don't seem to shown any decisive win though Andrea Horwath's personal popularity may continue to grow. McGuinty and Hudak remain in a dead heat with perhaps a small bump in the viewer polls resulting from McGuinty's better performance in the debate. Otherwise the polling numbers don't seem to have changed much. The election race remains a dead heat with the Liberals and Conservatives both polling around the 35% mark. According to Election Almanac's projections we are looking at at a very slim Liberal majority! How can this be? Don't forget Ontario's population isn't spread evenly across the province, so the polling numbers won't evenly express true voter intent in every riding.

Another issue with the polling numbers is the actual demographics of the support for each of the three main parties. The NDP under Andrea Howarth has broken through the party's 20% glass roof and by some estimates is continuing to grow. In the personal sense she has done best this election in projecting an alternative to the "men in suits" running for the other parties. She comes across as warm and personable and has kept the Jack Layton glow shining. Party and platform wise, the NDP hasn't done as well though in inspiring mainstream confidence that they are ready to govern. Most importantly of all the NDP'ers voter base is largely young adults who are often not prone to actually show up to vote.

The Conservatives at 35% are pretty much at or just a little above the number of party faithful. If they don't like the leader or policies they won't switch votes, they just won't vote at all. The Toronto Sun, the most venomous of their supporters, while still declaring Hudak the winner of the debate didn't try to portray his win as a slam dunk. Quite rare. Apparantly Hudak wasn't Conservative enough in stating what cuts would be made. Had he done some more union bashing this might have been more reassuring to them. He's not quite enough like Mike Harris. He didn't list a lot of far right promises openly and clearly enough for the liking of a large enough percentage of his core group I suspect. Then again, smelling possible victory Conservative voters might just figure damn the torpedoes and come out to vote for him anyways, something they were not prepared to do under Ernie Eves and even less so with John Tory as party leader.

Where does this leave the Liberals? Their core support is amongst the aging baby-boomers, a substantial slice of the demograph, and perhaps even more importantly the group that is most likely to come out to vote. Quite frankly anyone with half a brain knows Ontario is doing relatively well right now in the current economic crisis. It is the international situation which is most likely to determine how jobs, finances and the economy goes in Ontario. Any other bromide is snake oil at best. Dalton McGuinty has stressed his good managerial skills, and can come across as believable on this count if still not being all that warm and reassuring. But in uncertain times, the simple cures promised by the Conservatives or even the NDP might seem pretty easy to swallow by the populace at large. Do they believe that a quick fix with lower taxes will work or do they prefer someone who will be steady and able to manage? If one believes it is all Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals fault that we are in uncertain economic times that voter might still gamble on swallowing the Tory snake oil come voting day. The Conservatives and Liberal messaging has pretty much come down to these two themes. Dalton the lying tax man or Dalton as the good, steady manager.

Another cause of great concern for the Liberals is a split in votes between them and the increasingly popular NDP. The Conservative have and still could quite likely win some more ridings first pass the post even though the total popular vote for their party is less than the combined vote of the other two. Often, we have seen a last minute switch of voters crossing back to the Liberals fearing a Conservative win. But Andrea Horwath has done well. Sensing a balance of power might now exist in a new post Bob Rae NDP her support could be tempted to stay with the leftist party rather than jumping ship to the Liberals come election day.

Much of the party canvasing this year focused on primarily finding out the residents political preference, rather than in trying to win over new support. These lists will prove invaluable come election day in getting out the vote. Each party will need a huge army of folk walking door to door, making phone calls and driving people to the voting stations. I still maintain that whoever gets the most of their support out wins be they Liberal or Conservative. Either way if it could be a minority government for either side with the NDP able to start calling a lot of the shots, or even forming a coalition, though that would be an issue I'd rather address later in another blog. Of course a lot can still happen between now and election day.

OECTA continues to encourage it's strategic voting option. Support your Liberal or NDP incumbent, they are both education friendly. As a teacher you won't want to see the Tory's coming down the middle in a split vote, they are not. If you have to hold your nose then so be it. If you have to help your own party do so in another riding where they are the incumbent. You really won't like a Conservative triad at the Federal, Municipal and Provincial level hatcheting away at our social services safety net for the next four years with their ill conceived economic remedy of cut, cut, cut!

So then, let me give you my top guesses how the election will turn out, in descending order:

1] A slim Liberal majority
2] A Conservative minority
3] A Liberal/ NDP Coalition
4] The polling is way off again and we get a Conservative majority

PS: For another real interesting and often quite accurate election result website go to

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!