Opening Statement

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Bill13: Accepting Schools

The same sex inclusivity motions approved at  Windsor AGM 2012 were in response to Ontario Bill 13: The Accepting Schools Act. However, not everyone agrees with the motions, nor for that matter Bill 13, although they did pass by a large margin. Member Steve O. has forwarded us a Youtube Link to a Family Coalition Party video that can help explain the concern with the bill's focus. 

I explained the pro and con arguments given during the Windsor AGM motion's debate in my March 13th: Rights and Sexual Identity Blog. This video perhaps better helps explain and develop our understanding of the lingering controversy surrounding Bill 13, from the Catholicity perspective of those have contacted me to voice their concerns. Indeed, Steve writes:

This is a link to a video that shows the fallacies and unethical policies of Bill-13. You may want to post it on your blog and send it to everyone.

Here is the link:

Bill 13 Accepting Schools Act Public Report:

As you will note the video emphasizes concern regarding:

-Religious Rights
-Religious Instruction
-Special Interest Groups and Issues.

It is critical of both the Ontario Liberal position and the provincial Conservative Party's approach to passage of the Bill.

Thanks for sharing this with us Steve!

For more information on Bill 13, please also check our OECTA Provincial website:

for the upcoming May 4 and 5th Equity Conference in Toronto. Lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo will be present to discuss the legal aspects of Bill 13 and it's implementation in our Catholic schools. Whatever your position, here's the video and please apply for the conference to learn more about the complex issues and controversy surrounding Bill 13. We need to face this together knowledgeably as Catholic teachers!


Bullying is a big problem at school. At least 1/3 of us can remember being bullied. This problem needs to stop!

More Bill 13 news and views on my Youtube Videobar below this blog column.

Friday 23 March 2012

A Windsor AGM Summary

I can't believe that the March 10-12th Windsor AGM has all ready come and gone. I posted a few blogs from there last week. I will summarize these and tell you were you can find them, in case you haven't read them all ready.  Then I will report on a few other interesting motions that were also passed. You can check the OECTA Provincial and OECTA-TSU websites for the complete official story, when it's posted. I've provided the links at the end of this posting. In the meantime, here is what I saw and heard. I hope this helps!

Your membership fees were rolled back to $950. As promised last year the one time $60 provincial election campaign fee was removed. The fee rate was reverted back to the previous 2010-11 rate. There will not be an additional increase. I'm glad to report that as the saying goes, a promise is a promise is a promise. See my March 12 "Flurry of Motions" blog for more information.

Inclusivity Issues: Major motions were passed on the controversial issue of sexual orientation in our Catholic schools. The motions included union support of anti-bullying clubs, GSA's or otherwise, and  support for the equal employment rights of all our teachers regardless of their sexual orientation during contract negotiations with the school boards. See my March 13 "Rights and Sexual Identity" blog for more information.

A "Peace through Education" motion was passed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, via "amendment by substitution". It replaced the original motion which would have committed OECTA to join in  a labour strategy of sanctions, boycotts and disinvestment. See my March 18 "Whither Palestine" blog for more information.

The Minister of Education met with the AGM assembly just as the great confusion and dismay about the government's PDT talks hit the news. OECTA hasn't walked out of the talks yet, unlike ETFO, and didn't disinvite the Minister from attending our AGM, like OSSTF decided to do. The Minister was met with a cold but polite silence. A Q+A social followed afterwards outside the assembly. Our teachers expressed their views directly to the Education Minister in a very frank discussion. For my photos and report see my March 11 "Education Minster Reception" blog.

Now, in other AGM news;

Councillors Andrew Donihee and Jeremy Cox were elected to the two open positions on OECTA Provincial Executive. All other positions were acclaimed except for the President who's term runs 2 years.

A motion was passed that our teachers should not be performing CYW, Custodial or secretarial duties, such that Policies Miscellaneous is amended with a new section that reads;
"That the association require members not to assume the duties of a member in another Union or Association with the same employer."
A motion was passed to help our OT's [Occasional Teachers] establish a fair and equitable hiring process with the school boards. Policies, Collective Bargaining, Work Conditions was amended with the addition of a new section that reads;
"Years of experience and number of long term occasional assignments [are] mandatory criteria to be incorporated into boards' hiring practices for contract positions."
Please note that our association cannot tell the school boards or Ministry what to do. Often motions such as one above will need to be negotiated during our contract talks. However our Association is now directed by our membership to advocate for these priority issues, in addition to the all ready existing ones, hopefully giving them more weight and emphasis. You might argue the technical details here but that is basically it in a nutshell.

A motion was passed to help better regulate our itinerant teachers' workload, by amending the Policies, Working Conditions section of our handbook to include,

"limitations on the number of classes itinerant teachers teach during the instructional day.
 A motion was passed to assert our members, rather than school administation own and determine the direction of the Annual Learning Plan based upon their own interests and needs as teachers. The motion is in line with the Ministry of Education. The Policies, Statement of Direction section of our own handed book has now been amended to read;

"The association must promote to it's members that Professional Development be self directed and be used to promote the member's own personal professional growth."
 An Action Directive was passed for our associaton to lobby the government on a safety study of WiFi use in our schools. It reads;

"That the association, through the Canadian Teachers' Federation lobby the Federal Government to review Safety Code 6 with respect to lowering the current Threshold Limit Values [TLV] regarding  electromagnetic radiation, especially in the microwave WiFi frequency band."

 An Action Directive was made to request a third party investigator be used by a school board so a member who is subject to administrative harassment, along with the witnesses can have their case heard without fear of reprisal from the school board. Of course one could also file a Harassment charge now under Bill 168: The Health and Safety Act with the Labour Board. Still, the Action Directive reads;

"That the Association Lobby the Ministry of Education to require school boards to access independent investigators in alleged cases of administrator member harassment."

A motion was passed to require principals, to consult with a teacher who is assaulted by a student whom they are not teaching, for example during supervision, in the hallways or cafeteria. They should work together to develop a strategy to ensure the teacher and student won't be in close proximity during the school day. Of course, when you press assault charges with the police you can also request a restraining order which would defacto prevent the student from entering the school until the courts deal with the matter. Still, the Assault Against Section of Policies, Counselling and Member Services is amended with a new section that reads

"In the event that the assaulted member is not a teacher of the student, the principal shall, in consultation with the member, develop a strategy to ensure that the student and member are not in close proximity during the school day."
 Please note that it is you, our teachers, who write these motions. You also vote to forward them to OECTA Provincial AGM at our unit Resolutions Meeting each year. They you volunteer to give up some of your March Break to go to AGM to have them approved. If you either like or disapprove of the outcomes, well, it's really up to you to come out and get involved. Ask your staff rep, or phone our main office to find out how. Please note that our 2013 OECTA AGM may be another year away, but our local TSU AGM is coming up this May 16th.

There are many more important motions that were passed at Windsor AGM than I have time to summarize here. So please check or for more complete, concise and of course official information. You will find my Blog Directory below this centre blog column if you wish to examine further my own AGM reports.

                     Busy AGM delegates at work trying to fight the good fight in Windsor.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

TSU Spring Election Fever!

Yes, with Spring comes the OECTA TSU May 23 Executive elections. I usually decide what position I am going to run for first. Then I consider who I can work best with to serve our membership. We should have the same goals, but it doesn't matter if everyone thinks exactly the same. From diversity can come good direction and strength, as long as everyone has the memberships' best interests at heart. This year I will probably run for 2nd or 3rd VP. I think so. I will see.

President? 1st VP? Everyone on executive gets an equal vote. I like to teach and serve you on the union, which makes 3rd great right now. 2nd VP is a release time position. Then one is committing themselves to a very steep learning curve requiring you be in the office or on the road almost 24/7. I kid you not. For now I am interested in keeping my union involvement as grassroots as possible as I consider my options.

Maybe there will be other candidates I feel I can work with as a team, or maybe not. I can run as an independent. My Blogspot Manifesto spelled this out pretty clearly I think. I last reposted it on November 15th, and it's still there in my Blog Archives. To that end, I 've posted almost 100 blogs by now and have had over 12,500 reader visits, with well over 1000 this month alone. In January I had 2300 reader visits, much more than during the TSU election last May. Up and down it goes but over the past ten months it's definitely been  upwards.

I'm glad. I like to be able to speak directly to you, the members who elect me, to explain the important issues and what I think and do. I hope you will continue reading my site. You can think about what I say and then decide whether you will vote for me come election time. My work as your TSU 3rd VP is all laid out here for your consideration. I don't think I can be more transparent or accountable than that!

Come election time, I will explain my platform in detail for you to read at your leisure. I always plan for my blogspot to be a positive read. I will explain the good work I aim to do, and be able to point out the good qualities of other executive candidates whom I support, and who support me. It's a new 21st century approach to a TSU election campaign. I hope to help inform you so you can vote wisely for the candidates and issues, regardless of whether in the end you decide to re-elect me or not. To paraphrase the great diarist Samuel Pepys, in our new electronic age, the information is the thing!

We've had a pretty good year on executive since Christmas. I am pleased how it has worked out despite the rough start. There's some strong executive members on board. New members with good ideas and fresh perspectives are always important too, especially as councillors, while they find their political feet. Beginning Teachers can be especially good that way! The future of our union is yours.

Regardless of whether you are new or old to our TSU election process, if you are interested in running, maybe it's a good time to start thinking about it now. Please don't hesitate to contact me if you'd like to talk, whether we end up running together or not. We need a strong pro-active TSU Executive. Our members deserve nothing less!

Anyway, it's still early my dear readers. I hope that you continue to read my posts and perhaps even explore my Blog Archives, to consider my vote, once my candidacy is officially announced in April. Until then, it's back to business.....

Expect a Windsor AGM summary blog coming very soon!

PS: My Blog Archives can be found at the bottom of this Blogspot column.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Windsor AGM: Whither Palestine?

OECTA AGM 2012 saw a motion passed to try to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. Our association will attempt to support"peace through education" together with many other teacher associations from around the world. It reads;

"That the association support the 2011 [EI] Educational International statement on Israel Palestine."

The statement referred to is an agreement between both the Israeli and General Union of Palestinian Teachers union movements. At the 2010 6th Annual EI Congress an agreement was reached committing both Isreal and Palestine to good faith negotiations. The aim would be to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza, create a viable Palestinian state and achieve a peace agreement, to provide security for both Israel and Palestine. Israel would be encouraged to end to the occupation of Gaza and the Palestinians to stop their rocket attacks on Israel towns.

The pro argument for the "peace through education" plan would be that OECTA would be working with other teacher unions to use our educational expertise in trying to create the pre-requisites for  constructive negotiations between  Israel and Palestine. We do so as teachers working with other teachers within our area of expertise. We would not try ourselves to sort out the mess in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by taking sides in a the struggle few can figure out or even agree upon whom the good guys and the bad guys really are.

The con arguments were that unlike the original Windsor AGM  motion, this doesn't provide any concrete means to achieve it's goals. It required boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The strategy was successfully used before to put  pressure on the South African government to end apartheid. The "amendment by substituion' for "peace through education"replaced the following original AGM motion which read;

"That the association endorse and support the boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law, applicable and specific United Nations resolutions and universal principals of human rights as called for by Palestinian civil society groups."

Supporters of the original motion would argue that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is disproportionate, a David and Goliath struggle between little Palestine which can just basically lob home made rockets at a Israeli military giant which is not seriously interested in negotiations with the Palestinians when they clearly have the upperhand. Will they even bother without some strong and tangible pressure being brought to bear? The original motion could provide a very direct political strategy to bring pressure on Israel to end it's occupation of the contested Palestinian-Israeli lands. As with boycotts, sanctions and disinvestment against apartheid in South Africa, we would be working in solidarity with other labour groups to help concretely implement the plan.

The con side to the motion would be that many of the AGM delegates would be hesitant to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Granted over "170 civil society organizations" including the "Palestinian trade union movement" are so far involved in the campaign against Israel. Still, who are these groups, and how credible are they? Also unlike the apartheid struggle in South Africa there isn't a clear, unambiguous, and positive figure like Nelson Mandela or Biko who can rally our confidence and support to the Palestinian cause. OECTA does not have many investments, and makes little if any direct contributions to Israel, or for that matter Palestine, so what do we significantly withhold,
should this original motion have passed?

My point of view? In either case we risk buying into a lot of glittering generalities and ambiguities albeit with perhaps the best of intentions. For example, in the case of the labour motion, who are these "170 civil society organizations including the Palestinian trade union movement"? In the case of the approved EI motion who are the "Israeli and General Palestinian teachers union." To elaborate further:

Peace through Education? In actuality the parties in question are but two of a number of teacher unions in both Israel and Palestine. The peace plan they are committed to working towards would not very likely not  have the support of the ruling Likud or Hammas parties in each respective country. Moreover, how does OECTA support the plan for "peace through education" in action rather than just with nice words and a well intended gesture in passing the motion?

Labour Sanctions, boycotts and disinvestment? Despite the stronger language here, our actual armoury of these is essentially empty of ammunition to assist in the fight. Of course a majority of the OECTA delegates would need to agree and be willing to take sides against Israel. It was not by any means certain that the motion would pass. Probably it would not.

It is noteworthy that after the "amendment for substitution" was passed, another motion for "Peace through Education" to be tabled for further study failed. I would assume that suggests the Windsor AGM delegates felt something needed to be done, and soon. Why might you ask, would our Ontario, Catholic teachers want to get involved with an international situation far from home anyway?

I don't recall ever blogging about the politics of the middle east before. It's such a bloody mess. I mean that quite literally. Both the Israelis and Palestinians are in a fight to the death for a secure homeland. The death tolls just keeping rising. Israel has nuclear weapons. Iran, which is against Israel will likely soon have a bomb as well. It's quite a powder keg over there, that could go off at any minute if tensions continue to rise, which for the last 50 years or so has pretty much been a given.

As Catholic teachers we have a moral duty to stand up and fight for social justice at home, and in the world around us, as difficult and uncomfortable as that might often be. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for many members, is a case in point. Various OECTA Israeli-Palestinian resolutions have been proposed over the years, especially here in Toronto at TSU. The first "Labour" motion on the floor was finally forwarded by our members after many arduous years of fierce debate. Perhaps you've seen our unapproved Israeli-Palestinian motions before as minority reports at the back of previous AGM Resolution handbooks? It wasn't until this year that it was finally approved at our unit Resolution meeting, and appeared as an AGM disposition towards the front under Policies Miscellaneous.

I myself have often spoke out and voted for the original motion over the years. Along with everyone else who has taken the pro side we have even had our names reported to the Canadian Jewish Congress as being anti-semetic just for doing so. Absurd!

Fortunately OECTA AGM is a great place to thoughtfully hear well considered and differing points of view. I admit, many of the arguments against our motion gave me good cause to pause and reconsider. I still believed though that in terms of scale something had to be done to try to address the great imbalance between Israel and Palestine. In terms of wealth and military might, there is no contest here, and as such there's little likelihood of meaningful negotiations. In the end, it all became a question of "whither Palestine?"

Do we stand by and ignore it's doomed plight? I voted against the amendment for substitution of the Peace through Education motion.  I winced as it lost. I also voted against having the Peace through Education motion tabled for further study. Effectively it would've stopped any decision from being made for another year at least. The issue had all ready taken years to reach assembly so why give up on the new motion now, when we might not even possibly get a shot at having a Israel-Palestinian motion reach the floor again?

A copy of the EI statement was photocopied and distributed to all the assembly members to read over. I am still uncomfortable with the process. I'm not convinced the two motions were similar enough in the actions or lack thereof to qualify for a substitution. I do not think we had enough time to read and consider the new documents at any great depth. Still, given the temperament of the assembly I believe a compromise solution was better than none at all.

OECTA has now taken the lead in having a motion on Palestine being put into our handbook. Not many other teacher unions can claim the same. That isn't a small feat and it's finally a done deal.

Still, it's pretty vague and inconclusive how OECTA will successfully educate for peace in the Middle East. The real, unaddressed question that remains is what can OECTA specifically do to actually support the plan? Is the EI motion too full of glittering generalites to effectively succeed?
Obviously there aren't any easy, nor immediate answers. We have committed ourselves to a rather vague and toothless plan, for better or worse. Good luck! Unfortunately, though we attempted to fulfil our social justice quest as Catholic educators, we may have also erred in now not having a concrete plan that can succeed. Is that better than no plan at all? Our journey has begun with but one small step.

PS:More info on the EI 6th World Congress statement can be found at:

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Windsor AGM: Rights and Sexual Identity

OECTA AGM 2012 passed a number of controversial motions in the ongoing debate between Denominational verses Human Rights, concerning sexual identity, GSA's [Gay Straight Alliances] and employment practices within our Catholic schools. All motions were passed by a huge majority of the voting delegates from the various local teacher units across the province. These approved motions represent a major reversal from attempts to pass such motions in years past. They are listed below;

That the Policies, Bargaining Goals,and Rights section of our by-laws be amended with the addition of a new section to include:

The protection from dismissal, promotion denials and harassment in exercising their leadership roles, of all teachers with regard to sexual orientation and sexual identity.
The pro side argued that when our Collective Agreements with the school boards are being negotiated, same sex teachers should have the same job security, personal protections, benefits and treatment as the rest of our teachers do. It was also argued that this would protect the Catholic school system from criticism over our human rights policies, which could be used against us for the withdrawal of public funding for our schools. The con side argued that this motion should not be discussed or approved because it violates church teachings. Arguments also focused on grammar and punctuation, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to have the motion tabled until next year so these could be corrected.

That  OECTA's Human Rights Policies be amended to read:

That the Association endorse and encourage the formation of support groups in keeping with the philosophy and objectives of Gay-Straight Alliances.

For the Con side a letter was provided from Cardinal Tom Collins stating that the Ontario bishops do not support the formation of Gay-Straight Alliance school clubs, as recently mandated by the Ministry of Education. The pro side argued a need for anti bullying protection of LGBTQ students [lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, two spirited queer and questioning individuals]. Reference was also made to a letter from the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario in January 2010. It was argued the motion's language was in keeping with that of the letter.

That the Policies and Human Rights section be amended by the addition of a new section:

That the association support an inclusive learning and working environment for lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, two-spirited, queer and questioning individuals.

The pro side argued a need to clarify our association's human rights position to maintain the support of our political allies for public funding of the Catholic Schools. An argument was made that the Gospel calls everyone to respect and maintain the dignity of all persons. The con side maintained that in the case of sexual orientation it violated Biblical and Church teachings that say these sexual activities are a sin.

In conclusion, I have tried as accurately as possible to briefly  summarize the basic pro and con arguments made for these motions in an attempt to help you understand how the decisions were made. OECTA Provincial will provide the official perspective. Most likely many other Catholic and non Catholic groups will also be weighing in with often quite contrasting views and interpretations of the AGM process and the approved motions. I hope my explanation will just help provide a quick and timely overview of what basically happened.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the approval of these motions, please note that OECTA AGM is a very democratic assembly in which a very wide cross section of our teachers' views can be presented and debated upon for deciding the future direction of our association. As per our Constitution it is the chief decision making body of our teacher organization.

I know from my own executive experience in the delegate selection process that it is carried out fairly. Delegates are not chosen based upon their views of any particular AGM resolution. Likewise the resolutions can be written by any member. They are then voted upon by any and all of our TSU teachers at a general membership meeting before they are forwarded to the AGM. At this year's TSU Resolutions Meeting the above motions were passed with a relatively slim majority. Members with opposite views both pro and con were all invited to apply for OECTA AGM 2012. Here the final decisions would be made together with the rest of our teacher units from across the province. The numbers suggest that many members province wide who supported these motions applied to attend. The huge majority of support also suggests to me that many who didn't agree did not apply to go. In the final analysis this was a very transparent democratic process conducted by our teachers union.

Without doubt, these issues will be very controversial within the much wider debate between denominational and human rights raging in our Catholic community. I can only hope that my blog provides some food for thought and helps you understand how these decisions were argued, without prejudice, from what I saw and heard. Please visit for more complete and official information from OECTA provincial.

My other blogs from the Windsor AGM  are located below with more to follow. I hope that all our delegates now get a chance to relax and enjoy the March break. I know I will. Volunteering for the AGM involves a very long weekend of presentations and debate before one begins March break! Whew!

Windsor OECTA AGM 2012: A view of the assembly at work.

Monday 12 March 2012

AGM Ends With Flurry of Motions Passed!

Monday, the final day of OECTA AGM 2012, saw many important and sometimes controversial motions being passed before orders of the day were called at 12 noon. These include motions related to inclusivity and Palestine. An earlier motion rolled back the $60 one time political action levy from last year. Without any further increases being approved, our membership fee will revert to $950 for this year.

I'm at the Windsor airport waiting for our flight back to Toronto. Janet and I are tired, but it was an exciting whirlwind trip to the convention and back. Further details of these motions and more will be posted shortly once I catch my breath. Meanwhile please see my previous AGM blogs below from earlier this weekend, if you haven't all ready....

Sunday 11 March 2012

Windsor AGM: The Education Minister's Reception!

Educational Minister Laurel Broten was greeted by a cold but respectful silence at this morning's OECTA AGM in Windsor. She received a polite reception from Provincial Executive President Kevin O'Dwyer focusing on her law and political career. Emphasis was placed upon her work at the Womans Affairs Directorate rather than at the Education Ministry.

Our delegates from across the province listened silently. There were no hand claps, or ovations, nor were there any hisses, boos or desultory comments. As she left she waved but it was to a crowd of blank faces sitting on their hands. The address went without incident in an incredible display of our typical OECTA restraint.

OECTA excels at quiet diplomacy. We talk. We exhaust all our options. Then when we take action it is very decisive. There isn't any haphazard grandstanding or idle threats. Most of the talking is completed behind the scenes through our lobbying and discussions with the Ministry. OECTA Provincial Government Relations works together with our local PACs [Political Advisory Committees]. We have a very good, credible track record, and are taken for our word at Queens Park.

In the past week or so we have seen ETFO [Elementary Teacher Federation of Ontario] walk out abruptly on the PDT talks. We have seen OSSTF [Ontario Secondary School Teacher Federation]dis-invite Minister Broten to their AGM this weekend. OECTA has stayed the course. The invitation remains; Come on back to the table and let's talk! We are not done yet!

Minister Broten reiterated the salary and grid freeze in her speech. I heard her mention the gratuity question. She noted only a few boards offer it. I did not recall any mention of the reduced sick days, and definitely not the pension cap. Was this significant, or just not her focus today? We will have to see. I would be careful about reading anything into this. It's just too early yet. Let's wait and see what happens back at the PDT table in the next week or so. The clock is certainly quickly ticking away for the Liberals towards Ontario budget day!

It is also perhaps noteworthy that in her comments the Minister empasized that the government has acted upon our teachers request for class size caps and that all day kindergarten not be cut. These are OECTA positions but it might almost seem like they are being used to call into question our "Who Speaks for Children?" campaign, now that the big teacher issues have become salary, sick days, gratuities and pension caps. Hmmm.

After her speech, and a press scrum, the Minister answered member questions at a tea and cookie reception upstairs. Presidents and members from some of the local units engaged her in a series of animate questions. Mention was made of the govennment's incredulous claim that they are now "facilitating" a discussion between the teachers and trustees. The later of couse haven't any authority whatsoever to negotiate with us at the PDT. [See my previous blog.] Broten stuck to this very dubious position which seemed to undermine her credibility. As far as salary freezes she mentioned that the MPP's are looking at a 5 year freeze for themselves, but it did not seem like a very convincing argument to make us feel any better in our current situation. Laurel continued to stress that she wanted to dialogue with OECTA, but for the most part seemed to me to be in a holding pattern, with nothing new to offer.

I watched and listened paying close attention to her language, gestures, expressions and tone. Having worked closely with her for 10 years now I find it very hard to understand the seeming disconnect with the strong personable teacher advocate I know and the Laurel Broten we see in her new Ministry of Education role. She seems very inconsistent and out of character to me. Read into that what you will, I'm still not sure what to make of it yet either.

Many of our members gave heartfelt arguments about the difficult position the proposed cuts would place them in, especially our younger teachers who will be especially hard hit by the double whammy of a salary and a grid freeze. Other teachers worried about the loss of sick days considering all the virus and bugs we are exposed to everyday at school, not to mention, and this is from me, the stress from just teaching these days, at least in many of our more challenging schools.

It is also interesting to note that originally Laurel Broten hadn't originally planned to host a hospitality event here in Windsor. I asked her what happened on our ride down the escalator after her speech. She had been dis invited from the OSSTF AGM, and said she was still keen on dialogue. On her way out I told her I look forward to seeing her at our next riding association meeting.

It was quite an interesting visit, and I think we, for our part, pulled it off with our usual OECTA finesse and sense of proper decorum. True, I saw a few BBB's [brown bag boys] in the audience, minus the brown or for that matter pink bags. Unlike during the Witmar AGM visit in 2003, the same bad history clearly does not exist yet, as it did back then.We look forward to hearing OECTA's official statement and analysis on how we move forward from here within the next week or so, after they have had proper time, and a few more PDT meetings, to put today's visit into better perspective.

Below: OECTA teachers ask tough questions while General Secretary Marshall Jarvis looks on at Minister of Education Laurel Broten's tea and talk event following her speech at AGM 2012.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Total PDT Confusion!!!

On Thursday March 8th Chief Government PDT negotiator James Farley claimed the PDT [Provincial Discussion Table] is not a discussion between the teacher associations and the government anymore. The rules of the game have suddenly changed. Instead PDT is now supposed to be a chance for them to act as a "facilitator" between us and the Trustees Association!

It's odd to say the least. The Trustees Association has no authority whatsoever to negotiate any type of PDT with us at the table. It is aways the government whom we negotiate with at PDT to determine what's available for our local contract talks with our school boards. As OECTA Provincial President Kevin O'Dwyer notes;

The bottom line is that it is the government that created the proposal, controls the funding, and are the owners of the PDR process, therefore they are the party with whom we need to be engaged in a discussion.

OECTA is hopeful that the government's PDT team will return to the table. Our silent lobby with the Liberal MPP's, whom we have helped in the past three provincial elections, might seem to be resonating in the government cabinet and caucus, but who really knows what they are thinking anymore? Our lobbying will continue and OECTA remains at the table waiting to talk.

The government's position and the PDT process is now very confusing at best. All the teacher's associations have outright rejected their opening offer. So what now about the proposal for a zero percent salary increase, a  reduction of sick days, and a cap on government contributions to our pension plan? What are we to make of this now? Who knows where the government PDT is going anymore?!?

Enquiring minds need to know!

My blog will continue with a Windsor Diary of our OECTA AGM over the next 3 days. This is certainly a very exciting start!

Stay tuned for a real roller coaster ride in the days ahead!

A tip of the hat to Bill and Rene for helping me proof read this blog.


Wednesday 7 March 2012

PDT, GSA, Inclusivity + Fee Excitement Ahead!

This weekend is the annual OECTA [Ontatio Catholic Teachers Association] AGM [Annual General Meeting]. Hundreds of teacher delegates will gather from across the province to hear reports, presentations and vote on our teacher association business. This year we are meeting in Windsor Ontario. It promises to be an especially interesting and even exciting 3 day event.

On Sunday afternoon, our Ontario Provincial Education Minister Laurel Broten will speak to the gathering, our first Q+A opportunity as members since the official PDT [Provincial Dialogue Table] announcements of a 2 year salary freeze, sick day reduction and provincial pension plan contribution cap last week. [See my March 1st blog]. OECTA has, of course, refused the province's opening contract offer. Unless there is a breakthrough during the two days of PDT talks this week, one can expect the frosty reception Laurel received at our BTC [Beginning Teachers Conference] will quite likely change to down right cold. [See my February blog]. It's a pity. She has been a big teacher supporter and advocate, who has enjoyed strong OECTA support since the 2003 election.

It will be interesting to see how Minister Broten handles the questions. The Liberal government's recent change in direction, from 9 years of working cooperatively with our teacher associations, is a contract shocker none us had foreseen. Now here we stand poised for perhaps a return to the deepest depth of labour strife and unrest since the Harris era. There hadn't been a single day lost to teacher strikes or work to rule since then, but now? Laurel, please prove to us it isn't so!

Windsor is in Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's riding. Perhaps he should come to speak too, so we can figure out who is really pulling the strings here! A provincial Liberal Leadership race is possibly not too far off. Could both Laurel, and our previous teacher friendly Education Minister Kathleen be having their teacher support rug pulled out from under them by Dwight "the cost cutter" Duncan as the party takes a sharp policy reversal that out Tories Tory leader Tim Hudak's Conservatives? Please see my February Blog Archive and roll this one around in your mind for a bit.....The implications are a very scary thought indeed!

Please note Laurel will not, repeat not, be staying to host the Liberal hospitality suite, as past Education Ministers usually have in year's past. I know for a fact that this is due to a previous scheduling conflict. She's off to speak at the OSSTF AGM in Toronto next. So Sunday morning AGM will be the moment of truth, her first public opportunity to take the floor and address our teacher troops as a partnership era of Liberal Party and OECTA co-operation quite possibly comes to an end. The NDP [New Democratic Party] must be rubbing their hands in glee! Who would've ever thought it would come to this?

The Harris Conservative era was an 8 year period of labour war with our teachers. The NDP government before them saw a previously pro-labour party impose a wage freeze and unpaid Rae Day "holidays" on our public sector unions. We have not had trouble with the Liberals alone. It was a proud, productive and relatively blemish free period of government, until now......

So what else on the agenda could be quite exciting? Well AGM's are hardly ever exciting, except maybe when Conservative Education Minister Liz Witmar showed up in 2003 to tell us if we didn't like the way we were being treated to go get a another job somewhere else. Whew! She did not walk out of there to a shower of praise let me tell you! I hope, hope, hope NOTHING of the sort happens to Laurel. She is indeed a fine, fine Liberal MPP and person as well who strongly supported us back then through until now. Barring that rather unlikely prospect there are still a few other policy potboilers ready to bubble over too. For example:

A Fee Increase? Our emergency reserves currently show a surplus but it would disappear quickly if we face a flood of job actions in the terse times ahead. We have a past AGM promise to roll back last year's election fee increase, but now the question could be, by how much? The fee proposals on the floor are from $950 to $975 per member a year but the issue now seems quite volatile. What happens next if we don't have contracts in place by August 31 this year?

Gay Straight Alliance Clubs [GSA's]? A TSU [Toronto Secondary Unit] policy motion for them to be recognized by OECTA pits denominational against civil rights in a quite possibly very divisive fight that would without doubt draw a lot of public attention to our Catholic school funding and Religious Affair issues. That could become a big problem in the next provincial election should anyone choose to use this as a political grandstand for eliminating public funding for our Catholic school system!

It will be very interesting to see how the issue is received by many of the OECTA units, especially those from outside Toronto. They  could well either make or break the question of GSA approval. Gay inclusivity issues have not been favourably received on the AGM floor in years past. A lot could hinge on the premise given in the motion's rationale that the GSA's enjoy the support of the Ontario Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Collins has recently stated that they don't. This could be a real nail bitter from both points of view as we see how the debate unfolds!

Another Human Rights Committee policy motion calls for OECTA to support  an inclusive learning and working environment for both students and teaching staff regardless of their sexual orientation.
The Ontario Government has insisted that bullying on sexual or any other grounds is unacceptable. That should be reasonably clear and acceptable to all Catholics who abide by the golden rule to love one another. However, if we extend that to openly accepting non heterosexual gender relationships within our Catholic schools, we are again facing a very heated denominational rights conflict for many members of our Catholic community. Many delegates could well find the motion totally unacceptable should it reach the AGM floor for debate. Expect even more fireworks here too, as the two opposite sides of the issue clash!

A complete OECTA AGM 2012 Agenda and Resolution handbook is available at the website should you require further info and details on these and the wide range of other speeches, motions and debates in the action packed weekend ahead. Please also keep checking on my blogspot for more of my own hopefully timely teacher news and views! This year's AGM could prove very interesting and perhaps even explosive in more than one starting this Saturday in Windsor!

Thursday 1 March 2012

OECTA PDT Teacher Contract Shocker!

All OECTA teachers should've received the recent update about the opening discussions at the PDT [Provincial Dialogue Table] by now. The details and analysis, labelled "strictly confidential" has been sent to our members; the many tens of thousands of us that is..... Hmmm. Suffice to publically say, we are looking at a pay and grid freeze through to 2014,  a reduction from 20 to 6 sick days, with a grandfathering of our sick day gratuity, and the loss of any further accumulated days in your sick day bank. The Liberal government also wants to cap their contribution to our pension plan. OECTA has rejected the offer. Discussions are continuing for now in hopes of finding a mutually agreeable and beneficial solution before we walk away from the table, ending our PDT talks with the provincial government. ETFO [the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario] have already decided not to continue with the PDT discussions when they resume next week.

What a shocker! Firstly, our OECTA teachers have been strong supporters of any and all educational friendly Liberal MPP's during the last three provincial elections. Indeed, Education Minister Laurel Broten recently claimed at her New Year's Levee that one third of her election helpers were teachers. She's been a strong educational advocate and teacher's friend for many years. Secondly, the Ministry of Education has for the last 8 years always consulted closely and in advance with our teacher's association, to constructively determine the best ways to implement their education plans. This latest announcement comes as a total change in direction and a complete surprise.

Why would the Liberal's risk widespread Labour discord with us now? Consider this; Ontario's economic crisis is not the result of over paid teachers and public servants. Far from it. During the worldwide economic crisis the provincial government spent a fortune bailing out large companies like General Motors. Now they want to help re-balance the budget on the backs of our teachers and public servants? What are they thinking?

Like you, I am in a complete shock. I have worked on Minister of Education Laurel Broten's election campaigns since 2003. Indeed I have also served as a director on her Etobicoke Lakeshore Liberal Riding Assocation. OECTA has often helped successfully lobby the government through Laurel on many important teacher educational issues, even for example all day Kindergarten. Until now the Ministry has usually kept in close touch with our Government Relations Department. As you might've noticed I have quite often praised Laurel's many virtues, both politically and personally, as recently as a month ago in my blogs. The change seems unfathomable.

What's happening? The Liberals are abandoning political centre ground with a seismic fiscal shift to the right, perhaps in an attempt to out Tory Tim Hudak's Conservatives. The Conservatives weren't on top of their game in the fall provincial election. Conservative support for Tim Hudak's party leadership wasn't all that strong or confident at their recent convention. We have seen a sharp municipal and federal voter shift to the right municipally and federally recently, in Toronto and across the country, but not here in Ontario. Perhaps McGuinty is now taking a gamble on staking out that popular support for himself?

Consider; Andrea Horwath's NDP enjoyed a big rise in the fall provincial election polls. Quite possibly it was in large part the result of a Jack Layton "bump" from the widespread popular sentiment following the NDP federal leader's death, just as the  election began in earnest. The provincial NDP managed to win more ridings from the Liberals, which along with Hudak's unexpectedly weak election performance, now leaves the Liberals in a one seat minority government position.

I speculated on Andrea's future leadership potential in my September and October election blogs. She could eventually become a strong political challenger. She certainly seems to have the personal ability to do so. Still, she's the newbie on the Ontario provincial scene, and her newly invigorated party without Jack to bolster their fortunes, are now up against a make or break Liberal minority government situation until the next election, whenever that might be, within the next 4 years or less.

By shifting to right of centre, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals might be gambling they can swing a significant number of the soft popular right leaning votes to their side. If Tim and Andrea can't find their political feet, and very quickly, where's the competition next time to prevent them from winning back their majority?

Are there problems with this scenario? Sure. True blue Conservatives typically vote Conservative or not at all. All ready  the seemingly invincible popular support for Ford and Harper is wavering as their self defeating crisis' start to pile up one atop another. Is a gamble on courting this soft political right of center really as sound as it might now seem?

Soft NDP support will often shift back and forth to the Liberals. Perhaps it's to join the Liberal bandwagon when they are on a winning streak, or if these voters fear a possible Conservative election victory. However in moving away from left of centre, the Liberals could be leaving a void wide open for the NDP to create a credible alternative to themselves, if they suceed in getting their political act together under Andrea Horwath's leadership.

Also, by picking a fight now the Liberals are losing our teacher support which has often helped push them over the top to victory in the last 3 provincial elections. Is it really a good idea to cut us loose  to be courted by the NDP? If it's an election choice between the Liberals and the Conservatives, they might be betting we will have no place else to go anyway but back to the Liberal fold. What if Andrea does make good on the leadership promise she exhibited last fall? It's possibly a tempting Liberal trade off, but a risky gambit as well.

Our teacher support for the Liberals has been rock solid until now. Are we a wise trade off for a grab at the more fickle popular vote even if it is leaning to the political right these days? How did Mike Harris ultimately fare in picking a fight with us?

Sick days, salary and pensions are under attack everywhere these days. Teachers won't get a lot of public sympathy going on strike or work to rule for these, in the current economic climate. Still, our motto has been "We speak for children".We have spoken well with our popular information campaign. Everyday voters can relate to and support us on that. We contributed strongly to the Liberal election win last fall emphasizing this theme. The campaign will continue from what I understand. It could possibly help us maintain our credibility and popular support, unlike Ontario's self titled "Education Premier" if he still supposedly wants to build a world class education system, while declaring labour war on his teacher support.

We can only hope the Liberal party will engage in more fruitful, creative and constructive talks with our teacher association during the next round of PDT. However lots of face saving would be needed for the Liberals to waver now. After last week it's a very grim looking situation indeed!

Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and Minister of Education Laurel Broten: An OECTA PDT teacher contract shocker! Much possible labour strife ahead after 8 years of stability!

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Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

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Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

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

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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!

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Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

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And a broken nose.

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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!