Opening Statement



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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Toronto police force got a very nice 4 year contract with a hefty pay increase over the term of the contract..
i guess law and order is more valuable than education.

The PDT offer clearly spells strike followed by back to work legislation. I see no room for compromise - The Liberals are gambling away their political future by betraying the teachers.

I worked pretty hard in the last election – as well - to deliver as many liberal votes a possible. Now we get kicked in the mouth.
There will not be a next time.

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