Originally titled: "Spitting Out The Meds"
Following the financial crisis of 2007-2011 many countries introduced austerity measures. The explanation given was that this was done in order to mitigate damage to our economy and our investments. In 2010 Ontario had a corporate tax rate of 14%. Corporations complained, but were forced kicking and screaming to pay in 2011. This, not surprisingly, revitalized the corporate lobby in Queens Park, and it was extremely successful. Policy makers lowered the corporate tax rate to the current level of 11.5%, and corporations were happy, almost.
In late 2012 corporate Ontario was still reeling. Billions in unpaid corporate taxes were sitting on the province’s books, and the policy-makers had an election coming up. What to do? A decision to transfer about 75% of our provincial tax workers to federal positions solved the problem. Because nobody was at work to collect the funds, $1.4 billion in corporate taxes were written off. Unfortunately austerity needed its due, someone had to take the medicine, so immediately after this massive capital loss for our province, Bill 115 was enacted. Bill 115 brought $1.2 billion of that $1.4 billion back into the province’s coffers by stripping teacher contracts.
Teachers were incensed, but their lobby was nothing compared to the corporations, and the corporate lobby was pleased.
Fast-forward to November 2014, where as part of a scandal-fueled budget (Orng, TeleHealth, Hydro Plant) Kathleen Wynne promises to tackle the deficit. In this budget she reminds us again that austerity is in place (net zero bargaining), and someone has to take their medicine. Ontario public schools are set on the chopping block to lose $2 billion. Wynne assures us it will not affect classrooms.
Around this time in November, in closed negotiations, the province shared where those $2 billion in cuts were to come from. Members of ETFO’s bargaining team were (most likely) horrified as they looked at the billions that OPSBA and the Crown wanted to gain from removing class size caps, cutting special ed and directing teachers to cover for absences on their prep (instead of paying occasional teachers). ETFO stood up and left the table, and promptly went back to work getting the public to fight these cuts. Luckily their public relations campaign for this was already underway. This fight against cuts to kids’ classroom conditions is where we all (teachers, parents and citizens) stand now.
In this warped institutional version of Munchausen by proxy, teachers (and now their students) have been forced to take this austerity medicine. As we take it, our public schools get sicker and sicker. One might say it is manufacturing a crisis in Public Education.
We need to spit out the medicine. All of us. Now.
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