KENORA – Leaders Ledger – Over the past couple weeks there has been a great deal said about the province potentially introducing Back to Work Legislation to force an end to a labour dispute with most of the province’s teachers.
In the past, Back to Work Legislation was a last ditch effort used by governments to bring an end to a prolonged lock-out or strike that was having a major impact on either a vital service, or the economy. Unfortunately, the term “in the past” now seems to refer to the period before the last Federal and Provincial Elections, while the term “prolonged” appears to have been replaced with “any threat of lock-out or strike, whether real or imagined.”
In the case of our province’s teachers, the term “imagined” clearly applies. While the McGuinty Government has spent its summer trying to convince the public that a teachers’ strike is imminent the simple fact is that to this point teachers have never even mentioned the “S” word. In fact, they have been quite clear in saying they have no intention of striking.
The McGuinty government is trying to spin the threat of Back to Work legislation as something that is needed to save Ontarians from the brink of financial disaster. The fact is that teachers have already been discussing “ zero increases in pay – the very thing McGuinty is claiming is financially necessary.
So what is this threatened legislation really about? I believe it is about manufacturing a crisis to boost his leadership points during two by-elections. McGuinty is attempting to “show leadership” by “reigning in” the “out-of-control” teachers and is trying to make himself look like the person who can be trusted with the economy. These are two important issues to voters of the traditionally Progressive Conservative riding of Kitchener-Waterloo. He thinks that by doing this, he is also distracting voters from the Ornge and Mississauga gas plant scandals and his track record on everything else: just an added bonus.
The simple fact is, we have numerous examples of how legislating collective agreements doesn’t work. It costs taxpayers more- way more- when taken to the Supreme Court. It cost B.C. $85 million when the Supreme Court overturned their legislated agreement. It could Ontario upwards of $780 million if our 90,000 teachers were to do the same. How is this move protecting the public purse?
If anyone is putting the school year in jeopardy it is the self-proclaimed “Education Premier” and his Minister of Education, Laurel Broten and the fact of the matter is, regardless of the outcome, if McGuinty and Broten continue to antagonize the teachers it will be the students who pay the price.
So what can be done? The McGuinty government needs to get back to the table and bargain in good faith. Until it does, I will not support Back to Work legislation if it is introduced. Actions like Back to Work legislation should only be used as a last-ditch effort when all other possible methods have failed.
Sarah Campbell MPP