Wage freeze on Ontario teachers could trigger election

TORONTO — Attempts by Ontario’s minority Liberal government to impose a wage freeze on teachers this summer could trigger a general election if it can’t convince the opposition parties to let the bill pass.

TORONTO — Attempts by Ontario’s minority Liberal government to impose a wage freeze on teachers this summer could trigger a general election if it can’t convince the opposition parties to let the bill pass.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has threatened to recall the legislature for an emergency session to impose a new contract on teachers if they can’t reach agreements with local school boards by Sept. 1.

“We’ve worked long and hard and been sincere and earnest in our efforts to work with our teaching partners, but at some point in time you’ve got to act,” McGuinty said after touring a school in Windsor.

“And respect for the collective bargaining process cannot be used as an excuse to do nothing,” he said.

The cash-strapped government has been trying to negotiate a two-year wage freeze with more than one million public sector workers to eliminate a $15-billion deficit by 2017-18.

Liberal sources said it was “premature” to talk about declaring any legislation to deal with teachers a confidence motion, which would automatically spark an election if it was defeated.

McGuinty admitted he’ll need the support of at least one opposition party if it comes to legislation, but said he was concerned with the “noises” he’s been hearing from the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats.

“As far as the PCs are concerned, they are worried that we’re not hitting teachers hard enough,” he said.

“We’re looking for fairness; they’re looking for a fight.”

McGuinty wasn’t expecting any help from the NDP either.

“The NDP are running faster than (Jamaican gold medallist) Usain Bolt away from any government measure that would address public sector compensation,” he said. “They’re afraid of that.”

The New Democrats warned any legislation that imposes a contract on teachers would be challenged in the courts.

“We know that simply imposing a deal with legislation will lead to a long court battle that will leave people paying more,” said NDP critic Jonah Schein.

The Conservatives want a legislated wage freeze for all public sector workers in Ontario, but said they couldn’t agree to support a bill they haven’t seen.

“We have not been approached in any way, shape, or form with any suggestions that the legislature will be coming back or any proposed legislation that we may be looking at should that happen,” said Tory critic John Yakabuski.

The contracts for all teachers expire Aug. 31, but if there are no new deals in place the old ones automatically roll over, which would give teachers a 5.5 per cent pay raise McGuinty said the government can’t afford.

The government spent five months trying to negotiate contracts with the large teachers unions, before telling school boards they had just four weeks to negotiate local deals based on the one agreement the province did reach with English Catholic teachers.

That deal allows up to 40 per cent of younger teachers to move up the pay grid, but requires teachers to take three unpaid days off in the second year, a move the government said offsets the cost of the raises for the younger teachers.

Even though two teachers’ unions now accepted a provincial offer, school boards must still negotiate local deals with teachers and so far only one — the Toronto Catholic board — has agreed to a contract.

Bryan Evans, associate professor of politics at Ryerson University in Toronto, doesn’t expect legislation to impose a teachers’ contract or an election this summer. He predicts teachers will agree to new contracts when they see the risk that legislation could actually lead to another general election.

“Education has been a priority for the McGuinty government. Teachers appreciate that, and not just in terms of their own salaries and benefits, but in terms of improved classroom conditions and educational outcomes,” said Evans.

“I’m not sure when they begin looking at the larger context if they want to gamble everything on a possible change in government, and a government that they all recognize will not be anywhere near so friendly.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Red Deer RCMP has filed another set of charges after an alleged assault at an anti-racism rally on Sept. 20. (File photo by Advocate Staff)
More assault charges filed after Sept. 20 anti-racism rally in Red Deer

Trevor Lyle Roy faces a second set of charges stemming from the event

Your weather forecast for Thursday, August 1st, 2019. (Pixabay)
Expect a slightly windy day in Red Deer Tuesday

Expect a slightly windy day in Red Deer. Although as of noon… Continue reading

“We need to keep our hospitalization rate low. We need to keep our ICU beds open, and we need to keep people healthy and our case numbers low," says Karen Mann, Red Deer’s emergency management co-ordinator. (File photo by Advocate staff).
City says it is monitoring COVID around the clock

Following guidance from Alberta’s medical officer of health

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees were back on the job Tuesday after a provincewide wildcat strike on Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital workers back on the job

Red Deer hospital was one of 45 sites with picket lines

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Rebels on 2021 NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch list

A trio of Red Deer Rebels has caught scouts’ eyes ahead of… Continue reading

Kathleen Finnigan, who was named superintendent of the Red Deer Regional Catholic School Board on Tuesday, has more than 30 years of experience as an educator. (Courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Kathleen Finnigan named Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools superintendent

The Red Deer Regional Catholic School Board will continue to be led… Continue reading

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

Most Read