The return of labour strife to the education sector in Ontario continued apace this week, as we saw the Ford Conservative government make no moves to get back to the table and negotiate in good faith. But we did see some developments come from that crew, moves that really made a lot of people question not just the good faith of the Ford Conservatives, but also to a degree the competence of that government in question.

What brought those questions about? Well two moments from the week that really spoke to this governments view on the World. The first came from Education Minister Stephen Lecce, making a move to try to quell the concerns of parents that only raised a lot more questions than it raised:

Yep, the Ford Conservatives are going to pay parents whose children get affected by strikes up to possibly $60 dollars a day to cover child care costs. This isn’t a new idea or manoeuvre, as the British Columbia Liberal government of Christy Clark did the same thing back in 2014. But along with that announcement came some serious questions about details that, well, the government didn’t deal so well with:

Firstly, yep, if the BC example from 2014 is any answer to the question that the Ford Conservatives didn’t bother to ask themselves it seems, then that “benefit” to parents will be taxable. Let’s do some math folks; if every board in the province went out on strike, that benefit would cost the Ontario Government $48 million a day. And you know who would be the biggest single beneficiary of that $48 million dollars a day taxable benefit? The Government of Canada, which would get over $10 million a day in tax income, directly from the Province on Ontario. Seriously, how ass backwards is that? Doug Ford and team have managed to come up with a “solution” that actually makes the coffers in Ottawa richer, directly putting money in their coffers.

That sounds like a really crazy thing for a government that says it’s poor and needs to find efficiencies to do. That sounds even crazier when you think that the Ford Conservatives are saying that classrooms need serious cut backs and teachers need to be laid off to help get the books back to balance. And that brings us to the second crazy part of this whole announcement; Ford and Co. says Ontario is flat broke and must grow class sizes and lay off teachers to reduce costs. If that’s the case, where in the Hell do they have $48 million a day to blow on this, let alone to send over $10 million of it to Ottawa? That’s a question that a lot of parents have been asking, simply “Why not just put that $48 million a day into the classroom and try to solve the problem?” That’s a legitimate question to ask, one that deserves a serious answer. So what has the answer been coming from the top so far? Well, let’s just say it was a bit less than serious:

Honestly, are we the least bit surprised to see Doug Ford of all people give such a childish answer to a serious question? Instead of actually dealing with the issue at hand, Ford took a crummy cheap shot at the leadership of Ontario’s four teachers unions, calling their leadership bad and trying to claim that somehow they are to blame, as if these leaders are ignoring their members and trying to pad their own pockets. You know, that usual Conservative trope about unions of all kinds. But here is the thing about comments like that, there are ways to test thesis like those, and thankfully publicly available information can help us here. A sure way to determine the faith that Ontario’s teachers have in their union leadership would be to look at the strike mandates they were given. Surely that would show how much these members feel about the actions of their leaders, right? Well let’s look at those, shall we?

  • OSSTF’s education workers voted 92% in favour of strike action, and the Federation’s teacher and occasional teacher members provided a 95.5% in favour.
  • For OECTA, it was 97.1% of members agreeing to take strike action should the need arise.
  • For ETFO, it was 98% in favour
  • And for AEFO, the French teachers’ union, it was 97% in favour

Yeah, that’s a very strong degree of support for their leaders and obviously decisions that they didn’t take lightly. So yeah, it seems that the vast majority of education workers are in support of their leaders and don’t agree with Mr. Ford at all. So if we look past that metric, let’s look at another measure; public opinion. We’ve got a couple different polling results that should help us out where when figuring out who has “good leadership” and who trusts who. What does it tell us?

Well, isn’t that something. According to a poll commissioned by OSSTF:

  • about 57% of people polled said they sympathize with teachers and education workers over the Ford government
  • 56% believe education unions are being more reasonable in the talks;
  • 59% say teachers should keep pushing for a better deal.
  • 60% say the Government of Ontario is on the wrong path when it comes to public education, with only 22% agreeing with the governments moves

That’s quite the result folks, surely far from a ringing endorsement of Mr. Ford or Mr. Lecce’s decisions to date. Then you can add to those poll numbers the personal approval ratings of Mr. Ford, which put him as by far the least popular Premier in the entire country, with even worse disapproval ratings than his historically unpopular predecessor Kathleen Wynne. Oh yeah, maybe if I was Mr. Ford I wouldn’t be calling others “bad leaders” when it seems that the consensus is that it’s Mr. Ford himself who’s the one lacking when it comes to this matter.

And after all of that, all the name calling and the wasted money, we are no closer to actually resolving the issues that Ontario’s teachers want to get resolved and we are no closer to labour peace. It’s starting to look more and more like Mr. Ford and his party are more interested in having a fight with teachers, rather than try to make Ontario’s education system the best that it can be. All in all, as much as I would like to be positive about a change to the current situation, I can only see things getting worse before they get any better. And that is strictly because the Ford Conservatives have no interest in being a constructive or positive part of this process. If that wasn’t clear before, this week made it so and from what you’re seeing in the public opinion polling, the people of Ontario aren’t fooled in the least.