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November 8, 2012 - Vol. 2 No. 7

Stand with Teachers and Education Workers!
Repeal Bill 115! Education Is a Right!

Step Up Opposition to Austerity and
Government Dictate

Stand with Teachers and Education Workers! Repeal Bill 115! Education Is a Right!
Step Up Opposition to Austerity and Government Dictate
Strike Actions Put on Hold -- Government Issues More Threats
Government’s Fraudulent Claim of Support from Catholic Teachers
Supervisor Explains Process for Catholic School Board's Functioning Under
Provincial Dictate
- Laura Chesnik

Widespread Opposition to Austerity
Ongoing Actions to Repeal Bill 115

Neo-Liberal Scheme for Post-Secondary Education
Ontario Liberals Seek New Arrangements  - Christine Nugent

Coming Events
Upcoming Rallies at MPPs' Offices
Fight the Attack on Bargaining and Arbitration - CUPE Ontario and Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
Windsor Forum to Repeal Bill 115 - Teachers for Global Awareness, Windsor

Stand with Teachers and Education Workers!
Repeal Bill 115! Education Is a Right!

Step Up Opposition to Austerity and
Government Dictate

Ontario Political Forum once again denounces the arbitrary powers the government has used against teachers and education workers in Ontario. The use of these powers has caused great uncertainty for school boards, unions, students, parents and the society as a whole. It is cynically designed to make sure the people are divided and disinformed so that they do not succeed in organizing by uniting in action to defend their rights.

Similar to the way the Harper government rams through omnibus bills, the McGuinty government has deliberately imposed its dictate on an entire sector, in order to cause confusion and block any possibility of a concerted resistance campaign, in this case, to block local negotiations from achieving mutually beneficial agreements. The decision to take over the Windsor Essex Catholic Board is an open threat to show all boards what will happen to them if they fail to toe the line. The government's short- and long-term goals are to use these powers and threats to usurp the public authority on behalf of private interests and impose an illegitimate austerity agenda. This is aimed at removing billions from education and then presenting privatization and merit-based funding as a solution to the problems this will cause.

The aim of the McGuinty government, like that of the Harper government, was to create confusion and weaken resistance to the anti-social measures, paving the way for more of the same against the broader public sector. But he miscalculated. The opposite is taking place as more and more sections of Ontario's working class and people are being drawn into the fight against government dictate such as that expressed in the Putting Students First Act.

In this context, some unions in the education sector are using the means available under the Ontario Labour Relations Act to exercise pressure on school boards to negotiate agreements outside the government's financial parameters. These attempts to salvage local negotiations may be successful in making it difficult for the government to reject agreements signed between the unions and local boards, especially given the pressure McGuinty's government is under due to his resignation, the prorogation of the Legislature and ongoing scandals.

The Liberals are desperate for a way out and unless they can salvage an appearance of having a "balanced approach," then they will have to create another persona for themselves because this one lies in tatters. Everyone has already seen that the government is seeking to violate contracts and workers' rights with impunity. The legislated powers the government has given itself to set arbitrary deadlines, change contracts willy nilly and declare the collective actions of teachers and education workers illegal during the next two-three years in what it has called a "restraint period," must be dealt with, as well as the ever-present threat to take over school boards that hangs over trustees' heads. The McGuinty government has given itself provisions to eliminate elected officials at the local level should it not succeed in achieving its aims at the provincial level so as to impose its dictate that way. The government cannot be permitted to act with impunity if local bargaining is to actually defend the interests of teachers and education workers. It must not pass!

Ontario Political Forum applauds the mobilization of teachers and education workers, the communities they serve and the working people of Ontario against the Putting Students First Act and its arbitrary powers. By strengthening this work and stepping up the tempo of events, the teachers and education workers and people of Ontario are sure to stay the hand of the government and lay the groundwork for the Act's repeal. By doing this the general interests of society can be defended and advances can be made to resolve the crisis in favour of the people. This requires developing the independent politics of the working class towards defeating all those who promote a neo-liberal vision for society, beginning with the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives in Ontario and the Harper government federally. Government programs to pay the rich under the hoax of an austerity agenda must be defeated.

All Out to Strengthen the Opposition to the Austerity Agenda!
Repeal Bill 115! It Can be Done! It Must be Done!

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Strike Actions Put on Hold --
Government Issues More Threats

As of today some bargaining units of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) are in a legal strike position and more will be in the near future. A work-to-rule form of strike action was announced to begin on November 7 by OSSTF; however these have now been put on hold until Sunday, November 11 as talks between the union's provincial negotiators and representatives of the government are taking place.[1] A message from the provincial executive to members said the postponement was "in the interest of going forward and seeking resolutions to the challenges facing the education sector."

Making the original announcement on November 6 that strike sanctions were about to commence, OSSTF President Ken Coran clearly laid the blame for the impasse in local negotiations, which led to the necessity for strike actions, on the provincial government and its Putting Students First Act (Bill 115): "It is disappointing that we have not been able to achieve deals with local school boards to this point. However, the ability of both sides to negotiate a fair deal has been obstructed by the actions of the Minister of Education and the Liberal government through the passing of Bill 115 in September."

No sooner had OSSTF announced that some of its units were to begin strike action than Minister of Education Laurel Broten confirmed the union's concerns, issuing a clear threat that she may invoke the powers the Liberal minority/Progressive Conservative government gave her in the Act to interfere in the legal strike actions. She issued the threat to violate teachers' and education workers' rights under the highest ideals, claiming it would be to protect students.

"We respect the teachers' right to strike but we are very concerned about actions being taken that could put student safety at risk," Broten said in a statement.

She claimed that school trustees and principals had expressed concern about student safety during strike action and that she might intervene: "The Putting Students First Act gives the government tools to intervene and at this point we are monitoring (the local situations) closely and will work to quickly assess options."

In this way Broten is once again repeating the failed campaign to try and pit teachers and education workers against students and parents, while its bullying, threats, dictate and broad violation of human rights is presented as a way to "put students first." This shows how irrational the use of threats and dictate have become as many of the students Broten claims to not want to put at risk are the same ones who have taken bold stands to oppose her government's bullying and threats. This reveals Broten's total bankruptcy and her desperate attempts to use the arbitrary power she has been given to issue more threats -- precisely the dictatorial methods which have raised the ire of Ontarians against her party and the PCs.


1. For a full list of planned strike sanctions see Ontario Political Forum, October 31, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 5.

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Government’s Fraudulent Claim of Support from Catholic Teachers

OECTA contingent participates in rally at Oakville
MPP Kevin Flynn's office on October 22, 2012.

Members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) have begun holding consultative votes on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) their provincial executive was pressured into signing by the McGuinty government. All other teachers and education workers in Ontario's publicly funded schools have since been told to either accept the same terms "voluntarily" or have them imposed through Bill 115 -- the Putting Students First Act.

Members of the York and Halton Elementary units of OECTA both recently voted 96 per cent in favour of rejecting the MOU. Of the approximately 1,200 members in the Halton unit, 1,062 participated in the vote, with 1,023 or 96.3 per cent disapproving the MOU. The votes are a symbolic public expression of Catholic teachers' opposition, since the MOU prohibits any strikes or lockouts during local bargaining, Local bargaining must end by December 31.

OECTA members in Ottawa are expected to hold a similar vote in the near future. According to reports, more than 700 English Catholic teachers showed up at an October 4 information session in Ottawa regarding the deal. Everyone who lined up to question the OECTA president denounced the MOU and expressed disappointment in the union leadership for accepting it without allowing the membership to vote on it.

The York and Halton votes yielded results similar to those obtained in strike votes taken across the province by ETFO and OSSTF. Members' overwhelming rejection of the MOU serves as a powerful statement about its lack of legitimacy and what teachers and education workers think of having a deal they consider unacceptable foisted on them without their consent or consultation.

The results also expose the fraud of the Minister of Education's claim that 55,000 teachers "signed on" to the government's deal with OECTA. The president of the Halton OECTA Elementary Unit has described the MOU and the entire Provincial Discussion Table process as unconstitutional in terms of OECTA's own handbook and bylaws. His unit has filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board against the union's provincial executive for failing in their duty of fair representation. He also said Bill 115 was unconstitutional, with many things being snatched out of local agreements that were won with great effort over many years.

Catholic teachers in York and Halton have sent a clear message to their counterparts in ETFO, OSSTF, CUPE, OPSEU and any other organizations representing education workers targeted by Bill 115: they stand with them and that similar deals and the process that gave rise to OECTA's MOU should not be agreed to.

(With files from The Oakville Beaver, Yorkregion.com, David Chiarelli's School Edition blog)

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Supervisor Explains Process for Catholic School
Board's Functioning Under Provincial Dictate

The provincial takeover of the Windsor-Essex Catholic School Board on August 28 came in the midst of provincial dictate against teachers and education workers aimed at stealing $2.19 billion from education. It is now being held over the heads of locally elected school boards across the province as an example of what will happen if they don't fall in line with the government's bogus austerity agenda. In this respect what is taking place at the Windsor-Essex Catholic Board is of concern to the entire province. The extent of the provincial dictate over the board's functioning and the self-serving nature of the takeover was on full display at a briefing held on October 25 by the government-appointed supervisor Norbert Hartmann who has been given control and charge over all the affairs of the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.

According to reports, Hartmann reaffirmed what had been made known by Minister of Education Laurel Broten when he was first appointed in August -- that administration and the trustees would be called on to function only as his advisors until such time as the Minister deems they are "capable" of exercising decision-making powers over policy and the Board's operations. The earliest this could happen would be December 2013, Hartmann said. In their advisory role the Supervisor stated that trustees are "allowed" to sit on committees, such as those dealing with special-needs students or French immersion.

Even if trustees are allowed to resume control of the board, Hartmann said, the Board will be operating under ministry dictate for up to five years in the form of imposed multi-year budgets. To resume running its own affairs the board will have to show that under the supervisor, its accumulated deficit has been eliminated. The fact that new government-imposed accounting practices on all boards to account for banked sick days as an unfunded liability has greatly increased the "accumulated deficit," as has government underfunding of programs such as full-day kindergarten, was not addressed by the McGuinty government appointed supervisor. This clearly reveals the self-serving nature of the entire exercise.

The board will also have to demonstrate that it is able to continue following financially sound practices of management and control, before being allowed to once again run its own affairs. No doubt these are the controls put forward by Deloitte, the private shyster accounting firm hired by the province to audit the board. The controls being spoken of involve guaranteeing that public funds are directed first and foremost towards paying the board's "accumulated deficit," the same austerity logic being imposed on the entire province by the McGuinty government. In this way provincial dictate to pay the rich is being extended to individual boards of education with the Windsor-Essex Catholic board being used as the test case.

Questioned by representatives of the media about possible layoffs and school closures, government-appointed supervisor Hartmann said that layoffs were not likely needed, but did not rule them out either, saying "it was way too early to ask" these questions. In this way he held the possibility of layoffs and school closures over the heads of Board employees and the community and clearly stated that it is he who will decide what is to be done.

Making it clear that the provincial supervisor's role is not legitimate and usurps the power of locally elected boards Hartmann stated: "For someone to come from the outside and understand the community that they [the trustees] were elected to represent is a difficult process. The trustees know their communities well." Then presenting the process by which decisions to impose the austerity agenda onto the board will be sugar coated so as not to rouse the opposition of the public he said: "We need a mechanism to show the community why we did what we did and what we did," he said. "We need to explain what was taken into account. So a rationale will be issued to show the decisions were taken in a reasonable, frank and honourable manner."

The supervisor assumed his role on September 4. He replaced an interim supervisor who held the position for the first week immediately after the government announced its intentions to take over the Board on the recommendation of a report issued by Deloitte. The first act of the interim supervisor, a government employee working in the capacity of Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Education, was to sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the executive of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA) and the province, thus eliminating the right to strike of the board's teachers during any further local contract negotiations.

(With files from Windsor Star)

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Widespread Opposition to Austerity

Ongoing Actions to Repeal Bill 115

Picket outside Minister of Education Laurel Broten's office in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, November 2, 2012. Teachers and their supporters, many of them local elementary teachers, are holding weekly actions at her office.

November 2, 2012 picket at office of MPP Kathleen Wynne, who has since announced she will run for
leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Fifty English as a Second Language and Basic Skills adult educators  for the Peel District School Board and the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board rallied at the office of Charles Sousa, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration November 2, 2012.

Spirited rally outside Greater Essex County District School Board meeting, November 7, 2012. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario made a presentation at the meeting calling on trustees to oppose Bill 115.

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Neo-Liberal Scheme for Post-Secondary Education

Ontario Liberals Seek New Arrangements

The Ontario Liberal government took measures during the summer that seek to introduce new arrangements for the delivery of post-secondary education at Ontario's 44 publicly-funded colleges and universities. On June 27, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) Glenn Murray released "Strengthening Ontario's Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge: A discussion paper on innovation to make our university and college system stronger" and sought responses from colleges and universities as well as from student, faculty and other interested groups. On August 7, a letter from MTCU Deputy Minister Deborah Newman required each of Ontario's 44 colleges and universities to submit an eight-page draft Strategic Mandate Agreement by September 30 demonstrating how their activities, current and planned, contribute to the directions identified in the discussion paper. The strategic mandate agreements with each of Ontario's 44 colleges and universities are to "strongly inform future decisions, including allocation decisions and program approvals."

In the discussion paper, after stating that Ontario has a proven-record in post-secondary education, Minister Murray describes the financial and global context for the proposed transformation of post-secondary education: "In light of the current financial climate, and as we continue to recover from the recession, it is necessary to lead the province's publicly funded higher education system to lower rates of spending growth." The discussion paper proceeds from the outlook that expenditures on salaries of faculty and other educational workers are costs and not an investment in the economic and social future of society. The paper neglects the fact that there has been a significant increase in enrolment over the past decade but moans that "costs in the post-secondary sector have grown at a rate above inflation when growth and grants from government have become constrained." Showing that the target of the government's new arrangements is to attack the wages, pensions, benefits and working conditions of public sector workers, the paper states: "Managing growth in compensation costs will be key to sector sustainability... The government is also working towards a number of initiatives intended to improve the sustainability, affordability and efficiency of pension plans in the broader public service."

The paper calls for adopting innovation in the post-secondary education sector in order to drive productivity: "Significant productivity improvements will be needed to protect the gains we have made in accessibility as we move forward in improving the quality of higher education and the student experience in Ontario." In other words, according to the government's phony austerity agenda, colleges and universities are not to be provided with an increase in provincial funding to cover the increased enrolment resulting from the government's efforts to increase accessibility.

By placing the focus on the reduction of "costs," the discussion paper encourages colleges and universities to make proposals that promote technology-enhanced learning as a replacement for traditional teacher-led classroom and laboratory learning. The introduction of online, virtual, hybrid and other computer-delivered forms of education are said to give students choice of access in time and space as well as being "cost-effective." The paper also calls for discussion of means to improve the efficiency of Ontario's credit transfer system, on the appropriate level of student tuition, and on methods to increase entrepreneurial activity and education.

As part of the consultation process, the Ministry has requested that the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario establish a peer review panel to evaluate the mandate submissions in terms of their "ability to achieve significant improvements in productivity, quality and affordability through both innovation and differentiation."[1]

The peer review panel will identify those colleges and universities "whose submissions demonstrate the greatest ability to serve as lead institutions...those that provide the most compelling and promising visions, mandate statements and plans that advance government policies, objectives and goals...The lead institutions selected through this exercise would be the first to receive funding to pursue their mandates starting as early as 2013-14." In this way, colleges and universities are being invited to compete amongst themselves to find new ways of reducing costs in order to access additional funding for the newly-designated lead institutions.

The Higher Education Quality Council is to provide its final appraisals to government in February 2013. However, the recent decision by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to resign and prorogue the Legislature and Minister Murray's resignation from the cabinet in order to seek the Liberal leadership may interfere with this process.

At the same time, Minister Murray's statement about innovation and productivity in his announcement indicated that this issue is likely to remain on the table for some time.

Links to the strategic mandate submissions of Ontario colleges and universities can be found here.


1. Members of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) Peer Review Panel: Leslie Church, Global Communications and Public Affairs, Google Canada; John Davies, President Emeritus, Humber College; Richard DiCerni, Former Deputy Minister, Industry Canada; Cindy Hazell, Former VP Academic, Seneca College; Chaviva Hosek, Former President, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Gilles Patry, President & CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation; Richard Rhoda, Executive Director, Tennessee Higher Education Commission; Michael Stevenson, President Emeritus, Simon Fraser University; David Trick, President, David Trick & Associates; David Turpin, President, University of Victoria.

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Upcoming Rallies at MPPs' Offices

Teachers and education workers continue to hold rallies at MPP's constituency offices around the province to call for the repeal of Bill 115 and demand that the right to collective bargaining be respected.

Grant Crack -- Glengarry-Prescott-Russell
Wednesday, November 7 -- 3:00 pm
90 Main St. South, Alexandria

Jim McDonell -- Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry
Thursday, November 8 -- 10:45 am
120 2nd St. West, Cornwall

Jeff Yurek -- Elgin-Middlesex-London
Friday, November 9 -- 4:00 pm

750 Talbot Street, St. Thomas

Laurel Broten -- Etobicoke-Lakeshore
Friday, November 9 -- 3:45 pm
Suite 100, 701 Evans Avenue, Toronto

Tracey MacCharles -- Pickering-Scarborough East
Friday, November 9 -- 4:00 pm
300 Kingston Rd., Suite 13, Pickering
For more information: paul@district13.on.ca or pkossta@osstfd12.com

(Click image to download poster)

Jack McLauren -- Carleton-Mississippi Mills
Friday, November 9 -- 3:30 pm

240 Michael Cowpland Drive, Suite 100, Kanata

Jim McDonell -- Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry
Friday, November 16 -- 3:30 pm

120 Second St. West, Cornwall

Teresa Piruzza -- Windsor West
Friday, November 16 -- 12:00 noon

2570 Dougall Avenue, Windsor

Grant Crack -- Glengarry-Prescott-Russell
Friday, November 23 -- 3:30 pm

345 Laurier Street, Hawkesbury

Dwight Duncan -- Windsor-Tecumseh
Friday, November 23 -- Time TBA

2825 Lauzon Parkway, Windsor

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Fight the Attack on Bargaining and Arbitration

(Click image to download PDF)

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Windsor Forum to Repeal Bill 115

(Click image to download PDF)

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