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January 22, 2013 - Vol. 2, No. 20

Fraudulent Repeal of Bill 115

Rescind the Austerity Measures in Bill 115!
Hold Governments to Account!

Fraudulent Repeal of Bill 115
Rescind the Austerity Measures in Bill 115! Hold Governments to Account!
Bill 115 -- Mechanism to Impose Austerity - Rob Woodhouse

Protest at Liberal Leadership Convention
Mobilization in Full Swing

Liberal Leadership Convention
Reject Attempts to Sweep Violation of Rights Under the Rug - Enver Villamizar
Who Elects the Next Premier? - Sylvia Etts
Liberal "Moderates" Pushing Austerity - Jim Nugent

Teachers and Education Workers Determined to Affirm Their Rights
Militant Rally at Ministry of Education
Vigorous March in Barrie Affirms Workers' Rights
Actions at MPPs' Offices

Fraudulent Repeal of Bill 115

Rescind the Austerity Measures in Bill 115!
Hold Governments to Account!

When the McGuinty government announced the repeal of Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act January 23, this was immediately denounced as a bogus move. Teachers and education workers along with most Ontario working people clearly stated that so long as the measures contained in the Bill remain in place, this is a cheap stunt. To repeal Bill 115 means to rescind the austerity measures contained in the Bill. Anything less is fraud.

Even before the Bill was "repealed," teachers and education workers made it clear that to Repeal Bill 115, also required that the MOU [the Memorandum of Understanding] signed under duress by the Catholic teachers' union that the government then used as the template to extract billions from education, must also be rescinded and collective bargaining carried out in good faith must also be restored. To its shame, the government used the opportunity of the announcement of the Bill's repeal to once again put pressure on teachers and education workers to give up the fight for the affirmation of their rights. One form this pressure took and continues to take is the government demand that teachers and education workers give up their withdrawal from extra-curricular activities. They do not want the teachers and education workers to protest against government dictate after their attempts to hold a day of political protest were declared illegal. Meanwhile, all measures contained in the Bill remain in place.

Education Minister Laurel Broten gave expression to the fraud in which the government is engaged when she stated: "The Putting Students First Act is a bipartisan solution to a province-wide issue - ensuring fair collective agreements for teachers and support staff while addressing Ontario's deficit. The act accomplished that goal and is no longer needed. What is needed now is a return to stability in our schools and that includes extracurricular activities for Ontario's students."

Ontario Political Forum denounces the mockery which the McGuinty government, along with the PCs, continue to make of governance. To arbitrarily pass laws which are then fraudulently repealed once their anti-social aim has been accomplished does not bring honour to anyone. The government has no sense of shame or consideration for the deepening crisis of confidence in public institutions and government that their actions are causing. Ontarians have utter contempt for such self-serving conduct. Ontario Political Forum calls on the working people of Ontario to continue to rally around teachers and education workers and go all out to participate in the upcoming protests against the austerity agenda of both the Liberals and PCs. All out to oppose the anti-social offensive on the occasion of the Liberal Leadership Convention this weekend! Hold the government to account for their attacks on rights!

There Is an Alternative to this Phony Austerity Agenda!
Defeat Both the Liberals and the PCs!
Let's Work Out How Together!

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Bill 115 -- Mechanism to Impose Austerity

After using the power it gave itself in Bill 115 to impose collective agreements on public elementary and high school teachers and thousands of education workers, the government then declared a planned day of political protest by those affected to be illegal and has now repealed Bill 115. This fulfills the mission the ruling Liberal Party had set out to achieve in the negotiations with the teachers and education workers -- to use these negotiations as a demonstration to the rich that the Liberals deserve to wield power as the champions of austerity. For the Liberals, Bill 115 was all about their partisan fortunes, about putting the Liberals first.

The Liberals' actions are intended to reassure the rich that Liberal rhetoric about goodwill, balance and moderation is just political marketing. They are intended to show that a Liberal government is fully prepared to hammer the full force of its power down on anyone who resists the austerity agenda. From the first session of these "negotiations" in the education sector, the Liberal government was determined to use provincial negotiations as a tour de force against the teachers and education workers and their unions. The government set out to have a confrontation with teachers and education workers and to strip them of their rights.

Negotiators for the teachers and education workers have known since the first meeting at the Provincial Discussion Table in February that the Liberal government had no intention of negotiating a contract and was spoiling for a political fight. That is why the government side was headed by retired judge James Farley, notorious as a hanging-judge when it comes to workers' rights. That is also why the government refused to negotiate even after the unions agreed to the main concession demanded by the government -- a two year wage freeze.

With shameless and transparent opportunism the McGuinty government planned a confrontation with teachers and education workers when school opened in September and timed the passage of Bill 115 and the Kitchener-Waterloo (K-W) by-election to fit this plan. McGuinty's calculation was that he could win a majority in part by attacking teachers -- a majority from which he could complete the theft of billions from education as the first step in an all-out assault on the public sector. The workers' opposition intervened in K-W to defeat the anti-worker politics being pushed by both the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Following the debacle for McGuinty and the Liberals as well as Hudak and the PCs in the K-W by-election, McGuinty prorogued the legislature, resigned as premier and called for a Liberal leadership race -- all to "reset" the Liberal demagogy about "balance", etc. Teachers and education workers were able to mobilize broad support through their spirited defense of workers' rights, which the Liberals tried to counter with political spin around the leadership race. But they did not abandon their schemes to steal billions from education.

Bill 115 was written in a way that gave the government an opportunity to back off from confrontation with teachers and education workers when the December 31 deadline built into it for negotiating contracts came around. Instead, they doubled down on their attacks on teachers and education workers by using Bill 115's powers to impose contracts. They doubled down again by criminalizing teachers' and education workers' resistance by organizing for the Ontario Labour Relations Board to declare a planned day of political protest an illegal strike. The only "concession" the Liberals made was the farcical repeal of Bill 115 after they had used it to do their dirty work.

The Liberals did not back off from their confrontation with teachers and education workers because they could not back off. That would mean surrendering to the Hudak Conservatives who are also vying to be the champions of the austerity agenda of the rich. All of the politics of the ruling elite centres on the question: Who can best impose austerity on the working people so the global economic crisis is settled in favour of the rich?

This contention between the Liberals and the Hudak Conservatives to be the champions of the austerity agenda and the neo-liberal offensive of the rich is an important consideration for the working class. Besides collaborating to impose Bill 115, both these parties leading the austerity agenda have other legislation up their sleeves for attacking workers' rights. Before the legislature was prorogued, both of them had legislation prepared for attacking hospital workers and other workers in essential services. Both also have proposals for attacking injured workers' rights to just compensation and other anti-worker legislation waiting in the wings for when the legislature resumes.

The Liberals and the Conservatives both have to be stopped. This was done successfully in the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election and shows the workers' opposition can do the same in other ridings in the future.

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Protest at Liberal Leadership Convention

Mobilization in Full Swing

Respect for Democracy Rally
ETFO GTA Locals Pay "Tribute" to Dalton McGuinty

Friday, January 25 -- 6:30 pm
Maple Leaf Gardens (Carlton and Church)
Organized by: Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario GTA Locals
For information: Andy Lomnicki -- 416-393-9930, alomnicki@ett.on.ca

Rally for Rights and Democracy
Protest at Ontario Liberal Party Convention in Toronto

Saturday, January 26 -- 1:00 pm
Rally at Allan Gardens (Gerrard and Sherbourne) followed by
a march to the Convention at Maple Leaf Gardens
Organized by: Ontario Federation of Labour
For information:
Laurie Hardwick -- 416-571-3087, lhardwick@ofl.ca or
Duncan MacDonald -- 416-443-7668, dmacdonald@ofl.ca

Mobilization for the Ontario Federation of Labour Rally to protest the Liberal Leadership Convention is in full swing across the province. The event is becoming a converging point for the growing movement against the austerity agenda and to hold governments to account for their attacks on workers' rights.

The OFL reports that at this point over 100 buses from communities across Ontario will be travelling to Toronto to join the people of the Greater Toronto Area.

On the evening of January 25, while the Liberals are holding their tribute to outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty inside Maple Leaf Gardens, locals of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario from around the GTA will be holding a "Respect for Democracy" rally outside to send McGuinty off with a fitting workers' "tribute" for his attacks on workers' rights, particularly Bill 115.

On January 21 ETFO GTA locals also launched an advertizing campaign for the rallies that includes TTC ads, digital billboards in and around the GTA and a website, notobill115.ca.

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Liberal Leadership Convention

Reject Attempts to Sweep Violation of Rights
Under the Rug

In the lead-up to the Liberal Leadership Convention on January 25-26 the media is rife with speculation about coalitions, factions forming within the Liberal Party to decide on the premier, and claims by all the parties in the Legislature that their only concern is to "get things done for Ontarians" rather than have a general election. There are also new attempts to try and get the working class of Ontario to line up behind the Liberals based on " better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

This is a flimsy coordinated attempt to cover up the violation of rights that has been committed against Ontario's teachers and education workers in the form of the passage and use of Bill 115 and now its repeal. All the talk by the parties and pundits about what will happen after the convention is to overwhelm the growing movement against austerity and government dictate in Ontario into believing there is no need to discuss what has taken place, its significance and how to hold governments to account for violating the rights of a whole section of Ontarians. Never mind the fact that the suspension of rights imposed through Bill 115 is still in place and being used on a daily basis.

Ontario's teachers and education workers, students and the entire working class however continue to put front and centre their opposition to what the government has done and is doing to teachers and education workers. The rally on January 26 in Toronto will be an important occasion to build this opposition.

Many are wondering what kind of a so-called democratic system permits the Liberal government, with the help of the PCs, to suspend rights in order to target a specific group for attack using powers it gave the Minister of Education, then repeal the legislation after using it to deliver the attack, claiming as McGuinty did when he telephoned the presidents of ETFO and OSSTF, that those attacked should "put the past behind them."

How can governments that are supposed to affirm the rights of the people to the highest standard possible be permitted to operate in such a thuggish manner against their own citizens? If such a brazen form of discrimination and violation of rights took place in another country it would be reported as a serious violation of human rights and there would be calls for an international outcry.

How is it that now we are being told that this episode in Ontario's present is "history" and should not be looked into in order to draw warranted conclusions to prevent it from happening again? How can any of the parties in the Legislature claim that Ontarians do, or do not want elections when the people of Ontario have never been asked what their concerns are? When they have the opportunity to put forward their collective consciousness the people resoundingly oppose dictate and violations of rights, as was the case in the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election. Ontarians may or may not want an election, but they definitely want to affirm their rights and not permit governments to get away with violating them.

The workers' opposition in Ontario must step up the organizing in defence of rights and to hold governments to account in the face of these attempts to sweep the violation of rights under the rug.

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Who Elects the Next Premier?

The 2013 Ontario Liberal Party leadership election was triggered on October 15, 2012 when Premier Dalton McGuinty announced his resignation and then prorogued the legislature.

The six candidates for the leadership as of January 22 are:  Eric Hoskins, Gerard Kennedy, Sandra Pupatello, Charles Sousa, Harinder Takhar and Kathleen Wynne, with Glen Murray having withdrawn.

The new premier will now be decided by delegates to the Liberal Leadership Convention on January 25 and 26 in Toronto. A total of 1,837 elected delegates, plus 419 ex-officio delegates (current and former MPPs, defeated Liberal candidates, riding association presidents, party executive officers and other officials and federal Liberal MPs for Ontario) will now choose the next premier.

Voting for delegates took place January 12 and 13. Some 46,000 registered Liberal Party members were eligible to participate in electing 16 delegates from each of the 107 riding associations plus 144 delegates from 18 campus clubs and 8 from party women's groups. There was a tie in the Durham riding that will be run off prior to the convention.

By comparison, there are 8 million electors in the province of Ontario who have no say in selecting or electing the premier unless they happen to be a delegate. The numbers of elected delegates supporting each candidate are as follows:

Candidate Delegates
Sandra Pupatello 504 27.44
Kathleen Wynne 463 25.2
Gerard Kennedy 257 13.99
Harinder Takhar 244 13.28
Charles Sousa 198 10.78
Eric Hoskins 104 5.66
Independents* 67 3.65

*Independents arise out of Glen Murray's withdrawal and subsequent backing of Kathleen Wynne

Now that the results are known the speculation and horse-trading have been stepped up. The promises of cabinet positions via lasagna dinners and other meetings for wheeling and dealing are being openly discussed. Is this any way for the premier and cabinet of a province to be chosen?

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Liberal "Moderates" Pushing Austerity

Workers' resistance to austerity has converged on the demand to kill Bill 115 and its provisions which stripped teachers and education workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Certain candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party, particularly those who are presented as "moderates" or "centrists", are making statements in the media suggesting to workers that they should put everything in their hands -- that if they win the leadership contest, problems with anti-worker legislation will be solved. Some have even made it a point to stop at picket lines of teachers and education workers outside Liberal meetings, the Leadership debates or other events to offer "support," or to make it appear as if they stand with teachers and education workers.

All of the leadership candidates are clearly trying to distance themselves from the discredited McGuinty government, each trying to stand out from the other candidates to present themselves as the "consensus builder" or "bridge builder" required to calm the situation down.

While some promote themselves as "moderates" or "centrists" these candidates have never made any statement opposing the austerity agenda and the program to remove billions from social programs in order to pay the rich. In fact, they have all reaffirmed this direction in various ways as the only option for the new premier.

The leadership race inside the Liberal Party is being held within the competition between the Liberals and Conservatives to be the champions of austerity and champions of the whole neo-liberal offensive of the rich in Ontario. The only debate among the Liberals is over the best means for delivering austerity: Is legislation or negotiation the best way to impose wage cuts, job cuts, contracting out and privatization in public sector contracts?

Any notion that these Liberal moderates represent a glimmer of hope for workers in the Liberal Party is an illusion created to diffuse and disorganize the growing opposition to austerity. The moderate approach they present is the bait for trapping the workers' movement in the discussion about austerity through negotiations or austerity through legislation.

For the working class, the discussion about austerity is that it does not serve the interests of the working class and people and as a result does not have legitimacy. In this respect, austerity is unacceptable whether it is imposed through negotiations or legislation.

To open society's path to progress, the fight against the anti-social offensive which today takes the form of the austerity agenda requires a concerted fight for the affirmation of the rights of all. A way forward can be found on the basis of the broad mobilization of workers from all sectors of the economy to work to defeat both the Liberals and PCs in the next election because both these parties openly espouse the fraudulent austerity agenda. This will empower the workers. Instead of the workers splitting their ranks behind this or that party vying to be champions of the austerity agenda of the rich in the hopes they will not change their tune once elected, the workers will take a stand which defends their interests and rights. Once that is achieved, they can then take another and another and another. It can be done!

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Teachers and Education Workers Determined to Affirm Their Rights

Militant Rally at Ministry of Education

Far from submitting to the pressure to give up their fight and hope that some new Liberal leader will save them, on January 15 over 2,000 teachers, education workers and their allies, including many parents, held a militant demonstration at the Ontario Ministry of Education offices to express their opposition to the McGuinty government's perfidious attacks on the rights of teachers and education workers and to serve notice that they are going to organize to affirm their rights and defend public education.

The action was called by the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO). In addition to its members from the GTA, there were large numbers of participants from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), a delegation from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), as well as the Toronto Labour Council and others.

One of the main themes of the action was that teachers and education workers will organize and resist the attacks of the McGuinty Liberals against workers' rights. Leslie Wolfe, an executive officer of the Provincial OSSTF, noted that the teachers and education workers are at the forefront of the fight for workers' rights, including the right to have unions and to bargain collectively for fair contracts. This sentiment was echoed by Martin Long, President of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto (ETT) who said that workers fought long and hard for their basic democratic rights and that teachers and education workers will defeat the Liberals in this fight.

Sam Hammond, the President of ETFO said that for ten long months the teachers have fought for a just and fair collective agreement and that the Liberal government and Education Minister Broten have undermined them all along the line. He pointed out that they remain steadfast in their fight, convinced of the justness of their cause. Making reference to former Canadian Auto Workers' President Buzz Hargrove's comments in the media that teachers risk losing public support if they do not resume extra-curricular activities, Hammond pointed out that teachers do not need Mr. Hargrove's advice which is aimed at pitting the public against them. "We have been in this fight for over 10 months and we will take the fight to the Liberal Leadership Convention and to the elections," he said.

Another theme of the action was the support from parents for the teachers' and education workers' fight. Steve McGregor, a parent with two children in a public elementary school, denounced the McGuinty Liberals for betraying the people of Ontario and betraying teachers. He noted that when the Liberals came to power the second time they promised to support education and invest funds to improve the public school system in Ontario. Instead, he pointed out, what we have is austerity with the teachers and the public education system being attacked in the name of austerity.  He said that he was proud of Ontario teachers and how they serve society and that he will raise his voice and speak out against the Liberals and called on everyone to do the same.

Another parent and activist, Sultana Jahangir of the South Asian Women's Rights Organization also spoke as a parent and community activist and called for the unity of everyone to oppose the austerity program of the Liberals and Conservatives. She said that in the next election those politicians who speak about the need for austerity must be opposed and defeated and that by fighting for everyone's rights together, the austerity agenda will be defeated.

At one point during the demonstration, participants spilled out onto Bay Street and occupied the road. They chanted slogans including "Laurel Broten Has Got To Go" and others. Many pedestrians and passing motorists expressed support for the action. The organizers called on everyone to mobilize for the rallies to protest the Liberal Leadership Convention on January 25-26.

(Photos: OPF, D.Chiarelli)

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Vigorous March in Barrie Affirms Workers' Rights

Five hundred teachers and education workers and their supporters in Simcoe County held a vigorous March for Workers' Rights on January 16 in Barrie. It began at the mall and continued through the main streets, over the Highway 400 bridge and culminated at Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson's constituency office.

The messages on placards were clear: "NO!," "No to Bill 115, No to Austerity!" "Increase Funding for Social Programs," "No to Imposed Contracts, No to Denial of Rights" and "Protesting is the new ‘extra-curricular'!" Large number of buttons were also handed out that said simply "No!"

Flags flew high from the following unions: Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) and Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU). Ian Tudor, President of OSSTF District 17, which had organized the event along with ETFO, spoke in front of Jackson's office. He said that Bill 115 represented a violation of democratic rights. Teachers and education workers want to negotiate locally with their school boards and are opposed to the government's interference with this. A trustee from the Simcoe County School Board told the rally that the board had sent a letter to the Minister of Education expressing their support for local bargaining without the province's intervention.

Patty Coates, President EA/DECE OSSTF District 17, representing Educational Assistants and Early Childhood Educators working in the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board explained how Bill 115 affects the designated early childhood educators (DECE), secretaries and other support staff, directly affecting the learning conditions of students. She explained that the average wage of these workers is $25,000 per year and they do not have any payout of banked sick days in the form of a gratuity when they retire. In terms of the unpaid professional development day they are being forced to take, the money being taken out of their pockets in the form of unpaid days was supposedly to pay for keeping workers on the pay grid. However, only 50 of her members--10 per cent of the total number--will move up a step on the pay grid this year and only 5 per cent next year. Yet they all must take an unpaid day. Coates denounced this theft of money from education which will never return to the system.

The event concluded with a support staff worker leading the crowd in chanting "No Justice! No Peace!"

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Actions at MPPs' Offices

Ottawa, January 17

Kingston, January 16; Kitchener-Waterloo, January 16

Pembroke, January 16

Thornhill, January 16

Waterdown, January 16

Sarnia, January 16

London, January 17

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