Question for the Premier: Why not do what parents want?

When Ontario teachers and education workers walk off the job Feb. 21, they’ll hit the bricks with a lot of public support.

Since contract talks began, Minister Stephen Lecce and Premier Doug Ford have tried hard to divide workers from their unions and unions from the parents, guardians, and grandparents who care about what happens in our schools. But instead of sowing division, Lecce and Ford have created a unified opposition—one that agrees on both issues and strategy. 

The result? In these negotiations, education unions have become the de facto bargaining agent for the majority. 

Recent opinion polls suggest that when it comes to schools, Ontarians back the unions’ priorities, not the government’s. Most people don’t support larger class sizes. They don’t want mandatory e-learning in high school. They don’t see an upside to cutting special education and mental health supports.  

A poll published in the Ford-friendly Toronto Sun found 63 per cent agreeing that the current dispute is about education quality issues, not teacher pay. In that same poll, respondents said teachers, not the government, were acting in the best interests of students—by a five-to-two margin.

That’s a convincing score in any sport.

Last year, our Premier “for the people” was roundly booed at the parade to celebrate the Toronto Raptors’ NBA championship. He was clearly stung by the rough reception, and for an obvious reason: if Raptors fans aren’t “the people,” then who is? 

The same could be said of parents, who come in all political leanings. Parents know that losing 10,000 teachers won’t help their kids, and “only” losing 6,000, as Minister Lecce has proposed, won’t help either.

The Ford government is underestimating the bond between parents and schools. Parents pour a tremendous amount of energy into schools, running parent councils, volunteering for field trips, organizing fundraisers, and advocating for their children.

They do this because they care. They do this because they want their kids to grow and develop and be all they can be. They do this because everything about the future is uncertain, and there is no better way to prepare tomorrow’s adults for that uncertainty than a great education.

Given the evident impasse at all the bargaining tables, it’s time for the Ford government to try something new—something that will end the strikes and keep public education strong.

It’s time to cancel the cuts.

Politically, this will be a huge climbdown, it’s true. But this government has changed course before, and when it does, it’s always for the same reason: “We’re a government that listens,” to quote the Premier.

If that’s true, why not listen now? Why not do what parents want?


Randy Robinson is the Ontario Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Follow him at @Randyfrobinson.

3 comments

  1. He won’t listen because that does not help him and his rich buddies extract as much money as they can during their short tenure in power. This is all about union busting and moving towards privatization. I would not be surprised if Ford/Lecce have already inked a deal with a private company to deliver elearning and face contract cancellation fines if they give up on that aspect.

  2. I have 2 children in school and class sizes alone won’t be the reason they have a poor education. I think if teachers could do the math on finite budgets and simple economics then the kids would grow up smarter but no one likes to live with the idea that governments shouldn’t run deficits.

    Does anyone wonder how these unions are funded? I am in a union and last time I checked the higher my wages the larger the union dues my union can collect. This might create a bit of a conflict of interest when they try to pretend they only care about the students and the teachers. It is always about money. This strike is about one of the richest unions in Canada exerting its power. Simple.

  3. You are out lunch
    There are and will always be groupy school parents
    Most parents 70% don’t visit or communicate with schools regularly.. I know I’ve worked on them for 27yrs

    There is much waste and incompetence in our schools

    Unions are greedy and corrupt. Teachers are over compensated.

    Like the USA the masses are not truely understood by most liberal media

    Polls.. Come on… Do research on the subject

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