Archive - February 2013

  • Toronto Star - Premier 'hopeful' activities will return; 'Has faith' teachers' protest will

Date posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 3:18 pm

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Robert Benzie and Kristin Rushowy Toronto Star
Premier Kathleen Wynne is hopeful a deal can be reached soon with elementary teachers so they will resume extracurricular activities for their students.

"Unfortunately we are not there yet, but again, I have faith that there are lots of elementary teachers in our public system across the province who want to be engaged with kids as well," Wynne told reporters Wednesday.

"It's really positive that we have teachers and support staff who want to work with students and we've got students who have been advocating for these extracurriculars and understand how important it is to have that relationship with their teachers and their support staff."

Leaders with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario continue to meet Thursday and many expect there will be an announcement regarding extracurriculars before the end of the week.

Last Friday, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) announced it was ending its "political protest" and gave members the go-ahead to resume after-school clubs and sports if they wish to, given developments in talks with the provincial government. Those talks continue.

Ontario public school teachers have been at war with the province over its controversial Bill 115 that imposed two-year contracts on them, which included cuts to sick days, the end of unused sick-day payouts at retirement, and unpaid days off.

  • Brockville Recorder and Times - Legal fees hit $95,000 for hearing ; LABOUR: Public board contesting union's counseling against extra-curricular participation

Date posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 3:17 pm

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ALANAH DUFFY THE RECORDER AND TIMES
The public school board revealed on Wednesday it has spent $95,000 in legal fees on a complaint filed against the union representing its elementary teachers, bringing the total cost to more than $100,000.

The legal fees are in addition to nearly $10,000 in travel and accommodation costs the Upper Canada District School Board previously disclosed for some of its staff during the Toronto hearings.

The $95,000 in legal fees is the portion this board owes, equaling half of total legal fees in this case.

"It's not a very high number," said Upper Canada board chairman Greg Pietersma, saying legal fees for large corporations are notoriously high.

"It's not the hundreds of thousands that people were thinking."

The money for legal fees will come out of the board's administration fees budget.

The public school board, along with the Trillium Lakelands district board, filed a complaint against the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) last month.

The complaint was filed with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB), to determine whether ETFO had counseled its members to participate in an illegal strike.

Director of Education David Thomas said there have been commitments from other boards of education to help with the legal costs.

"I'm just wondering how much it cost the union," Thomas said.

A ruling by the Ontario Labour Relations Board has still not been released, though the school board is expecting it at any time.

The board has received criticism for spending money on legal costs and other incidentals related to the hearings instead of school programs, but Pietersma said the costs are necessary.

"We go back to what value is placed on the extra-curriculars," he said.

"I think that this is a decision that will be long lasting and will offer clarity."

The complaint, filed in early January, came after the public school board received reports about the ETFO counseling its members not to participate in extra-curricular activities after contracts were imposed on teachers on January 3.

The school board has posited since contracts were in place, the union's actions constituted an illegal strike.

"Those contracts, however they were arrived at, we need to respect that," Pietersma said.

Brockville and Augusta Township trustee Jeff McMillan said the ruling will have a lasting impact when it is reached.

"It will send a message loud and clear that teachers...are free to make decisions," McMillan said. "It's a decision that will carry weight not just in Ontario, but throughout North America, in terms of what job action really means."
- - -
BACK IN BUSINESS
The Upper Canada board is reporting around 90 per cent of its schools have extra-curricular activities operating after the union representing high school teachers gave permission to its teachers to resume involvement in extra-curricular activities.

  • Penticton Herald - Alberta teachers reject 4-year offer

 Date posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 3:09 pm

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EDMONTON
Canadian Press
The Alberta Teachers' Association has rejected an offer from the province for a four-year labour agreement.

President Carol Henderson said the government's offer would have paid teachers less than an offer the union rejected in December.

She said it also failed to include limits on how much time teachers have to work.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson said he was disappointed.

"Our proposal would have meant labour stability and cost certainty during these tough economic times," he said in a release.

Henderson said a letter from Johnson also contained what she called a threat to cut salaries and teaching jobs if teachers reject his offer.

"Teachers do not respond well to ultimatums," she said.

The government said the offer would have seen salaries for nearly 35,000 Alberta teachers frozen for three years, followed by an increase of two per cent in 2015-16.

The government said the average Alberta teacher with 10 years' experience makes more than $92,000 per year, the highest among all Canadian provinces.

Johnson said the ATA's rejection of a commitment to study workload issues, the cornerstone of the offer, was particularly upsetting.

Alberta Education had proposed an internal review to look at how teacher workloads could be adjusted without impacting Alberta's 600,000 students.

"Over the past several months, it has become clear that workload is the biggest issue for our teachers," said Johnson. "I'm saddened the ATA leadership didn't share their members' concerns."

Henderson said the deal did not include provisions for placing reasonable limits on the amount of time that teachers can be assigned to work.

  • The Globe and Mail - Elementary teachers mull education peace plan

Date posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 3:07 pm

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Adrian Morrow
The province is "very hopeful" Ontario's public elementary school teachers will decide to bring back extracurricular activities when their union leaders meet this week, Education Minister Liz Sandals says.

"We've been having good, positive conversations with the elementary teachers," she said. "The elementary teachers will be having discussions this week among their executives and president, so we're obviously awaiting the results of those meetings."

Queen's Park has offered the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) the same deal that prompted secondary school teachers to bring back extracurricular activities this week - an agreement to craft a collective bargaining process, Premier Kathleen Wynne said.

Both unions withdrew voluntary services last year when the government brought in legislation that imposed contracts on them.

Last week, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation voted to resume extra- curriculars after making a bargain with the government, following several meetings with Ms. Wynne's staff. Under the deal, the two sides will create a more formalized system of collective bargaining that gives school boards some say while also involving the province.

The Premier said talks with the elementary teachers are unfolding along similar lines.

"We've had the same discussion with ETFO as we have had with OSSTF, that we are committed to working with them on a process going forward," she said.

Ms. Wynne and Ms. Sandals met Wednesday with four student trustees. The Premier said that at some schools on Monday, teachers were already issuing permission forms for clubs, sports teams were being reinstated, and at least one swim meet was back on.

Student trustee Hirad Zafari, a grade 12 student at Don Mills Collegiate in Toronto, gave Ms. Wynne credit for resolving the problem. "We can't close our eyes to the fact that it took six months without any action, and now it only took two weeks for this new leadership to take action in the right direction." he said.

"Hopefully, our teachers will follow suit and hear out what their leaders have said.

Our hope is we can get back to the spring sports, and we can even salvage some of the sports and clubs from before this announcement."

The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, girded for battle with the teachers' unions, pledging to take away their ability to work to rule and haul union leaders before disciplinary hearings.

PC education critic Lisa MacLeod moved a motion in the legislature on Tuesday to expand teachers' job descriptions to include such things as one-on- one instruction outside class and parent-teacher interviews.

The Liberal government and the New Democrats teamed up to defeat the motion 62 to 35.

Ms. MacLeod and Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said that, if their party is elected, they would bring in legislation to bar unions from forcing members to work to rule. Any union leader found trying to compel teachers to work to rule would be brought before the Ontario College of Teachers.

"Unions have a role: They're there for collective bargaining, they're there to make sure that their members are treated fairly, they're there to negotiate health and safety.

But the teachers' unions are not there to run the education system," Mr. Hudak said.

The Tories would add things such as report cards, after-school help for struggling students and parent-teacher interviews to a teacher's job description.

  • Hudak accuses teachers unions of having taken over education system

Date posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 4:44 pm

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Tory Leader Tim Hudak says a Progressive Conservative government would not cosy up to teachers and their “union bosses” but rather would put them in their place.

“The teacher unions are not there to run the education system,” Hudak told reporters at Queen’s Park Wednesday.

Still stinging from losing a motion in the legislature Tuesday that would have imposed additional work on teachers, Hudak scolded the Liberals and the New Democrats for siding with teachers in opposing the motion rather than parents and students.

“We owe it to students and parents to raise the bar . . . but we’re not going to do that by handing the keys to power over to the union bosses in our education system,” Hudak said.

“Last night’s debate shows that Premier (Kathleen) Wynne and the Liberals are again taking their marching orders from the teacher union bosses,” he said. “Quite frankly they’ve got no better friend in the premier’s chair, there is nobody closer to the teacher union bosses than Kathleen Wynne.”

Wynne and Education Minister Liz Sandals have said the Tories are only interested in creating chaos in the education system.

The motion introduced by Tory education critic Lisa MacLeod would have redefined the role of teachers by forcing them to perform certain duties, such as attending parent-teacher interviews, completing report cards and helping students with extra work after school hours. It addition it would prevent union leaders from threatening members with fines and embarrassment if they don’t follow union directives.

Teachers now are not required to participate in after-school parent-teacher interviews and are required to fill out report cards only to the best of their ability, which during the recent labour strife over extracurricular activities often resulted in one-line answers.

“Parents should have a right to a parent-teacher interview after three o’clock outside school hours. Two, it is dead wrong for the teachers unions to be able to able to bully classroom teachers with threats of $500 fines if they stay after school to help the kids . . . coach the football team or do the drama club,” Hudak said.

Hudak said a Tory government would take much of what was in the motion and put it into legislation, even though he suspects there would be serious push back from the teachers, reminiscent of the bitter disputes between the former Harris Progressive Conservative government and teacher unions in the late 1990s.

“We stand with classroom teachers, we stand with parents, we stand with taxpayers. That’s the big difference between us and the other two parties,” he said.

“I expect the unions to always fight any chances they are going to lose power in the system.”

He said fundamental changes have to be made to the law governing teachers “so this doesn’t keep happening over and over again. They have a right to strike but they don’t have a right to hold hostage students and parents in these work-to-rule actions. There is nothing extra about extracurriculars.”

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) withdrew from extracurricular activities earlier this year when the Liberal government imposed contracts on the public elementary and high school teachers that froze their wages for two years and took away paid sick days, among other things.

The OSSTF just last Friday agreed to a deal with the government that it restart extracurricular activities, leaving ETFO the lone holdout.

  • TORONTO STAR - Boosting Minimum Wage would also boost Economy, from Bottom UP

Date posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:14 pm

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Armine Yalnizyan, Opinion Column
President Barack Obama put the idea of raising the minimum wage on the radar in the U.S. It deserves to be on the radar in Canada too. That's because low-wage work is on the rise.

Mr. Obama says raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour is good for families dependent on low-wage jobs, and for businesses dependent on more consumer power to fuel their growth. A growing economy helps balance the books too.

Nowhere is this more important to consider than in Ontario, where minimum wage workers now account for almost one in 10 employees, more than double the share of a decade ago. (These stats don't include the self-employed.) Ontario's workers are more reliant on minimum wage jobs than any other part of the country, but for Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
Kathleen Wynne, please pay attention.

With more people working at or near the minimum wage in Canada, freezing the statutory minimum means a bigger share of consumers will lose purchasing power to inflation. That's bad news for the economy, since household spending drives 54 per cent of gross domestic product.

There has been no federal minimum wage in Canada since 1996. Ontario and British Columbia have the highest, at $10.25 an hour.
Most provinces have been increasing their minimum wage every year, right through the recession. Ontario's minimum wage workers haven't had a raise since March 2010. Inflation has taken a 6.5-per-cent bite out of the minimum wage's purchasing power since then.

Just over 1 million Canadians are paid at the minimum wage. Ontario accounts for over half of them (534,000). Many people could see a welcome increase in take-home pay if the minimum wage were raised in Ontario to $11.50 an hour, recommended by Ontario's biggest anti-poverty group, 25in5.

Let me make that real for you. A person working full-time, full-year at a minimum wage job in Ontario makes $20,500 before taxes. With the increase, they could make $2,500 more, pre-tax.

People at the bottom of the income spectrum spend all the money they have, and more. Increase their pay, they spend more money, raise demand, boost the economy. Employers don't create jobs; consumers do.

But raising the minimum wage could mean job loss too. That's the main point of those who argue increasing wages will do more harm than good (though why that only applies to workers, and not bosses, beats me).

Clearly some employers can absorb or pass on higher costs more easily than others, whether for labour or other inputs.
It's often assumed that employers who hire minimum wage workers are small businesses. Surprise: More minimum wage workers are being hired by businesses with more than 500 employees over time. In 1998, big business hired 29.6 per cent of all minimum wage employees in Canada; by 2012 they employed 45.3 per cent. In Ontario, big business accounts for almost half of all minimum wage workers.

But won't young workers be hardest hit by job losses if you raise the minimum wage? It's true most minimum wage job-holders are young. Raising the minimum wage would affect them in two ways -- increase the pay of those who work a minimum wage job (making it easier to pay for college or university, and not get as deep in debt); and increase unemployment.

Wait. The minimum wage hasn't increased since 2010 in Ontario and the number of unemployed young workers in Ontario is still rising. Clearly other factors are at play -- like an economy that's not growing very fast.

And, in case you didn't notice, an increasing share of minimum wage workers aren't kids. They're over 35. Alberta has doubled its share of adult minimum wage workers over the past 15 years, to 33 per cent. Almost one in four minimum wage workers are adults in Newfoundland and New Brunswick. In Ontario, it's 27 per cent, up from 17 per cent in 2004. (See here for more provincial data.)

Every year the costs of basics like housing, post-secondary education and energy rise. Wages have increased higher up the job ladder. When should the folks on the bottom rung see an increase? Never?

People will say, with the economy so fragile, this is no time to raise the minimum wage. But it has been raised every year in almost every province outside Ontario, and jobs have been increasing.

A clear plan to raise Ontario's minimum wage from $10.25 to $11.50 -- and indexing it to inflation thereafter -- could increase household incomes, purchasing power, even business confidence. It can bolster the economy, from the bottom up.

Less inequality, more growth. What's not to love? We should be raising the roof about the benefits of raising the wage floor.

Armine Yalnizyan is Senior Economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - Redford accused of picking Fight with Labour

Date posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:13 pm

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Dawn Walton, Calgary
Alberta Premier Alison Redford, desperate to cut costs amid a ballooning deficit, is angering the very labour groups she coveted for support during her leadership bid and last year's election.

The province's teachers on Tuesday joined a growing number of groups expressing frustration with Ms. Redford's Progressive Conservative government, dismissing the latest contract offer by the province as a "thinly veiled threat" to roll back salaries and reduce staff.

"Teachers do not respond well to ultimatums," said Carol Henderson, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, which represents the province's 42,000 teachers.

She said the offer, which includes wage freezes, fails to address workloads adequately. She called it "unacceptable" and urged teachers to go back to the bargaining table with Alberta's 62 school boards to find labour peace at the local, rather than provincial, level.

The Tory government is scrutinizing teachers, doctors and civil servants as it prepares to release a very tight 2013-14 budget on March 7. Facing a deficit of $3.5-billion to $4-billion this fiscal year - about four times bigger than projected - the government is looking to pinch every penny it can.

In its third-quarter update last week, the province announced a three-year salary freeze for public-sector managers starting April 1 to save about $54-million. The government also said it would cut the number of managers by 10 per cent over the same period.

Alberta Health Services, which manages health care, told its staff to brace for austerity. The University of Calgary has said enrolment at its medical school would be limited to 155 spots, down from 170, because it expects the budget to slash funding. The fast-growing province already has a shortage of physicians and is stuck in long-running labour talks with doctors.

"It seems like the Redford government is preparing to pick an unnecessary fight," said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "If there's any province in Canada that can afford quality public services, it's Alberta. The sky is not falling."

Mr. McGowan said Ms. Redford appears to have forgotten the new constituency - teachers, nurses and public sector workers - that propelled her to a massive majority last April, and warned of labour strife if the province doesn't sort out its revenue problem.
"If they think they can return to Klein-style cuts or rollbacks, then they've got another thing coming," he said.

This month, Alberta Medical Association president Michael Giuffre, who represents about 10,000 physicians, issued a letter accusing Ms. Redford of making "inaccurate and misleading" public comments about the province's doctors. He highlighted a particularly touchy topic: pay.

Dr. Giuffre wrote that doctors are paid 14 per cent more than the national average - not 29 per cent, as the government suggested - and noted that salary also covers the costs of running an office in a province where space and staffing are expensive.

"The tenor of your comments vilifies Alberta's physicians and creates an environment that will poison efforts to recruit and retain doctors in the future," he wrote.

He also said funding cuts will have "serious and negative" impact on health care.

"Some medical practices in Alberta will no longer be viable; offices will close and patients will be without care," he added.
Negotiations with doctors are continuing with a facilitator after almost two years, but there's no deadline for a deal. Health Minister

Fred Horne enraged doctors in November when he attempted to force a contract that included an overall raise, cost-of-living adjustments over three years, as well as a lump-sum payment of 2.5 per cent of the previous year's billings that would run through 2016. He revoked the offer to head back to the bargaining table.

"There was an end of February deadline, and then that was extended to as soon as possible once the budget comes out," said Bart Johnson, a spokesman from Mr. Horne's office.

Last week, Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson offered the teachers and school boards a four-year contract with a wage freeze for the first three years, followed by a 2 per cent hike in the final year. He also dangled cash incentives, including 1 per cent of their salary in each of last two years of the deal if an agreement is reached by the end of February.

Otherwise, he warned of the "possibility of salary rollbacks" and expressed his desire to "minimize as much as possible reductions in teaching staff."

The ATA had offered a four-year deal with salary increases at 0, 0, 1 and 3 per cent, and provisions around working conditions, but Mr. Johnson rejected it. On Tuesday, he said he was disappointed the teachers turned down his latest offer, which he said would ensure labour and cost stability.

Jacquie Hansen, president of the Alberta School Boards Association, said the minister's recent offer has "some merit" as well as "some concerns," but her organization recommended boards ratify it. The previous five-year deal with the teachers and boards ended last August.

  • my CNW - Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association

Date posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:12 pm

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Transmitted by CNW Group on : February 27, 2013 10:17

Ontario Labour Relations Board upholds OECTA's bargaining process

TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2013 /CNW/ - Yesterday, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) dismissed the complaint against the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) brought forward by four parties representing local OECTA units, following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government.

In his decision, OLRB Chair Bernard Fishbein stated that the facts outlined in the applications "do not make out any possible violations of the Ontario Labour Relations Act and are therefore dismissed."

"This decision re-affirms that the local presidents and the Provincial Executive established a process in good faith, with the best interest of the membership in mind, and consistent with our obligations under the OLRA," says OECTA President Kevin O'Dwyer.

During the past several months, OECTA's Council of Presidents and Provincial Executive worked collaboratively to develop a new bargaining procedure to address the members' concerns about ratification of future provincial deals. Adds O'Dwyer, "This is the best place to address the concerns of the members, and will strengthen our position as we anticipate a new provincial bargaining process as identified by Premier Wynne."

OECTA represents the 43,000 professional women and men who teach all grades in publicly funded English Catholic schools in Ontario.

SOURCE: Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association
For further information:

Michelle Despault, Director of Communications

  • mykawartha.com - Elementary teachers hold information protest during public school board meeting

Date posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:11 p.m.

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Catherine Whitnall
(LINDSAY) Tuesday evening, it was all about solidarity.

As the Trillium Lakelands District School Board regular meeting at the Lindsay education centre office started, dozens of Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) teachers from Trillium Lakelands as well as colleagues from Durham, Toronto, York and Simcoe joined forces to protest the school board's application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board that cites the teachers' "pause" from voluntary service is illegal.

"Things have been difficult enough. We've had problems with the provincial government. As their employers, you would think they would be more supportive, rather than putting in an extra kick," said Toronto local president Martin Long of the local school board. "We're in uncharted territory. . . . . We need to show our support."

It's a big reason why members of the Kawartha Pine Ridge local, like Bill Betz, also attended.

"The Trillium Lakelands folks have been targeted by their board. It's just the right thing to do," said Mr. Betz. "We've been standing strong against the province's intentional decisions to break our solidarity. . . It's important we share that same support here."

Local union vice-president Kevin Adams said the information protest was scheduled back on Feb. 18 following a regional meeting of Local presidents.

In addition to protesting at the Lindsay office, buses of teachers also headed to board offices in Haliburton and Bracebridge.

Mr. Adams said the decision by the board - which joined forces with the Upper Canada District School Board for the labour board application - was the final straw in a struggle that began last spring when talks between public teachers' unions and the Province broke down followed by the introduction of Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act.

"It takes a lot to make teachers this upset. This [OLRB application] is the perfect example to say, enough is enough," he said, further noting the cost of the whole exercise is mind-boggling. "The time and energy and money could be better spent elsewhere. Where is the money coming from to pay the $600 an hour lawyers? And they have four of them. I hope it won't come from textbooks."

The whole situation is being exacerbated, he added, by the fact three individuals - director of education Larry Hope, board chairperson Karen Round and superintendent of human resources Earl Manners - are "giving push back" instead of trying to resolve matters.

"Those three people are really pushing back and we're really concerned as to why they're taking on this issue. Twenty-nine other boards didn't do this," he said. "We've had meetings, and we want to have more, but I don't see them wanting to talk. . . . They seem to be adversarial."

Mr. Adams added Mr. Hope even "extended the olive branch", which the local union has happily received, but there has been no follow up and Mr. Adams doesn't understand why.

"Whenever they want to sit down and talk to us properly and professionally, then we're ready," he said.

High school teachers were told, following a vote by their union Local presidents on Friday (Feb. 22), that it would be their choice to resume voluntary services. Following suit continues to be reviewed by ETFO, with a decision expected in the coming week.

  • The Globe and Mail - Deal will let Teachers shoulder more investing risk

Date posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 11:08 am

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Tara Perkins
The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is aiming to be more aggressive in its portfolio, its CEO says, after the provincial government and teachers' union struck an unusual deal to tackle the plan's deficit.

"It lowers our risk profile quite substantially, from the board's perspective, such that we can absorb a little more risk in our investment strategy," Teachers' chief executive officer Jim Leech said in an interview Monday. That might mean, for example, new flexibility to bolster investments in emerging markets, do more private equity deals, or put more of its money into stocks.

Mr. Leech has been frustrated because, just as the pension plan needs to boost investment returns, chronic deficits over the past decade have forced it to maintain a highly conservative investment profile.

That has meant restricting equities to 45 per cent of its portfolio, a lower weighting than most pension funds.

But the fund's co-sponsors, the Ontario government and the Ontario Teachers' Federation, have agreed to eliminate the guaranteed inflation protection that is paid on benefits to plan members, a move that will wipe out the plan's $9.6- billion deficit (as of Jan. 1, 2012).

The province and union have also agreed to study ways to put a permanent stop to the fund's deficits, research that will likely look at the balance between the number of years that teachers work and the number of years that they receive benefits. In 1990, teachers worked, on average, for 29 years and received retirement benefits for 25 years; by 2011, they worked for 26 years and drew pensions for 30 years. The profession skews toward women and tends to be healthy, resulting in long life expectancy.

The province and union reached the agreement to eliminate the deficit more than two weeks ago but it has remained under the public radar as Queen's Park settles back in after a leadership change.

One of the main issues the province has been contending with is contract negotiations with the teachers, in the wake of a bitter dispute that erupted when former premier Dalton McGuinty prohibited teachers from striking last fall and then imposed new contracts on them early last month.

"It is difficult; teachers did take a reduction in benefits, but I think that ensures the sustainability of the pension plan and weathers the storm created by low interest rates and changing demographics," Terry Hamilton, president of the Ontario Teachers' Federation, said in an interview.

"The times didn't help the situation but it shows how we continue to work effectively with the government."

Mr. Leech says the agreement is one of the most significant of its kind in the industry. "Pension plans have to evolve," he said.

"Plans have to show that they can evolve to the new reality, and I think what these two sponsors have done - the government and the teachers - is shown that they can make that evolution."

Former finance minister Dwight Duncan made it clear last spring that Teachers' pension deficit would have to be tackled through benefit reductions, rather than contribution increases, since the province matches what teachers pay into the plan. The government and union have agreed to numerous measures over the years to eliminate deficits, and the guaranteed inflation protection had already been cut from 100 per cent to 50 per cent.

But Mr. Leech says the changes should have a more permanent impact this time, characterizing this agreement as "a dramatic move." While the goal will still be to pay inflation protection, the need to do so is removed entirely.

"It provides us with a tool to absorb some hiccups, if there are any, because you can float the inflation protection up and down," Mr. Leech said, adding that the sponsors have "invoked it such that, going forward, 45 per cent will be paid until further notice." That will take effect at the start of 2015, Mr. Hamilton said.

While Teachers has not yet disclosed its 2012 annual results, Mr. Leech said it has informed the co-sponsors that, since interest rates fell further during the year, the fund is likely to report a small deficit as of the start of this year - in the neighbourhood of 97-per-cent or 98-per-cent funded, he said. "But it will be much smaller ... and it is easily handled," he said.

(c) 2013 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  • Toronto Star - Teachers seek changes to contract; Union wants 'mid-term amendments' to pact as bargaining resumes

Date posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 4:34 pm

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Kristin Rushowy and Robert Benzie Toronto Star
Ontario's high school teachers' union is looking for "mid-term amendments" to the contracts imposed by the government as it returns to talks with the province this week.

After Friday's announcement that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation would stop its "political protest" that put an end to extracurricular activities, president Ken Coran said Monday that bargaining would begin provincially, and then locally.

Though the government has repeatedly said it would not rip up the contracts it imposed on public elementary and high school teachers, changes to the more contentious issues through regulation are a way around that.

The union "is entering a new phase" of labour relations with the government, Coran told reporters Monday.

Education Minister Liz Sandals emphasized there was no "backroom deal" with the OSSTF.

"We're not changing the fiscal parameters - we have no choice in that, there is no new money. It really is a process issue. I know that's not an exciting answer, but there is no secret deal. We're going to change the process," Sandals told reporters Monday after question period.

However, in a confidential memo sent to teachers, Coran said the union's priorities include "mid-term amendments" to current contracts, as well as assurances that "any future changes to the (salary) grid structure not be imposed."

The government has said it was looking to reform the grid to save money.

The union also wants to discuss a union-run health and benefits plan, which would save the government money - money that the union would then expect be reinvested in teachers.

The memo also says both the government and union are "committed to look for fiscally neutral alternatives to unpaid days" off, which were imposed in the contracts to pay for salary increases under the grid.

Regulation 274, which forces principals to hire teachers from among the five most senior applicants, is also an issue for the union, Coran said.

At Queen's Park, Premier Kathleen Wynne ducked questions about what concessions the Liberals gave the OSSTF to reach a deal.

Tory MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) said Ontarians deserve to know the real tab.

"I wouldn't be popping the champagne or patting myself on the back if I were an Ontario Liberal at the moment, because actually, Ken Coran said ... 'There's a genesis, a change, a metamorphosis,'' MacLeod said.

"We're going to go back to the way business was done.' What does that mean? What does that cost?''

Despite the union's change in stance on extracurricular activities, not all schools will see a full slate of sports and clubs, as the union emphasized it is up to each teacher to decide.

Coran said the majority of teachers is waiting for something "concrete" before starting up again.

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - Ontario teachers divided over return to extracurriculars

Date posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 12:07 pm

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KATE HAMMER And CAROLINE ALPHONSO - EDUCATION REPORTERS
Ontario's high-school teachers are divided over whether to resume supervising extracurricular activities despite instructions from union leaders to stop political protests.

Though many are keen to resume leading clubs and sports teams right away, others are waiting to hear more about what promises, if any, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) has won from the provincial government.

"I'll be waiting and seeing," said Suche James, athletic director at Frontenac Secondary School in Kingston, Ont., and president of the Eastern Ontario Secondary School Athletic Association. The union estimates that about 20 per cent of high school teachers will continue their protest,
another 20 per cent will resume leading extracurriculars, and about 60 per cent are still deciding, according to a letter sent to OSSTF members Sunday and obtained by the Globe and Mail.

The confidential document identifies "priority issues" for the union, including protections for local bargaining and powers to make mid-term changes to collective agreements, as well as longterm protections to the pay grid that enables teacher salaries to climb from about $40,000 to $90,000 over ten years based on education and experience. (Legislation introduced in September sought a revision to that grid, with a view toward savings.)

Teachers are angry at the government for imposing the terms of their contracts through legislation. Mr. James said he would be happy to see the bargaining process between teachers and the government formalized and protected by law, but that others will likely insist on changes
to the terms that were imposed, such as cuts to sick days.

"If you look at Twitter, teachers are too angry to start leading extracurriculars again. If you ask the union, all the clubs and sports teams are coming back. The reality is probably somewhere in between," he said.

Pressure has been mounting in recent weeks for teachers to stop the political protest, as fears grew that the loss of extracurriculars could drive students away from the public system into

Catholic or private schools, where clubs and sports teams haven't been disrupted. "The concern is that Grade 8s are making their choice right now whether to go Catholic or public schools," said one Windsor, Ont., high-school teacher with close to five years' experience. "If we lose a lot of student enrolment, younger teachers could lose positions."

The rise in these concerns coincided with a leadership change for the Ontario government, which has resurrected talks between union leaders and the province under new premier Kathleen Wynne.

Sources said local OSSTF leaders learned of the motion being brought forward the night before Friday's vote. There was a passionate debate in the room Friday, but in the end, local presidents were asked to trust their leadership, sources said. Many - not all - agreed to the request that teachers reinstate extracurriculars.

There was fear that an Ontario Labour Relations Board decision could affect high-school teachers (two small school boards, Upper Canada District School Board and Trillium Lakelands District School Board, are arguing that the elementary teachers union has mandated teachers to
stop voluntary activities, which they say constitutes an illegal strike. A decision is expected shortly). There was also concern among OSSTF leaders that public opinion was no longer in their favour, sources said. Multiple meetings between OSSTF and the government Thursday led
to an agreement to formalize the bargaining process, a government source said.

The union's executive voted unanimously to restore extracurriculars based on progress made in those talks, but some local-level leaders opposed the idea.

Although it was clear discussion with the province were going well, the timing of the teachers' vote seemed to come as a surprise to the government. Premier Wynne was in Ottawa, where she was meeting with business leaders, and Education Minister Liz Sandals was in her home riding of Guelph doing local constituency work when they learned of the results.

"To be perfectly honest, we understood from the ongoing negotiations and the ongoing discussions because, obviously, the premier's staff and my staff have been meeting with both the elementary and secondary teachers, we knew that OSSTF was meeting today...we didn't know
how long it would take them, how long the discussion would take," she said.

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - Ontario school clubs and teams inching toward return

Date posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 12:36 pm

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CAROLINE ALPHONSO and KATE HAMMER
EDUCATION REPORTERS -
As talks between the Liberal government's new leadership and Ontario teachers continue on the prospect of schools getting their sports teams and clubs back, insiders say discussions with leaders representing high-school educators are offering the most hope.

Leaders for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation meet Friday to update the union locals about their latest talks with new Education Minister Liz Sandals. Teachers have withdrawn extracurricular activities to show their frustration at the provincial government for legislating the terms of their contracts.

Public school boards have been worrying for months about the loss of students to the Catholic and private systems because of the cancellation of extracurriculars. With early enrolment projections suggesting numbers could be down, and budget discussions introducing the prospect
of teacher layoffs, those fears are spreading to union leaders.

The resumption of extracurriculars was on the table at another OSSTF meeting shortly after Kathleen Wynne was chosen as the Ontario Liberals' new leader, but was voted down.

The OSSTF and their colleagues at the elementary level have been meeting with government officials for several weeks, and insiders say high-school teachers are making better progress toward a deal.

"It is very important now that everybody be willing to give up a little bit in order to get a solution," said Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education. "I think if after March break there continues to be no extracurricular activities, it will really begin to have a significant
impact on kids, on parents' confidence in the system itself, and that's not good for anybody. It's undermining public confidence in public education."

Ms. Wynne has indicated plans to revamp the negotiations process, which has involved an informal agreement for all parties to meet at the provincial discussion table over the last decade. Teachers and school boards have lamented that the process doesn't leave enough room for locallevel negotiations, and the imposition of contract terms through legislation earlier this year has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many teachers.

"We're kind of like jilted lovers. We're very upset about the lack of respect shown to us," said Michael Foulds, a high-school teacher in Owen Sound, Ont., and a union representative. Mr. Foulds said that to repair its relationship with teachers, the government will need to commit
- likely through legislation - to local-level bargaining.

Ms. Sandals has said that the collective bargaining process will be restructured going forward. "We all recognize there's some urgency in rewriting the legislation, in changing the rules around collective bargaining for teachers in the province," she said Wednesday, shortly after meeting with the elementary teachers' union.

Though Ms. Wynne has said she won't reopen contracts, education insiders say the government could offer teachers an olive branch in the form of sick days - one of the main complaints regarding the terms imposed through legislation.

Many teachers formerly were eligible for 20 sick days each year, which they could bank for later use or a payout upon retirement. Under the imposed contract, teachers receive 11 days that they cannot save year-to-year. Further, many younger teachers lost days they'd previously banked.

Adding one or two non-bankable sick days would not necessarily disrupt the government's balance sheet, insiders say.

  • TORONTO SUN - Most Ontarians against Catholic school funding

Date posted: Monday, February 25, 2013 12:31 pm

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ANTONELLA ARTUSO | QMI AGENCY
TORONTO -- The number of Ontarians opposed to public funding of Catholic schools has grown to 54%, according to a new Forum Research poll.

A survey of 1,053 people found support for the separate school system at 39%, the lowest in a year's worth of polling. Another 7% of respondents indicated they had no opinion on the issue.

Forum Research Inc. president Lorne Bozinoff said four polls have consistently shown that most Ontarians do not support public funding of a Catholic education system.

"These polls are surprising because it's such an entrenched policy but it is contrary to the majority views," Bozinoff said Thursday.

City of Toronto and southwestern Ontario residents showed the most opposition to Catholic school funding, while support was strongest in northern Ontario and Toronto's 905 suburbs.

Ontarians who identified themselves as New Democrat supporters were much more likely to object to the funding, followed by Liberal backers.

Tory supporters were evenly split on the issue.

Bozinoff said the findings raise questions about why all political parties continue to support public funding of Catholic schools.

"We have this policy that the majority disagree with it, so why do we have it?" Bozinoff said. "Why do we have public funding if their supporters are strongly against it?"

Forum Research also looked at the issue of whether students in the Catholic system should be allowed to opt out of religious training or classes.

Just over half -- 51% -- believed students should be required to attend.

Another 37% would allow children to skip the religious instruction, while 12% were uncertain.

Bozinoff said he polled Ontarians on this issue because of recent publicized battles by some parents to remove their children from religion classes.

Their position was not supported by the majority of those polled.

"Catholic schools are Catholic schools," Bozinoff said. "They can make it mandatory to attend these classes."

Women were the most likely to insist that students take religious programming.

Residents of the City of Toronto were most likely to let them cut that class.

The polling results on the total sample are considered accurate by a margin of plus or minus 3%, while sub-sample results have a larger margin of error.

  • TORONTO STAR - Poll suggests Hudak Tories could win minority, but Wynne has pulled Liberals out of tailspin

Date posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 1:35 pm

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The Progressive Conservatives are poised to win the next election, but Premier Kathleen Wynne has pulled the minority Liberals out of a tailspin.

Robert Benzie Queen's Park Bureau Chief
The Progressive Conservatives are poised to win the next election, but Premier Kathleen Wynne has pulled the minority Liberals out of a tailspin, a new poll suggests.

In the first public-opinion survey since Wynne's throne speech Tuesday outlined how she planned to govern, the Tories are at 36 per cent, the Liberals at 29 per cent, the New Democrats at 28 per cent, and the Greens at 5 per cent.

Forum Research also found the new premier's approval rating was better than predecessor Dalton McGuinty, who retired almost two weeks ago.

"They've got the start of a lift," Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said Thursday of the Liberals.

"The only thing is the three-way splits really favour the Tories ... although no one can really close the deal for a majority yet," said Bozinoff, pointing out PC Leader Tim Hudak lags behind his own party's popularity.

In the last Forum survey on Jan. 24 - two days before Wynne won the Liberal leadership - the NDP led with 35 per cent, the Tories were at 32 per cent, the Liberals were at 27 per cent, and the Greens 5 per cent.

"The NDP is between a rock and a hard place," said Bozinoff, noting as things stand the third party has "got a tough choice to make when the budget comes" in April about whether to continue to budget the Liberals.

That's because Wynne appears to be siphoning support from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. Using interactive voice-response telephone calls, Forum polled 1,053 people across Ontario on Wednesday.

Horwath had the highest approval rating with 49 per cent compared to 36 per cent for Wynne and 27 per cent for Hudak.

In comparison, McGuinty was at 21 per cent last month.

"Approval ratings for Hudak are always low. I don't know why," said Bozinoff, pointing out 50 per cent disapproved of Hudak compared with 30 per cent who disapprove of Wynne and 24 per cent of Horwath.

While the Tory leader insisted Thursday he wants an election soon - because it's time to "change the team" - Bozinoff said respondents seem to want to give Wynne the chance to govern.

Only about one third of those polled - 34 per cent - want an election now. That compares to 48 per cent on Jan. 24 when McGuinty fatigue was at its zenith.

"She has an opportunity. Time is still on the Liberals' side," he said.

  • York Region - Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod has tabled a motion at Queen’s Park she hopes will bring extracurriculars and other voluntary activity withdrawn by teachers back into Ontario schools.

Date posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 10:58 am

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Aurora Banner by kzarzour [at] yrmg [dot] com (Kim Zarzour) Progressive Conservative education critic Lisa MacLeod has tabled a motion at Queen’s Park she hopes will bring extracurriculars and other voluntary activity withdrawn by teachers back into Ontario schools.
The Opposition Day Motion, set for debate and vote by MPPs Tuesday, Feb. 26, calls for legislation that would amend teachers’ job description to “re-include certain co-instructional activities that the Liberal government removed”.
That includes timely and fully completed report cards, meeting with parents outside classroom hours, staff meetings, marking assignments and helping students after school.
The motion filed today also says union leaders should no longer tell front-line teachers how they can use their personal time.
Ms MacLeod is referring to volunteering, helping students, supervising, performing or organizing extracurricular or co-curricular activities.
If they do, she said, it should be considered an abuse of union powers and referred to the Ministry of Labour. Fines resulting from such illegal labour action should be reported to the Ontario College of Teachers for workplace harassment and conduct unbecoming of a teaching professional.
Most of Ontario’s schools have stopped extracurricular activities in protest of Bill 115, legislation that imposed on teachers a two-year contract and withdrew their right to strike.
The issue of union direction regarding volunteer work is awaiting a decision by the Ontario Labour Relations Board after two small Ontario boards, Trillium Lakelands and Upper Canada, argued the elementary teacher union issued directives that constitute an illegal strike.
Ms McLeod is also asking the Liberals, through an order-in-council, to repeal controversial Regulation 274/12 that says hiring must be based on seniority.
The regulation, imposed in September, prevents “principals in our schools to hire the best qualified teacher for the job”, she said.
"I believe the Liberals will look for reconsideration of this regulation," The Ontario Public School Board Association's Michael Barrett said. "Regulation 274 significantly limits hiring authority of boards and must be rescinded."
David Clegg, president of York Region’s elementary teachers federation and former head of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, said the Tory MPP’s motion will further fan the flames of teachers discontent, given the course of events over the past year.
“To legislatively impose a contract that cut pay and benefits, and then suggest to legislate additional work and duties, is nothing short of condemning teachers to serfdom.”
Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation president Ken Coran was not available for comment. Spokesperson Lori Foote said the union is meeting with government representatives tomorrow and with all high school union leaders Friday.
Similar legislation, Bill 74, was introduced by the Progressive Conservatives in 2000. The Education Accountability Act made extracurricular activities mandatory for both elementary and secondary school teachers and denied them the right to bargain conditions around extracurriculars
At that time, Kathleen Wynne, then a parent activist with the Metro Parent Network in Toronto, addressed Queen’s Park, saying the bill would poison the atmosphere in classrooms.
“If students and teachers have to function in an atmosphere of coercion, without consideration for workload and demands confronting teachers already, goodwill will disappear and activities will be delivered to minimum standards.”
The part of Bill 74 that dealt with extracurriculars was not proclaimed law.

  • The Way Forward

Date posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 4:13 pm

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Mr. Speaker, members of the legislative assembly, men and women, young and old, across this great province of Ontario.

I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.

Today it is my privilege as Her Majesty's representative to deliver the first Speech from the Throne drafted by this new government, as we mark the beginning of the second session of the 40th Parliament of Ontario.

If you will allow me a moment of reflection, I would like to speak of another first, a man whom, sadly, we have lost since I last addressed this legislature.

The Honourable Lincoln Alexander was the first black member of Parliament, the first black cabinet minister, the first black lieutenant governor of Ontario.

But when he passed away last October, his granddaughters remembered him simply as a true human being with flaws and perfections.

He was born and raised in Toronto, his heart belonged to Hamilton, but he served on behalf of his entire province, and his nation.

He was not hemmed in by the prejudice of others, nor the expectations of his time.

He demonstrated that every individual part of our being informs who we are but it does not define who we are.

And that if we believe in our own abilities, our potential has no limits.

As a man, he was more than the sum of his parts and now, as a memory, he is a symbol of the service we must endeavour to offer.

Your new government believes that Ontario is a place of endless possibilities.

Of flaws and perfections.

Where people have different backgrounds and different views, where they gaze upon different skylines, but share the same hopes.

Your new government sees a great province that brings together disparate elements and bonds them together as one.

And your new government believes the legislature should work the same way.

For the benefit of the entire province, your government intends to work with opposition parties, in a spirit of renewed cooperation, to get the people's business done.

It does not believe that we are irreparably divided.

Or that the challenges we face cannot be overcome.

Nor will it look at any one issue in isolation from another, because your new government believes that complex times require thoughtful, collaborative solutions.

And that we can only surmount each obstacle by acknowledging that they are all connected.

And that we are all connected.

So yes, your government will balance its books -- it will also challenge the people of Ontario to help the province innovate and grow.

And yes, your government will strive for economic prosperity -- it will also encourage a fair society, where all the people of Ontario have good jobs and strong communities.

And where each and every one of us is safe, and healthy and cared for.

Your government will create a better process to ensure that all its partners, including those within the public sector, are treated with respect.

But it will call upon these same partners to work with this new government so we can journey forward, boldly, as one.

Today, we turn a page in history, in some respects.

Another series of firsts: the first day of a reopened legislature, the first female premier.

We are not starting over, but we are dedicated anew.

A Steady Hand and a Bold Vision


The central objectives of your new government will be fiscal responsibility, economic growth and increased employment -- the bedrocks on which it will build.

It will ensure opportunity for all without letting anyone slip through the cracks.

And it will send a clear message that Ontario's finances are in steady hands, so that the confidence of all sectors can be raised.

Your new government will restrain program spending to reduce Ontario's debt-to-GDP ratio, while recommitting itself to eliminating the deficit by 2017-2018.

And after that, it will restrict overall spending increases to one per cent below GDP growth until the province's debt-to-GDP ratio returns to the pre-recession level of 27 per cent.

It will also introduce a balanced approach to balancing the budget so that all parties can work together to find savings without impacting the services on which people rely.

However, your new government understands that Ontario's true potential cannot be reached through austerity alone.

And so it will continue to implement recommendations found in the Drummond Report, including work to evaluate corporate tax compliance.

But it will also be driven by the quest for innovation and growth.

At the heart of this will be your new government's action on job creation, which will draw on the belief that an educated, skilled and diverse workforce is Ontario's greatest strength.

Your government looks to strengthen the earning potential of all men and women of this province - whether they live in cities or small towns, the north or the south - and enable everyone to have a good job and a secure paycheque.

It will empower its industries to expand and its individual citizens to excel.

Your government will coordinate its services with those of non-profit and private sectors so that recent graduates, new Canadians and the unemployed can find a practical path into the workforce.

To address the serious issue of youth unemployment, your government will join forces with high school educators, colleges, universities, training partners and employers to establish opportunities for young people to enhance their skills; find placements, internships and co-op programs; and gain valuable, real world experience.

Aboriginal communities must also have access to the tools and training they need to fully participate in economic development opportunities, including those related to our natural resources.

And so your government is working with Aboriginal communities to ensure that the benefits of resource development are shared and opportunities for education, training and employment are established.

Your government will ensure that all individuals can find their role in this economy.

And so it calls on the private sector to increase the number of people with disabilities in the Ontario workforce.

As a demonstration of its commitment to this goal, your government will shift the Accessibility Directorate from the Ministry of Community and Social Services to the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

Because men and women with disabilities deserve a level playing field.

A renewed partnership with business, educational institutions, not-for-profits and labour will be at the heart of your government's plans to build a modern, competitive and dynamic economy.

And so your new government will work with the opposition and small business to explore an increase in the Employer Health Tax exemption threshold.

It will look to stimulate productivity across all sectors, from automotive and agriculture to film, music, and digital media; from small business to start-ups and social entrepreneurs.

And your government will continue to assert Ontario's pride of place in the realms of manufacturing, financial services, tourism, forestry and natural resource development.

But it will also support the exploration of new economic terrain.

It will work with financial institutions and government agencies to ensure that small- and medium-sized enterprises have access to the capital they need to expand.

And as a demonstration of that commitment, your government will contribute $50 million to a new $300-million venture capital fund in partnership with its federal counterparts and the private sector.

Your government will also capitalize on its trade corridors, expanding them and making them attractive to global markets.

It will work with members of our diverse population to open up new opportunities and expand the network of our possibilities.

It will help facilitate the smooth transfer of goods through important hubs like Windsor, across the Detroit River International Crossing, and it will lead trade missions to our valuable partners abroad.

Your government will visit our friends in India and China, but also in Southeast Asia, eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America.

It will ensure that every part of the province has dependable, affordable sources of energy.

And because conservation is the cheapest source of energy available, Ontario will continue to be a leader in smart-grid technology and energy conservation, and see the creation of new-economy jobs through the deployment of leading energy efficiency technologies in our homes and our businesses.

It will also continue its work to end coal-fired energy generation, the single largest climate change initiative currently underway in North America.

As your government moves forward, Ontario's labour force will be treated fairly and with respect.

It will sit down with its partners across all sectors to build a sustainable model for wage negotiation, respectful of both collective bargaining and a fair and transparent interest arbitration process, so that the brightness of our shared future is not clouded by the indisputable economic realities of our time.

It will prove once again that Ontario is a great place to work and live, but also to visit, to invest in, to believe in.

It will celebrate our hard work, our ingenuity, our diversity, our arts and culture, and protect the beauty of our natural environment.

And it calls upon its legislative partners to join with the government in the pursuit of a modern economy, a path to productivity, and good jobs right here in Ontario.

Because the tools of progress must be forged in the fire of our collective will.


A New Sense of Community

Your government understands the importance of relationships in all their manifestations.

The relationship between us as citizens; but also the relationship between individual parts and the whole.

The ways in which our economy is supported by the roads we drive, and the services we continue to offer.

Your government understands that if Ontario is to prosper, then individual communities must prosper.

And that provinces must work together to advocate for their shared needs, and raise their voices as one to demand that a great nation must have the capacity to do great things.

Your government understands that infrastructure is the underpinning of our economy, and that if we continue to lag behind then we will never leap forward.

The people of this province are ready to have a serious conversation about the needs of their communities, whether those needs are better roads or stronger bridges, repaired underpasses or accelerated, integrated transit planning.

To build these things and facilitate Ontario's success, your government believes that smart infrastructure investment can no longer be mired in political rhetoric.

Just as the hard-working men and women of this province can no longer afford to waste their time stuck in traffic.

Or be isolated from one another, and the services they need, because their communities are remote, or their funding is unpredictable.

If we continue to argue about the tools this investment will require then we are deaf to the symphony of progress that echoes around us.

The new government is confident that the people of Ontario are willing to participate in a practical discussion of these costs if they can be guaranteed measurable results.

And those results will be found in the increase of our collective productivity, the reduction of our daily commute times and the reduced impact on our climate and natural environment.

But your government also realizes that these are not the hurdles of one city or one province, but a race against time for Canada as a whole.

Addressing them will require cooperation from all orders of government, and so your government will engage in conversation with its municipal and community partners.

And it will also reach out to its provincial and territorial colleagues to advocate for a national strategy on infrastructure and transit.

It will address the need for improvements to rural roads and bridges, suburban transit, and a solution to the gridlock that threatens to cripple the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

It will address the special transportation needs of Ontario's North and endeavour to improve vital access to the Ring of Fire, and improve the flow of people and goods along our trade corridors to the United States.

Because Ontario cannot evolve if it cannot move.

Your government intends to work with municipalities on other issues, too.

Because communities must be involved and connected to one another.

They must have a voice in their future and a say in their integrated, regional development.

So that local populations are involved from the beginning if there is going to be a gas plant or a casino or a wind plant or a quarry in their hometown.

Because our economy can benefit from these things, but only if we have willing hosts.

Ontario communities must also remain safe.

Because every child in this province should be able to walk home without fear, and no parent should face an unthinkable loss.

And so your government will explore how to improve collaboration along the front lines of community safety, allowing police and prosecutors to build on successful best practices across the justice system.

When it comes to the different regions of this province, your new government will not address your issues in isolation because you are not isolated.

Your new government will work with municipal leaders in every region of this province.

Because our rural and northern residents are unique, and their voices will be heard.

But that same promise is made to young families in condos downtown, to retirees in Ontario's wine country, to the people of the north and the south and the east and the west.

Because your government knows that its citizens are not defined by their location alone.

Because we have autoworkers who live on rural roads, and we have local food advocates who cycle to work in the city.

We have authors and artists and actors in Timmins and men and women who love the outdoors but live in the growing city of London.

We are all extensions of the same landscape, part of the same province; and each citizen will inform its government's perspective and its actions.

Your government knows that Ontario comprises many parts, and is one part of the Canadian whole.

And that while we are all different, we share the same goals.


A Fair Society

To climb to great heights, your government believes that everyone must have the same firm footing.

If we help people now, we will help ourselves immeasurably in the future, because the services provided by your government allow people to work, and prosper and contribute.

Following the recommendations of Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh, your new government will work to help the unemployed find a job.

And to ensure that the challenging path they must navigate to free themselves from social assistance is not made unduly difficult, your government will enable them to keep more of what they earn through their hard work.

These are people whom all parties hope to empower, and your government encourages the legislature to work together on their behalf.

Your government will also ensure that our citizens have a safe, secure and affordable place to live.

The day-to-day interests of people across Ontario must be addressed, and your government will strive to protect their privacy and their pocketbooks.

It will help this province's nine million drivers by continuing to implement the recommendations of the Auto Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force, protecting individuals against fraud and working to reduce insurance rates across Ontario.

And it will look to strengthen the rights of Ontario's consumers when it comes to door-to-door sales, debt settlement services, real estate transactions and mobile and smartphone contracts.

Because our marketplace must be fair, and the prices we pay transparent.

The happiness and health of Ontario residents must be enshrined, and so your government will also continue to build the strongest and most innovative health care system in the world, so that the hospitals and research institutions in places like Thunder Bay and Toronto keep setting international standards and saving innumerable lives.

Your government is committed to health promotion to combat smoking and obesity, and it believes strongly in patient-centred care and evidence-based health policy.

Along with all parties in the legislature, it understands the pressing need to expand access to home care in Ontario.

And so your government will continue to expand the support available to people in their homes, and to address the needs of men and women across Ontario currently waiting for the home care services they require.

Your government will also continue to expand access to mental health services and support efforts to reduce stigma for men and women coping with mental illness.

It will work with partners in all related sectors to coordinate the best response to these challenges because Ontario's minds and spirits must be healthy, too.

It will also move forward with a Seniors Strategy to ensure that Ontario can best respond to the needs of its aging population.

It will promote partnership between health care providers - from hospitals and long-term care homes, to community support services and front line medical providers through Community Health Links - so that the care of our loved ones and our most vulnerable citizens is constant and cohesive.

To ensure the best treatment for our children, our parents, grandparents and our friends, your government believes the research community must be supported in its work.

And it is therefore announcing renewed support for the Ontario Brain Institute through a funding partnership with the private sector.

Every dollar your government contributes will leverage four additional dollars from its partners by 2018.

A healthy community also requires strong doses of compassion and forethought.

And so your government will continue to prioritize education and inclusion.

It will keep building a comprehensive early learning and care system, including the successful extension of full-day kindergarten and child care.

It will show its respect for teachers, support staff, principals and school boards.

Because our young people will experience a world of which we can now only dream, and we must all work together to ensure they are equipped with the appropriate tools for their time.

They must be literate in the languages of tomorrow; encouraged to pursue the paths of their choosing and prepared for the challenges ahead.

We must teach them to work together and to believe in themselves.

We must emphasize critical thinking, creativity, teamwork and an entrepreneurial spirit.

We must enamour them to the possibilities of science, math and technology.

We must help them feel safe and take their ideas and their input seriously.

And so your government will create a permanent Premier's youth advisory council.

It will continue to offer the 30 Per Cent Off Ontario Tuition Grant to help more people get a postsecondary education.

And your government believes that First Nation, Metis and Inuit children must share in every opportunity, too.

That we must close the gap with their peers so that they can live and learn and play as they like.

And we must all acknowledge that their proud heritage does not preclude their full participation.

Your government will work with Aboriginal communities, but the federal government must also live up to its important obligations in this regard.

Your government will ensure that attention and respect are extended to all.

It will ensure that Ontario's Francophone community is recognized and celebrated for its culture and its contributions.

And so your government will expand the availability of French postsecondary programs in central and southwestern Ontario.

Our community of new Canadians will be shown that where they were born will not limit what they can achieve.

Ontario is home to citizens who speak many languages; who have brought their culture, their training and their aspirations to this province.

Your government sees Ontario's diverse population as an asset to be exalted.

It is not just a mosaic but a valuable work of art, from which we can glean great knowledge.

The people of this province may speak different languages. They may be young or old, healthy or ailing, rich or poor.

But the parties of this legislature should have their trust, and they deserve our fairness and our support.


The Way Forward

Your government believes that if we can hope to serve Ontario, then we must act together, as one.

The people of Ontario expect this of all members of the legislative assembly.

It is what they want and it is what they deserve.

Members of provincial parliament must be conduits for their constituents, so this legislature can hear all the voices of this province and represent all of its diverse needs.

All parties and each member will be encouraged to contribute to this process, to make their insights known.

Your new government hopes that ideas will be put forward with optimism and purpose, and that voices will not be raised solely for the pursuit or retention of power.

Your government is committed to finding real, creative solutions to the issues we face.

To do this, it will direct its efforts across these aisles, within its ministries, and in partnership with other provinces.

When Ontario hosts the Council of the Federation in Niagara-on-the-Lake this summer, it will work with our provincial partners to expedite the return of principled transfer arrangements with the federal government.

Closer to home, your government expects the talent and tenacity of its public servants to help propel this province to greatness.

It will not over-promise, nor will it be bowed into submission.

It will be respectful and direct, honest and decisive.

Your government, and your cabinet ministers, will be accountable to all the people of Ontario, and work to prevent mistakes before they occur.

And it will work with all parties in the legislature to review the decisions to relocate energy infrastructure in this province.

Your new government is committed to getting real work done on behalf of all the people of Ontario, and it calls upon members of the legislature to come together in support of that noble goal.

There are so many opportunities for progress, for all parties to join together.

There is common ground that transcends partisan politics, and it is found in the desire to make Ontario's economy stronger; to improve its transportation networks and give all the people of this province the same opportunities, purpose and pride.

Your government believes all things are possible.

Your government will not be hemmed in by expectations.

It will explore the endless geography of our shared potential.

Because we are one province, and together we can be more than the sum of our parts.

Your government will tackle its flaws and celebrate the perfections of its people.

Your government will bring together disparate elements and bond them together as one.

Both within these hallowed halls and across this glorious province.

Because we are people with different backgrounds and different views, we gaze upon different skylines but we all share the same hopes.

And your government will endeavour to serve for the benefit of all.

Thank you. Merci. Meegwetch.

  • TORONTO STAR - School boards urged to find low-cost options for full-day kindergarten

Date posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 4:08 pm

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Ontario school boards are struggling to find low-cost options to school additions to accommodate full-day kindergarten, including tinkering with boundaries and busing kids.

Kristin Rushowy Education Reporter
School boards have been told to find low-cost options to make room for full-day kindergarten in a bid to save on construction costs for the final years of its rollout, the Star has learned.

While the province has pledged $1.4 billion to renovate and put additions on schools for the full-day program, it's not nearly enough to cover the needs of every school requiring extra space, so many boards are looking at changing boundaries or busing kids elsewhere.

Some have even considered off-site space to house the program for the province's 4- and 5-year-olds, which was rolled out in September 2010 and is expected to be fully in place by 2014.

"Years four and five are where the rubber hits the road," said Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association. "Most school boards have done the responsible thing, putting full-day kindergarten in schools that have available space, and the reality is catching up that there's not the space in all schools in all communities."

As for construction, "we kind of got an inkling it was going to happen during budget discussions, but it certainly has come down in the last couple of weeks to look at the low-cost (options) for year five, but I guess you could say the government has always said to look for the lowest-cost options."

When the province first announced its flagship education program, parents did not envision their children would be moved to a different home school, or that older students might be bumped into portables - or another school - to make room.

Barrett said while changing boundaries is one way to handle the space issue, "we've asked the ministry to fund (full-day kindergarten) in the way it was intended to be funded."

Newly appointed Education Minister Liz Sandals said the government is "committed to making sure every Ontario family has access to this great program" and that school boards "have the responsibility to manage their allocated pool of funds to address all of their (full-day) related capital needs in an efficient manner."

Boards "may decide that in certain cases it is preferable" not to do renovations but instead move students around, she said in an email to the Star.

Boards had an easier time for the first three years of full-day kindergarten since the chosen schools had to have the space and required only minor work, such as installing coat hooks or extra cubbies.

But schools now - and especially in year five - require major additions to accommodate the program.

While a couple of boards, including Lakehead in Thunder Bay, have a lot of excess space and are in fact fully implementing all-day kindergarten ahead of schedule this fall, bigger urban boards have found it much more difficult.

Amid an enrolment boom, five schools in trustee Howard Goodman's North Toronto ward are looking at space, boundaries and other options to accommodate full-day kindergarten.

The problem began when the province mandated a 20-student class cap from kindergarten to Grade 3, which took up all the space in his schools, he said.

All five schools under review "have little room to expand, and given the funding issues we are facing with the ministry . . . (it) is being very tight with capital funding for full-day kindergarten in year five."

The ministry reviews each school's expansion proposal and board staff have been told to ensure "all non-capital solutions have been considered - which includes busing kids and changing boundaries," Goodman said, adding such solutions are "highly disruptive to communities."

Indeed, parents at John Wanless public school have started a petition and erected hundreds of lawn signs in the neighbourhood, arguing a school space review they conducted found room for full-day kindergarten so boundaries don't have to be redrawn and children forced to attend schools beyond a reasonable walking distance.

"Information seems to be coming out in dribs and drabs and it's hard to know what's going on," said Ray Fischer, a father of two children, one in junior kindergarten at Wanless, adding the uncertainty and delay in decisions have made the problem all the worse.

"It's of critical importance to my family and to all of the other families in the neighbourhood - how we plan for child care and how we plan for schooling, even where we buy our houses . . . it's a very frustrating process."

Goodman is starting formal consultations with parents at the five schools in late March. He said he believes that in the end the Wanless boundary won't shrink, but that doesn't mean others won't change.

Goodman said parents did not expect the anxiety surrounding full-day kindergarten.

"The large pronouncements of general policies mislead parents tremendously," he said. "It sounds really good, but the province never talks about some of the stuff around the edges that isn't so good."

The Toronto District School Board has been given about $186 million for full-day kindergarten renovations and additions, said Daryl Sage, director of strategy and planning.

Much of the construction will likely be port-a-pacs, more modern portables that are connected to one another and to the school. The board is adding 40 such modular classrooms this fall.

"They are not a bricks-and-mortar addition; they are prefabricated in a factory and they come to the site in sections" and can be installed quickly, Sage said.

"I would suspect that once parents see the modular units, they will be extremely pleased." Sage said no full-day kindergarten students will be in actual portables, though older students may end up in them to make room.

Off-site locations are an option, he said, but board staff have not pursued it as it would split kids between locations and could inconvenience parents at drop-off and pickup times.

"I was in Florida last year and the school board there is actually renting space from the community centre and had classes in there. As enrolment pressures come, and the availability of capital dollars isn't there, obviously it gets people thinking of different ways of approaching the problem."

The Peel public board also considered off-site spaces, but decided it was preferable to keep school communities in one location.

The Toronto Catholic board started by implementing boundaries for its elementary schools - which only a handful had - and pushed all 22 schools requiring major work into year five, said Angelo Sangiorgio, associate director of planning and facilities.

"We've basically tried to manage our enrolment and give priority to (kindergarten) students who live in the catchment area," he said.

The board is receiving $44 million for additions and renovations for 2013 and 2014, and Sangiorgio said the money will be enough.

However, some schools that will get additions have portables and will continue to use them as the funds can only be use for full-day construction.

"It's confusing for parents," he said. "In a perfect world, we would do construction all at once; it's the most cost-effective and least disruptive of all the options."

TORONTO STAR - Ontario teachers should earn more, not less

 Date posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 5:32 pm

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Ontario should increase teachers' pay and social status, not freeze or cut them back, to build the best education system.

Opinion / Editorial Opinion
Irvin Studin
The banality of Canadian politics is often held up as a great strength of our country. It is said that it speaks to our moderate temperament and our general predilection for gradual change over destabilizing revolution. But banality in policy-making can also sometimes lead to long-term pain, particularly when one begins to see Canadian public decision-making in the context of a fast changing world in which the "good life" for Canada - far from guaranteed - will depend to a great extent on our capacity to continue building the country and forming its citizens.

On this score, the government of Ontario's recent move to freeze teachers' wages and attempt to legislate teachers back to work is a hyper-banal policy move that the province may well come to regret for a generation. True, the government's move can be painted as fiscally responsible or prudent, and its call for teachers to sacrifice may well be justified on equity grounds.

Indeed, this attractive message of fiscal prudence and of "doing one's part" appears to have largely carried the day with the public and the media, just as the considerable resistance of some of the teachers' unions to the government's move - with its consequences for students' lives - has frustrated many Ontarians who understandably wish to return to the business of schooling as usual.

Alas, the resistance of the teachers and the practical frustration of many stakeholders of Ontario's school system have together conspired to give some of the most philistine commentators in the province a platform and pretext to depict Ontario teachers as somehow parasitic on the public treasury. This strand of vilifying the teaching class has, stunningly, gone largely uncorrected and unchecked by an Ontario government that has been both distracted and timid in the face of a dangerous public discourse that debases the very profession - the teaching profession - on which the future of the province and country depend.

Such debasement of teaching is not only an ethical perversion, but a self-destructive one, for whereas all of the world's oldest and wisest societies rightly revere teachers above all peer professionals, I know of no society that has long survived, leave alone prospered, by attacking the reputation and integrity of its pedagogical classes.

A less banal politics and political leadership - one that recognizes its own pedagogical role in enlightening social instincts - would have seized the conjuncture of fiscal tightness and the obvious need for Ontario to reinvent itself by recasting - that is, turning on its head - the basic bargain or compact between teachers and the Ontario citizenry (and government). A less banal politics would have told the teachers and indeed prospective teachers that their pay would not be frozen and benefits cut, but that these would instead be increased, and that with this increase would come, by policy design, enhanced social status for this pivotal vocation.

Of course, there would be a quid pro this quo: increased pay would mean increased qualifications and credentials and performance expectation for teachers, such that we in Ontario may rapidly modernize the teaching profession by attracting and retaining the absolute best and brightest from all of Ontario, Canada and the world in order to prepare future generations that will be those that build the province and country for this complex century.

This would mean that, instead of having heroic English or history majors teach mathematics to our elementary school students, we might imagine having PhDs or graduate school-trained specialists in math in the classroom at early ages. The same goes for science, languages, history and so on. The difference in the quality of the young graduates coming from this modernized, serious system would be marked, and the long-term impact for Ontario and Canada revolutionary.

Other serious societies, from Finland to Singapore, do all of this actively and with success. They live and die by the teaching profession, and so they treat its members, recruits and overall brand with unexampled care. They know that having the "best schools in the English-speaking world" is an absurdly irrelevant barometer of success in a globalized world. And they know that this globalized world will ultimately consist of two types of societies: those that build, and those that live on the terms of the builders. And they all want to be builders. So, I presume, do we.

Irvin Studin is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Global Brief magazine, and MPP Program Director and Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Toronto.

  • Toronto Star - Improving diversity of teaching staff tough under new provincial rule, boards say

Date posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 2:36 pm

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Regulation 274 will hamstring boards wanting to hire a more diverse teaching workforce because they have to hire from among the most senior candidates - not the best one

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, says efforts to diversify teaching staffs are hampered by a seniority rule in hiring.

By: Kristin Rushowy Education Reporter
A new provincial regulation that forces school boards to hire from among the five most senior applicants hampers any effort to improve the diversity of teaching staff - and it means principals won't necessarily be able to bring in the best person for the job, says the president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association.

"The desire for school boards to be able to ensure teaching staff reflect their respective communities can be trumped by Regulation 274," said Michael Barrett, who is also an Oshawa trustee for the Durham District School Board.

" Seniority trumps the best teacher for the job, and also if that teacher reflects the community," he added.

Barrett said while he would support an improved and more open hiring process, "you don't put something into (the) process where the cure is worse than the symptoms."

The new hiring rules come as many school boards are looking to increase diversity among their teaching ranks, including the Peel, York and Toronto public boards.

The Toronto District School Board is in part looking to boost the number of males and visible minorities, and encourages them to apply for supply teaching gigs, given the regulation limits the board's ability to request the same for full-time jobs, said spokesperson Ryan Bird.

School administrators look for applicants who have "knowledge of the kids, who are a good fit, who have knowledge of the school and of the parents in the community," said Ken Arnott, president of the Ontario Principals' Council, adding that won't always happen with the new rules.

"I don't know how it's going to unfold," he said, adding the issue will come to the forefront in the coming weeks given teacher hiring and transfers will be in the works.

"(This is) very different than what we've done in the past."

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - McGuintyism without the Dalton

Date posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 2:34 pm

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Editorial
Ontario's latest Speech from the Throne on Tuesday sets some fine fiscal goals, but Premier Kathleen Wynne will have a hard time reconciling those good intentions with proposals for new spending, of which some are at least partly aimed to obtain the support of Andrea Horwath and
the New Democratic Party, in the present minority Legislative Assembly.Ms. Wynne deserves credit for bringing the legislature back only eight days after she and the new cabinet were sworn - but all too long after the ill-considered prorogation instigated by her predecessor, Dalton
McGuinty, last October.

The Liberal government promises to eliminate the deficit in 2017-2018 and, subsequently, to limit spending increases to 1 per cent below GDP growth until the debt-to-GDP ratio is 27 per cent, where it was before the recession of 2008. It also undertakes to keep implementing the rigorous Drummond Report, made public a year ago.

The speech was mercifully free of explicit pandering to the NDP, or for that matter to the Conservatives. Ms. Horwath recently demanded a 15-per-cent reduction in automobile insurance premiums; the speech more cautiously offers to work toward reducing them - in any case, at the expense of the insurers not the public purse.

But Ms. Wynne's program includes some substantial new spending commitments, for example, acting upon recommendations from the report last year by Frances Lankin and Munir Sheikh on social assistance, which was generally reasonable, but welfare reforms are rarely fiscally neutral.

Likewise, more and better home-care services are desirable but costly. So too is the transportation infrastructure that is promised.

As if to delicately distance Ms. Wynne from Mr. McGuinty, the expression "green energy" is not to be found in the Throne Speech. Likewise, local communities are to be consulted about gas plants, casinos, wind plants and quarries - all sore points of the past few years.

The overall approach shows considerable continuity, however. Not surprisingly, Ms. Horwath has said that she will support the Speech from the Throne, while Tim Hudak, the Conservative Leader, will oppose it. The provincial Liberals are still governing from the centre-left.

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - Wynne’s policies remain ambiguous after

Date posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 2:21 pm

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Throne Speech

ADAM RADWANSKI
For three weeks, it was easy to overlook that Kathleen Wynne became Ontario’s Premier with a minimal policy mandate, emerging triumphant from a truncated leadership race that mostly dodged the tough questions about Ontario’s fiscal and economic troubles.

On Tuesday, in a Speech from the Throne that resembled a group hug more than a vision statement, it showed signs of catching up with her.

To the extent that the text carved out a different path from that of her predecessor, it was mostly in style. Ms. Wynne aims to be more open and inclusive, to listen to others’ ideas rather than ram her own down Ontarians’ throats, and that theme was driven home again and again in
commitments to work more co-operatively with everyone from opposition parties to public sector unions. A vow to consult communities “from the beginning if there is going to be a gas plant or a casino or a wind plant or a quarry in their hometown” was something of a dig at Dalton McGuinty’s disinclination to do likewise.

On a few fronts, there were notable policy shifts as well. Ms. Wynne appears to be more passionate about upgrading the province’s lacklustre transportation infrastructure, and willing to consider road tolls to do so. She is also less reluctant about collecting more corporate tax revenue
(possibly by doing away with existing credits) and more eager to make life better for socialassistance recipients – issues that could not only help her win support from the third party NDP, but also seem to fit her own value system.

But on the biggest issues, the ones that will inevitably consume much of her attention, her policies remain ambiguous.

While recommitting to both the 2017-18 deadline for eliminating the provincial deficit and a leadership campaign promise to reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio, she offered little indication of what cost-cutting will look like. An oddly brief section on health-care policy skimmed over the all-encompassing question of how the system will be made more sustainable, other than an expansion of home care and promotion of healthier living. Although job creation, and specifically youth employment, got more attention, it was mostly rhetorical, with only marginal
commitments such as a $50-million contribution to a federal-provincial venture capital fund.

It all gave the impression of a new Premier who is still trying to figure out what she wants to do with her office – which, in the circumstances, is understandable.

The promise to return the legislature quickly helped Ms. Wynne win over her fellow Liberals, who were worried about further backlash against them if prorogation continued. But it also led to a mad scramble after her victory.

An overhauled Premier’s office is only just taking shape, many jobs are still not filled or are being held temporarily. Ministers’ offices are in at least as much flux, with a new cabinet – including 10 rookies – appointed only last week. Many of the people who helped craft the
agenda, or usually would, are still just finding their way around.

If she had come to office in a general election, Ms. Wynne would have had not just more time, but also a relatively comprehensive platform to draw from during her transitional phase. In this case, she has only the sorts of low-risk promises offered during a contest in which the main
objective was not to offend too many fellow travellers.

On top of that, the reality of minority government is being able to do only as much as the opposition will permit – which in this case is really just the New Democrats, since the Progressive Conservatives have no intention of propping up the Liberals regardless.

Conversations on that front seem to still be in the exploratory stage, so there are only so many limbs she can rush out on.

If this Throne Speech was “vague in the extreme,” as NDP Leader Andrea Horwath aptly put it, that can be chalked up in part to it being a placeholder. Such texts being notoriously vague to begin with, the much better test will come with the spring budget.

Still, it was hard not to notice at the press conference after Lieutenant-Governor David Onley’s reading that Ms. Wynne, hedging and frequently stumbling over words, seemed decidedly less relaxed and confident than in her first appearances as her party’s new leader.

Perhaps she was just having a bad day. Or maybe the gravity of what she’s up against, and what will be needed from her in the next couple of months, had just caught up with her.

  • Guelph Mercury - Sandals takes cue from throne speech; As education minister, the Guelph MPP outlines several imperatives

Date posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 12:14 pm

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Joanne Shuttleworth, Mercury staff
Taking her cue from the throne speech, Guelph MPP and Education Minister Liz Sandals said her priority in education will be reining in the deficit, working collaboratively with labour unions and school boards, and making sure no young people are left behind as they transition from high school to post-secondary education or directly to the workforce.

"My goal as minister of education is not just to raise student achievement and increase graduation rates, but to close the achievement gap," Sandals said in a phone interview after the speech was delivered.

"Students need workable skills as they exit high school."

Sandals said Aboriginal students have been "lagging behind" academically and her ministry will focus on improving education for these students in particular. She said she'll work closely with Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, in designing programs to train young people and help them find gainful employment.

The throne speech didn't contain anything specific to Guelph, but that's not out of the ordinary, Sandals said.

"The throne speech is always the broad strokes," she said, adding that the details of how to obtain the vision are usually part of the budget, which will come out in April.

But she pointed to College Heights, a Guelph high school, as a possible model for how schools can prepare students for the work world if they don't plan on post-secondary education.

Ontario's governing Liberals promised Wednesday to keep a close eye on corporate taxes, work with public sector workers on wage talks and give local residents more say in whether they get a wind farm, gas plant or casino.

The speech from the throne, which laid out the government's agenda and marks the start of the legislative session, also promised to work collaboratively with the opposition parties to make the minority parliament work.

The province needs all three parties to work together "in a spirit of renewed co-operation" to get things done, Lt.-Gov. David Onley said in reading the speech.

"Your new government sees a great province that brings together disparate elements and bonds them together as one," he said.

"And your government believes that the legislature should work the same way." Working with the NDP and Progressive Conservatives isn't just a goal but a necessity. The Liberals will need to convince at least one of the opposition parties to support the speech to avoid triggering the election.

While the speech contained measures the Tories and New Democrats were seeking, there appeared to be more goodies for the NDP.

There was a promise to restrain spending to one per cent below gross domestic product once the budget is balanced in 2017-18 - something that would appeal to the Tories.

They also plan to "evaluate corporate tax compliance," while exploring a tax break by raising the exemption threshold of the Employer Health Tax - both meant to woo the NDP.

In addition to paying down the deficit, the new government's agenda will also include an emphasis on job creation and building a "fair society," the speech said.

They'll work to tackle youth and aboriginal unemployment, while making efforts to give people with disabilities better access to jobs.

At the same time, they'll let people on social assistance keep more of their earnings when they work.

As for the Liberals' rocky relationship with labour groups and teachers angry over imposed contracts, the government will "build a sustainable model for wage negotiations" that will respect collective bargaining, the speech stated.

"It will show its respect for teachers, support staff, principals and school boards," Onley read.

Union leaders said there are ongoing talks about bringing back extracurricular activities, but their members are looking for something more concrete.

"I didn't hear anything in particular in the throne speech that gave me any other sense of encouragement or hope," said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.

The Liberals said in the speech that they will make transit, roads and bridges a priority, hinting that improving such infrastructure may require politically unpopular levies.

GO Transit is musing about charging commuters for parking at their stations - something the Liberals promised they wouldn't do last year when they hiked licence and registration fees.

"If we continue to argue about the tools this investment will require, then we are deaf to the symphony of progress that echoes around us," Onley read.

  • Toronto Star - Labour leaders fear NDP-Liberal rivalry may spell Tory triumph: Cohn

Date posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 1:04 pm

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New Democrats dream of disembowelling the Liberals to seize power. Unions fear that would let Tim Hudak's Tories sweep up the middle.

Martin Regg Cohn Queen's Park Columnist,

How long will it last?

Not the honeymoon for Kathleen Wynne, which will surely be time-limited.

No, I'm talking about "the conversation" between Ontario's new premier and her NDP rival, Andrea Horwath. The two leaders meet again Thursday afternoon in Wynne's office to talk politics, power and public policy.

Despite their partisan differences, they share a common lexicon: Both talk up "conversations" as a conflict-resolution device.

In their previous lives, Wynne was a mediator and Horwath a community development worker. They speak the same language and listen the same way.

Can they also communicate and negotiate?

Without NDP support, the minority Liberal government is doomed to defeat. The question is when.

No one is watching more nervously than the province's labour leaders, who worry about the missed opportunity of a progressive political alliance. They fear unions will pay the price if NDP hardliners try to profit from the party's recent rise in the polls.

New Democrats dream of disembowelling the Liberals on their march to power. But the nightmare scenario for labour leaders is that Tim Hudak's Tories would sweep up the middle to impose an antiunion agenda. Hence the house of labour is counselling some form of political cohabitation.

The New Democrats, however, aren't in the mood.

Behind closed doors, party activists thrashed out their disagreements at a weekend meeting of the NDP's provincial council. A bitter debate erupted when delegates ruled out a formal coalition with the Liberals (or even a quiet "non-compete" arrangement).

The province's labour leaders are frustrated, given their special relationship with the NDP, both ideological and financial. Unions have coughed up big money for the NDP's coffers.

But there's lots of baggage, past breakups and recurring reconciliations. Now big labour fears the NDP will tune them out - and turn on the Liberals.

"This is a golden opportunity to work something out with Kathleen Wynne over a two-year period," an influential unionist told me, complaining that overzealous New Democrats want to "throw labour under the bus."

He may not have noticed, but Horwath long ago threw unions under the bus, ran them over and backed up over them again. Under Horwath's leadership the NDP has been deeply conflicted about labour's suffocating embrace.

With unionization in decline, Horwath has tried to expand the NDP's support base by shedding its image as just a workers' party. New Democrats are actively reaching out to the vote-rich middle-class suburbs, while infusing ethnic diversity into a party long dominated by the white bread labour establishment.

Those tensions played out at the party's convention last year, when labour organizer Andrew Mackenzie, backed by the union movement, lost the race for party president to Neethan Shan, a former Scarborough candidate with deep roots in the Tamil community who was backed by the
leader's office.

It is a delicate dance between unionists and New Democrats. And a difficult conversation between Horwath and Wynne.

NDP strategists insist they are in no hurry to defeat the Liberals, not least because the party is still weighed down by a debt of more than $2.5 million from the last election, a mere 16 months ago. Horwath's advisers are also skeptical that the party's recent rise in the polls would translate into an election triumph. It's possible the NDP's popularity emanates from her public promise to "make minority government work."

For the moment, Horwath is still talking - or more precisely, conversing - with Wynne. Thursday's conversation will be their third in three weeks. They will discuss the Feb. 19 throne speech, which sets out the government's legislative agenda, and the NDP's demands for progress on auto insurance rates, job creation, health care and social services.

"If we don't see that, then we'll make that judgment when the time comes," Horwath said. What she didn't say, but surely knows, is that she'll also be judged on that judgment.

  • Unions in Canada under siege from government, business and media: McQuaig

Date posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 11:38 am

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Unions are really the only organized line of defence against the broad right-wing assault on social programs and government regulations.
Workers often toiled 10 to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week in the 19th century. In the decades that followed the Great Depression, unions won higher wages and better working conditions for their members.
By: Linda McQuaig Columnist, Published on Tue Feb 12 2013

Although much denigrated by the right these days, union activists are, as the old saying notes, “the people who brought you the weekend.”

The right apparently wants you to believe that the weekend is now out of date.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, along with influential members of the corporate and media world, are hostile to unions, rarely missing an opportunity to portray union leaders as autocratic “bosses.”

Yet, if you’re middle class, a union probably helped you or your ancestors get there. In the 19th century, workers typically toiled 10 to 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Unions fought to change that. In the decades that followed the Great Depression, unions won higher wages and better working conditions for their members, setting a standard with ripple effects that led to a better deal for all workers.

But in recent decades, many of the precious, hard-fought union gains — job security, workplace pensions, as well as broader social goals like public pensions and unemployment insurance — have been under fierce attack by the corporate world (where workers really are under the thumb of unelected “bosses”).

Part of the strategy has been to pit worker against worker. So, as private sector workers have lost ground, they’ve been encouraged to resent public sector workers, whose unions have generally been stronger and better able to protect them.

With workers increasingly baited into a dogfight against each other, it’s been easier to make the case that unions are no longer relevant.

But, given the intensity of the attack, unions are likely more necessary than ever. If you’ve grown attached to the weekend, not to mention the eight-hour day, this probably isn’t the time to throw unions under the bus.

In fact, they’re really the only organized line of defence against the broad right-wing assault on a wide range of social programs and government regulations important to most Canadians.

We’re told that many of these benefits and protections have to be cut back to make our economy more flexible in an era of globalization.

In fact, what is referred to as “globalization” is simply the set of laws governing the global economy. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about these laws, which have been crafted by corporate interests and their think-tanks. They just reflect the growing political muscle of the corporate elite, which has reshaped international and domestic laws in recent decades to their own advantage.

One of the most outrageous attacks on hard-won benefits was Harper’s decision last year to raise public pension eligibility by two years. Most commentators supported the move, noting that people are living longer.

But this misses the point. The real question is: as the country has grown richer, who should benefit? Under the more egalitarian system that prevailed during the early postwar decades, the economic benefits would have been more widely shared and could have been used to actually lower the retirement age (or extend holiday time, such as in Scandinavia, where the norm is six weeks paid vacation).

A few decades ago, North Americans often whimsically posed the question: in the future, what will we do with all our leisure time?

As it turned out, our leisure time shrunk (with two years of it now snatched away by the Harper government).

Indeed, instead of being widely shared, almost all the benefits of economic growth in recent decades have been siphoned off by a small corporate elite.

It’s that same corporate elite, and its political and media supporters, who now assure us that unions are no longer relevant.

This is curious, since corporations still see the wisdom in collective action for themselves; they band together to form business lobby groups. But, when it comes to working people, collective action is apparently out of date.

Lined up against today’s worker is the corporate world — the most powerful set of interests in history.

But, hey, why would a worker want to act collectively when she could take on this corporate Goliath all on her own?

  • Waterloo Region Record - Teachers keen to do extracurriculars: education minister

Date posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:39 pm

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Louise Brown
Ontario's new education minister says she believes thousands of teachers are keen to get back to coaching and running field trips.

And that's what will make it possible to find a solution to the stubborn hold unions have put on extracurricular activities, said Guelph MPP Liz Sandals on her first day in the hottest seat in Premier Kathleen Wynne's new cabinet.

Hot seat?

"That's fair," Sandals said in an interview, "but at least I'm not going to get bored." The former school trustee stressed it's not just students and parents who want an end to the labour turmoil that has disrupted teams, clubs, fundraisers and even report card comments since last September, when the provincial government passed Bill 115 that froze wages, reduced sick days and limited teachers' unions' bargaining rights.

Sandals says finding a way to solve the stalemate "a top priority.

"So this gives us an opportunity to bring teachers' unions and school boards to the table and look for ways we can find consensus and move forward. So many teachers love doing extracurriculars and understand that it's often through extracurriculars that they can have a huge impact on students' lives."

Sandals repeated Wynne's stand against ripping up the two-year contracts, but said she believes there is something "we can do right now which will allow us to move forward," although she would not provide examples.

"What can we do now? I see my role as listening. I think it's important that I not go out and pronounce what I think is the solution; the first step is to listen to what other education partners have to say," said the former president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association during the Mike Harris years.

Sandals blames the Conservatives for stripping school boards of their right to levy their own taxes, yet leaving the same labour law in place in which school boards - now moneyless - are supposed to negotiate deals with their local unions.

"In the long run, we need to have the difficult conversation about finding a better system of collective bargaining. How do we structure it to bring all the partners - government as funder, school boards as employers and the unions representing teachers - to the table in a way that is structurally sound?"

  • Toronto Star - Tim Hudak wants student loans tied to marks Progressive Conservatives propose student aid tied to marks and steering more students to community colleges

Date posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:32 pm

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By: Rob Ferguson Queens Park
Student loans should be tied to marks and more young adults should be steered toward applied learning programs at community colleges than universities to improve their prospects of getting jobs.

Those are among the recommendations of a new policy paper on improving higher education from Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak as his party prepares for an election that could come later this year.

Too many students who go to university are "back on mom and dad's couch with no job to go to," Hudak said Tuesday, urging community colleges to offer more three-year degree programs with applied training in various fields.
With many university graduates finding a need to go to community college for job-oriented applied training, "let's encourage students to look at colleges first," he added.

Financial aid for students should be tied to how well they do in their courses as a way of instilling "market discipline" and incentives to succeed, said Tory MPP Rob Leone (Cambridge), his party's higher education critic and a former university professor with a doctorate in political science.

"We don't want to reward mediocrity, we want to reward merit," Leone added in presenting the white paper, which notes the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities spends $7.5 billion a year.

Funding for colleges and universities should be tied to the rate at which graduates find jobs, the policy paper states.
"We want a return on our investment," Leone said, proposing that individual colleges and universities would be encouraged to decide how to structure student aid rules.

The Tory push comes as Premier Kathleen Wynne has re-named the Economic Development and Trade Ministry to include the word "employment" in its name, with new minister Eric Hoskins promising a renewed focus on reducing youth unemployment - which is almost double the national average.

Hudak said one-third of university graduates don't have full-time jobs in their field two years after graduation. However, 78 per cent are employed full-time and 94 per cent have jobs of some sort.

  • Guelph Mercury - Sandals gets education portfolio; MPP 'thrilled' to get posting, plans to reach out to teacher unions

Date posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 1:03 pm

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After years of having her name bandied about as a likely candidate for education minister, Guelph MPP Liz Sandals finally got the nod.

Premier Kathleen Wynne named Sandals minister of education Monday afternoon along with a slate of 27 cabinet ministers.

In a phone interview after the swearing-in ceremony, Sandals said the Education Ministry was always the one she had her eye on and she was "thrilled" to get the post.

"It's going to be very interesting," Sandals said. "I have worked with people in education before and I know the leadership of the unions, of the school boards, the school board directors and superintendents and executive at People for Education.

"Premier Wynne has already reached out to the unions. Now I need to roll up my sleeves and make those connections myself."

Sandals said improving labour relations with the teachers' unions is her first priority and she hopes teachers will resume running extracurriculars and leave the court challenges over the legalities and constitutionality of Bill 115 for the courtroom.

She said Wynne has already stated that while Bill 115 has been rescinded, the contract imposed by the bill will remain.

But the confusion over central bargaining versus local bargaining is a matter that needs to be addressed.

"We'll have to look at the legislation around collective bargaining, too, and bring it in touch with the reality," Sandals said, adding that when former premier Mike Harris removed taxation rights from school boards, he should have changed the collective bargaining process as well.

The legislation dictates that bargaining be done at the local school board level, but since the ministry of education now controls the purse strings, collective bargaining should really be done centrally as well, Sandals said.

Doug Cook, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, Upper Grand local, said a change in the leadership of the education portfolio might be just the thing to improve the dynamic between teachers and government.

"We're at a logjam and I think the best thing is to change the dynamic. We have a new premier and now a new minister of education and that's a step in the right direction," Cook said. "Time will tell if it might make a difference."

Cook said many Upper Grand teachers supported Sandals in the last election and even worked on her campaign. He acknowledged there's bitterness over the seeming about-face of the Liberals on the education file.

"But I knew Liz when she was a trustee," Cook said. "I know she worked hard as an MPP. This is a significant portfolio. This is time to congratulate her."

Sandals' political career began in 1988 when she was elected a school trustee with the then-Wellington County Public School Board. She was re-elected three more times, chaired the board and also chaired the Ontario Public School Boards' Association from 1998 to 2002.

In 2003, she turned her attention to provincial politics winning the seat in Guelph and defeating longtime Progressive Conservative candidate Brenda Elliott.

Sandals has since been parliamentary assistant to a number of ministers including health and long-term care, transportation, government services, community safety and correctional services and education.

Sandals also led the Safe Schools Action Team and served on the standing committee on public accounts, the select committee on mental health and addictions, and the treasury board.

That makes her eminently qualified to take on the education portfolio, said Don Drone, director of the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

"Liz knows the education portfolio, with all its complexities and challenges. She also understands the economic situation of the province overall. I think her experience in the other sectors will be beneficial to this job as well," Drone said.

Drone said Sandals has supported public funding for the Catholic school system in the past and he hopes she'll continue.

"That's a big priority for us," Drone said. "We're very pleased with her ongoing support for Catholic education."

Mark Bailey, chair of the Upper Grand District School Board, said he, too, is looking forward to working with Sandals as Minister of Education.

"She was not involved in the labour strife between teachers and the ministry, so I'm optimistic the unions will be willing to work with Liz. The board is excited and hopeful to have Liz in the education portfolio," Bailey said.

Sandals' father, Earl B. MacNaughton, was the head of the physics department at the University of Guelph and one of the founding deans of the university in the 1960s. The MacNaughton building on campus was named after Sandals' father.

Sandals also worked at the University of Guelph in the computer science department before entering politics.

"She listens, she's fair and she's firm. I can certainly understand why she was chosen," said U of G president Alastair Summerlee.

"She has been parliamentary assistant in so many ministries and that's an enormous pedigree to bring to cabinet. But to tell you the truth, for my own selfish reasons, I was hoping Liz would become minister of training, colleges and universities."

  • The Star - Toronto teachers’ union plays cynical game with Ontario Liberals: Editorial

Posted: Monday, Feburary 4, 2013

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Opinion / Editorials
Published on Mon Feb 04 2013

Toronto teachers’ union plays cynical game with Ontario Liberals: Editorial

Liberal leadership candidates Kathleen Wynne and Eric Hoskins each got $10,000 from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation.

Even as high school teachers protested Ontario’s Liberal government during the party’s leadership race, their union leaders were pumping money into the coffers of most of the candidates.

Maybe that’s “just politics,” but rank-and-file teachers have a right to be confused, or even upset. The Toronto local of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has been playing both sides of the street, quietly donating $30,000 to four candidates’ campaigns.

There’s a message here for parents, too: When thousands of high school students are losing after-school activities, the campaign donations hidden behind noisy public protests are fresh evidence that their kids are being treated as pawns in a sophisticated game.

Doug Jolliffe, president of the federation’s Toronto District 12 (the union’s largest bargaining unit, representing 6,000 high school teachers) confirmed that his union wrote cheques to the Toronto candidates in December in support of their “progressive” politics. “We felt that the Liberal party had gone off on a path that we didn’t agree with and that these people had the potential to move it back … to a more successful centre-left party,” Jolliffe explained.

The union gave $10,000 each to the campaigns of Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne and former minister Eric Hoskins. It directed $5,000 each to the campaigns of Gerard Kennedy and Glen Murray (who dropped out before the convention to support Wynne).

The donations to Hoskins and Kennedy are now public, listed on the Elections Ontario website. The others don’t yet appear because Elections Ontario isn’t required to publish donations until 20 business days after the cheques are cashed.

Now that the union’s back-channel Liberal support strategy has been outed by transparency rules, it’s time to send a message to the supporting players in this wearisome drama — the teachers.

It’s time to take a step back and cool off. For all its fiery rhetoric, your union blows hot and cold with the politicians. While some say that’s just the way it works, the entire process is hurting the students.

There’s nothing illegal about the donations, perhaps even nothing improper. But it’s a cynical approach — especially when the same union demanded that teachers withdraw their involvement in students’ sports, chess clubs and theatre productions because of anger at the Liberals’ approach to contract talks. The four candidates criticized that approach, but only Kennedy promised to reopen contracts imposed on the teachers under Bill 115.

In high schools, where teachers are obliged to follow union directives, many students rely on their extra-curriculars as a means of getting through tough adolescent years. For some, especially those from under-privileged homes, a vibrant after-school life can make a difference between failure and success. It’s a shame to see their opportunities disappear.

Right now, the system is in chaos, entirely dependent on whether teachers are still listening to their union and withholding after-school activities.

When teachers appeal for public support by denouncing the Liberals and Bill 115 as an affront to democracy, let’s remember that their Toronto local is playing an old-fashioned political game. Now that we know how generous the union was with Liberal candidates, including those who were in cabinet when Bill 115 was passed, it’s even more of a pity that they can’t extend a similar kindness to students.

  • Ottawa Citizen - Class size does matter for students

Date posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 11:16 am

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Elizabeth Payne, Editorial
Ottawa Citizen
Does size matter when it comes to the classroom? Of course it does. Parents, teachers and students who have experienced smaller classes all know that.

Smaller classes allow teachers to spend less time on discipline and more time teaching.

They allow for individual attention and better student engagement. And they offer a learning environment with more space for students to move around and less noise and other distractions. How can that not influence how children learn?

Class size is a leading factor in the growth of private schools in Canada. And there is more than just wishful thinking and intuition to support parents' decisions to shell out thousands of dollars to send their children to schools that feature small classrooms. There is compelling research supporting its benefits, particularly when it comes to performance on standardized tests. Several U.S. studies link smaller classes to higher test scores, and in at least one case there is a particular benefit cited for disadvantaged students. It might be coincidental, but test scores in Ontario have steadily improved during a time when primary class size has been reduced.

So why is Ontario facing calls to undo its experiment with smaller primary classes?

Like most things in education, the answer is complicated - and political.

Smaller classes make a difference, but they are not a magic bullet - numerous factors influence how students perform in school, making it sometimes difficult to measure the specific effect of class size or other things. The fact that smaller classes mean more jobs for teachers and, arguably, less assessment work for each teacher has made some question whether small classes benefit teachers more than students. Others
question how small is small enough. Is 15 students a small class? 20? What about 25? Or does it depend?

Crucially right now, reducing class sizes costs a lot of money. Choosing to spend that money on smaller classes - as Ontario has done in recent years - means there is less to go around for other initiatives.

Since money is something the province is not flush with, it is hardly surprising that Dalton Mc-Guinty's smaller classroom initiatives for kindergarten to Grade 3 has come under fire recently.

Both economist Don Drummond in his extensive report on public service reform, which sketches a blueprint for getting Ontario's economy back on track, and Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, in his just-released "white paper" on education, have said class sizes need to get bigger in Ontario.

If Hudak wins the next election, which is a good possibility, the majority of kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms would not have 20 students or less, as is now the case. (The Liberal government requires 90 per cent of primary classes to have no more than 20 students - and the remaining 10 per cent no more than 23. Higher grade classes can be larger but board averages for high school classes, for example, must be 22.)

The Ontario PC caucus white paper said it agrees with Drummond's conclusion that the class-size cap doesn't offer enough benefit to justify the cost. Drummond concluded that modest increases in class size in the province would save $480 million a year. Most notably, he proposed raising the target for primary grades to 23 students.

Drummond's response to the issue was both measured and unsurprising - he was, after all, charged with cutting the provincial deficit. But it is worth noting that his own conclusion was partly based on a C.D.

Howe report on the issue that strongly relies on the fact that there is not much Canadian evidence on the issue - which is true, most of the research cited comes from the U.S. where small class size policies have been in place for years - and leans well into anti-teacher commentary territory in its conclusion: "It is certainly convenient for some teachers to parade as student advocates and claim improvements in
student achievement to demand class size limits, while the real reasons for such demands have more to do with improving their own working conditions."

Which underlines one of the most important facts about the class size debate - it is highly politicized. But the fact that teachers like smaller classes is hardly a strike against it. Why wouldn't they like classes where they are better able to teach and students better able to learn?

The pertinent question about class size in 2013 is whether the results justify the costs.

In Ontario right now, the answer to that question might be no - at least until the province's finances are in order - but that doesn't mean the idea that smaller classes are good for education should be tossed or discredited. And there might be a way to save the system, on a smaller scale. Rather than gradually lifting caps on class sizes across the province, why not target smaller classes for those who need the educational
benefits most, with plans to eventually return smaller classes to every school in the province?

  • Globe and Mail - Wynne offers teachers an olive branch

Date posted: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:25 am

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Caroline Alphonso

Wynne offers teachers an olive branch

Incoming premier Kathleen Wynne has pledged to revamp the negotiations process with teachers.

In her first public speech since being elected premier, Ms. Wynne told school board trustees that she will change the tone, dialogue and process at the provincial bargaining table.

“We have to face the challenges of budgets and politics and the obstacles that are thrown at us all in our day-to-day jobs,” Ms. Wynne said.

“But the tone can change. The process can change.”

Both elementary and high school teachers have withdrawn extracurricular activities after the government imposed contracts on them under Bill 115.

Teachers are angry and frustrated with the Liberal government. Ms. Wynne, a former trustee, education activist and education minister, has promised to fix that relationship.

She has already met with union leaders and more meetings are planned.

Ms. Wynne told a receptive audience of trustees that school boards will be included in those discussions. She received a standing ovation from trustees at the annual Public Education Symposium.

“I want you all to feel respected – because you are respected – and I want you all to have a voice,” Ms. Wynne said.

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - BC NDP puts overhaul of standardized tests in campaign plans

Date posted: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:24 am

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Dirk Meissner, Canadian Press
Victoria

The Opposition New Democrats say an NDP government would get rid of the standardized tests that the teachers' union has fought against for years, but the party's education critic says they'll be replaced by some other kind of province-wide testing.
Robin Austin said the New Democrats' aim is to remodel the Foundation Skills Assessment tests of students in Grades 4 and 7 to ensure they measure more than students' writing and math skills.

He said his party would introduce a system of random tests during its first year in office while consulting to develop a remodelled testing system that looks beyond student literacy and math skills.

The NDP introduced the current FSA testing model when it was last in office, but the British Columbia Teachers' Federation has mounted a long campaign against them.

Austin denied the NDP's pre-campaign promise to do away with the tests is simply a rubber-stamp of the union's wishes.

"No, no, not at all," said Austin. "Obviously, there are going to be teachers involved. They are the ones who spend most of the time with our kids. We are going to work with parents, with teachers and academics."

Austin said the current tests aren't "nearly complex enough."

"They give us a snapshot of just two things and certainly there are a lot more variables into whether a school is a great school than just having that snapshot of the foundation skills test."

"We're not choosing the best car under $20,000 here," said Austin. "We're trying to assess something way more complex than that."

Education Minister Don McRae defended the government's continued standardized testing of students as a means to determine reading and writing skills. The Foundation Skills Assessment tests provide schools with reliable indicators of student skills, he said.

"We recognize that schools are made up of extra-curricular activities and that they're made up of fine arts and they are made up of academics, but at the same time we want to make sure that we can identify students and cohorts who struggle," he said.

McRae said the FSA results are a tool that help measure strengths and weaknesses and point to areas where education officials can devote their time and resources.

"If the NDP has some education platform issues, share them with the public," he said. "It's important that they talk with key stakeholders like parents, educators, principals and vice-principals. We all recognize in the education community that schools are more than just one test. Schools are a combination of everything."

The teachers' union supports the NDP's plans, saying the current tests - set to start next week - are not a good measure of the education students receive, their needs or their overall classroom performance.

BCTF President Susan Lambert said the NDP has been saying for the past year that it will eliminate the FSA tests and introduce new forms of testing after consulting with teachers and others.

"What we would expect of any government is that they work with the profession and they determine what it is they want to assess," she said.

Lambert said she believes curriculum assessments can be achieved through random testing at schools, but teachers should play the major role in assessing student classroom performance.

"We believe the assessment of students is best done in the classroom from the perspective of the classroom's teacher and their relationship to that student," she said.

Lambert said the BCTF isn't about to completely endorse the NDP's pre-election promise when it comes to student testing.
"I reserve every right to criticize when the time comes," she said.

Lambert said the BCTF has already sent every B.C. member of the legislature - Liberal, New Democrat and Independent - its Better Schools for B.C. platform that includes "authentic assessment practices."

The plan to broaden the tests is one of the few election campaign promises the NDP has made so far, along with taxing banks to provide post-secondary students with non-refundable grants, restoring corporate income tax rates to 2008 levels and ditching the balanced budget law.

  • GLOBE AND MAIL - Ontario's Premier promises she won't be like McGuinty

Date posted: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:22 am

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Adrian Morrow

Kathleen Wynne is breaking with predecessor Dalton McGuinty's centralized method of governing, vowing to use a collegial style to implement her ambitious agenda.

Ontario's premier-designate has outlined a slew of big-ticket policies, including a comprehensive transit-building plan, an overhaul of the province's welfare system and reform to the federal equalization program. In a sit-down interview with The Globe and Mail, she added one more to the list: a national affordable housing strategy.

Ms. Wynne, who on Thursday received the official nod to form government, signaled that she would do politics differently than Mr. McGuinty, using more input from her caucus and the opposition to make difficult decisions.

"We're different people, we have different styles and it's a different time," she said.

She will have to use her best negotiating skills to reach consensus between the premiers and the federal government on a long-term plan for providing low-cost housing. Ottawa has a $1.9-billion fund for such programs, but it's running out.

"The money that is in the system right now will expire in 2014. I think that we need to understand what's going to come after," she said. "I did have an initial conversation with [federal Human Resources Minister Diane] Finley about that, but it's something that I would want to raise at the table."

Ms. Wynne also wants to do away with a cap on federal equalization growth. Under the cap, money available to the provinces can rise only at the rate of the country's GDP. Critics argue the system is faulty because it doesn't adequately respond to increases in inequality between the provinces.

Calculations by the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation, a Toronto think tank, show all six provinces receiving equalization payments this year have lost money as a result. Ontario has been hardest hit, missing out on $1.1-billion.

On the local front, the premier-designate moved this week to implement a report on the social assistance system - which recommended raising welfare rates - and pledged to find new sources of money to expand the public transit network.

But before she makes strides on these fronts, Ms. Wynne must deal with the day-to-day politics of a minority parliament.

She has put in long hours this week - on Monday, she was on the go from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. - meeting with everyone from teachers' unions to opposition leaders to her caucus. She is working out of the premier's second office, adjacent to Queen's Park in the Whitney Block.

Her staff is holding talks with New Democrats over the third-place party's budget requests, including changes to the tax system that would squeeze more money out of corporations.

Ms. Wynne is also sitting down one-on-one with each of her MPPs to solicit their advice. And it is there that she draws a contrast with the man she is replacing: When Mr. McGuinty came to power in 2003, he led a largely rookie caucus. Ms. Wynne, by contrast, pointed out that she has worked with many of these MPPs since that time.

In some ways, her conciliatory style, which involves a lot of discussion, seems at odds with the rough-and-tumble political arena. How is it possible to maintain a collaborative approach in such a setting? Ms. Wynne paused.

"I don't really know the answer to that," she said, adding later: "It's keeping my eye on the ball. It's being clear where I want to go and taking the people with me who want to come. And if there's going to be negativity, of course we have to answer it. But the way we answer it is with our story and our narrative about what we believe in."

Ms. Wynne will take office as Ontario premier on Monday, Feb. 11, and recall the legislature eight days later.

Ms. Wynne and Mr. McGuinty walked up to the lieutenant-governor's suite at Queen's Park Thursday morning. They met for 15 minutes, during which Mr. McGuinty formally notified Lieutenant-Governor David Onley of his resignation and Mr. Onley ceremonially asked Ms. Wynne to form a government.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Onley emerged from the meeting to introduce Ms. Wynne as premier-designate.

"It is a great honour and pleasure to be here. I am just here to accept this honour," she said. "I had the opportunity this morning to thank the premier for everything that he has done for the province for the last nine years."

Ms. Wynne said she would have her cabinet sworn in Feb. 11 as well, but has not yet tipped her hand on who she will name as ministers.

  • Toronto Star - No rule on after-school coaching, lawyer says; Teachers have right to protest extracurriculars and not do them, labour relations hearing told

Date posted: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:21 am

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Louise Brown Toronto Star
Teachers refusing to do extracurriculars are not waging a work-to-rule campaign because there is no rule requiring them to coach in the first place, according to the lawyer for the Elementary Teachers'  Federation of Ontario (ETFO).

Even outgoing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said on Jan. 9 that teachers have "every right to protest after school and on weekends," noted Howard Goldblatt Thursday at a hearing before the Ontario Labour Relations Board into whether the union is encouraging an unlawful strike or work-to-rule by telling teachers not to do anything extra.

"Teachers have the right to choose whether or not to do extracurriculars - there is no rule requiring them to do them, so not doing them is not a work-to-rule," Goldblatt said.

The ETFO argued that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, anything that is legal for one person to do - including deciding not to coach a team - is legal for a group of people to do, under our freedom of association.

Two school boards are seeking a cease-and-desist order from the Labour Relations Board against ETFO's "takeover bulletins" that advise teachers not to run after-school programs, even though they are not in a legal strike position, to protest the province's imposition of contracts using Bill 115.

The Trillium Lakelands District School Board in cottage country and the Upper Canada District School Board in eastern Ontario argue that the withdrawal of services from arranging trips and running milk programs disrupt the "normal activities" of a school board or interfere with the operation of a school program.

They argue that it is illegal under the Education Act for the union to be advising a withdrawal of services with such sweeping impact.

The boards say most extracurricular programs have been shut down; teachers are refusing to step in to replace principals during absences and even collect milk money as part of the province-wide boycott ordered by ETFO.

The Trillium Lakelands board has said it has had to cancel milk programs in 21 of 27 schools because teachers refused to collect the 75 cents from students.

  • Ottawa Citizen - Unions won't let up on Wynne; She must condemn Bill 115, they say

Date posted: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:18 am

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Chloé Fedio
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Ontario's premier-designate might have opened the door to discussions with leaders of teachers' federations but some education workers vowed to continue demonstrations until Kathleen Wynne condemns Bill 115 as undemocratic.

A rally "for democracy and against austerity" was staged outside MPP Madeleine Meil-leur's office on Montreal Road on Thursday afternoon, hours after Wynne met with outgoing Premier Dalton Mc-Guinty and Lt.-Gov. David Onley for a formal transfer of power.

Many demonstrators held printed signs that said, "If you're a worker in Ontario, this is your fight." One homemade sign said, "We don't agree with your imposed agreement."

Though the Ontario government repealed the contentious Bill 155, it was only after imposing contracts on thousands of teachers and education workers.

"That's a joke," said Janet Fraser, first vice-president of the Ottawa Carleton Elementary Teachers' Federation.

Wynne voted in favour of the bill.

"Kathleen Wynne didn't speak out, and she still hasn't said that Bill 115 was wrong. It sets a precedent for all workers in Ontario.

It's not just about teachers and education workers," Fraser said after the rally. "It's a bad bill and it's undemocratic. I haven't heard her say that yet."

During a conference call Thursday with eastern Ontario media, Wynne was vague about her plan for a resolution after an "introductory meeting" with leaders of the teachers' federations.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Wynne said. However, she stuck to outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty's line about austerity.

She added that everybody - including government members, school board officials, parents and education workers - wants to see the return of extracurricular activities.

"I've been very clear that there is no more money and that the issue of getting extracurriculars back in the schools, in the English public system, is very much a priority for me, and they know that," Wynne said. "We'll be continuing that discussion, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to come to some resolutions about how we put in a better process for next time around - because that really is an issue."

The chief negotiator for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation said he was "cautiously optimistic" about a resolution with Wynne at the helm.

"There's been respectful dialogue, which is real change from the past," said Chris Goodsir as the rally wrapped up outside Meilleur's office.

Fraser added: "It's great that she's meeting with our leaders. Let's see what she comes up with."

With files from David Reevely

  • TORONTO STAR - Ontario Liberals and teachers need each other

Date posted: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:16 am

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Teachers' relations with a Hudak-led government would make the current dispute look like a cordial disagreement between friends.

By:Sachin Maharaj Freelance Opinion writer,
Since winning the Liberal leadership, Kathleen Wynne has been repeatedly asked how she plans to repair the fractured relationship with the teachers of this province.

Two main factors underline the salience of this issue. First, all stakeholders in public education: parents, students, teachers and the general public, would like a return to normalcy in our schools as soon as possible. And second, if the Liberals plan to survive beyond the next election they will have to find a way to reconcile with what was once an active part of their base.

The Liberals' popularity woes were perhaps most visibly demonstrated by the fact that while they were choosing their next leader at Maple Leaf Gardens, thousands of teachers, many of whom were former Liberal supporters, were protesting outside. And a survey by Forum Research, released the day before Wynne won the leadership, showed the uphill climb both she and the party face. Forum found that if an election were held, the Wynne-led Liberals would receive only 26 per cent of the vote. This was far behind both the PCs and NDP, who would receive 32 per cent and 34 per cent respectively. In terms of seats though, the result would be a PC government.

This would be a disaster for teachers and their unions. Relations with a Hudak-led government would make this current dispute look like a cordial disagreement between friends. Hudak has repeatedly railed against the raises given to Ontario teachers, claiming that they are underserved.

For example, he stated in an opinion article in the Star back in August: "while pay has gone up, performance has gone down" (which is false). He has also said that a Hudak government would make extracurricular activities mandatory for all teachers. And given that he already feels that teachers are overpaid, it is doubtful there would be any accompanying salary increases for the extra workload this entails.

But perhaps most concerning is that Hudak has borrowed a tactic from Republican governors in the U.S. and mused about introducing so called "right-to-work" laws here in Ontario. While usually couched in pleasant sounding terms like "freedom" and "flexibility," right-to-work laws serve mainly to cripple unions and lower wages. President Barack Obama accurately characterized them as the "right to work for less money."

Indeed, a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Labor found that workers in states that have passed right-to-work laws are paid an average of 10 per cent less than those in states without such laws. Thus if the unions care about their very survival and teachers wish to continue to be well-paid, it would be wise for them to reconcile with the Liberals.

Interestingly, out of all the Liberal candidates that participants were asked about in the Forum Research survey, only Gerard Kennedy garnered enough support to produce a Liberal government. One cannot help but wonder if this was partly because he was the most willing to admit that Bill 115 was a mistake and would start fresh with the teachers by reopening the imposed contracts and negotiating new ones.

Although this would be likely to settle the conflict and bring many disillusioned teachers back on board, Wynne has stated she will not do this. This is likely because she was at the cabinet table when the decision was made and doing so might make her appear weak, as well as open her up to attack from the PCs.

Instead she has suggested focusing on the next set of contracts. However, these would not be in place until September 2014. A year and half is a long time for students to go without extracurricular activities and she may not even still be premier by that time.
It is commendable, though, that after winning the leadership, Wynne immediately reached out to the heads of the teacher unions and met with them promptly. And it is encouraging that since then a new survey by Innovative Research has found the Liberals essentially tied with the PCs and the NDP. For while all stakeholders in public education wish to see the resolution of this conflict, for the Liberals and the unions, their very survival may depend on it.

Sachin Maharaj is a graduate student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and an assistant curriculum leader in the Toronto District School Board.