Premier backlash

McGuinty addressed protesting teachers in Kingston Friday, days before resigning

Local teachers demonstrated outside of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s talk held at the Holiday Inn.
Local teachers demonstrated outside of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s talk held at the Holiday Inn.

When Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty visited Kingston on Friday, he was greeted by a group of a dozen or so teachers protesting against Bill 115.

The rally, held by teachers representing the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO), occurred during a lunch event McGuinty held at the Holiday Inn.

McGuinty announced last night that he was stepping down from his position as Premier of Ontario.

“Now we’re going through a difficult period economically,” he told the Journal following Friday’s event. “I think we need to find ways to convey, to demonstrate that we respect each other, that we value each other’s judgments and advice.” Bill 115 was passed on Sept. 11 by the Ontario Liberal Party (OLP) and stipulates a wage freeze for Ontario teachers over the next two years. The bill also eliminates the right for teachers to strike during the period.

Until a leadership convention is held, legislature is prorogued. McGuinty said he hopes the party will continue in its efforts to impose a public sector wage freeze after legislature is recalled by a new OLP leader.

At the talk, McGuinty addressed issues relating to education and employment in Ontario and admitted to the strong opposition from Ontario teachers against the bill.

“I know we’re in choppy waters with some of our teachers now, but I want to assure you that our government is committed and dedicated to getting that goodwill back,” he said at the talk.

Despite the opposition, he said the OLP has made significant strides in public education since 2003. 

“We built new schools, lowered class sizes, hired more teachers, and made Ontario the first place in North America to offer full-day kindergarten,” he said.

Mike Lumb, local president of ETFO and one of the organizers of Friday’s protest, said the recently passed bill infringes on the basic democratic rights of teachers.

“It takes away our right to challenge this draconian piece of legislation in the Ontario courts,” he said. “It’s not going to go unchallenged and without us kicking and screaming that this is unfair.” On Oct. 11, it was announced that teachers’ unions across Ontario will be filing a court challenge against the Ontario government, with plans to take the case to the Supreme Court.

 “We’re going to have to go to the Supreme Court of Canada which is what we are doing,” Lumb said. “It isn’t about teachers, it’s about all Ontarians’ democratic rights and they’ve taken that away and it can’t go unchallenged.”

The teachers donned red sweaters with caricatures of McGuinty at their protest, with one of the members playing the bagpipes in protest during the Premier’s talk. “[McGuinty] has stated over the past nine years that he won’t rip up collective agreements and how he supports teachers and supports unions,” he said. “And yet, the legislation and everything they’re doing is contrary to that.”

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