News from the Park

News from the Park

Now that the hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season is over, I’m happy to say I feel refreshed and eager to tackle the many issues that affect all of us as Northern Ontarians. I know we are already two weeks into the New Year, but I want to wish everyone all the best in 2020.

Over the holidays I exchanged similar greetings with friends, neighbours and loved ones I met. I received a Christmas card from a constituent that threw me a bit of a changeup with her greeting, “Happy 2020, Mike.” I chuckled and then went on to read her very poignant message. She explained that she chose to use that particular phraseology because whenever we hear the number 2020, it brings to mind the idea of the perfect vision score. She said, “I wish you and your colleagues will experience clarity and perfect vision in your work in leading our province.” Wow, pretty cool thinking I thought. So I too wish everyone a Happy 2020 with the same sentiment in mind.

Without doubt, the unrest in Education at the moment is causing rising concern in the minds of all Ontarians. No wonder as our children’s wellbeing and future is without question our greatest asset. It will seem but the blink of an eye -- the world will be in their hands and we will be counting on them to make this imperfect old world work.

Clearly it is rather unusual to have the public interest so involved in any regular contract negotiations. But then again, the outcome of labour negotiations in this matter will have a huge impact on almost every Ontarian, either directly or indirectly. So this is where my Happy 2020 wishes come into the picture. It is imperative that the People of Ontario have clarity of vision on the offshoot educational issues at hand.

Doug Ford and Education Minister Stephen Leece have really painted the entire education sector into a corner crisis. Not since 1997 under Conservative Premier Mike Harris have Ontarians seen the government at odds with all teacher unions in the province involved with job action. That occasion also was brought about by monumental changes and cuts to education.

Lets not forget that the Liberals were caught not playing fair during teacher negotiations. In 2012 the Liberals were taken to court by Ontario teachers for passing Bill 115 which the courts found to be unconstitutional. The legislation imposed contracts for all teachers in order to totally avoid potential strikes. The imposed contracts froze teacher’s wages, prohibited their ability to strike and swept away payouts for unused sick days, all without negotiation. The court decision resulted in forcing the Government to pay restitution. As they say, “Liberal – Tory, same old story.”

In this case, there are two main issues bogging down negotiations; the education professional’s opposition to increasing class size – bringing about the loss of thousands of teaching positions – and the mandatory completion of two online courses in order to achieve a high school diploma.

It is also important to note that the Toronto Star recently obtained a government document, marked confidential, that indicated that the Ford Government is planning to make completion of two online courses mandatory until at least 2024. Then, at that time, they plan to allow students to earn their diploma entirely on line – without ever setting foot in a classroom. Hardly a recipe for a well rounded education with the benefit of social interaction and learning to work interactively and collaboratively with peers.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Not only do the Ford Conservatives see eliminating teaching jobs as a way to save money, they have now even found a way to turn education into a business for profit. The Toronto Star also learned that the Province was considering creating an all online curriculum and then selling it to other interested education departments across Canada and in the United States. How all of a sudden is making the objective of our education system to make money for the government an acceptable goal?

It’s hard for the public to have a clear view of an issue when what they are informed of is only partially made visible and filtered by political spin-doctors. Minister Lecce has been appealing parents and the general public time and time again to rise up against the teachers as they are only fighting against legislation that limits any financial increases to just one percent over the next four years. All the while Ford and Lecce say they are bargaining in good faith with the teachers. Really?! Does creating legislation solely intended to hamstring contract negotiations with the government constitute bargaining in good faith? I think the People of Ontario’s vision of this argument is pretty clear.

No matter what spin the Ford Government tries to put on this, there is no question that the main interest of Ontario teachers is first and foremost the success of our children. That’s just who teachers are. If a student has low achievement, the teacher’s job is not to find blame in the child but rather to figure out how to help that child find a learning/teaching pathway to success. For only when the child succeeds does the teacher succeed.

The truth be known, Doug Ford is well aware that the People of Ontario’s vision is just fine. He knows the Province is fighting a losing battle. What other explanation would there be for the Ministry of Education to offer compensation of up to $60 per day to parents for any inconvenience they experience due to rotating job actions taken by the teachers? Nothing says commitment, devotion and integrity like buying public support by handing out pocket money.

It would seem to me that Ontarians visual acuity is just fine. Like I said, “Happy 2020.”

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député

Algoma-Manitoulin