If you haven’t been living under a rock I’m sure you are all aware of the recent teachers strikes and protests that have been raging throughout Ontario. It seems that the Ford government is dead set on having an all out war with Ontario’s teachers, but luckily the teachers appear to be winning.
While the plan of the Ford government has clearly been to wait out the teachers so that public opinion turns against them and then they will be able to slash and burn wherever they like, it hasn’t exactly panned out. If anything, public opinion has largely grown against the government more than anything, as they are now seen by most as incompetent for how they are handling these negotiations (and rightfully so).
I use the word negotiations lightly however, as the government has largely been uninterested in actually sitting down with the unions (another reason why I think they are looking to wait them and public opinion out). Instead, they have been favouring press conferences wherein they openly disclose details regarding the few negotiations that have taken place, criticize the teachers and so on.
This past week was no different, when Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced that the government would be ‘backing down’ on their class size increases and mandatory e-learning proposals, which the media ate up.
I’m not going to lie, this was a fairly savvy play by the government (especially given the free positive press that came with the announcement). Upon initially seeing the release it looked as if the unions had won and things would return to normal in no time, a win-win for parents and teachers alike (not to mention a huge long term loss for this government, which I would count as a win).
But not so fast.
Their announcement (as we all should have expected) appeared to be too good to be true upon further examination. While they did agree to back off of their INITIAL class size increase from 22 to 28 students, they still would be increasing it from 22 to 23.
Regarding the e-learning courses, they would simply be introducing an option for parents to opt-out of the mandatory classes on behalf of their kids, a decision obviously meant to keep a good chunk of kids still signed up for the online courses. They also refused to budge on their offer of a 1 per cent pay increase, well below the 2.24 per cent rate of inflation.
And all of a sudden the government’s announcement that the media lauded upon its release doesn’t seem to be all it was cracked up to be.
It’s also important to note that the unions were in actual negotiations during this announcement. It is said to have radically shaken up discussions at the bargaining table that had been productive up to that point, according to representatives from some of the unions.
So if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, this was a cynical play from a cynical government that only serves to showcase another massive crack in their armour. No matter what people might want to say or think about the Ford government, they are one of the weakest, most scatter-brained, least evidence-based and reactionary governments in Canadian history and this is yet another perfect example of that.
Every single one of their haphazard policy announcements (and the subsequent retraction that follows a few months later) only serves to decrease their standing in public opinion polling and increase the chance that they are obliterated in 2022. They consistently come off as ineffectual and frankly short-sighted when they introduce these sweeping changes only to walk them back a little while later. While it certainly is better for Ontarians that a lot of their cuts aren’t actually materializing, from a political standpoint, I can’t understand why this government consistently looks to make a fool of itself on virtually every issue.
Hopefully for their own sakes high level staffers and ministers read the writing on the wall, because the next election day in Ontario isn’t going to be pretty.