[Jeff Kanter is a secondary teacher in Ottawa. His response, dated January 16th, to an Ottawa Sun editorial, is reprinted here with permission.]
Suggesting that teachers should reinstate extra curricular activities until the new
provincial Liberal leader has been determined is a not so subtle attempt at putting
the entire responsibility for the present messy situation right on the shoulders of
the teachers. Let us recall that it was the government’s insistence, first to pass the
bill in September and then to not budge on its Dec 31 “deadline” (in itself somewhat
ridiculous) that created the crisis.
The government had the perfect opportunity to create a framework for finding a
solution and simply chose to be aggressive instead of intelligent. After Mr McGuinty
announced his retirement and suspended the legislature, the government could
have simply acknowledged that, given the reality of the new premier having to deal
with the situation, the wisest course would be to delay the often repeated threat to
implement the more odious clauses of Bill 115. That very well could have resulted
in a reinstatement of extra curricular activities.
These activities are a huge part of the school year. The decision to take a pause from
them was not taken lightly. Similarly, the decision to reinstate has to be treated
in the same way. It is not fair to students to bring them back only to have to take
them away again – which is exactly what happened when an agreement was reached
between OCDSB and OSSTF. Because of Bill 115, this deal had to be approved by Ms
Broten. Her office attempted to do an ‘end run’ by giving approval – with certain
changes. This rather transparent non-approval resulted in the agreement being
scrapped by the union. The after school programs which had been re-established as
soon as it appeared as if a deal had been reached had to be terminated again. That
almost made it worse.
It was apparently too much to expect the minority Liberal government which had
been propped up by the anti-teacher Conservatives to give EVERYONE (themselves
included) a break. Such a missed opportunity. Continuing to put/keep the teachers
in a corner where they have few options other than to withhold extra curriculars is
This school year, at least on the public front, has indeed already been severely
damaged by the conflict between the province and the teachers. The separate
school system is not experiencing this because their union caved in and accepted a
deal, which was never ratified by its membership.
The initiative was taken by the government in its Bill 115, passed ostensibly to avoid
an interruption at the start of the school year (an interruption which had already
been ruled out by OSSTF and ETFO over the summer); so should the government
continue to take the lead by delaying Bill 115 until a new premier is determined.
The moment that the government commits to a return to fair and appropriate
negotiations with the teachers will be the moment that extra curricular activities
will be reinstated – with far less chance of their having to be cancelled once again.
And having been recently burned once already, teachers wish to avoid an on again,
off again scenario.
If anyone needs to ask themselves a question, it is members of the provincial
government, who should wonder how their leaders’ words and actions can possibly
be helpful in getting this situation resolved.