Teachers have not protested en masse at the Ontario legislature since the days of Mike Harris, when the then premier introduced measures such as teacher testing. Today at noon, teachers are expected to gather outside Queens Park to protest a controversial bill that would freeze their wages for two years and cut benefits.
Elementary Teachers Federation President Sam Hammond says the minority Liberals are creating a crisis to win two byelections next week to gain a majority. He says he’s asking teachers to make sure the Liberals are defeated. “Let’s be honest.”, he explained, “there’s no option for us here. Our members are pointing in the direction they want to go. And our members across this province feel absolutely betrayed by this government based on the work and the partnership that we’ve had since 2003.”
The bill would not only rein in compensation, but also give the government the power to ban strikes and lockouts. Premier Dalton McGuinty says its a matter of finacial responsibility. He used the example, ”just as we make decisions in our homes, we also have to make decisions in our governments. We have to make responsible choices. And I’m confident that we are making the responsible choice.”
The 2 year contract is expected to become law, as the Progressive Conservatives have agreed to support the bill. Three unions who oppose the province’s demands say they’ll take their fight to the Supreme Court if necessary.