Tories won’t oppose Liberals’ new contract for teachers
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak speaks to the media at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Nathan Denette)
Published Friday, August 24, 2012 11:10AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 24, 2012 10:07PM EDT
A Liberal government plan to impose a new contract on Ontario teachers will be approved at Queen’s Park on Monday, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said on Friday.
Hudak said his opposition party would not oppose the government when it moves to impose a new contract on teachers during a special session of legislature on Monday. He would not specify whether his party will stand up and vote for the legislation or simply sit out the vote, which would result in the bill being passed.
The Liberals say they want the Tories’ guarantee of support in writing.
Hudak said his party has no interest in making a deal with the Liberals in exchange for their co-operation.
The bill would freeze teacher salaries next year and do away with a number of benefits in an attempt to cut down a $15-billion deficit.
“We are going to do our work as an opposition to make sure there are no back doors, no pay raises,” Hudak told a press conference on Friday. “The bill is going to pass. The question is: where do we go next?”
Hudak said he was disappointed that the government was not more serious about cutting in spending during the previous session of parliament, and hopes the “semi-wage freeze” on teachers will lead to similar moves in other areas of public service.
“When we finally get a nibble on the line, we are going to reel it in,” Hudak said about freezing public salaries. “We’ve been trying to drag these guys to this conclusion for some time; they can’t keep throwing money at problems. I want to see more of it.”
The proposed legislation would freeze teacher wages, cut benefits and reduce sick days by half. It would also prevent teachers from banking sick days for later use and ensure there are no labour disruptions for the next two years.
On Thursday, three powerful teachers’ unions representing 191,000 workers said they were willing to fight the legislation all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary, calling it an “undemocratic” move.
The New Democrats have not said whether they’ll support the legislation. However, NDP House leader Gilles Bisson said that asking another party to guarantee something in writing is “ridiculous.”
Bisson said the Liberals are attempting to create an education crisis to distract from other issues such as jobs and the economy.
"The Liberals are always the same," he said. "It's about doing what's right for them and not necessarily what's right for Ontarians."
Education Minister Laurel Broten told CTV News Channel on Friday that the government was prepared to defend the legislation in court if necessary, saying it was a “fair and balanced” approach that put education first.
“If this is challenged in court we will take the position that it is constitutional, that the rights to collective bargaining have been protected,” Broten said.
“It is a solid roadmap that puts our kids first and we certainly hope that there is still time to reach agreements. We are encouraging boards to do that.”
Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said teachers did not plan to strike or work-to-rule, but some may decide not to participate in extra-curricular activities.
With files from The Canadian Press