Ontario premier slams teachers' unions, says they are constantly fighting him
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford has slammed the province's teachers' unions saying he doesn't understand why they won't cooperate with his government.
Ford made the comments at Queen's Park on Wednesday after being asked about his government's plan to reopen schools in September.
"I'm asking for the teachers' unions cooperation," Ford said. "Why can't the teachers' unions get along with us?"
"If I can work and everyone can work together in the whole country, we've faced so many problems with this pandemic, why can't we work with the teachers' unions?
"(They're) just constantly, you know, out there fighting. We can't get things done. I just don't understand it. I just don't."
Ford said his senior staff has had over 120 meetings with the teachers' unions while the government crafted the back-to-school plan.
Since the province released its back-to-school strategy, the teachers' unions have expressed multiple safety concerns.
With regular class sizes for elementary school students, the unions say educators will be put at a higher risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
Teachers’ unions considering legal action over back-to-school plans
Meanwhile, teachers’ unions have confirmed that they are considering legal action over the province’s back-to-school plans.
Speaking to CTV News Toronto, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF) said the union was “exploring with counsel what tools we have to keep members safe.”
OSSTF President Harvey Bischof said there is no single “silver bullet” in the plan that the union takes issue with, but rather a “constellation” of issues.
“We're investigating how we can support our members legal right to a safe workplace,” Bischof said.
Similarly, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) as well as the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA) have both said they are exploring all their options.
“Doug Ford says the government will do whatever is necessary to ensure schools are safe – Ontarians have not seen this so far, but it is never too late for the government to do the right thing,” OECTA President Liz Stuart said in an email.
Updated announcement coming on school year
Ford said that while no major changes will be made, an updated announcement is coming in the next few days in regards to the back-to-school plans.
"The Minister of Education will be coming out in the next very short while for an announcement," he said.
“It goes back to listening, we are listening, we're listening to everyone from the health experts, to the teachers' unions, to the front-line workers. I'm out there listening to them."
"It's going to be a great announcement, it's going to be a positive announcement."
Meanwhile, an online petition calling Ontario's back-to-school plan "disturbing" gained more than 200,000 signatures. It calls for class sizes in elementary schools to be reduced in order to accommodate for physical distancing and smaller cohorts.
When asked about the petition on Monday morning, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education told CTV News Toronto that the plan to reopen schools has been crafted by the "best medical and scientific minds in the country."
"We are proud to lead the nation in funding per-student, an aggressive masking policy for grades 4-12, hiring over 1300 custodians and $75 million in additional cleaning funding, along with the hiring of 500 public health nurses to support student health in our schools," the statement said.