2016—2017 · V. 44 No. 1



New minister, new opportunities?

This past spring, the editorial in the final issue of Update for 2015–2016 pointed out some of the shortcomings of the Wynne government over the previous two years, particularly with regard to the Education portfolio. There were rumours at the time of an imminent cabinet shuffle, and we were compelled to make the point that something more than a mere shuffle was required—that it was time, in fact, for the Premier to “hit the reset button” on the Ministry of Education and overhaul the Ministry’s disposition toward Ontario’s schools, teachers, support staff and, ultimately, students.

That cabinet shuffle came on June 13, and saw Liz Sandals replaced with a new Minister of Education, Mitzie Hunter.

Not surprisingly, things have been relatively quiet around Queen’s Park over the summer, and we’ve had very little indication as to how Hunter will be approaching her new portfolio, or whether she has any concrete plans for positive changes.

New minister, new opportunities? (Cartoon) 

We are, of course, hoping that Hunter’s appointment will give us an opportunity to nurture a more cooperative and constructive relationship. But a key component of that relationship will need to be a recognition on the part of the Minister that improved labour relations in Ontario’s education system will be almost impossible to achieve without a wholesale change in the attitudes and tactics displayed by several local school boards, and in the disposition of the boards’ umbrella organizations.

The participation—and the obstinance—of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) at the teacher and support staff central bargaining tables were the primary reasons that both of those central deals required well over a year of bargaining before they were achieved. And the fact that so many local agreements were not reached until the well into the summer of 2016, almost two years after those deals had expired, is a clear indication of the number of district school boards obsessively focused on stripping our agreements of long-standing protections and well-established rights.

When school boards and their representative organizations insist on approaching the collective bargaining process as nothing more than an opportunity to advance their radical management rights agenda, then no one is well served—not our members, not students and not the citizens of Ontario.

If Minister Hunter wants to usher in a new era of respectful and productive labour relations in Ontario’s publicly funded education system, then she will need to understand that OPSBA, the CTA, and a number of very problematic school boards in this province will need to be reined in before the next round of bargaining begins.

Partager Cette Page