The Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) is expected to recommend a member fee increase of up to 20 per cent for each of the next three years. While details of the College’s proposed budget for 2018 are not yet available, it is believed that the chief rationale for the fee hike is the College’s desire to pay off the mortgage on its office building in Toronto’s Yorkville area near Bay and Bloor Streets, one of Canada’s most expensive real estate corridors.
At the June 2017 OCT Governing Council meeting, the College’s Finance Committee made two references to fee increase in its report.
The figure used in the June report was a recommended $11 fee increase for three years. The September 2017 Finance Committee report made no direct mention of a fee increase, and stated only that Council members would be briefed on the Committee’s budget proposal. The public, however, was not invited to that confidential briefing, but members of the public who were in attendance at the September Council meeting were surprised when a possible fee increase of $28 was mentioned during an unrelated discussion.
It is not yet clear how much of the proposed fee increase would be dedicated to paying off the mortgage on the OCT’s office building and how much would be allocated for other expenditures.
However funds are allocated, the proposed increase raises a number of questions. For instance, in what world does a regulatory body like the Ontario College of Teachers require premium space in one of the country’s most expensive business neighbourhoods, shoulder-to-shoulder with luxury retailers like Holt Renfrew, Louis Vuitton and Rolex? Also, if the OCT would like more members to participate in the election of the College’s Governing Council, why not ask members to weigh in on the proposed fee increase by including a referendum on the increase as part of the next election? And finally, has the OCT considered the possibility that its members would prefer to pay down their own mortgages rather than the College’s?
OSSTF/FEESO has repeatedly expressed concerns about “mandate creep” at the Ontario College of Teachers, and has questioned some of the College’s activities. There is no reason for a regulatory body to attend political fundraising dinners, or lobby the government, and it’s a mystery how hosting golf tournaments or wine and cheese events helps the OCT to fulfill its regulatory mandate. Those concerns are only exacerbated by the proposed fee increase and the lack of transparency surrounding it. OSSTF/FEESO will be keeping a close eye the OCT’s budget deliberations and the impact of those deliberations on our members. The 2018 budget will be debated and voted on at a meeting of the OCT’s Governing Council on December 7–8, 2017.