Friday, April 08, 2011

The Elephant in Ontario Classrooms

Catholic teachers campaigning on who their bosses will be

As Ontario inches closer and closer to an expected provincial election in which the Dalton McGuinty government will fight for its political life, an elephant has crept into the room.

And not just the political room. Into the classroom.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association is charging its members a mandatory $60 political levy to campaign against Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative Party. They plan to assemble a warchest of $3 million.

“Our goal is to elect an education-friendly legislature in order to protect the gains in education made over the past eight years,” OECTA President James Ryan said in a statement.

What Ryan basically means by this is that they'll work to elect a government that will enshrine their interests in education policy.

“When we hear words like merit pay, we think of the Tea Party states in the United States, who have all gone to that and are having massive disruptions in their systems,” he continued, blowing the far-left dog whistle. “We look at Mr Hudak’s statement that there has to be cuts to balance the budget and the only thing he’s willing to protect is front-line health care. Well education isn’t in there.”

But Ryan doesn't have his entire union behind him on this matter. Muted voices of dissent are slowly starting to trickle out from concerned union members. Tim Hudak should know; he's been hearing from them.

“We’re receiving a lot of emails and calls from individual teachers who are quite upset to see their union dues being used in this way, as part of the Working Families Coalition,” Hudak reported.

MPP Lisa MacLeod is deeply concerned about the position dissident teachers have been placed in.

“We’re looking at about $3 million which will go towards ads to defeat Tim Hudak, myself, other PC candidates,” MacLeod said. “And there’s no opportunity for my supporters or any teacher who doesn’t agree with this tactic to opt out. And I think that’s unfair.”

She's precisely right. And it's not just unfair to the teachers.

In the Toronto Sun, Christina Blizzard describes the move as political blackmail. And she's precisely right. It's absolutely perverse that any government employee, in any regard, could campaign on essentially who their bosses will be.

It's doubly perverse that they're doing it before the election is even called.

It's a stark reminder of some of the reforms needed in Canadian election laws; in no province in Canada -- or at the federal level -- should it be legal for public sector unions to campaign during an election. It's a stark and unacceptable conflict of interest.

This elephant cannot be tolerated in classrooms anywhere in Canada. It's time for it to stop.

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