Ford can only now appear in the legislature or at carefully screened events of supporters, up to and excluding the media from regular events. 

 

Taking full advantage of Ford’s record breaking fall from grace, are the teachers’ unions and other unions in the healthcare field. To keep the boxing analogy going, the teachers unions began with very well conceived and delivered postcards delivered to every voter in the Tories weakest 30 seats which outline Ford’s devastating education cuts and shows the local member’s complicity.

 

.After these shots to the kidneys, the unions have been going for the solar plexus with a series of TV commercials that point out the reality of Ford’s brutal cuts, particularly to class sizes by adding 6 kids to every secondary class and one to every elementary class. This is not only stupid policy, it is stupid economics and stupid politics. Spending on education has a multiplier effect of at least 4:1+ for the economy. The ratio for some countries is higher. Of course the reverse is also true, cuts result in lower human capital formation and a weaker economy. Of course, human capital is only one of the reasons for greater,not lower education expenditure. Education makes more individuals happy and fulfilled, and has a group effect improving our civic life, our democracy and elevating traditionally oppressed groups. 

 

Although a strike was averted with CUPE which represents most support staff, the government must reach agreements with four teachers’ unions and the support staff that they also represent. The brain dead Tories are still insisting on cuts to sick days and increased co-pays to benefits, a 1% raise and the continuation of their classroom cuts. Education Minister Stephen Lecce, has tried to induce the unions with a plan to lower the 28:1 ratio down to 25:1 but tied it to a demand that OSSTF agree to eliminate all class size caps, meaning that some local principals could create classes of 30-40 students in English, math, history, to protect some favourite programs that can't draw sufficient numbers. This has been rejected by OSSTF. School trustees and provincial negotiators need to stop taking their cue from principals and administrators on these class size issues. They are not in the interest of students, they are in the interest of principal control. In short, the principals have a conflict of interest. 


 

The Tories seem to have learned nothing from their experience of the Mike Harris years 1996-2003. Although their cave dwelling, 30% base vote loves to see Tory governments ‘stick it to the unions’, you cannot win an election with 30%. The general public blames the government for public sector strikes. They see it as the government’s job to reach successful agreements with its employees. If strikes do happen, the public only has one tool to fight back and register its anger, lower polls for the government in the short run meaning weakness, and election losses at election time. The public sees strikes as a failure of the government. Chaos is not a good look for the government. 

 

Tory partisans who understand this, lurch to “ban strikes” or “order them back”. Be careful what you wish for. The Supreme Court has ruled against governments prematurely ordering teachers back to work or failing to bargain in good faith. The Ontario Liberals had to compensate the unions for jumping the gun on BTW orders, and the famous BCTF case is a cautionary tale for governments who break faith with the free collective bargaining model. 

 

The Tories need to draw in their horns here. They have lost almost all of the early rounds on points. Ford has taken too many shots to the head and the body. If they allow the fight to continue Ford will surely go down for the 10 count at some point very soon. He needs a collective agreement without a strike or those rubbery legs will give out on him. 

 

The unions could not be in a better position with the Ford government. One year ago, fresh from a 40% victory and full of piss and vinegar, Ford might have seemed like Mike Tyson in his prime. He now looks about as dangerous as Woody Allan. Public opinion plays a critical role in public sector strikes. Ford has exhausted his public good will. 

Like a Punch Drunk Boxer, Ford is Staggering into Teacher Negotiations, Badly Beaten Up and Without Popular Support. 

With polling  (Mainstreet) showing Ford in a deep third place with 22% support,  Mainstreet says they have never seen an elected premier lose so much support in one year. Ford is the second most unpopular premier in Canada at 26% support, after McNeill of Nova Scotia. Ford cannot appear at the Rogers Center or even a plowing match in rural Ontario without a chorus of boos breaking out. It was so bad during the recent federal election, that the Scheer Tories had to put Ford in the witness protection program and, even so, Ford’s unpopularity is listed as the main reason that Scheer got little traction in the GTA and therefore, lost the national election.