Absolutely Massive Rally Kicks off the Education Community Fightback Against Ford Government
Cuts. ( but what next?)
For our friends in other provinces, rally organizers were ecstatic with the massive turnout at the April 6th rally. For those familiar with Queens Park, the seat of the Ontario government, the front lawn is huge and can easily hold 20 000 people. This demo overflowed the lawn forcing police to close the ring road Queens Park Crescent and continued across the street. Estimates of 25 000 may be under the total.
Although teachers’ unions, OSSTF, ETFO, OECTA and AEFO who represent education workers and CUPE who represent the rest, are the spine of the fightback movement, they are far from the entire movement. The students who led a walkout of 100 000 high school students addressed the rally. Representatives of parents groups and trustee groups addressed the rally.
Ford accused the “union bosses” of pushing the students to strike. Total bull spit. Social media savvy young people began with instagram post and created an overnight movement which rocked the government. A bloviating Ford could not admit the student led walkout was genuine because this would force him to admit that the reforms, massive increase in secondary class sizes, four forced on line courses, elementary cuts… are as unpopular as they obviously are. One union leader who is also a Psych PhD noted “the government is scared, you can see it already”.
Harvey Bischof, OSSTF president, pointed out that there really can only be one long term goal for a government to attack a world leading education system. It literally makes no sense unless the long term goal is charter led, eventual privatization. It is in the Tory DNA to hate the public sector. It runs on taxes and the rich hate taxes. It is highly unionized and thus raises expectations in the private sector for pay, benefits and pension improvements, and lastly nobody is making a buck off of it as they could from bare bones, non union, private education, for the poor and the middle class.
Insiders acknowledge, even with this massive show of force, no Tory votes will change. This amounts to a pep rally to fire up the organization, an organizing device to spread the word regarding the heavy consequences of the Ford knuckle dragging direction. Now the war turns to the trenches and will be a hand to hand rifle butt and bayonet operation from here out.
When I wrote for NOW Magazine about education, my editor would say, “Doug where is the hook. We are a weekly. The other papers are dailies. We cannot repeat a story on Thursday the dailies had on Monday. We live on scoops they don't have or in depth analysis they didn't do.“ The analysis follows.
Both sides are well aware of the tools at the disposal of each side. There are three directions for the unions. The first is the legal direction. They can go to court and demand the BCTF solution of legislated class size and composition negotiations. This would take 10 years and, if he is still in power, Ford has a hip pocket “notwithstanding clause” and is prepared to use it.
Andrea Horwath and NDP MPPs show support for educators, parents and students.
The second obvious tool is what the Brits call “industrial action” strikes of various forms. This is not your parents ‘Bill Davis” Tory party. Ford is both more ruthless and far more ignorant. He is quite prepared to use union busting tactics, ordering teachers and workers back to work, jailing leaders, massive fines and the like. The unions may go this route regardless. Make Ford show his teeth as leader of a mean and vindictive government. This will cost him the support of many union voters who voted Ford just to dump the Wynne Liberal government.
The third and most sophisticated direction, is the political route. ETFO is already on TV with anti-cutback ads. No problem ETFO has a huge membership and can amortize these costs. Collectively the unions have multi millions in “rainy day” reserve funds AKA strike funds. Well, it is raining cats and dogs.
There are 15-20 depending where you draw the line, Tory MPPs who won their seats by very thin margins considering both aggregate and percentages of the vote. Ninety percent of the fightback should be aimed at these weak sheep. There is no cost-benefit gains in attacking Christine Elliott, Lisa McLeod, Caroline Mulroney types who won by huge margins. Even if you knock them down 3000 votes, they still win. By contrast a concentrated, repeated attack on a Jeremy Roberts who won Ottawa West Nepean by 700+ votes can defeat him. Three quarters of an “air war” strategy falls on opposition ridings and safe Tory seats. It is good as an opening barrage, but eventually the hand to hand combat begins to defeat the Tories in their weakest seats. With any luck, the the total massive fight back campaign causes the Tories to mitigate their reforms, reach accomodations with the unions and the students, if they have any long term survival instincts.
There would be no problem with an initial delivery in spring 2019, a second card as issues develop in fall 2019 and a year by year continuation including election year. Some groups may want to canvas with the card while others may just want to stuff mailboxes. The short term and eventual long term objective is to make the Tories pay an extremely high political price for their cuts and interference with education. The ultimate price will be paid in the next general election.