For more than a year, public opinion polls have indicated that the Progressive Conservatives are the party Ontarians are most likely to elect in the upcoming June 7 provincial election. Even after an unexpected and chaotic leadership race that concluded just two months ago, new leader Doug Ford has been able to maintain the PCs’ comfortable lead in the polls.
With the strong possibility of a Doug Ford government in Ontario, education workers will be looking carefully at his education policies to determine what a Ford government would mean for the sector. So far he has made a number of announcements, including a promise to scrap the sexual and health education curriculum. Ford has complained that the revised curriculum is not “age-appropriate” and that parents were not properly consulted on the revisions. He has also said that he will replace Discovery Math and return to rote math. To justify this, Ford points to the Grade 8 math test scores results across Canada, which ranked Ontario last in the country.
As well, in a head-scratching statement, Ford made a pledge to scrap the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) and replace it with standardized testing. It’s a bewildering promise, and suggests that neither he nor his advisers seem to understand that EQAO is actually the body that conducts standardized tests.
His only other major pronouncement with regard to education is a threat to tie university funding to “free speech” on campus. This is code for granting a green light to some to deny and undermine equity and inclusion protocols on campuses. It’s entirely unclear what criteria would be used to measure free speech, or how he expects that issue to be policed.
Ford’s promise to find “efficiencies” of four cents on every dollar in the Ontario budget is also of concern to educators. Given that education is the second-largest provincial expenditure, with a budget in excess of $24 billion, a four per cent budget reduction would almost certainly mean cuts in education, affecting both jobs and programs.
With these kinds of promises, Ford is taking direct aim at the professional judgement and employment security of all education workers.
OSSTF/FEESO, of course, is committed to protecting both the integrity of public education and the interests of education workers, and to this end, the Federation will be alerting members to the potentially devastating consequences of a Doug Ford majority government.
With 124 seats at stake in this election, Ford will need 63 seats to form a majority government. In consideration of this, the Provincial Executive, after extensive consultation with local leaders, is recommending endorsement of approximately 50 NDP candidates in ridings where the NDP either won or placed second in the last election. As well, a limited number of Liberal candidates have been endorsed in ridings that are at greatest threat of loss to the PCs. OSSTF/FEESO urges members to contact their local District office to find out where and how they can help in this election. The future of education depends on our political involvement. If we don’t make our voices heard, others will speak for us.