Since the election of the Ford government in June, OSSTF/FEESO has been open to establishing a meaningful dialogue with the government on matters of mutual concern. We have always believed that open discourse is the best way to advocate for the best interests of OSSTF/FEESO members, and on behalf of a strong system of publicly-funded education in Ontario.
Unfortunately, as has been documented in the pages of Update and elsewhere over the past five months, the government has been less than receptive to dialogue. Since its election, in fact, the Ford government has established a disconcerting pattern of undertaking consequential actions, almost always in the absence of any prior consultation with the parties affected.
The government’s Fall Economic Statement, for example, was accompanied by unexpected announcements eliminating the Office of the Child Advocate and the Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, as well the cancellation of plans for Ontario’s first French language university. The extent to which the immediate backlash from the Franco-Ontarian community caught the government off-guard—so much so that it felt compelled to make at least minor concessions in response to province-wide demonstrations—is an indication that this is not a government that carefully considers potential consequences before it acts. A further indication of this is the recent denial by Washington state regulators of Hydro One’s proposed takeover of energy company Avista Corp. In denying the deal, those regulators cited Ford’s political interference in the business operations of Hydro One, a reference to the forced retirement of the former CEO and the resignation of the entire board at the behest of the government in July.
That kind of recklessness is a quality that does not bode well for any publicly-funded services in Ontario, and public education is no exception. We’ve already seen impetuous actions like the cancelation of curriculum writing sessions for the incorporation of Indigenous content, the re-imposition of an outdated Health and Physical Education curriculum in elementary grades, to name just a couple.
Those actions, however, will pale in comparison to what lies ahead if the government adheres to its stated objective of finding “efficiency gains in the order of four cents on the dollar.” Those so-called “efficiencies” would translate into a billion dollars of cuts to public education, and for most OSSTF/FEESO members, those cuts will, without a doubt, negatively impact virtually every aspect of their work.
By all indications, this government is on a direct collision course with the interests of OSSTF/FEESO members and the students with whom they work. When that collision happens, it will be up to all of us to work together in defense of those interests. The time to start preparing for that is now.