By now, OSSTF/FEESO members are well aware that the Ford government’s funding cuts are going to create serious problems right across Ontario’s education system. Whether you work in an elementary school, a high school or a university, you will, one way or another, feel the impact of the government’s cuts and of its reckless meddling with the system. The removal of one in four high school teachers over four years, the increased class size averages, mandatory e-learning credits and the hundreds of millions of dollars that is being cut from Ontario’s post-secondary system—all of these changes and others will have a devastating effect on education in Ontario.
Beyond the inevitable negative impact on learning and student achievement, the government’s plans are a recipe for turmoil in the education system as school boards, educators and students try to figure out how to cope with these ill-conceived changes. With school boards across the province issuing record numbers of redundancy notices, the government’s actions have already led to an unprecedented level of uncertainty, apprehension and anxiety across the entire system. The level of discord will only intensify as the changes are implemented.
It is of no comfort to educators that this narrative is not unique to the education system. Similar scenarios have been unfolding right across Ontario’s public sector, and the repercussions for public services and programs that provide countless benefits to Ontarians will be significant. The Ford government has shown time and time again that it is prepared to act brazenly and with no regard for real-world consequences, all in the service of its narrow ideological objectives. Funding for the arts and for libraries has been slashed. Public Health Units are facing funding cuts and forced mergers, putting key services at risk and creating deep uncertainty across the province. And by delivering major hits to childcare and to the Ontario Autism Program, the government has thrown the lives of thousands of families into turmoil.
Turmoil, chaos and unforeseen consequences, in fact, have been the most common outcomes of the Ford government’s actions since it came to power last year. The premier’s decision to cut the size of Toronto’s city council in half, right in the middle of a municipal campaign, threw that city’s electoral process into complete disarray, and his meddling with the board of Hydro One cost the utility more than $100 million when a deal to acquire a US energy company fell through precisely because of his political interference. The examples are many, and they continue to accumulate.
In the meantime, in every corner of the province, Ontarians who rely on public services are now, or soon will be, dealing with the fallout. If there is a silver lining, it is that a significant and ever-growing portion of the population is coming to understand just how much havoc the Ford government is unleashing across the province. Recent polls show a steady erosion of support for the government, and this growing dissatisfaction within the public provides OSSTF/FEESO members with a timely opportunity to talk with their family, friends and neighbours, and encourage them to express their concerns by emailing or calling their MPPs. Those MPPs need to hear loudly and clearly that an attack on education and other public services is not what Ontarians expect from their government.