After an extended five-month absence, brought about by Premier Doug Ford’s decision to cancel much of the fall sitting of the Ontario Legislature, MPPs returning to Queen’s Park on October 18 were greeted with demonstrations by Ontario’s unions, including OSSTF/FEESO. Hundred of protestors flooded the streets encircling Queen’s Park in the early morning hours with musical bands leading chants and floats displaying video and hand-drawn signs. The energetic crowd demanded that Premier Ford stop the devastating cuts to government supports and services, including education and healthcare.
Meanwhile, more than 50 laid-off or underemployed OSSTF/FEESO members were present in the visitors’ gallery for the Legislature’s first Question Period since early June. The members were there to remind Premier Ford of his promise that no front-line workers would lose their jobs under his government. As they watched the proceedings, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath questioned Ford:
“The Premier spent most of the past five months either hiding or in damage control. Last year, this Premier insisted that not a single person in our province would lose their job, and that our schools, hospitals and public services would improve as he made cuts. Today, we’re joined by Natalie and Britney, both teachers who have lost their jobs. Is the Premier ready to admit—that these women and the students who have lost the support that these teachers provided—that his reckless cuts had consequences?”
Answering on behalf of the Premier, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce spoke about the government’s so-called “attrition fund,” but refused to acknowledge the presence of laid-off front-line educators in the Legislature.
While the Premier and his Education Minister delay and obfuscate, the careers of the OSSTF/FEESO members in the visitors’ gallery, and countless others, continue to be imperiled, as are the learning environments of the all the students who will feel the impact of the Ford government’s ongoing cuts.