More than 160 local leaders and Political Action officers, as well as members of the provincial Communications and Political Action Committee and the Provincial Executive, met in Toronto on October 20 for the first in a series of election readiness consultations in preparation for the June 2018 provincial election.
President Harvey Bischof spoke to the delegates about the importance of political engagement, and said that election readiness was among the most important activities OSSTF/FEESO would be undertaking over the next several months. He noted that October 27 marks the 20th anniversary of the 1997 political protest in response to the draconian measures of the Harris government’s Bill 160. Bischof pointed out that while we now commemorate that two-week protest as a tremendous demonstration of solidarity, OSSTF/FEESO and the other education unions would not have had to endure that battle if the 1995 election had not resulted in a government intent on creating a crisis in public education and removing the rights of union members. “If there’s one crucial lesson we learned from the 1995 election and the events that followed,” he said, “it’s that we absolutely must be engaged in the political process in Ontario.”
Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa, spoke to delegates about Elections Ontario’s efforts to improve voting procedures and encourage voter engagement, particularly among younger voters. Marc Zwelling, president of Vector Research, guided delegates through some recent polling results concerning the issues that are resonating with Ontarians with the election now just eight months away.
Legislative Observer Paul Kossta, of the Communications and Political Action (CPA) Department, explained how OSSTF/FEESO will be affected by the new rules eliminating financial contributions from unions to political parties, and restricting third-party participation in Ontario elections.
The CPA Department provided delegates with a tentative list of issues for inclusion in OSSTF/FEESO’s education platform. In small group discussions facilitated by members of the Communications and Political Action Committee, delegates considered each issue in detail and provided comprehensive feedback and recommendations. The CPA Department will take that feedback into consideration as it works toward a final draft of the Platform.
An additional election readiness consultation will take place on February 22, 2018, and pre-election preparations will be finalized at the Communication and Political Action Committee’s regional meetings in various locations around the province in May.