Secondary School Teachers accept his 0%, now what?
By Bruce A Stewart
For eight years Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has followed a clear policy.
It doesn’t matter how much is spent: keep labour peace at all costs.
Teachers … doctors … civil servants … spend, spend, spend to avoid strikes.
Well, it worked. Mind you, it’s dug a very deep hole for Ontario as a result.
The “Ministry of Debt” — spending to cover interest payments on prior debt — is about to become the second-largest in the Ontario Government.
Ontario will add another $15-16 billion to this pile this year. And next year. And a lick and a promise that by 2018 somehow, miraculously, Ontario will balance its books.
California has deficits of similar size to Ontario’s. The problem for Ontario, of course, is that California’s economy is the same size as Canada’s, more or less. Ontario’s, despite its pretensions to the contrary, is only about 1/3 of that.
Well, if you want Greek-style finances, you know where to look!
For 2012, McGuinty changed course: 0% for all his favoured classes.
The Ontario Medical Association is backing the anaethetists who are saying “no mas!” (no way!). The elementary school teachers promise to bring his government down for the effrontery of even suggesting no increases will be made available.
These reactions are precisely what McGuinty wants. He’s got a minority government — but a minority by only one seat, and there is a by-election required later this year.
Cutting off the Ontario PC attempts to hold that seat by being the “tough but fair” money manager is right up his game plan. So is having to face the electors should he lose a confidence vote, having “done the right thing”.
But the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has added a new wrinkle.
Full page adverts saying “yes, Mr. Premier, we accept 0% as our share of fixing Ontario”.
The McGuinty Government has asked for more than 0%, unfortunately — they want the inflation adjustments to pay bands to be set aside for a few years, and they want givebacks on sick days.
The trouble is, when you get 0%, the rest ends up looking a little mean-spirited if you then push to impose it.
It somewhat undoes the avuncular image of kind old “Premier Dad” making the hard choices as palatable as possible so that everyone comes out all right that is his Government’s message.
Meanwhile, the absolute mess in public spending at the provincial air ambulance agency, ORNGE, continues to make the news. eHealth continues to absorb money and have little to show for it. Hydro bills continue to have all the surcharges for the wind farm tariffs from the Samsung deal — which are then given the tender loving treatment of the 13% HST on top of it.
McGuinty needed universal union intransigence to cover up all those open wounds.
Unfortunately, one of them has played their game smart, and have killed him with compliance on the only part of the issue that the public cares about.
Want to bet McGuinty turns back to blaming other Canadians for his troubles?
Bruce Stewart is a consultant, educator and philosopher with a passion for public affairs currently located in Toronto. He is well known across the Internet for his blogs on management (Getting Value from IT) and social affairs (Just a Jump to the Left, then a Step to the Right) and for his daily stream of commentary on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.