VIDEO: Teachers picket outside Liberal leadship debate
On Wednesday evening, about 200 angry teachers greeted Ontario Liberals attending the fifth and final Ontario Liberal Leadership debate. They picketed and chanted slogans outside The Old Mill Inn in Etobicoke, as party members filed into the building. Union members from Ontario's high school and elementary teachers attended the demonstration, along with representatives from CUPE and the Ontario Federation of Labour.
Union leaders, leading chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, lying Liberals have to go,'' vowed to defeat the Liberals in the next election for using Bill 115, which also imposed a two-year wage freeze on most teachers.
Teachers at the rally told NEWSTALK 1010 that the protest is important to let the 7 would-be Premiers participating in the debate know that Ontario's educators are still seeing red over the legislation that forced a new, 2-year contract on them. Elementary school teachers are set to walk off the job for a one-day 'protest' on Friday and Ontario high school teachers are expected to do the same on January 16th. In response, Premier Dalton McGuinty will go to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to ask that it declare the elementary teachers' action illegal and move to put a stop to it.
In spite of this, many teachers at Wednesday's rally are confident that the OLRB will rule in their favour. At the debate, Gerard Kennedy, a former education minister, urged teachers to abandon their protests, at least until a new premier is selected later this month. ``It's time to bring back extracurriculars back,'' he said.
``I've been to visit every picket line that we've seen and they feel a lack of respect and we have to be able to say we're prepared to make changes, to acknowledge when things have gone off the rails.''
Eric Hoskins acknowledged the teachers protesting outside the debate, and said the Liberals needed to restore good relations with teachers. ``We need our teachers on the inside, not on the outside as they are tonight,'' said Hoskins.
``If the last year has taught us anything it's that process that was put in place, we can't use it again. it didn't work.''
Kathleen Wynne said she knows that parents feel the after-class clubs and sports are ``not optional,'' and admitted there were problems negotiating with teachers as the government fought to cut keep down expenses. `
`We need a new process; this one failed,'' said Wynne, also a former education minister.
(with files from The Canadian Press)