TORONTO — The time is ripe for the union that represents Ontario teachers to launch an anti-Doug Ford media blitz.
As the province’s high school students head back to school next week, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) is going after the premier in a new ad campaign.
The 30-second ad, which started showing on major TV networks Monday, shows news headlines like “Ontario to lose 3,475 full-time teachers” and “cuts to arts, trades” over black-and-white shots of empty hallways and melancholy-looking students.
“Doug Ford’s education cuts will cost us billions,” it says.
“We think that people need to understand the negative effects that this government’s policies will have if they’re not altered.”
Harvey Bischof, OSSTF president, said he hopes the ads will reach parents of high school students and anyone who’s concerned about Ontario’s economy.
“We think that people need to understand the negative effects that this government’s policies will have if they’re not altered,” he told HuffPost Canada Tuesday.
“Realistically, this is the time of year when people are paying attention to school-related matters so, tactically, it was the right time to put it out as well.”
One of the quotes that is attributed to CBC News in the union-sponsored ad, “education changes...result in falling graduation rates,” was actually attributed to Bischof in the original article.
Ford’s government increased overall education spending by $700 million this year, from a total of $29.1 billion in 2018/19 to $29.8 billion for 2019/20.
But unions say the government’s other policies — cuts to funds for high school programs and local priorities, larger class sizes and mandatory online courses — will mean 25 per cent fewer teachers in the system a few years from now.
Some school boards have cut hundreds of permanent teaching positions, attributing the layoffs to PC policies but also to school closures, openings and fluctuations in enrolment.
OSSTF will have to renegotiate teachers’ contracts with the government this fall, which could potentially result in a strike.
Negotiations haven’t begun yet because the union, school boards and the government couldn’t agree on which issues should be settled at the central bargaining table and which should be settled at local tables. All sides argued their cases at the Ontario Labour Board last week.
The board’s decision should come within the next few weeks, Bischof said, and then negotiations will begin.
Earlier On HuffPost: