On behalf of the 70,000 members of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO), I would like to welcome Premier Doug Ford, his cabinet and his entire caucus back to work as they finally return to Queen’s Park after a break of nearly five months. We have no doubt that Premier Ford and his government are eager to shake off the cobwebs and get down to business after such a long absence, and we’re sure that the 31 Conservative MPPs who received a 14 percent salary increase over the summer are particularly happy to be back in the legislature.
We would also like to remind Premier Ford, as he and his government return to work, that hundreds of teachers and education workers – the frontline educators Ontario students rely on every day to help them succeed – have been laid off and did not have work to return to this fall.
Thanks to the Ford government’s education cuts, thousands of teachers and education workers are now missing from Ontario’s schools, and students are negatively impacted by their absence far more than any of us were affected by Doug Ford’s absence these past five months. Many students are crammed into classrooms with as many as 40 or 45 of their peers. Students with special needs have lost access to the supports they need to give them an equitable opportunity for success. And countless students are unable to fill their timetables, or are denied access to courses they will need in order to graduate.
OSSTF/FEESO members know what students need to succeed, and we are ready to do whatever is necessary to stand in defence of their right to a quality learning environment. The government of Ontario should be our allies in that defence. The current government has turned out to be quite the opposite.
And so we ask Premier Ford, as he and his caucus reorient themselves after their extended summer, to please take a long, honest look at the impact his policies are already having on the students of this province. OSSTF/FEESO has come to the bargaining table with proposals that are good for those students, good for public education, and good for the future of Ontario. We ask nothing more of the government than that they do the same.