Volume 91, Issue 31

Thursday, October 23, 1997

Froshty the Snowman


The learning curve

As Ontario's teachers prepare their winter clothing to walk off the job next Monday, the frigid atmosphere between the Mike Harris government and the Ontario Teachers Federation continues to freeze.

After months of negotiations, a number of teacher and parent protests and a cabinet shuffle by the Conservative government, yesterday's announcement to leave the province's classrooms is the final plea to send the Tory government's remaining $700 million cuts to education to detention.

But despite the fact there may not be anything taught at school next week, many people will still be learning valuable lessons. Beginning with Harris, who plans to give parents needing daycare facilities $40 each day in the event of a strike – money which will be deducted from the $25 million the government will save with no teacher salaries to pay – the premier will learn about the powers of democracy, the strength of unions and how important the quality of Ontario's education is.

The teachers, meanwhile, will learn about the power of politics and how far they can push the fight for education preservation.

Newly-appointed education minister Dave Johnson has had a lot to learn already, but with talks breaking down on Monday and the announcement of a walkout scheduled for next week (unless something drastic is changed about the government's proposal before then), Johnson must now learn the art of compromise – or graceful surrender.

The teachers and the Tories have fought over this issue for a long time and although a strike gives the impression of a grim situation, by hitting the picket lines the teachers have finally forced the issue – no more cuts or no more class. This approach is a fight the government cannot ignore for the sake of a few reasons: First, it is difficult to win the next election without any votes; and second, the future of Ontario's students – the true victims of this education incineration – depends on it.

Preventing any further loss of quality of education is a battle worth fighting for, no matter how cold the weather or the government may seem. By addressing the issue with an organized movement, teachers will give students a better chance to see clearer skies ahead for Ontario's education and leave the government looking more like the teachers' pet.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997