Confused, Concerned

“In our home, back to school time is always made more exciting by the prospect of school sports.  My own kids play football and field hockey and our games often see scouts from universities coming to check out players.  It’s important to their futures and they take it seriously.  So, they’ve been on the fields every night since school started.  Until today.

Last night at dinner, both kids informed us there would be no practices today because of some “political thing” happening.  They’re both a little concerned considering the teams have had so little time to practice together and the first games are at the end of the week.  A few more questions and we learned that some of their teachers and coaches have been filling their heads with concerns about labour disagreements and hinting that sports programs might be in complete jeopardy if those disagreements aren’t resolved.

I know Bill 115 passed yesterday taking away teachers’ rights to strike, freezing wages for awhile and ending bankable sick days.  But the decision to protest this law through withholding sports, wearing black and sharing woes with the kids can’t be about getting the Premier’s attention because he’s been pretty clear over the last month that he’s not listening.  So it must be about getting the attention of kids and parents.  The unions have to figure out a way to keep this issue alive in the media but I think they have seriously underestimated public patience for dragging our kids into their disagreements.

I’m confused.

The unions say they had never planned to strike and that the Premier was just trying to scare people in order to ram Bill 115 through the legislature.  And yet, last June my kids came home from school regularly with news that school might not start up again in the fall because of a looming teacher strike over unsigned contracts.  Summer conversation with many teacher friends from around the province turned up the same story – a strike was likely coming.   Which was right?

Well, here we are, one day after the bill has passed, with kids being punished by work-to-rule activities.  Not only are kids missing out on an integral part of their school experience, their heads are being filled with political rhetoric surely meant to be conveyed to their parents who are voters.  It makes me wonder – what would be happening today if Bill 115 hadn’t passed and the contract dispute continued?  Don’t you think kids might have been home because of a strike?

I’m concerned too.

After last week’s by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo, Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour put McGuinty on notice by saying that “teachers elect governments and teachers un-elect governments.”  People accused PC Leader, Tim Hudak, of sour grapes when he pointed out how union involvement may have affected the outcome of that by-election and he was likely right.  Isn’t it more than a little scary that elections are being manipulated by unions with such a narrow focus?

Our province has serious problems and we need serious people to deal with them.  And the people I trust the least are the ones who think it’s a good idea to use kids to pressure the public, and who use their power and influence in such an ego-centric manner.”