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A podcast produced by teachers and education workers to speak for themselves.

Episode 140: What the election of a PC majority in Ontario means for K-12 education

In this episode we talk about what the recent election of a PC majority in Ontario means for K-12 education and educators.

Below is the transcript of this episode.

On June 24, Ontario’s MPPs and the government’s new cabinet, also known as the executive council, were sworn in following the June 2 provincial election in which the PC Party won ⅔ of the seats with only 18% of Ontarians voting for them. 

Today we wanted to orient ourselves given we have a new government, our contracts in k-12 education across the province expire August 31, 2022 and the education unions in Ontario have applied to begin negotiations. 

Obviously for many, 82% of Ontarians approximately, a PC government was not what they wanted. In fact, with only 43% of Ontarians voting, it is clear that a majority of Ontarians don’t really want any of the options that were presented to them in the election. Instead of really raising this refusal to endorse any party or their agenda as a major concern for Ontario and Canada, the Ford government has basically declared that their majority means they have the full support of Ontarians for their vision for the province. A vision which was not discussed during the election with the people of Ontario and instead platitudes about Getting it done, and prosperity replaced any discourse with the people about what they could expect with the PCs.

This now seems to be deliberate as the government now claims its main mandate is to  “build the infrastructure necessary to unlock the full potential of the province’s economy, including highways, transit and the road to the Ring of Fire.” This is reference to a large deposit of critical minerals in northern Ontario which sits on indigenous lands which is at the centre of an international scramble for minerals required to build batteries and technology for the auto, tech and military sectors. In this respect, unlocking the full potential of Ontarians economy to the Ford government means ripping out the resources and shipping them to the private interests that want them, for example the new electric vehicle plant which the government is financing for LG Korean conglomerate and Chrysler/Stellantis in Windsor Ontario. The reference to roads and infrastructure refers to corridors that will run from the north to the south carrying the resources to market with new security powers that prevent any protests on roads leading to a border under the guise of preventing future freedom caravans.

The point here is that this is what the Ford government is asserting is the main thing it has a mandate for. Meanwhile the crisis in health care, skyrocketing inflation and the serious problems in education which were exacerbated during the pandemic are pushed to the side as secondary matters. In fact it is the resolving of these problems which the working people want addressed to unlock the potential of the province and have been putting forward solutions for some time but especially during the pandemic. 

In k-12 education the Ford government really said nothing during the election other than they want to keep schools open. This is both reference to the pandemic, but also to the prospect that their continued attacks on education will not go unchallenged and teachers and education workers may resume the strike they agreed to abruptly end for the sake of the pandemic and continuing education in the global emergency. In other words, they want to keep schools open irrespective of the conditions in those schools and what the people who run them and need them have to say about what is needed. 4:03

Ford has reinstated the existing education Minister Stephen Lecce who was spinmaster at turning any objective problem into a chance to bash educators and present the government and students as the victim of educators. The professional spin master’s re-apointment shows that the overall direction of the ford government in k-12 education, which is public relations to hide what they are really doing, will continue. The secrecy of mandate letters, although revealing, isn’t really a huge issue because we already know that the Ford government intends to use the next four years to try and extract more money from social programs like education to pay for the projects the private interests he represents are demanding like resource extraction and paying them off in the name of the green economy. 

Meanwhile many of the most backwards changes they made in their last term are now being rolled out such as mandatory (but opt-outable) online credits for graduation from high school, no more publishing of new curriculum so they can make up to the minute curriculum changes online without anyone really knowing, increased class size averages in the name of de-streaming are but a few of the important ones. These measures were opposed by teachers and education workers, students and the public when they were pushed pre-pandemic and the pandemic gave the government a way to pause and re-set while implementing them behind the scenes. Now that pause is clearly off and we can expect that they will continue down the path of restructuring k-12 education to extract as much as they can. 

Although it is a mystery what they plan to do, it is also not a mystery that the battle that raged pre-pandemic and during the pandemic between those who provide and need education and the government and its agenda for privatization and cuts ….. will continue.

For those of us on the front-lines the issue really is to start preparing now for what lies ahead without the illusion that we have the choice not to pick up where we left off in March of 2020…..pause but… with the experience of the last 2 years in which it was us who stood up, alongside our communities for the health and safety of everyone while at the same time educating and doing our duty under the most difficult conditions. WE know what we are fighting for and what is needed post pandemic. With all this experience of the last two years, a government with no real mandate , no real public support, that very few trust at all, doesn’t scare us. Of course they have the power to do as they please, but our power lies in our determination to take up our social responsibility to ourselves and to the younger generation for the highest level of education this society can provide so they can have a bright future. 

And that’s our show, thanks for listening. 

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Episode 140: What the election of a PC majority in Ontario means for K-12 education