Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

 

Article by Frank Klees, MPP
Newmarket-Aurora
As published in the Auroran
August 28, 2012

Teachers Fall Out With Their Best Friend

On my desk in my constituency office is a very large pile of post cards. On the front is emblazoned the following call to action.....RESPECT TEACHERS.....RESPECT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. The following pre-printed note is on the reverse.....

"Dear MPP, I am an ETFO member in your riding and am writing to ask you to support free collective bargaining. The government is making unreasonable demands and blatantly interfering in collective bargaining. For me, the government's demands will mean....."

Here are some of the hand-written notes.....

"I can no longer accumulate sick days for when I have a serious illness.....a salary cut over the next two years..... My family can not keep up with inflation..... I will have lost thousands of dollars.....a 70% cut in sick days a year !..... by 2014, I will have lost thousands of dollars !.....I will feel so devalued and demoralized..... that you lack respect for our profession and the challenging work that we do....."

One teacher sent me seventeen post cards, all with the identical note and each individually stamped. I responded, thanked her for the postcards and suggested that she would have been better off sending the other sixteen to Dalton McGuinty, the self-professed Education Premier and his band of Liberal MPPs, who have driven our province to the brink of bankruptcy through their reckless spending over the past nine years.

The chickens come home to roost.....

 

Why is Dalton McGuinty finally saying "No" to the public sector union bosses who have been bleeding taxpayers dry for the past nine years ?  Not because he's had a conversion to fiscal responsibility, but because there's nothing left in the cupboard and he knows he's already taxing hardworking Ontarians to the breaking point. He has no choice but to say "No"!

Dalton McGuinty's own economic advisor, Don Drummond warned that Ontario was heading towards a $30 Billion deficit if we don't implement serious spending restraints. Drummond's 362 cost-cutting recommendations were ignored and the last provincial budget gave us more of the Liberals' rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul slight of hand economics. That's why PC MPPs voted against that budget.We warned the government that the course we were on is unsustainable.

Public Sector Wage Freeze

On November 18of last year, Tim Hudak sat across from Dalton McGuinty and presented him with recommendations for the upcoming budget. Top on that list was an across-the-board public sector wage freeze for two years. The result would be a reduction in spending of $2 Billion a year and a major step towards getting our fiscal house in order. Everyone being paid by the public purse would participate equally in bringing the finances of our province under control. Dalton McGuinty dismissed those proposals outright.

Putting Students First Act

Fast forward to Monday August 27, 2012. The legislature is recalled early to deal with the Putting Students First Act. This is the legislation that those post cards were asking me to oppose.

While the legislation lessens the financial impact of teachers' contracts by freezing salary levelsat the various grid levels, teachers will still qualify for raises as they migrate up the salary grid based on seniority. According to the Education Ministry, the cumulative cost could be as much as $438 million. So much for a salary freeze. Nevertheless, it's a step in the right direction.

Will I be supporting the Putting Students First Act ?

Yes. While I and my colleagues in the PC Caucus would have preferred a true wage freeze, we're at least encouraged that we've been able to convince Dalton McGuinty and his government that public sector wage freezes have to form a cornerstone of a meaningful economic recovery plan. Whether I support the bill by
voting for it, or by abstainingwill depend on whether the government accepts the amendments we will be proposing to protect the authority of school boards and principals and the integrity of student testing, which
this legislation puts at risk. What I can guarantee, is that students and teachers will be in the classrooms when
the bells ring to start the school year.

I respect teachers and I respect collective bargaining, but I also believe that at a time when600,000 Ontarians wake up every morning under the stress of being unemployed, whenthose families can't accumulate groceries, let alone sick days and our province is in fiscalcrisis, then we all have to be part of the solution. That includes teachers and I know that the majority of front line teachers agree. It's the union bosses who seem to believe that they are in a class of their own. I disagree.

As always, I welcome your comments and advice. I can be reached at

905-750-0019 or through my website at www.frank-klees.on.ca .