POLITICS

Ontario Didn't Know About Teachers' $65-Million Reserve Fund: Deputy Premier

11/07/2015 11:10 EST | Updated 11/07/2016 05:12 EST
TORONTO — Ontario's deputy premier says she "certainly didn't know" about a reported $65-million reserve fund the public high school teachers' union had when the government agreed to pay them $1 million for negotiating costs.

Deb Matthews, who is also head of the department that manages all government spending, wouldn't say if the government as a whole or the bargaining team knew about it before they agreed to the payout.

The Globe and Mail reported that the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation has a $65-million fund that has been used in the past to pay for bargaining costs, political action and grievances.

The Liberal government has defended $3.74 million in payments to several unions over the past three rounds of contract talks as necessary because the transition to a new bargaining system made the process quite lengthy.

Meanwhile, a tentative agreement that Ontario reached with elementary teachers may have ended their work-to-rule campaign, but it still won't be mandatory for them to do parent-teacher interviews.

The deal, reached Monday with the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, put an end to an administrative strike the teachers began in May and had recently escalated to include withdrawing from extracurricular activities.

But while the teachers will now be preparing full progress reports, including comments, the union says teachers won't be forced to accept parent requests for parent-teacher meetings.

A spokeswoman for the union says interviews "will be initiated at the teacher's discretion if the teacher identifies a concern about a child's progress."

The Toronto Star reports that the government agreed to the move as a compromise with ETFO in order to reach a deal.

Matthews said that teachers are professionals who consider engaging with parents part of their jobs.

"I would say to any parent who wants to contact their kids' teachers to go ahead and do that and I have every expectation teachers will engage with parents," she said.