POLITICS
03/06/2020 14:03 EST

Doug Ford Defends Government's 'Tremendous Concessions' In Talks With Teachers

He also slammed the previous government for buying teachers’ negotiators pizza.

Premier of Ontario/YouTube
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to reporters in St. Catharines, Ont. on March 6, 2020.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford defended his government Friday after it walked back two major education policies that were sticking points in contract negotiations with teachers’ unions. 

 

“We ended up getting it right. It’s all part of negotiating,” the premier said at an announcement in St. Catharines, Ont. “We made tremendous concessions.”

Ford’s Progressive Conservative government said Tuesday it would no longer require high school students to take some of their courses online. It also said it would make the average high school class size 23 students, down from its original proposal of 28.  

The move comes after months of the government backtracking on its most controversial policies. It had already reversed course on its plans to cut a planned French-language university, open up protected Greenbelt land to development, cut public-health funding retroactively, ration funding for autism services based on a child’s age, cut funding for children’s aid societies and end a benefit for low-income parents. 

Ford denied Friday that the reversal on education policy meant his government was wrong. 

He said he expects online learning to grow “organically” even if students aren’t required to participate. 

“We are being extremely, extremely fair to the teachers’ unions,” he said. “These teachers, continuously going on strike, it’s unacceptable.”

Ontario’s four major teachers’ unions have held escalating job actions for months as contract talks with the government drag on. 

Three of the unions went ahead with a major protest Thursday, despite the concessions announced by Education Minister Stephen Lecce

Chris Young/Canadian Press
Protesters join a demonstration organized by Ontario's teacher's unions outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Feb. 21, 2020.

The government’s latest proposal would still cause 1,800 teachers to lose their jobs and students to lose thousands of course offerings, Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, said Thursday.

“They clearly laid out, essentially, take-it-or-leave-it proposals that cut off any avenue to a deal,” he said. “There are several aspects of what we were talking about they had established as essentially bottom lines with no flexibility.”

Didn’t they order every teacher a pizza? It was out of control.Premier Doug Ford

Ford said Friday that his government is trying to be flexible and slammed the previous Liberal government for what he sees as their capitulation to teachers’ unions. He brought up a report that the Liberals secretly paid teachers’ unions $2.5 million to cover their costs during contract talks, which included travel, hotel stays and large orders of pizza. 

“You just don’t roll over like the previous government did and spend billions of dollars. Didn’t they order every teacher a pizza? It was out of control.”

With files from The Canadian Press