11/01/2019 07:54 EDT

Ontario Conservatives, NDP Both Rely On Half-Truths To Debate Teacher Layoffs

Minister Stephen Lecce had an awkward interaction with MPP Marit Stiles about the Ford government's education plan.

Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Ontario Minister Stephen Lecce and NDP MPP Marit Stiles speak at a committee at Queen's Park on Oct. 30, 2019.

TORONTO — Neither Ontario’s education minister nor the NDP’s education critic told the whole story during a tense back-and-forth about teacher layoffs at Queen’s Park Wednesday. 


MPP Marit Stiles tried to get Minister Stephen Lecce to answer “true or false” to questions about his government’s promise not to lay off teachers due to education policy changes. 

“549 fewer teachers in York are 549 more teachers who will have lost their jobs than the ‘not a single teacher will lose their job’ promise that your government made,” Stiles said to Lecce during a committee meeting. 

She cut him off when he tried to bring up the Progressive Conservative government’s $1.6-billion fund to help school boards avoid laying off teachers. 

“I’m going to move on,” the MPP for Davenport eventually relented. “I think we’re not getting anywhere with this.”

She listed off figures — 272 teachers in Durham, 221 teachers in Thames Valley, 355 teachers in Ottawa — that she said represent the number of teachers who have already lost their jobs. But Stiles told HuffPost Canada Thursday that her numbers came from a report that estimates how many fewer teachers will be in the system by 2023/24. 

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-leaning think tank, calculated how many fewer teaching positions there will be in Ontario due to the PC government’s bigger class sizes and mandatory online courses. 

Attrition fund will mitigate certain job losses

Former education minister Lisa Thompson announced a $1.6-billion fund to help school boards avoid laying off teachers as a result of those two specific policies, which the province’s independent financial watchdog has said is sufficient. The government says it will achieve those staffing reductions through attrition only, meaning that teachers who retire won’t be replaced.

But some school boards say their budgets have been hit by millions of dollars in cuts to other streams of funding too. The equivalent of 266 full-time teaching jobs have already been eliminated across the province, the secondary teachers’ union told The Toronto Star this week.

And Stiles noted that the $1.6 billion only protects teaching jobs. 

The Toronto District School Board, for example, says it will employ fewer people like reading coaches, principals, psychologists and caretakers because of budget cuts this year, for a total reduction of at least 170 jobs.

A spokesperson for the board could not say whether those positions would be cut through layoffs or attrition when asked by HuffPost Thursday.