01/14/2013 05:20 EST | Updated 03/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Buying Off Teachers' Unions Works... But Not Forever


Someone once said that if you want loyalty, buy a dog.

That's especially true in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, stab-your-one-time-friends in-the-back, rough and tumble world of politics, where the concept of loyalty is almost non-existent.

The Ontario Liberal government knows this all too well.

After all, the Liberals are now embroiled in a bitter battle against their recent best friends -- the Ontario public teachers' unions.

And, make no mistake, this is not a battle any provincial government would welcome. Ever since they were granted the right to take in mandatory dues in 1964, and then granted the right to go on strike in 1975, public sector unions have become a powerful force in Ontario politics.

Governments take them on at their peril.

This is why ever since Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty came to power, one of his chief policy goals has apparently been to buy the teacher unions' loyalty by giving them essentially everything they asked for.

It was a strategy that worked for a while. As long as the Liberals kept the money flowing, they could count on the loyalty of the teachers' unions.

But then something happened. The Ontario government ran out of money. Suddenly, McGuinty could not offer his teacher union friends any more goodies.

Maybe he hoped his past generosity would keep the teachers' unions friendly, or at least reasonable in their demands, but if that was the case, he was dead wrong.

The teachers' union bosses still wanted more, and the minute the Liberals couldn't deliver, the unions turned against their one-time ally.

Who will win the battle between these former bosom buddies? Hard to say.

But one thing is clear -- when it comes to making friends, governments would be better off buying a dog than trying to buy a public sector union's loyalty.

At least that would be less costly to taxpayers.

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