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December 17, 2012 - No. 14

Stand With Teachers and Education Workers! Kill Bill 115!

All Out to Support Elementary Teachers' Strike Actions!

Right: Teachers, education workers and supporters rally at PC Leader Tim Hudak's office, Beamsville, December 12, 2012.
Left: Toronto students hold Day of Action against Bill 115 at Queen's Park, December 13, 2012.

Stand With Teachers and Education Workers! Kill Bill 115!
All Out to Support Elementary Teachers' Strike Actions!
Students Join Their Teachers to Demand: "Kill Bill 115!"
Ongoing Actions Against Bill 115
Coming Events

Oppose Attempts to Usurp School Board Powers and Impose Austerity
Toronto District School Board Concedes to Ministry of Education Intervention - Rob Woodhouse

Sandy Hook School Shooting in Connecticut
The Need to Make Sense of These Events to Provide a Way Forward - Enver Villamizar

Stand With Teachers and Education Workers! Kill Bill 115!

All Out to Support Elementary Teachers' Strike Actions!

Ontario Political Forum calls on everyone to join elementary teachers on the picket lines, even if just for a minute, to put the lie to the Liberal/PC disinformation that the teachers are holding parents and students hostage. Every concrete expression of support shows that the fight to Kill Bill 115 is a stand in defence of the rights of all.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week strike actions have been announced for boards that include Toronto, Oshawa, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Windsor, Oakville and Sarnia in Southwestern Ontario as well as North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and other places in Northern Ontario. These cities represent the heart of Ontario's industrial working class as well as Ontario's most populous city, Toronto. These communities represent the steel, auto, petro-chemical, mining, forestry and food processing industries in Ontario, not to mention the financial sector in Toronto. The one-day strikes will no doubt have an effect.

No doubt there will also be attempts to present the actions of the teachers as a threat to Ontario's economy, especially with the possibility that in the future they could extend to more than just a day. Of course the ruling circles in Ontario and Canada are afraid that the working class of Ontario is rising in defence of its own interests. The legacy of the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election, not to mention the historic Ontario Days of Action against the anti-social offensive in the 1990s are a spectre in the minds of the Canadian ruling circles who do not want the working class to flex its collective muscle and recognize its power to intervene directly in political affairs, in its own interests. This is especially the case given the tenuous position the ruling circles are in, with a lame duck premier and a prorogued legislature that clearly reveals the crisis of a political system in which the people have no power.

The more the ruling circles try to paint teachers and education workers as isolated or self-serving, the more the actions of the teachers, education workers and students show that they are taking a stand for the rights of all in society. This is made especially clear by the slogan that the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has adopted for its billboards: If You Work in Ontario, This is Your Fight! The strike actions of the elementary and secondary teachers and education workers should be fully supported!

Districts Holding Strike Actions in the Coming Week

Monday, December 17
Hamilton-Wentworth, Rainy River, James Bay, Rainbow

Tuesday, December 18
Toronto, Waterloo Region, Peel, Lambton-Kent, Near North, Greater Essex, Grand Erie, Durham

Wednesday, December 19
Bluewater, Algoma, Halton

For future strike actions, check the ETFO website.

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Students Join Their Teachers to Demand:
"Kill Bill 115!"

Students from all over Toronto filled Queen's Park on December 13 in a powerful demonstration for the repeal of Bill 115 and against its undemocratic essence. Chants of "Kill the Bill! Kill Bill 115!" filled the air at Queen's Park, along with slogans supporting teachers and education workers' rights. At least 2,000 high school and elementary students came from across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The rally went on for more than two hours.

Students began arriving at 1 pm in school groups, which in some cases included as many as 150 students. By 2 pm there were 1,000 students. As each new school group poured out of the subway into Queen's Park a cheer went up. By 2:30 there were 2,000 students. Student groups from schools further away were still arriving at 3 pm. Each group had their own style of hand-made "Kill the Bill!" signs and signs supporting their teachers.

The December 13 action followed walkouts to oppose Bill 115 at many high schools and elementary schools across Ontario the previous week. The student walkouts began December 10, the same day teachers and education workers stepped up their struggle against Bill 115 with rotating strikes of elementary teachers and other education workers represented by ETFO and work-to-rule actions by high school teachers and support staff represented by OSSTF. Almost all of these student actions demanded the repeal of Bill 115 and expressed support for their teachers.

Education Minister Laurel Broten issued a statement on the student actions that tried to turn upside down what the students went to Queen's Park to so powerfully express. "I can certainly understand why students are disheartened," Broten said. "I share their concerns, and am disappointed that actions by the public teacher unions have placed students in the middle of this disagreement over pay." This shameless statement was made while thousands of voices shouting "Repeal Bill 115!" and "We Stand With Our Teachers!" were rattling her office windows at the Ontario Legislature.

Her statement is also an insult to the students, suggesting that they don't understand who is who and what is what on the question of Bill 115. The overwhelming majority of the students at Queen's Park clearly understood why they were there - to stand up for democratic rights and to take a stand against the government's attempt to trample on people's rights. The very fact that the Ontario Legislature was chosen as the venue for their protest confirms this.

This understanding was expressed by many of the students who spoke at the end of the demonstration. One was a girl in Grade 9 from Scarborough who summed up the sentiment of the students in a short speech: "This demonstration is about the rights of students and about the rights of teachers but it is also about the rights of everyone in the society. If the government can take away the rights of teachers, it can take away anyone's rights."

A group of high school students from the Etobicoke School of the Arts/Students Against Bill 115, was the main organizer for the action. As students assembled in the park, the group handed out leaflets to inform their peers, including a brief analysis of the content of the legislation and instructions on how to present their demands to MPPs during a 3:00 pm mass call-in to tell them how the dispute with teachers is affecting their education. Students told Ontario Political Forum that they held walkouts, gave in notes to be excused from class or just skipped class -- all to make sure they could stand up and be counted at the rally.

By defending teachers and education workers who have had to resort to one-day strikes and the withdrawal of volunteer work and extra-curricular activities to press their just demands with the government, the students are adamant that they are also defending their own right to education.

What Participants Had to Say

A group of high school students from Sir John A. MacDonald in Scarborough told Ontario Political Forum that they had come out to support the teachers because "as teachers get affected, we get affected. Most of our extra-curriculars are cut, especially extra help which is bad because students who need help can't get it." Another student said, "We're also fighting for the teachers because they can't strike themselves. So if they can't strike, we'll strike for them. [The government] can't really do anything to the students if they help strike en masse. We're helping the students and the teachers, but it's mostly for the teachers."

A group of Grade 8 students from Bellmere Public School in Scarborough took off class to attend the rally and show support for their teachers. One explained to Ontario Political Forum that they are supporting their teachers so that extra-curricular activities, especially extra help, are restored. The lack of extra help may impact their grades and affect their future, they pointed out. "It's not fair the government took away their right to strike," said another, adding, "We're here to strike for them."

A group of Grade 11 and 12 students came from Vaughan Road Academy armed with many placards calling for the repeal Bill 115 and explaining why they oppose it. They also expressed their support for the teachers and demanded that they have their right to collective bargaining restored. They emphasized the impact of the loss of extra-curriculars on their school experience and that they are doing their part to see them restored by supporting their teachers. "By undermining the teachers, the government is undermining our education as well," said one student. They also informed that students held a walkout at their school the previous week, which was well-attended.

Students from Central Tech, who walked out of class to join the rally, told Ontario Political Forum that teachers are being unfairly treated, and that consequently this is blocking most of the opportunities for students, which especially affects graduating students.

One of the student organizers from the Etobicoke School of the Arts/Students Against Bill 115 explained to Ontario Political Forum the importance of holding such an event to give students a voice in the situation, as those who are amongst the most affected and to put pressure for a solution to be reached. "We need our school resources and the teachers do a lot that goes under-appreciated," she stated, adding that as an arts school, a lot of their success in the program depends on extra-curricular activities.

Several students' signs highlighted that the government's attacks on public sector workers in the name of paying off the deficit will not be limited to teachers. A student whose sign warned, "You Will Be Next!" told Ontario Political Forum, "We believe the government is taking away the rights of the teachers, they're infringing on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and we believe that they won't stop here. They're doing it to cut back [...] and they'll also do it to others in the public sector."

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Ongoing Actions Against Bill 115

Protest at PC Leader Tim Hudak's Office

Steelworkers join with teachers and education workers outside PC Leader Tim Hudak's office
in Beamsville, December 11, 2012.

Elementary Teachers Hold Rotating Strikes

Top to bottom; left to right: in New Liskeard; Timmins, December 10, 2012; St. Catharines, December 11, 2012;
Ottawa, December 12, 2012.

(Photos: ETFO, L. Wiatrowski)

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Coming Events

Liberal Leadership Debate

Tuesday, December 18 -- 6:00 pm
River Theatre, Carleton University -- 125 Colonel By Dr.
Download poster 

North Bay
Labour Council Rally Against Bill 115

Tuesday, December 18 -- 3:00 – 5:00 pm
Bridge overpass – Main and Lakeshore.

Teresa Piruzza, Liberal – Windsor West

Wednesday, December 19 -- 4:15 pm
2470 Dougall Ave.

Liberal Leadership Debate

Sunday, January 6 -- 1:00 pm
Ajax Convention Centre - 550 Beck Cr.
Download poster 

Liberal Leadership Debate

Wednesday, January 9 -- 6:00 pm

Old Mill Inn, 21 Old Mill Rd.
Download poster 

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Oppose Attempts to Usurp School Board Powers and Impose Austerity

Toronto District School Board Concedes
to Ministry of Education Intervention

In a decision at its December 12 trustees' meeting, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) conceded to the demand of Education Minister Laurel Broten that a Ministry of Education "special assistance team" intervene in the TDSB financial affairs. This decision was made under duress as Broten threatened to place the TDSB under Ministry supervision if it did not agree to the intervention.

In a letter to TDSB trustees Broten threatened, "If the board does not accept the Special Assistance Team with the responsibilities we have outlined we will begin to take the necessary steps to appoint an investigator to assess whether the board has the capacity to make the necessary corrective actions on its own to get its financial affairs back on track or if other measures are required."

The role of the special assistance team will be to match the TDSB budget to provincial underfunding, with a specific mandate to implement the cuts recommended in a review of TDSB finances by the consulting monopoly Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC). The PwC accounting mercenaries recommend $90 million in cuts, including drastic job cuts, aggressively closing schools and recklessly selling school property to real estate developers and private schools to raise capital.

While vote by the TDSB trustees on the motion to accept the intervention was 13 to 7 in favour, only one trustee of those who voted in favour actually spoke in favour of the intervention. The majority felt that there was no choice and that being placed under supervision was worse than the special assistance intervention.

Those opposing the motion were led by East York Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher who made a spirited speech against what she called the bullying of the school board by the provincial government. "We have been elected to protect the interests of the students and parents we represent. We have a duty to those who elected us to resist the bullying and interference of this government," Cary-Meagher said. She denounced the interference of the provincial special assistance team as a self-serving power grab: "There is nothing in this offer from the ministry that is there for the board, it is there for the ministry to take control."

Among the trustees voting against the motion were trustees on the board committee which had examined the PwC review in detail. As is usually the case when accounting monopolies are hired to do a hatchet job on social programs, PwC was found by the trustees to be pulling numbers out of thin air. "The data that they've [PwC] used is very questionable, the language they've used is very questionable," trustee Howard Goodman said. He went on to say that the recommendations of PwC would require breaking legal collective agreements, violating the Education Act and breaking other laws.

The TDSB's budget already includes broad cuts that impact students and workers throughout the system. At an April 4 TDSB meeting, a decision was made to cut 200 full-time secondary school teachers, along with 134 school office positions, one high school vice-principal and 17 elementary vice-principals, two aquatics instructors, six school based safety monitors, ten caretaking staff and four special education support staff to match the provincial underfunding formula. Following the cuts to education announced in the 2012 provincial austerity budget, TDSB announced plans for more cuts, including the elimination of 430 educational assistant (EA) positions. EAs provide essential supports for the most vulnerable students.

Motion on Closing and Selling Schools

Trustees at the December 12 TDSB meeting were acting with a gun held to their heads by the Education Minister. Minister Broten has already frozen provincial funds for TDSB capital projects on the basis that she "lacked confidence" in TDSB's financial management. Capital funding is urgently required by TDSB to complete the implementation of full-day kindergarten and to carry out a large backlog of capital maintenance projects.

Broten told the TDSB, trustees were informed, that even if they conceded to the intervention of provincial special assistants the Ministry would not end the freeze on TDSB's capital funding. Broten is demanding immediate action to close schools and sell board assets in order to lift the freeze.

Responding to these threats and blackmail, so as to access desperately needed provincial capital funding, the trustees passed a second motion calling for the TDSB’s real estate arm, the Toronto Lands Corporation, to work up a list of school properties that could be auctioned off to meet Minister Broten’s demands. Trustees had been resisting reckless school closings and property sales because of public opposition and the incoherence of this as a revenue-generating method.

After the meeting, Broten gloatingly announced she was pleased with the TDSB decisions. She also cynically claimed that her dictate and blackmail represented a legitimate "agreement" between her and the board. "Taxpayers expect us to work together," Broten said.

Broten and the government claim victory, but their victory is a hollow one. The war the Liberal government is waging against teachers, education workers and the school boards to push through its austerity agenda is increasing the isolation of the Liberal Party and increasing its crisis of legitimacy.

It is true that Education Minister Broten has once again demonstrated her government has the power to dictate austerity measures that serve the rich minority. But she has also demonstrated the urgent necessity for the people to find the means to deprive such self-serving politicians of this power.

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Sandy Hook School Shooting in Connecticut

The Need to Make Sense of These Events
to Find a Way Forward

Right away we are told that the issue is for U.S. President Barack Obama to focus on gun control legislation. Back and forth it goes, as the attempt is made to embroil everyone in a discussion on whether this is or is not the issue.

How do we make sense of these events in a manner which provides a way forward?

Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims, students, teachers and education workers. News reports indicate that teachers, education workers and administrators at the school carried out heroic acts as they tried to protect the children and one another and stop the shooter. It couldn't be otherwise as this has always been the case wherever these shootings take place: people carry out tremendous acts of courage, in some cases sacrificing themselves for others. It is no coincidence that the teachers and education workers in the school sprang into action to try to stop the rampage. This is the instinct of those who care for the youth.

The murder of children is a most depraved act and must be condemned no matter where or under what circumstances it takes place. No doubt only an individual with serious mental illness would carry out such an act. However, what drives a person to do such a thing, especially such a young person, not much more than a child himself? What kind of a society gives rise to such actions, which are happening more and more often, not only in schools and communities but directly in the political arena?

A country that uses assassination as a mechanism to eliminate those it declares enemies abroad, is on a regular basis now facing the same thing at home. This phenomenon is also taking place elsewhere internationally, including in Canada.

Boasting about targeted assassinations to eliminate one's declared enemies and terrorizing entire peoples with the resulting "collateral damage" and claiming this is a legitimate mechanism to sort out differences is a depraved way of sorting out problems. This however has become the norm in international relations for the U.S. and other NATO powers.

Canada is not immune, contrary to what some may wish to believe. The assassination attempt against Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is an example, as are statements by Tom Flanagan, Conservative pundit and University of Alberta professor, who openly declared on CBC television that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be assassinated.

If the U.S. state and its allies stop their politics of assassination internationally and renounce the use of force and the threat of the use of force to sort out problems between nations and peoples, this will set the stage for the same at home. If the U.S. state stops using its armed forces to terrorize peoples of other countries in order to achieve geo-political aims and instead treats other nations and peoples as equals, it will contribute to the same domestically.

How can it be that the actions of the U.S. government are not linked to the actions of its people? The U.S. calls on its citizens to rally behind the flag and the nation. Why would its citizens not also take up the methods used by their government to deal with problems they encounter in their daily lives? Mentally ill people are turned into monsters by a society that creates monsters to commit state sanctioned and organized crimes internationally.

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