The Current15:47NDP MPPs kicked out of Ontario legislature in row over notwithstanding clause
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s plan to use the notwithstanding clause to block an education workers’ strike is “offensive,” says an opposition MPP kicked out of the legislature Wednesday.
“We’ve kind of had it with this government and their attempt to take away the Charter rights of workers. The legislation is really offensive,” said Marit Stiles, the NDP MPP for Davenport, who is running to become the provincial party’s next leader.
“They’re taking away the Charter rights of workers and it will impact all of us. It will impact our ability as working people to negotiate with any employer,” she told The Current’s Matt Galloway.
Ford’s government intends to pass legislation Thursday that will block strike action and impose a four-year contract on 55,000 low-paid education workers. The premier intends to invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the relevant sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and force the legislation through.
WATCH | NDP MPPs kicked out of Ontario legislature
After Ford defended the move in the legislature Wednesday, interim NDP leader Peter Tabuns accused the premier and his government of “lying about the damage they’re doing to the education system.”
“You can’t say that the premier’s lying in the legislature, so he got thrown out,” Stiles said.
“The rest of us said, ‘You know what? We’re not backing down either.’ So we were walked out — it meant that we couldn’t be in the chamber for the rest of the day.”
In all, 16 NDP MPPs were eventually kicked out of the legislature.
Citing wages that have been mostly stagnant for a decade, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) originally wanted an 11 per cent wage increase for its workers, who the union says make on average $39,000 a year. That demand was revised down to six per cent Tuesday night, according to the Toronto Star.
The provincial government’s latest offer would give 2.5 per cent annual raises to workers making less than $43,000 and 1.5 per cent raises for all others.
Stiles said she’s spoken to educational workers who tell her they have taken on second jobs and still can’t make ends meet.
“They go to work for a full day, then they go to FedEx and work, and then they still end up at a food bank because $40,000 is not enough to live on,” she said.
“If you’re doing a full-time job and you’re ending up at a food bank, there’s a problem.”
CUPE said its workers will walk off the job Friday, despite striking workers facing the threat of $4,000 fines per day. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) announced strike action in solidarity, and the Toronto District School Board says it will keep schools closed over safety concerns.
The Current invited both Ford and Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce for an interview; they declined.
WATCH | ‘I will not accept for one day a strike’: Stephen Lecce
Kids should not be casualty: minister
Speaking Wednesday, Lecce argued that parents would not accept the strike action.
“I believe the overwhelming majority of parents insist that their kids are in school,” he said.
“They understand that there’s a debate between the parties. They don’t think their kids should be the casualty.”
Stiles said that she understands that following the pandemic, parents don’t want any more disruption to their kids’ education — but she thinks parents also want these workers to be protected.
“Families out there, kids out there, they don’t want the person that is cleaning their school or helping them supervise the lunchroom to be exhausted, to not be able to feed their own families,” she said.
She warned that “if we don’t figure out a way to properly compensate these workers, these lowest paid workers in our schools, they’re going to leave the sector.”
“That’s what we’re seeing in health care here in Ontario. We’re going to see it in education, too, and we’re going to have a crisis.”