Anti-strike bill for Ontario teachers headed for final vote
TORONTO -- Controversial anti-strike legislation that reins in wages and cuts benefits for Ontario teachers will come to a vote early this week.
The minority Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives are teaming up in the legislature to pass the anti-strike bill, which has angered unions and civil libertarians.
The Liberals brought back the legislature early to get it passed before Sept. 1, saying the province couldn't afford the rollover of old contracts.
But since the proposed legislation is retroactive to that date, it would claw back any pay hikes or benefits once it becomes law.
The New Democrats, who oppose the bill, say the Liberals wanted to create a crisis in education that they thought would benefit them in two byelections last week.
The Liberals held on to the riding of Vaughan, but came in third in Kitchener-Waterloo, denying them a majority government.
The NDP picked up the riding instead and say it proves that voters weren't fooled by the Liberals.
But Education Minister Laurel Broten insists the bill needs to pass quickly because it will ensure that the school year is peaceful.
"We have sought to accelerate this process to see this legislation pass because agreements in place lead to a structure where we will have peace and stability in our schools," she said.
"And even more importantly, we will keep the dollars in the classrooms."
Critics argue there should be more debate on such a serious piece of legislation.
The bill would force new contracts on the majority of teachers and education workers in the province to help eliminate Ontario's $15-billion deficit.
The legislation would force new contracts on the majority of teachers and education workers in the province, which would include unpaid days off and halving the number of sick days to 10 a year.
It's based on an agreement the province reached with English Catholic and francophone teachers, but has been rejected by the two biggest unions representing elementary and high school teachers.
They're vowing to challenge the legislation in court if it's passed.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has also complained about the bill, saying it's unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The Liberals and Tories banded together to limit debate on the bill last week, with public hearings that lasted just a few hours.
The legislative committee that was examining the bill has to deliver its report to the legislature Monday. The final vote will likely come Monday or Tuesday.