Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday September 12, 2000
Ontarians have had it with classroom warfare; Education: Public won’t support disruptions
Ontario’s schools are once again in danger of becoming a labour relations battleground rather than a place for learning. The optimism that usually marks the start of the school year is missing, especially in public high schools, and there is concern for what lies ahead. Students and parents are worried about teachers working to rule; withdrawing extra-curricular activities, includi ng sports and after-school clubs; and taking other job actions, such as rotating walkouts and possibly even a strike in Toronto.
It is an understatement to say that Ontarians are tired of the continuing tension and uncertainty. What is most frustrating is the apparent inability of the Mike Harris government and Ontario’s teachers’ unions to discuss their differences, or at least agree to a truce until the next provincial election campaign is under way. It’s unrealistic to expect that relations between the Tories and the unions will be easily repaired in the wake of the government’s heavy-handed Bill 74, the Education Accountability Act, which among other things increases high school teachers’ course load and could mandate extra-curricular involvement. But it’s not asking too much of all parties to go the extra mile to start communicating with each other to avoid damaging, unnecessary disruption in schools.
Harris has an opportunity to take a more constructive direction by opting for a more moderate, less confrontational and more inclusive approach to education reform. Last week, the premier said that his government plans a more pragmatic, less ideological approach to governing — but he wasn’t specific. Education is an ideal place for Harris to show that he’s serious about adopting a Bill Davis, consensus-building style. He would send a good signal by slowing down to listen to what critics are saying. This government has assumed almost complete control of education from school boards, barging ahead on major reforms with relatively little concern for the views of teachers’ unions.
There is an equal onus on the union leaders to hold their noses and offer to dialogue with the Tories, starting with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation. The OSSTF acted responsibly by returning to school on schedule this month. However, the union drew a line in the sand by pledging to battle the demands of Bill 74 in negotiating unsigned teachers’ contracts. In Toronto, 7,000 public high school teachers have set Oct. 2 as a strike date if negotiations fail. The OSSTF is walking a fine line. Job actions that detract from the quality of a student’s overall educational experience are ultimately self-defeating.
The OSSTF and the other unions have every right to oppose the Tory agenda, take their issues to the public, and campaign for a new government in the next election. But the battle shouldn’t be fought on the backs of students. Both sides must preserve the integrity of the classroom and all of the after-school programs that are fundamental to a good education. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday June 3, 1999
Hold Your Nose if You Must – But Go Vote
Why bother? It has been a campaign of soundbites. Weeks of doubletalk, namecalling, diversion and trivia. Instead of rising above the din of negative rhetoric, the party leaders more often seemed to be competing in a game of How Low Can You Go. Candidates of all stripes, locally and provincially, were scarcely better as they ducked all candidate meetings in favour of shallow photo opportunities. Thanks to bad organization, voters today can expect lineups and delays. We’ve been lied to, and treated like fools. Who can blame frustrated, weary voters for wondering: Why bother?
Of course, the answer is: We have to. It matters. Avoiding the polling station isn’t an option. Much as we feel assaulted and corrupted by opportunistic and cynical politicians, by too many glib pollsters, by media pitchmen and special interests, one unalterable truth remains: Voting is probably the most important thing we’ll do today.
Consider the words of John Kenneth Galbraith: “When people put their ballots in the boxes, they are, by that act, inoculated against the feeling that the government is not theirs. They then accept, in some measure, that its errors are their errors, its aberrations their aberrations, that any revolt will be against themselves. It’s a remarkably shrewd and rather conservative arrangement when one thinks of it.” The act of casting our ballot is the best way we have of taking back the democratic process; of seizing it from the spin doctors and power brokers more attuned to ideology and self-interest than to public service.
“Who will govern the governors?” Thomas Jefferson asked, then answered: “There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and of restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government.” By voting today, we invoke a contract with the people we elect. We empower them to represent us fairly and constructively. By not voting, we defer and opt out of our collective responsibility. Some, thoroughly disenchanted and disenfranchised by the political process, will argue not voting is a form of political action unto itself. But it’s not. It is nothing. Declining the ballot, as proposed by an author on today’s Forum page, may be marginally better in that it requires concrete action and expresses, to a point, the “none of the above” philosophy many have adopted. But in our view, declining the ballot still amounts to opting out. The stakes are too high for that.
This is our chance to express ourselves on the record of the incumbents. We can endorse or renounce on any basis we choose. We can base our decision on the relative adequacy of a local MPP, or we can hold our nose and vote for the least objectionable alternative. If nothing else, we can consider our ballot the permit that justifies and validates future complaints and criticism of the party in government.
H.G. Wells describes the election as “Democracy’s ceremonial, its feast, its great function …” Diminished and reduced as this campaign has been, that characterization still holds true. And if all else fails, and you just can’t summon a positive reason for that trek to the polling station, a constructive negative will do. Consider the words of American critic and pundit George Jean Nathan, who years ago wrote: “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” Amen to that. (Source: Hamilton Spectator Editorial)