Pen & Ink caricature by Graeme MacKay (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). Illustrated in 1997.
Why Ontario teachers went on a province-wide strike in 1997
Back in October 1997, a strike kept teachers and students out of the classroom for two weeks.
The 1997 strike was not about wages. It was about the Mike Harris-led PC government’s proposed overhaul to education.
On Oct. 7 that year, a crowd of 20,000 teachers gathered inside and outside Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens for a rally opposing Bill 160, which introduced legislation for Progressive Conservative Premier Mike Harris’s changes to education.
“If he does not move off his legislative agenda, every school in this province will be shut down,” Eileen Lennon of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation told the rally. “We will not back down.”
Reporter Steve Erwin outlined some details of the bill.
It would give the province control over the levying of school taxes, the ability to dictate school funding, set class sizes and teacher prep time, and allow non-certified teachers to instruct.
Erwin said the government’s stated purpose was to “improve the performance of Ontario schoolchildren.”
But teachers saw it as a pretext to cut $1 billion from the system and lay off up to 10,000 teachers.
Education Minister John Snobelen, himself a high school dropout, dismissed the “union bluster,” according to the reporter.
“I wasn’t surprised by the turnout or the rhetoric from last night,” he said. “I think that was all pretty predictable.”
Snobelen would be replaced as education minister in a cabinet shuffle two days later. (Continued: CBC News)