Don’t poke the workers
A ‘spectacular’ snafu
Last Monday, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government set off a constitutional firestorm. The crisis has since been averted — for now, anyway — but trouble was brewing long before Doug Ford passed his controversial anti-strike law. And education workers and labour unions across Ontario are not likely to forget the tumultuous week and a half that just passed, even if the premier is eager to put it behind him.
In fact, as CUPE, the union representing Ontario education workers, restarts negotiations with the Ford government, some observers say the latter will probably have to sweeten the deal if it wants to reach a resolution quickly. And even if it does, Morgan explains, using the notwithstanding clause to force a contract on workers has sparked a massive uproar in the province’s labour movement — one Ford apparently didn’t see coming.
Larry Savage, a professor of labour studies at Brock University, told Morgan the fallout after Bill 28 was “spectacular.”
“The premier, through that one legislative action, was able to consolidate opposition so fiercely and so quickly,” Savage said. In the days after Bill 28 passed, union leaders from across the province were pleading with the premier to walk his legislation back, The Canadian Press reports. If that hadn’t worked, Ontario would have been headed for a major, economy-disrupting general shutdown. Now, with the threat of a general strike in the rear-view mirror, the question is whether that collective outrage will bleed into future negotiations with other unions.
But it wasn’t just labour organizers thrown off by the law. Bill 28 also raised concerns over the notwithstanding clause, which allows provinces to override parts of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ford’s short-lived law marked his — and the province’s — second-ever use of the notwithstanding clause, which is becoming more common as a political tool. It’s also the first time he’s used it to avoid a law being challenged in court rather than in response to it.
While none of this bodes well for Ontario politics, it also poses a dilemma for the federal government: to step in, or not to step in? As Justin Trudeau learned over the past two weeks, staying out of the provincial debate means catching flak from opposition parties. But on the other hand, using Ottawa’s political trump card to end a bad provincial move is likely to spell the end of any federal leader’s political career.
For now, at least, that debate has been shelved, and labour experts like Savage are watching to see how workers respond to the flare-up.
“It will be a very interesting next few weeks to see if people rally together and this militancy spreads,” Savage said, “or will the government be able to contain it.”
Ontario’s education strike, by the numbers
55,000: Number of Ontario educational assistants, early childhood educators, school librarians and janitorial staff represented by CUPE
$39,000: Average yearly salary of education workers represented by CUPE
More than 70%: Percentage of those education workers who are women
More than 50%: Percentage who work at least one other job to pay the bills
$3.25 an hour: Pay rise CUPE originally requested for its members
$0.40 to $0.67 an hour: Pay rise enforced in Bill 28
$4,000: Daily fine for striking per worker under Bill 28
- $2 million: Total amount pledged by BC Teachers’ Federation and Unifor in support of CUPE members
- 9: Number of days Bill 28 lasted before Ford promised to repeal it
Checking in on COP27
One week down, one to go. Here’s what happened at the world’s biggest climate conference so far:
António Guterres called on rich countries to pay up. The United Nations secretary-general says the damage developing nations suffer from climate change “can no longer be swept under the rug.” Where would the cash come from? He has an idea for that, too.
Canada put some money on the table. The federal government pledged more than $14 million to developing countries Wednesday. But pumping more money into old systems won’t cut it, critics argue: the world’s financial system needs a makeover.
Catherine McKenna put greenwashing companies on blast. “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem,” the former environment minister and current head of a UN expert group said Tuesday.
And here’s who’s walking around Sharm el-Sheikh:
Canada’s climate change ambassador is on a charm offensive... With COP27 underway and a major biodiversity conference in Montreal just around the corner, Catherine Stewart is trying to build bridges.
…and so is Big Meat. The industrial animal farming wants to convince climate negotiators they’re just like the little guys.
Meanwhile, hundreds of oil and gas lobbyists are hanging out at a climate conference. At least a dozen of those lobbyists are from Canada, including some who are part of the country’s official delegation.
As COP27 hits its halfway mark today, delegates will be talking about food — specifically, how to cut farming’s climate pollution. It’s the first time agriculture has ever been on the conference agenda, and already, there’s a fight brewing over how to fix our food systems.
Whatever happens, Barry Saxifrage reminds us there’s only one scoreboard for climate progress that really counts.
Stay tuned for more COP27 coverage next week!
And now, a reasonable conversation
Canada's National Observer will be airing polite disagreements in the form of columnist Max Fawcett's new podcast, Maxed Out. Read more about what's in store here, and look for Maxed Out on Tuesday, wherever you get your podcasts.
More CNO reads
It all comes out in the greenwash. Canada’s Competition Bureau is investigating a lobbying group for the natural gas industry over allegations of greenwashing, Natasha Bulowski reports.
Conditional sentencing limits threaten reconciliation in Canada’s criminal justice system. That’s what advocates are saying after a Supreme Court decision upheld Harper-era laws that require certain offenders to serve prison time, Matteo Cimellaro reports.
The Emergencies Act Inquiry shines a bright light on police failure. As Ottawa uncovered the details of the trucker convoy that rocked the capital early this year, what we found out raises serious questions about both the competence of police and where their loyalties truly lie, Max Fawcett writes.
The Trudeau government is pouring cement on its cornerstone climate policy. Contracts for differences will future-proof carbon pricing against the possibility of a Conservative government, Natasha Bulowski reports.
Are at-risk fin whales in hot water? Climate change and shipping routes for liquefied natural gas put the “greyhounds of the sea” in danger, Rochelle Baker reports.