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Ford government taking Charter Rights away from Ontario's education workers undermines democracy


Legislative Assembly of Ontario

November 2, 2022



Resuming the debate adjourned on November 2, 2022, on the motion for time allocation of the following bill:

Bill 28, An Act to resolve labour disputes involving school board employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees / Projet de loi 28, Loi visant à résoudre les conflits de travail concernant les employés des conseils scolaires représentés par le Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): "Further debate?

Mr. John Vanthof: "It’s always an honour to be able to speak in the House. But today, the gravity of the situation is somewhat overwhelming. Because today we’re talking about not only a time allocation motion, which truncates debate, truncates public participation—time allocation motions have done this on many bills, but this one truncates debate on a bill that challenges some of the very rights on which our democracy is built. The right of association, of organization and, yes, on the right for a union, for union members to strike. This government, instead of negotiating, is threatening to use the “notwithstanding” clause of our Constitution. Absolutely unbelievable, it truly is.

The gravity shouldn’t be lost on people. A true negotiation process has power on both sides, and one of the tools of an organization like a union is the right to withdraw services. The government is purporting to withdraw that, and the question is, if they’re willing to do it once, what else are they willing to do it for? The gravity of this, truly, it must be appreciated.

For that reason—and, I hope, for the government to reconsider its ways, I move adjournment of the Legislature.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Mr. Vanthof has moved adjournment of the House. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I hear a no.

All those in favour, say “aye.”

All those opposed, say “nay.”

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members, this is a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1330 to 1400.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): Members, please take your seats.

Mr. Vanthof has moved the adjournment of the House. All those in favour of the motion, please rise and remain standing to be counted by the Clerks.

All those opposed to the motion, please rise and remain standing to be counted by the Clerks.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Todd Decker): The ayes are 13; the nays are 74.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Donna Skelly): I declare the motion lost.

Further debate?

Mr. John Vanthof: Although it wasn’t unpredicted, it was a sad moment in this House.

Why we rang those bells is to give the government, once again, time to reflect on the gravity of putting forward legislation that threatens the rights of people with the implementation of the “notwithstanding” clause to stop people from using their rights to organize and to withdraw their services as part of the negotiation process. The government believes that they should just take away the tools of one side and give themselves the bigger hammer, and in the end, that is not going to help anyone in Ontario.

The government often talks about the jobs that are created, but one of the reasons that people come to Ontario is because of our strong public systems: our strong public education system, our strong public health system. Many of the things that this government is doing are actually eroding that system and actually, in the long term, are not only going to take jobs away from Ontarians; they will erode our system so we are no longer the best place to come for others, or the best place for others to live, in Ontario.

Our Constitution, although not everybody thinks about it every day, is something on which our whole democracy is based. Implementing the “notwithstanding” clause is not something that the government should just do because they want to further their political agenda in a negotiation.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: And attack workers.

Mr. John Vanthof: It attacks workers, but it attacks our whole democratic system. It is one of the gravest moments in our Legislature, because the rights of workers, the rights that people—we are all wearing poppies today because of wars that were fought to protect people’s democratic rights. People fought hard for all those rights.

The Minister of Education once said there was a competition of rights. There isn’t a competition of rights. Rights are something that were fought for, were achieved and need to be respected. When everyone respects them, the process actually works, because—I don’t pretend to be a union negotiator. I’ve never been a union member, no. But if you look, 98% of contract negotiations are solved without a strike. They’re also solved without resorting to using the “notwithstanding” clause in our Constitution.

Even the threat of doing that shows an abject failure in your understanding of negotiations—a complete, total failure in your understanding of the negotiation process. And you know what? Everyone in this House has at one time been involved in negotiations. Whether you’re buying a car or a house, there is a to and fro and there is a risk on both sides, and as soon as you remove the risk from one side, that’s no longer a fair negotiation. A good negotiation process, at the end of it, neither side gets everything they want, neither side is 100% satisfied or 100% happy, but the result is satisfactory for everyone.

When you’re going to start the negotiation process—and you have started the negotiation process by saying you’re going to get this contract or we’re going to take out a hammer that could be used over and over and over again, people will lose faith, have lost faith in this government’s ability to negotiate fairly.

So I’m hoping that the government takes some time to actually think about this. Really, we’re using every tool at our disposal to hopefully convince the government to negotiate fairly, to keep our kids in school by using proper negotiation—

Ms. Peggy Sattler: And withdraw the bill.

Mr. John Vanthof: —withdraw the bill, but by using negotiations instead of the hammer. For that, to give the government one more chance to reconsider, I move the adjournment of the debate."

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