By Gerry Barker
Posted October 26, 2015
Gradually the public is learning how Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, MPP Guelph, have corrupted bargaining with the teacher unions. So far, as the details are leaked, the bill to taxpayers since 2008 has been $3,741 million. This information came from Sandals via email late Friday to escape coverage in the weekend media news cycle.
With this stunning admission, what did the unions do with the money? Why were these payments made by the Ministry of Education? Apparently the payoffs for showing up for bargaining were initiated in 2008 by the then Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne.
She now says it was “normal” to make these payments. If the Premier of Ontario doesn’t know the difference between normal and bribery managing her previous portfolio as Minister of Education, she has destroyed public trust and should lool for other work.
So Liz Sandals, her pal and confidant, in charge of the education portfolio since 2013, has managed to put the Ontario education system into a constant state of turmoil, anger, uncertainty and confusion.
The trouble is that there are two Ministers of Education in Ontario. Kathleen Wynne left a potential legacy of corruption by disruption that was left to her pal Liz Sandals.
What this duo of trustees of the public purse, both former members of local school boards, has accomplished is a betrayal of the students, their parents and the taxpayers.
In polite circles, that could warrant criminal charges for bribery of public unions done in secrecy and without public recourse.
At the very least, there should be a Royal Commission investigation into the entire public education systems and the payouts to the teacher and support staff unions. This unprecedented action by the government to pay off unions to settle what occurred this fall warrants such an inquiry.
And now the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) is threatening to start job action even after a $1 million payment to reimburse their negotiating costs to settle. It now appears that money will be paid 90 days after the settlement. This is estimated to be late in November.
Does this mean the government may renege on its promise because of the public reaction to the payoffs? Don’t hold your breath. To reinforce the political alliance with the Wynne government, union official Ann Hawkins, stated that she finds it “offensive” that people would even question the $1 million payment to her union. The money was allegedly for reimbursement of union expenses encountered in negotiating with the government.
The Ministry did not require receipts for the $1 million union costs nor were they offered. Is this the right way to manage the taxpayer’s money? Just give taxpayer money away without receipts?
But the cat was among the canaries when Minister Sandals admitted Friday that the total “bonus” payments to education-centred unions since 2008, was $3.741 million. This was money that did not trickle down to the union members but was delivered to the union management.
A more interesting element is the timing of the Globe and Mail report revealing the union payments. It was first published in the Wednesday editions of the paper, two days after the federal election won handily by the Liberals.
Is it possible this was a case of protecting the Wynne-Trudeau alliance prior to the election?
Well it certainly worked for Mr. Trudeau, not so much for Kathleen Wynne and her fiends in the teacher and support unions.
With more than 200,000 unionized teachers and support staff workers in Ontario, it provides a solid bloc supporting the Liberals in elections. At least former Liberal premier, Dalton McGuinty, took steps to curtail the rapid rising costs of the education portfolio. It cost him his job. Wynne and her sidekick, Liz Sandals, took over and rolled back the McGuinty initiatives to curtail education spending, mostly to the union members.
The glaring example of this was the spending in 2013 by the Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, of $464 million to placate the unions who were working to rule and causing turmoil among students and parents alike.
When announcing settlement with three teacher unions last August, Sandals said the 2.5 per cent salary increases would not impact the costs of education because it was a net zero increase. This means that the money was taken from another program to pay the teachers. That program was a $20 million fund to assist struggling high school students to graduate. Under Sandals watch, the government halted annual funding for this program three years ago.
So a student program was used to pay the teachers’ union bosses. Who knew? Certainly not the students, the parents or the taxpayers.
Gerry Barker is a retired newspaper executive who lives in Guelph. His blog, guelphspeaks.ca, comments on municipal, provincial and national affairs. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.