You might remember me. When you were forced to answer questions at the beginning of OSSTF's last AMPA, I asked you a question. I asked, "Ken, I was told that OSSTF was going to fight to repeal Bill 115, rescind our imposed working conditions, and restore collective bargaining. We got the first one - what happened to the other two?" I can't quote your response as accurately as my question, but I remember you telling me that OSSTF provincial executive was indeed working on rescinding our imposed working conditions and restoring our collective bargaining rights, and that I should wait and see what developments would come with Broten and McGuinty gone. Well, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and waited to see what OSSTF would put forward to the members for a vote. And might I say I was severely disappointed.
In the end all I got was some "improvements" to an imposed contract. I never got to vote on a collective agreement. In fact, I worked summer school under an imposed contract that nobody seems sure how to interpret. Local school boards are picking and choosing which parts of our MOU to implement, and my board, Ottawa-Carleton, has so far failed to append the MOU to our existing collective agreement, making it clear that my employer intends to bargain from the starting point of the Bill 115 imposed contracts, rather than the imposed contract including the improvements from the MOU. Whatever I got, I sure didn't get rid of the imposed working conditions, and I sure didn't get my collective bargaining rights back.
So what did you get? Well, you got your retirement from OSSTF (with a fully indexed pension, I assume - something I seriously doubt I will have when I retire in 25 years). But, you also managed to find yourself a new job - with the Liberal Party of Ontario! This is the same party that, less than a year ago, suspended our right to strike and stripped our contracts of benefits we fought for decades ago. Some might think that Kathleen Wynne represents a new government with a new collaborative approach - but I would hope such people would remember that Wynne voted for Bill 115 just like every Liberal MPP in the legislature.
So, I guess I got the answer to my question. Well, I'm not happy, Ken. In fact, I am infuriated. I rallied on the streets for months in support of my union as we fought for our rights to bargain a contract. I marched in the freezing cold only to be offered an MOU that did nothing to undo the damage of Bill 115. And while I get to live with the damage to our rights and our benefits for the rest of my career, you're out trying to win an election as a Liberal candidate. Well, I decided the appropriate way to demonstrate my disappointment with your decisions was to try and make your campaign a little more difficult.
I spent the first day of my summer vacation driving from Ottawa to London to work with other OSSTF dissidents to try and encourage the good citizens of London to vote for another party than the Liberals. I hoped to remind them that the Liberal Party of Ontario intends to continue to fund an austerity agenda by cutting funding to public services like education. I wanted to tell other public servants that Kathleen Wynne has pledged that any improvements to salaries and benefits (even cost-of-living increases) will have to come from program spending. Above all, I wanted to convince voters that the Liberal Party is not the progressive alternative to the Harris PCs that warranted our support over a decade ago.
Well, I'm just one person with a few like-minded allies, so there wasn't much I could do, other than try to get my message out to the voters. This is Canada after all, a democracy where our political freedoms are cherished and respected. Well, let me tell you, you have some staffers in your office that don't seem to have much respect for democratic freedoms at all.
On the afternoon of Saturday, July 27th, I arrived with some fellow OSSTF members to leaflet cars in the parking lot outside your campaign office. I'll attach the text of the leaflet below, but suffice to say the message can be summarized as "Don't vote Liberal, because other parties deserve your support more." You should ask your campaign office workers how they reacted to political action from your opponents. If you really do respect the democratic process, I think you'll be disappointed with how your staffers treated OSSTF members - people who's rights you were fighting for for decades.
Anyways, I did the best I could. If one of the hundreds of leaflets I passed out made even a shred of a difference when it comes to how people will vote, I'll have deemed my action a success.
I hope no idea what directions my union will take now that you are gone. I can only hope that your response to the attacks on our rights will be seen as a blueprint for how NOT to respond when a government decides to attack education workers and their collective bargaining rights. And, I can only hope that, come this Thursday, when Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government faces five by-elections, that every single Liberal candidate is defeated, including you.
OSSTF member, Ottawa.
Text of the flyer that was distributed outside Ken Coran's campaign office in London:
DON’T VOTE LIBERAL!
- Don’t like austerity? DON’T VOTE LIBERAL.
- Don’t like public services being cut to pay for low corporate taxes? DON’T VOTE LIBERAL.
- Don’t like Bill 115 and restrictions on collective bargaining? DON’T VOTE LIBERAL.
- The Liberals are not the progressive alternative to the Conservatives they used to be.
- Other candidates are more deserving of your vote.
- Show the Liberals that they cannot take your support for granted!