NDP forces weekend debate on college back-to-work legislation
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Friday, November 17, 2017 8:32AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 17, 2017 4:40PM EST
The NDP prevented the instant passage of back-to-work legislation for striking college faculty for a second day in a row Friday; a move which the Liberals say puts the resumption of classes on Monday in jeopardy.
The NDP voted against a motion to introduce and immediately pass back to work legislation without debate. Such a move requires unanimous consent in the legislature.
“It’s my job to review legislation,” Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said of her party’s opposition. “Nobody would sign a contract without even looking at it or buy a car from a used car salesman without reviewing what the car looked like.”
She said she felt sorry for students, but Premier Kathleen Wynne was ultimately to blame for chronically underfunding colleges.
The move Friday means debate will continue throughout the weekend.
Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews said the soonest legislation could be passed to get Ontario’s 12,000 faculty back in colleges is Sunday.
“There is only one person blocking the return to class for students.” Matthews said, referring to Horwath.
She added the soonest class could resume under current circumstances was Tuesday, as representatives from both sides in the strike indicated they need 24 hours from the time legislation is passed to prepare.
The Ontario PCs voted with the Liberals on Thursday and Friday.
Premier Kathleen Wynne says that her government had “no other options” other than to introduce back-to-work legislation to end a nearly five-week strike by college faculty.
The back-to-work legislation Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after striking college faculty voted overwhelmingly in favour of rejecting the latest offer from Ontario’s College Employer Council.
“I believe in the collective bargaining process. I think it is a good thing for parties to come to an agreement and then they both are committed to that agreement. But at this point my focus is on getting those young people back into class on Monday,” Wynne told CP24 on Friday morning.
About 12,000 college faculty members have been off the job since Oct. 15 when talks first broke down between the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the College Employer Council.
The strike resulted in the cancellation of classes at 24 colleges and as it stretched on for weeks, concerns over whether an estimated 500,000 students would lose their semesters became more widespread.
Responding to those concerns, the Liberal government attempted to pass the back-to-work legislation on Thursday night using a provision that allows bills with the unanimous consent of all parties to be fast-tracked.
The NDP, however, refused to consent to the bill, triggering a debate that will take place at Queen's Park today. That debate could continue into this weekend, though Wynne does have a majority government and will ultimately be able to ensure that the legislation passes.
Horwath told CP24 on Friday morning that the tabling of the back-to-work legislation “begs the question of what has been happening for the last five weeks.”
She said that the funding for colleges per student is lower in Ontario than in any other Canadian province; something that she said may be ultimately responsible for the lengthy strike.
“That is why colleges use part time instructors and contract instructors and not full time people. If the government wants to have quality college education than they need to pay for it,” she said.
Horwath said that the back-to-work legislation will pass by Sunday but she said that her caucus will sit all weekend to ensure that “the government’s conservative-style, anti-worker legislation” isn’t put into place without a fight.
Meanwhile, Wynne said that once the back-to-work legislation is passed, she will have “serious questions” to ask about how the strike stretched on for as long as it did in the first place.
“The collective bargaining process is important. It is a principled process and we need to support it. But I believe that this went on too long and I believe there are some structural things we have to look at it so we are not ever confronted with such a long strike ever again,” she said.