Premier Doug Ford said he believes the two-day strike held by education workers amid tense contract negotiations was “much more dangerous” than overriding the Charter rights of those workers to keep them off the picket line.

“Do you know what's even worse than Section 33? Is threatening to go on strike, shut down the economy of Ontario, keep parents at home, keep the kids at home, you know, keep the grandparents—as they’re getting unloaded at the grandparent's house, that's so much more dangerous than Section 33,” Ford said at an unrelated news conference on Wednesday.

It’s the second day in a row in which Ford has downplayed the government’s decision to invoke the notwithstanding clause. On Tuesday, he disagreed with a reporter who described Section 33 as a “sledgehammer.”

Ford’s government used the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to pass Bill 28: Keeping Students in Class Act, after the Canadian Union of Public Employees [CUPE] announced on Oct. 30 it was giving the required five days' notice to go on strike.

“But when you have a union sitting there telling you that they're going on strike before I even mentioned it [Section 33]. They're going on strike no matter what it is, and you have no option, but to sit back and utilize the tool,” Ford said Wednesday.

The legislation passed on Nov. 3 and, among other things, forced a contract onto the province’s 55,000 education support workers while also making it illegal to take any job action.

The Ford government had said it would enforce a daily fine of up to $4,000 for individual employees found to be in contravention of Bill 28 or $500,000 for the union.

Despite that, CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions members walked off the job on Friday and Monday, which resulted in major closures by school boards across the province. Moreover, a submission to the Ontario Labour Relations Board on the legality of the strike was officially withdrawn Wednesday evening, according to members of CUPE's OSBCU negotiating team.

At the same time, a statement released by CUPE appeared to address the comments made by Ford earlier in the day as the union said it would be limiting "comments to the media" while negotiations take place.

“We respectfully call on the Ford government to make the same commitment, refrain from making comments that distract from negotiations, and spend the time working to get a deal done for student success and good jobs," the statement read.

Earlier this week, Ford offered to scrap Bill 28 if CUPE returned to schools and the negotiating table. The union accepted the offer but the legislation still stands until the MPPs return to Queen’s Park next week.

The notwithstanding clause had never been used in Ontario before June 2021, when Ford used it to restore parts of the Election Finances Act that had previously been declared unconstitutional, enforcing a rule that third parties could only spend $600,000 on advertising in the 12 months before an election is called.

In 2018, Ford had threatened to but didn’t use the clause when his government intended to cut Toronto city council seats during a municipal election.