The next premier of Ontario should make rebuilding a fractured relationship with the province’s teachers their top priority, says the head of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.

Ken Coran made the comment to CP24 on Wednesday afternoon ahead of a weekend convention that will see the Liberal party choose a leader to succeed Dalton McGuinty.

“We are hoping that the new leader of the party will open dialogue with us and we can actually decide a process to move forward,” Coran told CP24. “It will be through that initial discussion that we can learn how to amend the relationship.”

Earlier this month, the Liberal government used Bill 115 to impose two-year contracts upon 126,000 public school teachers and education workers who were unable to negotiate new collective agreements with the province.

Though the government officially repealed the legislation on Wednesday, many teachers remain outraged over the move, with members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation both withdrawing from extracurricular activities in protest.

“The whole educational sector works on mutual respect so what our members are saying right now is ‘give us a chance to get back to the way things used to be and we will reconsider some of the decisions that have been made,’” Coran said of teachers possibly resuming extracurricular activities. “It’s an ongoing reevaluation and we are hoping that when they (the new premier) are selected we will get a phone call to set up a meeting within a couple days.”

The contracts imposed upon teachers cut benefits, froze wages and eliminated the banking of sick days.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Minister of Education Laurel Broten said the province has already shown its willingness to work on repairing the relationship with teachers.

“What’s really important right now is that we find a pathway forward,” she said. “We are doing our part in removing Bill 115 as a lightning road and we believe that many, many teachers across this province want to provide their students with extracurricular activities, so I am calling on ETFO ad OSSTF leadership to allow teachers to make their own decisions and not tell them that they are not able to provide those opportunities to students.”

Wynne says a new process is needed

There a total of six candidates in the race to succeed McGuinty, including thee former education ministers in Sandra Pupatello, Gerard Kennedy and Kathleen Wynne.

On Wednesday, Wynne told CP24 that she would look to meet with unions and discuss a way forward if selected as leader.

“I understand the process in the last year has not been what it should have been. I never wanted to impose contracts. I assumed that because of our good working relationships that we would have been able to negotiate the framework, but the process went bad and they were imposed,” Wynne said. “I don’t want to impose any more contracts. I want negotiation to happen, I want there to be a new process, a better process and we need to put that process in place going forward. “

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