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Another Ontario election soon after this one? Don’t count on it

Standing in front of a statue of a bicycle-riding Jack Layton to rather unsubtly push back against claims that she’s abandoned her party’s roots, Andrea Horwath did not sound like someone overly eager to work with either of the other parties in another minority legislature. She wanted to be “100 per cent clear,” she said, that she had no intention of supporting Tim Hudak’s government-slashing plan; nor did she intend to support “corrupt Liberals.”

Considering the likelihood that another minority legislature is exactly what we’re headed for, with Ms. Horwath’s NDP again the third party, such talk is likely to spur speculation that the next government will be extremely short-lived.

The reality, though, is that however nasty this campaign might be getting in its final leg – and however much Ms. Horwath and others seem to be backing themselves into corners – a couple of factors make it unlikely that the province’s politicians will imminently be back on the campaign trail.

One is the possibility of leadership changes. It’s widely expected that if the Liberals win back government, Mr. Hudak will step aside. It’s less of a sure thing that Kathleen Wynne will exit if the Liberals lose, but there’s at least a chance of that. And either way, if the NDP doesn’t make gains, Andrea Horwath could be on her way out as well. If any of the parties is in the midst of a leadership contest, it will be highly reluctant to force another election - giving whoever is in office at least a bit of leeway.

The other, based on watching this campaign, is that the parties would be very hard-pressed financially to fight another election battle shortly thereafter.

That applies, in particular, to the New Democrats. We won’t know until after the election is done how much was raised and spent, but it certainly looks like they’ve been very short on cash even this time around. While they often get outspent by the other two parties, it’s been more noticeable than usual – particularly when it comes to television advertising, which is one of the better barometers.

That may have something to do with unions, annoyed by the NDP’s decision to defeat a left-leaning budget and chance Mr. Hudak’s Tories getting elected, putting away their chequebooks and being reluctant to back up loans. It may also point to lackluster grassroots fundraising. Whatever the case, if the NDP is struggling to pay for this campaign, it’s hard to see how it could pay for anything resembling a competitive effort months later.

Whichever of the Liberal or Tories winds up in opposition could be challenged on the financial front. Both those parties have much better fundraising operations than the NDP, but the corporate cash they both partly rely on is hard to drum up quickly when you’re not in government.

Sooner or later, like pretty much every minority legislature, this one would become unsustainable. But for all the tough talk now, there would be incentive to keep it going for a good while.

Filed under: Ontario Election

Tentative deal reached in B.C. teachers’ strike

Veteran mediator Vince Ready, who emerged from the Richmond, B.C., hotel early Tuesday morning after another marathon negotiation session, had this to say: “After all these hours I’m very pleased to announced the parties have reached a tentative agreement. I’m not at liberty to release any of the details, nor are the parties. The parties are going to meet later this morning and finalize a few of the outstanding details, but generally speaking there has been a tentative agreement initialed by the parties.”

A ratification vote is expected on Thursday, according to BCTF spokeswoman Nancy Knickerbocker.

So when might schools officially open again?  Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus predicts it will take several days — after the vote — for things to get back to normal: “There is a lot of work and classroom/timetable organization that normally would have started at the end of June and been completed by now,” she said in an email.

“I know principals and VPs have being doing as much of that as they can and I understand the expectation is that we would open within a day or two of an agreement being in place (may require ratification etc). That could be part of the ongoing negotiations as well.

“However it unfolds, it will certainly take several days to get things settled to the point they would normally be at this time of year.”

In the meantime, here’s our latest news story with developments in the deal to end the strike.

Government-appointed negotiator Peter Cameron takes a walk during a break from negotiations at the Delta Vancouver Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday night. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

Government-appointed negotiator Peter Cameron takes a walk during a break from negotiations at the Delta Vancouver Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday night. (Ben Nelms for The Globe and Mail)

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Social media roundup: Tuesday morning photos reflect optimism as tentative deal announced

Pictures shared on social media this morning tell the story: People are excited about a probable end to the teachers strike.

photossocial media

Worth reading: Pondering the best way to execute change in the education system

A B.C. blogger who has been a District Parent Advisory Council president, among other education-related roles, published a post Sunday on the difficulties of making change in the education system. Heidi Hass Gable‘s thesis in the post is that transformational change, if done using a “start fresh” approach, could jeopardize the future of a cohort of students, and that no child’s future is expendable in this way. She finds herself concerned with the aims of both sides in the teachers’ labour dispute:

Simply moving to smaller class sizes or hiring more specialist teachers won’t suddenly make our school system truly inclusive – it won’t necessarily meet the needs of our most complex and vulnerable learners. That’s the part of the BCTF’s approach that worries me the most – it lacks strategy and, I fear, threatens to entrench our system further into dysfunctional paradigms. More of what we used to have isn’t necessarily what we need now.

We need to see both an investment in education AND we need thoughtful, focused strategies for using that money to meet the needs of all students! How would we do that?

We need a clear focus and commitment (or we need to demand this) from government on a transition that doesn’t “throw away” kids who need more help in the meantime. We need leadership in setting our “direction” as inclusive (first and foremost) AND personalized/relevant – and the planning/funding to match.

Read the rest of her argument via the link below.

I was thinking…

I’ve been pondering change in education quite a lot – for many years. I’ve been a parent of three wonderful (and non-neurotypical) kids in the public system for twelve years now. I was DPAC president for almost six years. I’ve been on Ministry and District advisory committees.


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Chart: Number of B.C. public service employees with contracts vs. number without

One reason the B.C. government refuses to go to arbitration with teachers is because it fears other public-sector unions would seek a comparable deal to whatever the BCTF is awarded — something an arbitrator would decide. And there are more than 160,000 public employees without contracts for the current bargaining cycle:

Contract status of B.C. public service employees

By number of employees (Total: 316,103)

SOURCE: B.C. Ministry of Finance (as of July 18, 2014)

From a balanced-budget perspective, there could be a larger burden than these numbers suggest. As Justine Hunter reports today, most of the collective agreements yet to be negotiated are by their nature more expensive: the ones for doctors, nurses and post-secondary educators.

B.C. government rigid as most expensive public-sector contracts yet to be inked


Teacher talks continue between BCTF, BCPSEA

Media staked out at the Delta hotel in Richmond, B.C., where teacher talks continue.

Media staked out at the Delta hotel in Richmond, B.C., where teacher talks continue.

12:45 p.m. Hello from the Delta Vancouver Airport hotel in Richmond, B.C., where talks between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association are ongoing. Little news to share so far; fleeting sightings of BCTF President Jim Iker, BCPSEA’s chief negotiator Peter Cameron and mediator Vince Ready are being tracked and tweeted by media with the feverish curiosity of Loch Ness watchers. Mr. Iker has reportedly said the parties are going over proposals today, and there are whispers of a make-or-break announcement coming sometime this afternoon. Stay tuned.

1:30 p.m. Mr. Ready and Mr. Cameron spotted walking back and forth between two rooms. There are about a dozen members of the media here, and a mic stand is set up. Everyone seems to feel something significant will come out of today’s talks, but still no concrete updates.

2:55 p.m. Mr. Ready and Mr. Cameron walk by. The former smiles and waves; the latter does not. Mr. Cameron seems tired. Media wait with bated breath.

3:30 p.m. A flurry of almost-activity. A blazer-less Vince Ready wanders outside the front of the hotel, sending broadcast media in a frenzy. He is on the phone. When he hangs up, he walks over (on his way back into the hotel) and media ask him if we can expect an update today. “It’s too early to tell. I’m not going to say anything,” he replies. Someone asks who he was on the phone with. He says his grandmother. Chuckles abound.

Vancouver school trustees Ken Denike and Sophia Woo are here. I asked why and Ms. Woo said she is eager to see what happens. Mr. Denike seems convinced “today’s the day.”

7:00 p.m. About one-third of media have cleared out and many of the others have traded off with coworkers. Some plan on sticking around until midnight, 1 a.m. One radio reporter tells me she’s here until 2 a.m., and if they’re still talking, she has to call in a replacement to take over. That’s some serious commitment.

There have been no updates since the last one — not even a Vince Ready sighting. Am told they’re eating now, and a government staffer is being replaced with another, which suggests a long night ahead. One BCed insider said he was pretty sure there would be a decision today, but of course, nothing’s for sure.

The #bced waiting game.

The #bced waiting game.


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