The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) has spent $352,975 on Facebook ads since June, $49,457 of which was spent in the last seven days as they battle out negotiations with the Ontario government.
The pre-bargaining of the new contract between the OSSTF and Premier Doug Ford’s government started in May, but the two sides haven’t been able to see eye to eye on prospective contract changes in the past seven months.
On top of the $352,975 spent on Facebook ads, the OSSTF also purchased a large TV ad buy in late August attacking the Ford government’s proposed education changes, which are meant to find savings in order to help tackle the large annual provincial deficit. Ontario’s debt has ballooned to well over $300 billion and is projected to reach $325.9 billion by the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The Ontario high school teachers’ union also spent money on a postcard mailing campaign back in May, targeting Ontario Progressive Conservative MPPs who only narrowly won their ridings.
Due to backlash from unions, media and the public, Premier Ford has repeatedly backed off of finding so-called “efficiencies” he claimed he would find once in power during the 2018 election. Most of the time the Ford government has tried to make cuts it has backed off; it’s to the point now that his government is increasing annual overspending instead of getting the budget under control.
“This is a government that was elected on a strong mandate for fiscal responsibility, and they’ve brought spending to a higher level than Kathleen Wynne,” Ontario communications director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation Jasmine Pickel told Maclean’s this month.
On Monday, OSSTF President Harvey Bischof responded to the Ontario Debt Clock Twitter account asking where he thought the money for the raises to teachers would come from by saying, “Here’s a start. $3B in foregone revenue for cancelled cap and trade.”
Education Minister Stephen Lecce so far isn’t caving to the demands of the teachers’ union, which went on one-day strike last week and is threatening to do the same this week, too.
“Most problematic is that they opted to strike last Wednesday irrespective considering that option. And then on Friday say, ‘Well we’ll consider private mediations so long as the government gives us all three of our top demands, which one of which includes to make the case… the [raise] for the second highest paid teachers in the country,” Lecce said on Monday in a press conference.
The OSSTF didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“His suggestion that the government should fund bigger raises by making life more expensive and unaffordable for the average Ontarian is more than just out of touch, it’s callous and shameful,” said Pickel to The Post Millennial. “Ontario teachers are amongst the best paid in the country and in the world. When you add in the value of taxpayer-funded pension contributions and benefits to salary, top earning teachers in Ontario bring home more than $120,000 per year. Meanwhile, Ontario is the largest subnational debtor on the planet. Ontarians can’t afford to pay more in taxes or to go further into debt to fund bigger raises for already well compensated teachers.”
A carbon tax causes the cost of living to go up almost across the board, including food, which is already expected to go up by four percent in Canada in 2020.
Despite Lecce already lowering the number of proposed high school online courses from four to two and reducing the proposed increase to class sizes from 28 to 25 (they’re currently at 21), the OSSTF still hasn’t budged, looking for it’s top three demands to be met.
The average Ontario high school teacher makes $92,000 a year currently, $37,000 more than the average Ontarian makes. The OSSTF wants them to get a two percent raise, which would cost taxpayers an estimated $1.5 billion annually.
Lecce’s and Ford’s offices also did not respond to request for comment.