Teachers’ unions are targeting Progressive Conservative MPPs who won narrow victories in last year’s provincial election, sending postcards to every household in their ridings that condemn the government’s controversial education reforms.
The postcards, which are being distributed this week, are aimed at more than 30 Tory ridings considered vulnerable, including those held by MPPs like Christine Hogarth (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), Robin Martin (Eglinton-Lawrence) and Jeremy Roberts (Ottawa West-Nepean).
Sources said a few cabinet ministers were added to the list despite their more decisive victories, with Education Minister Lisa Thompson (Huron-Bruce) among them.
It is unclear if voters in Premier Doug Ford’s Etobicoke North riding are included.
If every home receives one, about a million cards would be sent out to the 33 ridings.
The targeted mailouts represent a new strategy for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association and the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario.
The personalized cards have a photo of the local MPP and say, “Our MPP (name) is hurting Ontario’s future. Tell (her/him) to stop.”
The cards then list changes the Ford government is making to education — including larger class sizes starting in Grade 4 and the resulting teacher job losses — and provide contact information so voters can call or email to “tell our MPP to stop hurting our kids’ education.”
The province is phasing out thousands of teaching jobs over the next four years, with the government estimating about 3,500 fewer positions, although others believe that number will be closer to 10,000.
Thompson has established a $1.6 billion “attrition protection fund” to help school boards manage reductions in teaching staffs without resorting to layoffs.
Both she and Premier Doug Ford have promised there will be no involuntary job losses because of their changes.
The unions have opted for a “political response” to fight the Ford government, according to a blog called The Little Education Report, because a court battle would be lengthy and any job action would likely be quickly shut down with back-to-work legislation.
“The teachers’ and education workers in 33 ridings have agreed to work together and have identified 33 of the Tories elected by the smallest vote margins and decided to go after them triage style. The logic follows that heavy campaigning in opposition held seats or ‘safe’ Tory seats, won by large margins is not the most efficient use of resources. Much better to double down on ‘swing seats’ now and possibly over and over until the election. The Tories only need to lose 12 of these 33 seats to be in minority territory,” says the blog, which is written by a former school board trustee and secondary teacher union member.
The education unions plan to keep up the mailing “until the next election,” if the government doesn’t change course, the blog says.
Teacher unions are not the only ones who oppose the government’s education reforms — a new poll reports they are deeply unpopular with Ontarians in general.
Corbett Communications found that 62 per cent of those surveyed oppose the loss of teaching positions, with 23 per cent in favour.
Increasing class sizes by an average six students — from 22 to 28 — in high school was opposed by almost 60 per cent, and a plan to mandate four online courses in high school was also opposed by 57 per cent of those polled.
Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy