Mystery group attacks teachers’ unions in newspaper ad

Mystery group attacks teachers’ unions in newspaper ad

Accusations are flying at Queen’s Park in the wake of a full-page ad attacking teachers unions, which was placed in weekend newspapers by a mysterious group.

The colour ad from “Vaughan Working Families” appeared in the Star, the Globe and Mail, the National Post and the Toronto Sun against the backdrop of province-wide teachers’ strikes this week.

“Teachers’ Union leaders are risking student success,” proclaimed the ad, which included a stock photo of a woman holding up a “provincial report card.”

“Children are not pawns,” it said.

Premier Doug Ford’s office has denied any connection to the ad, which was placed amid tough contract negotiations between his government and the province’s teachers.

The name “Vaughan Working Families” is similar to that of Working Families, a coalition of unions that has been advertising in Ontario since 2003.

“Working Families is in no way, shape or form affiliated with Vaughan Working Families,” said Working Families president Marcel Wieder.

“The attribution is incorrectly associated with Working Families. We are taking steps to correct this. Any information about this group would be appreciated,” said Wieder, adding lawyers will soon be involved.

NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) wants Elections Ontario to investigate. He said the ads violate provincial campaign finance laws because they were placed in the middle of byelection campaigns in Ottawa-Vanier and Orleans.

An aide to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, who represents the riding of King-Vaughan, said he was not involved in placing the ads.

“The minister and I were not aware of the advertisements and not familiar with the group Vaughan Working Families,” said spokesperson Alexandra Adamo.

Toronto Catholic school board trustee Norm Di Pasquale (Ward 9) has formally complained to the province’s Advertising Review Board about the ads, which contained inaccuracies, including a claim that teachers only work eight months of the year.

In a statement about the ad, the Star said, “It has been brought to our attention.”

At the Star — as at most newspapers, including the Globe, the Post and the Sun — the advertising and editorial departments are separate entities.

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The ads appeared as all of the province’s four teachers’ unions are taking strike action this week, including a walkout by Catholic teachers across Ontario on Tuesday and a province-wide work stoppage Thursday by public elementary school educators.

More to come

Robert Benzie

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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