Feature

Provincial Election 2007: Defending Public Education

Vivian McCaffrey

Last  spring,  as  ETFO  began  preparing  for  the October  2007  election,  the  federation  looked back on  four  years during which the  government had worked constructively with education stakeholders to  address issues  affecting public education and the teaching profession. The Liberals also scored fairly high on keeping their 2003 election promises on education issues.

As a  result, the  recent  election  became  the first in recent times in which ETFO, along with other teacher  federations, did not campaign to unseat a government.  Teachers have developed a reputation at Queen’s Park for turning against unresponsive governments, so our approach  to the 2007 campaign is noteworthy.

In 1999 and 2003, the federation marshalled resources to defeat the Conservatives in response to regressive social policies and attacks on teachers and public education. The 1995 election followed the unpopular Social Contract imposed by the one-term NDP government. In 1990, teachers were at  odds with the Liberal government, which refused to grant  them a partnership role in governing their pensions.

The stakes were high in the most recent campaign. Last spring, polls showed the Liberals and Conservatives in a dead heat among decided voters. If the Tories gained momentum, the Liberals faced a minority government or possible defeat. History was not on their side: they had not won back-to-back majority governments since 1937.

ETFO’s Goals and Strategy

ETFO had three key election goals:

  • to re-elect a Liberal majority or a Liberal– NDP minority government
  • to ensure the NDP retained official party status and remained a viable force in the legislature
  • to raise the profile of our  Close the Gap campaign, which highlights the $711 difference in funding between elementary and secondary students.

Our  election  strategy focused  on  providing members  with  information;  highlighting  the need to close the gap; and supporting candidates in targeted ridings.

ETFO’s Survey

Informing members of key election issues is an important goal of  any election strategy. Because only the Conservatives had released an election platform by early summer, ETFO surveyed the four main political parties on education issues, childcare,  child poverty, and the environment. We included the Green Party in our survey because it had developed significantly since the 2003 election and had gained popular support.

The parties’ responses formed the basis for a special election newsletter (distributed to members at the beginning of the school year) and for the election fact sheets distributed to locals and posted on the ETFO website.

When they were released, the Liberal, NDP, and Green platforms includ- ed positive commitments for education. The federation could not support the Conservative platform that promised to introduce full funding for private religious schools, expand standardized testing, and financially reward schools that scored well on EQAO tests.

Highlighting the Need to Close the Gap

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