Vote Against Kids! Really?

Mary Morison, Johanna Brand

Hands up all those who saw ETFO’s Vote Against Kids TV commercials. Hands up if you refused to “Vote against Kids.”

The political advertising campaign ETFO undertook this fall was the most visible – and the most controversial – campaign the federation has ever conducted. A lot of you didn’t like it. A lot of you did. But, love it or hate it, you heard about it, talked about it, e-mailed, and called us about it. Even now, you remember it.

Starting on August 29, ETFO ran TV ads, parodies of attack ads featuring a deep male voice seemingly offended by children doing the kinds of things children do – demand to only wear pink, drink ketchup straight from the bottle, stick erasers up their noses. These kids were not saints – but they are just like the kids that teachers see in their classrooms every day.

The 15-second spots told people to vote against kids. They were deliberately mysterious – teaser ads – meant to get people to sit up and take notice. And they did! The ads received over 50,000 hits on YouTube.

Phase two of the campaign began on September 14. The 30-second ads delivered a more complete message, ending with the slogan “Refuse to vote against kids.ca.” The  Refuse to Vote Against Kids  website made available ETFO’s election platform and the parties’ positions on education, along with information about how to get on the voters list and find your riding.

In the beginning

Early on we knew that we would need to communicate with our members and the public to make education as an election issue. In the spring when campaign decisions were made, education was not a priority issue. Tim Hudak's Conservative Party was leading in the polls. In the past the party has not supported public education – quite the opposite, in fact. Past Conservative governments have vilified teachers and slashed education budgets. With the potential for a change in government we knew we needed to encourage our members to get involved and to vote. And we needed to remind the public that who they elect has an impact on education.

Not an easy task. Over half of our members began teaching after the Liberals were first elected in 2003. Many have little or no knowledge of the education records of previous governments. Public opinion surveys showed that education was not a top-of-mind issue for Ontario voters.

As you will see in Vivian McCaffrey's article on page 17, ETFO's political action work started last fall with the release of our platform  Building Better Schools. We created a brochure summarizing the platform, followed by one that encouraged members to vote “because education matters.” “Because Education Matters” became the wordmark for our internal campaign. These materials were


ETFO president Sam Hammond

Earlier this year ETFO leaders took a bold step: we approved a controversial public relations campaign  to run during the provincial

etfo staff or volunteers sorting papers in office

ETFO's planning for the 2011 provincial election began last year. Our goals were to elect an “education-friendly” government and raise the profile of education issues.