Liberals back-to-work bill moves through second reading, NDP leader calls rush to pass legislation inappropriate
At a rare Saturday sitting at Queen’s Park, legislation to force college faculty back into their classrooms passed its second reading but an attempt to pass the bill today was blocked again by the Ontario New Democrats (NDP).
It was the third day that the Liberals tried to pass the back-to-work bill, which includes fines of up to $1,000 for individuals and $25,000 for the union or colleges per day if they don’t comply with starting up classes. The bill will be read again on Sunday and is expected to pass, prohibiting a strike or lockout at Ontario colleges until an agreement between faculty and the colleges is reached.
In a media scrum after the session, Deb Matthews, the minister of advanced education and skills development, said that the NDP was being disrespectful of students by blocking the bill.
“There’s no question, we would have had this legislation passed on Thursday if the NDP had cooperated, so it’s not a blame game it’s a fact,” she said. “We could have had students back in school on Monday if they had agreed to pass the legislation.”
NDP leader Andrea Horwath fired back and said the Liberals were trying to score political points and that the New Democrats will not pass legislation without reading it.
“It’s inappropriate and I don’t think a single Ontarian, regardless of the subject matter of a piece of legislation, would expect the elected (members of provincial parliament) to pass a bill through this legislature without even reading it,” Horwath said. “Absolutely not, and I will not do that.”
The majority Liberal government can pass the bill in its third reading as early as Sunday, but required unanimous consent from the legislature to pass it faster.
With the back-to-work law expected to pass this weekend, George Brown College has asked student to prepare to be in classes as early as Tuesday.
Matthews said that the Tuesday return is in jeopardy however, because the colleges need time develop back-to-work protocols and that NDP actions removed the certainty of a return to classes on Monday.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, the president of the Ontario Public Employee Union (OPSEU), said that if the managers of the college can’t get classes going, knowing that the bill was going to pass since Thursday, they shouldn’t be managing the colleges.
“I think it’s an egregious attempt on the part of the Liberals to score political points at the expense of students workers and the NDP,” he said.
OPSEU, who bargained on behalf of faculty, and the College Employer Council, the bargaining unit for the colleges, failed to come to an agreement following afternoon negotiations on Thursday. The talks followed a vote where 86 per cent of the faculty rejected the colleges’ offer.
More than 12,000 college faculty have been on strike since Oct. 16.
With files from Mick Sweetman