Transcript: Teacher Strikes and Public Perception | Feb 11, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Teacher strikes and public perceptions. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says THE ONGOING LABOUR DISPUTE BETWEEN EDUCATORS AND THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT CONTINUES THIS WEEK. SOME ELEMENTARY STUDENTS WILL MISS TWO DAYS OF SCHOOL DUE TO STRIKES. SOME HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WILL MISS ONE DAY. SO FAR, IT'S ALL TRENDING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION - IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS, OR EVEN A LITTLE BIT OF PROGRESS IN SIGHT? LET'S FIND OUT FROM: LAURA STONE, REPORTER IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL'S QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU...

Laura is in her thirties, with long straight blond hair. She's wearing a black blazer, gray shirt and a thin golden necklace.

Steve continues AND MARTIN REGG COHN, THE TORONTO STAR'S ONTARIO POLITICS COLUMNIST...

Martin is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He's wearing a black suit and a blue denim shirt.

Steve continues THANKS, YOU TWO, FOR BEING HERE. WE'LL JUST DEAL WITH THE THROAT, RIGHT? WE'LL JUST MOVE ALONG. OKAY. THINGS HAVE ESCALATED FROM WHERE THEY WERE. WHY NOW?

The caption changes to "Laura Stone. The Globe and Mail."
Then, it changes again to "Issues at the table."

Laura says WELL, I THINK WE HAVE TO LOOK AT THE CONTEXT HEADING INTO THIS WHOLE PERIOD OF NEGOTIATIONS. WE HAD, PREVIOUS TO THIS, EDUCATION MINISTER STEPHEN LECCE, LISA THOMPSON IN THE ROLE, AND BY ALL ACCOUNTS, INCLUDING FROM MEMBERS OF HER OWN GOVERNMENT, SHE WASN'T THE STRONGEST FIT. SO HEADING INTO THESE NEGOTIATIONS, SHE TALKED ABOUT CLASS SIZES, MAKING KIDS MORE RESILIENT. SHE MUDDIED THE WATERS AROUND FULL-DAY KINDERGARTEN, AND OF COURSE THE BIG ONE THAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT IS THE WAGE CAP, THE 1 percent PUBLIC SECTOR WAGE CAP, WHICH THE GOVERNMENT IMPOSED HEADING INTO THESE TEACHER NEGOTIATIONS. SO WE ALL KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE HOT, AND THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME THAT TEACHER NEGOTIATIONS HAVE GOTTEN A LITTLE DIRTY. SO I THINK THAT'S THE CONTEXT AND, YOU KNOW, THE FORD GOVERNMENT IS HAVING SOME DIFFICULTIES, AS SOME WOULD SAY, SOME CRITICS WOULD SAY, IN GETTING THE PUBLIC ON THEIR SIDE DURING THESE DIFFICULT NEGOTIATIONS, AND THAT'S BECAUSE EVERYONE KNOWS A TEACHER. PEOPLE HAVE TEACHERS IN THEIR FAMILIES, INCLUDING MYSELF, AND SO IF YOU HAVE KIDS, OBVIOUSLY YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE WITH TEACHERS. SO I'M NOT SAYING THAT EITHER SIDE IS RIGHT IN THIS, BUT IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE A PRETTY DANGEROUS DISPUTE.

Steve says HAVING SAID THAT, YOU KNOW, THE TEACHERS HAVE BEEN IN A LEGAL STRIKE POSITION FOR A VERY LONG TIME, AND THEY HAVEN'T GONE THERE. THEY HAVE GONE FOR THESE MUCH LESSER MEASURES. WHY DO YOU THINK?

The caption changes to "Martin Regg Cohn. Toronto Star."

Martin says WELL, I THINK THE TEACHERS UNIONS IN GENERAL HAVE BEEN PICKING THEIR SPOTS, TRYING NOT TO PICK A FIGHT AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. LAWYER ARE IS RIGHT, THIS HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR A LONG TIME. THEY HAVEN'T GONE ANYWHERE. HENCE THE PRESSURE TACTICS HAVE ESCALATED. THEY'RE DEADLOCKED. THE BARGAINING IS STALLED.

Steve says THE GOVERNMENT WOULD DISPUTE THAT. THEY WOULD SAY WE'VE COME DOWN ON OUR ON LINE COURSE REQUIREMENTS AND CLASS SIZE. THEY WOULD THINK THEY'VE MOVED.

Martin says AND THEY EXPECT GRATITUDE FROM THE TEACHERS FOR HAVING COME UP WITH AN OUTRAGEOUS OFFER OF GOING FROM 22 TO 28 STUDENTS IN THE CLASS AND GOING FROM ZERO TO FOUR MANDATORY ONLINE COURSES. NOW THEY'VE CUT THAT IN HALF. SO THEY'RE SAYING, PLEASE SAY THANK YOU. WELL, IF LAURA STONE PUNCHES ME IN THE NOSE AND GIVES ME TISSUE FOR MY BLEEDING NOSE AND SAYS, WELL, THANK YOU, PLEASE.

Laura says WHICH HAS NEVER HAPPENED, FOR THE RECORD.

Martin says NOT YET. SO JUST BECAUSE THEY HAVE PULLED BACK ON THEIR CLAWBACKS DOESN'T MEAN THEY DIDN'T BOOBY TRAP TO EXPLODE. THEY CAME UP WITH A PRE-EMPTIVE 1 percent CAP ON SALARIES, WHICH WE CAN TALK ABOUT LATER, THEY BOOSTED CLASS SIZES AND CAME UP WITH FOUR MANDATORY ONLINE COURSES. WE'RE ALL JOURNALISTS, WE'RE ALL PRETENDING TO BE DIGITAL. FOUR MANDATORY COURSES, ONE SIZE FITS ALL. CRAZY. NEVER TRIED IN NORTH AMERICA. THEY SCALED BACK. MEANING THEY DIDN'T THINK ABOUT IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Steve says THEY SAID FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN WAS MUSED ABOUT ONCE UPON A TIME. APPARENTLY WE HAVE THE CADILLAC... WE'VE GOT THE CADILLAC PLAN IN PLACE AND PERHAPS IF YOU WANT TO BALANCE THE BOOKS YOU GO TO A CHEVY MODEL. HAVING SAID THAT, DO YOU THINK THERE IS AN IRON CLAD COMMITMENT FROM THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO TODAY TO KEEP IT THE WAY IT IS THAT IS SATISFACTORY TO THE TEACHER UNIONS, THE TEACHERS, THE PARENTS, THE STUDENTS, ET CETERA?

Laura says I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S SATISFACTORY TO THE UNIONS, BUT I THINK THE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN PRETTY CLEAR NOW IN TERMS OF WANTING TO MAINTAIN THE CURRENT MODEL. THEY RELEASED A LETTER PUBLICLY SAYING THAT THEY WERE GOING TO KEEP THIS. WHEN YOU SPEAK TO OFFICIALS FROM STEPHEN LECCE'S OFFICE, THEY SAY THIS WILL NOT BE MESSED WITH. I THINK IF IT WERE TO BE THE PUBLIC BACKLASH AGAINST IT WOULD BE SO STRONG...

Steve says BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE IT?

The caption changes to "Laura Stone, @l_stone."

Laura says PEOPLE LIKE IT. AND I DON'T THINK... THIS IS KIND OF A HALLMARK OF OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM, SO I DON'T THINK THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT THE FORD GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO TRY TO EXPLOIT. THAT SAID, THE UNIONS HAVE STILL SUGGESTED THAT THE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS UNION HAS STILL SUGGESTED THAT THEY WANT THIS WITHIN THE AGREEMENT AS OPPOSED TO A POLICY, BUT I THINK... I THINK THAT THE GOVERNMENT RECOGNIZES THAT IT WOULD BE QUITE RISKY TO DO SO.

Steve says THAT OPENS UP A WHOLE CAN OF WORMS FOR A WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER STUFF, I PRESUME.

Laura says THEY HAVE TO FIGHT AN ELECTION IN TWO YEARS, AND DO THEY WANT TO FIGHT IT ON ERADICATING FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN OR CHANGING THE CURRENT MODEL? I'M NOT SURE THAT'S IN THEIR BEST INTERESTS.

Steve says PER YOUR RECOMMENDATION, LET'S PICK UP ON THE 1 percent THING. THE LAW IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO IS THAT ALL PUBLIC SECTOR SETTLEMENTS ARE CAPPED AT 1 percent.

The caption changes to "Martin Regg Cohn, @reggcohn."

Martin says BECAUSE IT MAKES NO SENSE FOR ANYBODY, LET ALONE TEACHERS. 1 percent SOUNDS LIKE A REASONABLE OFFER, EXCEPT WE'VE BEEN DOWN THAT ROAD BEFORE, IN 2012-13 WHEN THE DALTON McGUINTY GOVERNMENT, BACKED BY THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES, IN A MINORITY GOVERNMENT SAID YOU KNOW WHAT, WE'RE IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS, WE'VE HAD A HUGE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN, PEOPLE ARE LOSING THEIR JOBS. UNEMPLOYMENT IS ABOUT 7.6 percent. REMEMBER, WAY BACK WHEN? YOU'VE GOT JOB SECURITY. HOW ABOUT YOU TAKE A BIT OF A HAIRCUT AND HAVE A SALARY FREEZE OF ZERO AFTER HAVING SOME GOOD YEARS. TEACHERS PROTESTED AND THEY WON IN COURT BECAUSE IT WAS ILLEGAL, IT WAS UNLAWFUL, WHAT THE GOVERNMENT DID.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says THEY WON IN COURT AFTER IT WAS ALL SAID AND DONE AND McGUINTY WAS OUT, SO THE OFFICIAL BATTLE WAS WON.

Martin says A TEACHER MIGHT SAY WE SHOULD LEARN A LESSON FROM THAT, RIGHT? FAST FORWARD TO 2020 AND WE ARE NOT, BY ANY MEASURE, IN AN ECONOMIC CRISIS. UNEMPLOYMENT IS SOUTH OF 6 percent. IT'S AT LEVELS NOT SEEN FOR DECADES. MR. FORD, OUR PREMIER, KEEPS BOASTING ABOUT JOB CREATION OF ABOUT 250,000 NEW JOBS SINCE HE TOOK POWER. ALL HIS DOING. LET'S GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR THAT, FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUMENT. WHY THEN ARE WE IMPOSING A 1 percent FREEZE WHEN PRIVATE SECTOR SETTLEMENTS IN THIS PROVINCE ARE AT 2.1 percent.

Steve says YOU'VE ASKED THE QUESTION. I WILL HAPPILY PROVIDE...

Martin says DEVIL'S ADVOCATE.

Steve says YES. BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WHO SIGN THE CHEQUES AT QUEEN'S PARK, THE FINANCE MINISTER AND THE TREASURY BOARD PRESIDENT SAY, IT'S A BILLION AND A HALF EXTRA DOLLARS OVER THE COURSE OF AN AGREEMENT TO GIVE THE TEACHERS 2 INSTEAD OF 1. THERE'S YOUR REASON.

Martin says THERE'S 140,000 TEACHERS IN THIS PROVINCE. WHY WOULD WE ASK TEACHERS TO SAY, BECAUSE THERE'S SO MANY OF YOU AND YOU DO SUCH GOOD WORK AND BECAUSE YOU GET DECENT SALARIES, YOU SHOULD TAKE A PAY FREEZE THAT NOBODY ELSE IN THE PROVINCE HAS BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO RAISE TAXES FOR PEOPLE, BECAUSE WE WANT TO GIVE HYDRO SUBSIDIES THAT ARE COSTING $4 BILLION A YEAR. YOU KNOW, YOU'VE GOT TO MAKE DECISIONS IN POLITICS, IN GOVERNMENT. AND I CAN'T THINK OF A REASON THAT I WOULD SAY TO PLUMBERS, YOU KNOW, MY FURNACE JUST BLEW OUT A FEW WEEKS AGO. I CAN'T IMAGINE SAYING TO THE PLUMBER, YOU KNOW, YOU COST TOO MUCH MONEY. I'D LIKE TO SAY THAT BUT THAT WOULD NOT HELP ME GET THE INSTALLATION DONE. YOU HAVE TO PAY THEM A FAIR MAJOR.

Steve says DO I ASSUME STEPHEN LECCE HAS HAD MEETINGS WITH FINANCE OFFICIALS AND IS WHY HE'S STICKING TO 1 percent RIGHT NOW?

Laura says WELL, THIS WAS IMPOSED BEFORE STEPHEN LECCE BEGAN HIS NEGOTIATIONS OR HIS TEAM DID. THIS WAS... THIS WAS A MOVE BY THE TREASURY BOARD PRESIDENT. I THINK THE GOVERNMENT HAS TAPPED INTO SOMETHING HERE IN TERMS OF LIMITING THE SALARY INCREASES AND, AGAIN, I'M NOT FOR OR AGAINST ANYTHING, BUT I THINK THE PUBLIC SENTIMENT, IF WE LOOK AT SOME OF THE POLLING THAT'S BEEN DONE, AND JUST THE WAY THAT THE WORK FORCE IS GOING NOW, I THINK THAT PEOPLE LOOK AT THAT AND LOOK AT HOW TEACHERS ARE PAID, YOU KNOW, THE KIND OF BENEFITS AND PERKS THAT THEY DO GET WHILE RESPECTING AND RECOGNIZING THE HARD WORK THAT THEY DO, SEE THIS AS A RELATIVELY FAIR OFFER. I MEAN, YOU KNOW, FOR YOUNGER GENERATIONS ESPECIALLY TO WORK IN ONE JOB FOR 30 OR 40 YEARS, RECEIVE A GOOD SOLID PENSION, HAVE GOOD SOLID HOURS AND GET A PRETTY SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF VACATION IS KIND OF THE DREAM, AND THIS OLD-SCHOOL MENTALITY, I WOULD SAY, FROM SOME OF THE UNIONS THAT IT'S EXPECTED AND IN FACT SHOULD BE INCREASED, I'M NOT QUITE SURE IF THAT JIBES WITH THE CURRENT PUBLIC SENTIMENT OUT THERE.

Steve says ACTUALLY, WE DO KNOW. YOU HAD SOME NUMBERS IN THE PAPER THIS MORNING. AND YOU DO KNOW, BASED ON THAT POLLING, THAT THE PUBLIC IS NOT ON SIDE. THE LARGEST CHUNK OF THE PUBLIC IS NOT ON SIDE FOR A 2 percent SALARY INCREASE GIVEN THE NUMBERS. YOU'VE GOT THEM RIGHT THERE.

Martin says IT'S ACTUALLY SPLIT. I'VE CRIBBED, I'M CHEATING, I'VE GOT MY CRIB SHEET FROM TODAY'S PAPER. YOU CAN BUY THE TORONTO STAR IF YOU WANT THE DETAILS.

Steve says WE DON'T RUN COMMERCIALS ON TVO.

The caption changes to "Fighting for hearts and minds."

Martin says PEOPLE ARE SPLIT. SO IF YOU ASK ABOUT SALARIES, PEOPLE ACTUALLY SAY THAT 93,000 dollars, WHICH IS THE AVERAGE SALARY FOR TEACHERS, 44 percent SAID IT WAS ABOUT THE RIGHT AMOUNT. 37 percent FELT IT WAS TOO HIGH. 8 percent SAID IT WAS TOO LOW. SO THEY'RE ACTUALLY SPLIT ON SALARIES...

Laura says NOT EVENLY, THOUGH.

Martin says 44 percent THOUGHT IT WAS THE RIGHT AMOUNT. 37 THOUGHT IT WAS TOO HIGH. BUT 8 percent SAID IT WAS TOO LOW. SO ADD 8 AND 44, YOU'VE GOT 52 percent... MY MATH... SAYING IT'S OKAY. SO IT'S SPLIT. AND ALL I'M SAYING IS, LOOK, THE SALARY ISSUE IS NOT ACTUALLY THE MAJOR ISSUE AT THE TABLE. THERE ARE OTHER ISSUES LIKE CLASS SIZES, KINDERGARTEN, SPECIAL ED AND OTHER ELEMENTS. BUT I JUST THINK THE GOVERNMENT BOOBY TRAPPED THE TABLE BY PUTTING THIS IN AHEAD OF NEGOTIATIONS AND SAID WE'RE GOING TO SQUEEZE YOU AT A TIME OF ECONOMIC PROSPERITY, LOW UNEMPLOYMENT, YOU'RE TAKING A HAIRCUT. YOU MAY THINK TEACHERS GET TOO MUCH MONEY...

Steve says GIVE THE OTHER NUMBERS THERE. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE PUBLIC IS IN FAVOUR OF A 2 percent INCREASE VERSUS A 1 percent SALARY INCREASE? THAT'S IN THE PIECE AS WELL. AND THE MANTLE OF PEOPLE DO NOT AGREE WITH THE 2 percent SALARY INCREASE FOR TEACHERS.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Martin says USUALLY SHELDON HAS THIS UP ON THE SCREEN. I INVITE YOU TO READ THE PAPER AND LOOK AT IT CLOSELY. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY. 44 percent SAID IT WAS THE RIGHT AMOUNT. IT WAS FRAMED AS PEOPLE ARE MORE IN FAVOUR BEHIND THE TEACHERS... MAYBE THAT'S THE CONFUSION. PEOPLE ARE 100 percent... I EXAGGERATE. THE MAJORITY ARE BEHIND TEACHERS ON CLASS SIZES AND ON MANDATORY ONLINE COURSES. A STRONG MAJORITY OPPOSE THAT. BUT ON THE ACTUAL PERCENTAGE INCREASES, THERE'S SOME CONFUSION. IT'S ROUGHLY A SPLIT BETWEEN THE TWO.

Steve says LAURA?

Laura says I THINK WHAT'S INTERESTING IS THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS SORT OF OBVIOUSLY HANDICAPPED ITSELF A LITTLE BIT HERE BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WHILE... CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, THEY CAN INCREASE BUT THEY WOULD HAVE TO DO IT FOR ALL OF THE UNIONS IF THEY DID GO ABOVE AND BEYOND THAT 1 percent. SO FROM THE PUBLIC'S PERSPECTIVE, THEY WANT THIS DONE WITH. THEY DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THIS ANYMORE, AND WE... YOU KNOW, WE CAN SEE THAT THERE DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE AN END IN SIGHT RIGHT NOW AND THIS IS PROBABLY ONLY GOING TO ESCALATE TO, YOU KNOW, WHO KNOWS WHAT? SO IF THE GOVERNMENT HAD ALLOWED ITSELF TO GIVE 1.1 percent, 1.2 percent, 1.3 percent, WOULD THAT HAVE MADE THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE IN TERMS OF THE PUBLIC'S PERCEPTION OF THIS? WOULD THEY STILL BE VIEWED AS FISCAL STEWARDS OF THE ECONOMY AND, YOU KNOW, HAVE THEY KIND OF BOXED THEMSELVES INTO A CORNER A LITTLE BIT BY CAPPING AT THE 1 percent.

Steve says WELL, IF YOU GIVE THE TEACHERS MORE THAN 1 percent, THEN YOU'RE INVITING EVERY OTHER PUBLIC SECTOR UNION TO SAY, HEY, YOU DID IT FOR THEM, WHY DON'T YOU DO IT FOR US?

Martin says THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. TO BE CLEAR, THE GOVERNMENT ISN'T GOING TO CAVE ON 1 percent.

Steve says YOU THINK THEY'RE STUCK.

Martin says OH, YEAH. AND THE TEACHERS HAVE ALREADY FILED LAWSUITS. THEY'VE GONE TO COURT. SO THIS WILL NOT PARTICULARLY BE FOUGHT IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION. THE SALARY COMPONENT WILL BE FOUGHT IN THE LAW COURTS, AND I PREDICT... I RARELY MAKE PUBLIC PREDICTIONS... ON THIS ONE I PREDICT THAT THE TEACHERS WILL WIN, EVENTUALLY. SO WE WILL END UP PAYING LATER INSTEAD OF PAYING TODAY. THERE'S ANOTHER ALTERNATIVE THAT THE GOVERNMENT MIGHT LATER, NOT SOON, LEGISLATE THEM BACK TO WORK.

Steve says HOLD OFF TON THAT. WE'RE GOING TO COME TO THAT LATER. I WONDER IF IN THESE NUMBERS, LAURA, THERE IS THE MAKINGS OF A POTENTIAL SETTLEMENT INASMUCH AS, IF THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO STICK HARD TO ITS 1 percent, WHICH IT SEEMS TO HAVE SOME PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR, MIGHT IT YIELD EVEN MORE ON THE ONLINE MANDATORY COURSE OFFERINGS AND ON THE CLASS SIZE WHICH PUBLIC SENTIMENT IS NOT WITH THEM ON, AND THERE'S THE DEAL? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The caption changes to "Unions versus government."

Laura says I THINK THEY COULD, BUT THEY DON'T SEEM TO BE SHOWING A DESIRE TO BACK DOWN RIGHT NOW. THEY BACKED DOWN PRETTY QUICKLY ON THOSE TWO ISSUES HEADING INTO THE NEGOTIATIONS, SO IT DOES BEG THE QUESTION: DID THEY START OUT TOO HIGH KNOWING THAT THEY WOULD HAVE TO BRING THAT DOWN? I THINK IT IS INTERESTING KIND OF THE DIVIDE, THE SPLIT BETWEEN THE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS AND ELEMENTARY. A LOT OF THE ISSUES THAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT... CLASS SIZES, e-LEARNING... ONLY IMPACT HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS WHO ARE BEING QUITE STRATEGIC IN THEIR JOB ACTION. THEY DIDN'T STRIKE DURING EXAMS, FOR INSTANCE. THEY ARE STILL PARTICIPATING IN EXTRACURRICULARS, WHEREAS THE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS' UNION, WHEN YOU LOOK TO WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT ARE HOLDING THAT UP, I THINK IT'S KIND OF... IT'S LESS CLEAR THAT THE PUBLIC IS ONSIDE WITH SOME OF THOSE CHANGES.

Martin says AND THAT'S AN IMPORTANT POINT THAT LAURA MAKES. WE IN THE MEDIA TEND TO LUMP THEM ALL TOGETHER, THE TEACHERS UNIONS. THERE'S FOUR OF THEM. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS IN THE PUBLIC SYSTEM AND THE SECONDARY SCHOOL AND CATHOLIC TEACHERS. FOR ONE THING, I GOT MY KIDS' REPORT CARDS LAST NIGHT, AND THERE WERE MARKS IN THE COLUMNS BECAUSE THESE KIDS ARE IN HIGH SCHOOL, MY TWO. IF YOU'RE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, YOU'RE NOT GETTING... IN TORONTO... YOU'RE NOT GETTING REPORT CARDS. THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT TO A PARENT.

Steve says YOU'RE GETTING MARKS BUT NOT COMMENTS.

Martin says IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. THEY'RE NOT TRANSMITTING MARKS OR ENTERING THEM IN THE SYSTEM. YOU'RE DOING HUNDREDS AND THOUSANDS OF MARKS. THAT TO ME WAS AN ESCALATION THAT WAS DISPROPORTIONATE TO THE ISSUES AT HAND. WHAT'S KEEPING THE HIGH SCHOOL AND THE GOVERNMENT APART ARE ISSUES THAT PEOPLE UNDERSTAND, AS WE SAY IN JOURNALISM, CLASS SIZES AND ONLINE CLASSES. IN THE ELEMENTARY SYSTEM, IT'S A LOT MORE DOWN IN THE WEEDS. IT'S ABOUT HIRING, IT'S ABOUT SENIORITY, IT'S ABOUT SPECIAL ED., WHICH IS IMPORTANT, BUT THE MAJOR ISSUE THAT THE ELEMENTARY UNION HAS GOTTEN BOGGED DOWN ON IS HIRING AND SENIORITY AND THEY'RE MAKING IT INTO THIS BIG QUESTION OF PRINCIPLE. AND I WOULD ARGUE THAT THE PUBLIC WOULD NOT BE ON SIDE WITH THE IDEA THAT ONLY TEACHERS WITH THE GREATEST SENIORITY CAN BE... THEY HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE FIVE QUALIFIED TEACHERS WITH THE MOST SENIORITY ARE THE ONLY POOL THAT YOU CAN HIRE FROM AND NOT MERIT-BASED NECESSARILY. THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO BE QUALIFIED. BUT WHAT IF THE PRINCIPAL, WHO WANTS TO HIRE... HE'S IN A SCHOOL WITH A LARGE POPULATION THAT'S DIVERSE IN THIS CITY? WHAT IF ALL FIVE OF THOSE PEOPLE ON THAT POOL OF APPLICANTS ARE WHITE? CAN THEY NOT HIRE A YOUNG BLACK OR INDIGENOUS TEACHER? I GUESS NOT IF THAT PERSON DOESN'T HAVE THE MOST SENIORITY.

Steve says DO YOU WANT TO FOLLOW UP ON THAT, LAURA, THE ISSUE OF MERIT VERSUS SENIORITY AND HOW BIG A STICKING POINT THAT IS IN THE NEGOTIATIONS?

Laura says IT SEEMS TO BE A LARGE ISSUE BECAUSE THE ELEMENTARY UNION MADE IT BACK TO THE TABLE WHICH IS SOMETHING THE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS HAVEN'T DONE IN MORE THAN TWO MONTHS. THEY ARE SO FAR APART THAT THE MEDIATOR DOESN'T SEE THE POINT OF BRINGING THEM TOGETHER. THE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS DID AGREE ON THREE TO FOUR ISSUES, WE DON'T KNOW SPECIFICALLY WHAT THOSE WERE, BUT ACCORDING TO THE UNION LEADER, THE TALKS DID BREAK DOWN BECAUSE OF THIS MERIT-BASED HIRING AND OTHER ISSUES. I AGREE THAT IT IS THE KIND OF THING THAT... I DON'T THINK YOU'RE GOING TO WIN OVER THE PUBLIC SPEAKING ABOUT HOW TEACHERS ARE HIRED OR SENIORITY AND HOW WE'RE GOING TO, YOU KNOW, PREFACE WHO IS ABLE TO TEACH A CLASS, BUT THE FLIP SIDE OF THAT IS THE UNION'S MEMBERSHIP, I THINK, IS STRONGLY BEHIND THIS, AND SO IT'S ALMOST AS IF THE UNIONS AND THE GOVERNMENT ARE BOTH PLAYING TO THEIR BASE ON THIS ISSUE, AND THE UNIONS HAVE THEIR ARGUMENT AS TO WHY THEY WANT THIS IN PLACE, WHICH IS THAT IT PREVENTS NEPOTISM AND OTHER THINGS FROM PRINCIPALS CHOOSING PEOPLE THEY MAY BE RELATED TO OR KNOW OR FAVOUR AS OPPOSED TO WHAT THE UNIONS WOULD SAY ARE THE MOST QUALIFIED TEACHERS. SO IT'S AN INTERESTING ISSUE. IS IT ENOUGH TO HOLD UP A DEAL? I'M NOT SURE.

Martin says QUICKLY ON LAURA'S POINT, THOUGH. THIS IS NOT THE GOVERNMENT... THIS IS NOT THE UNION AND THE TEACHERS AGAINST THE BIG, BAD TORY GOVERNMENT. THIS IS THE UNION AGAINST THE PRINCIPALS AND THE SCHOOL BOARDS. IT'S THE SCHOOL BOARDS AND THE PRINCIPALS WHO WANT MORE FLEXIBILITY, AND THIS CLAUSE, BY THE WAY, WAS FIVE TEACHERS WITH THE MOST SENIORITY, WAS ONLY INSERTED IN 2012-13, IT'S RELATIVELY NEW. THAT'S WHEN THE GOVERNMENT WAS FREEZING, APPLYING THE SCREWS TO TEACHERS, SO THEY GAVE THEM THIS LITTLE CONCESSION. IT'S NOT REALLY SOME HIGH QUESTION OF PRINCIPLE.

Steve says THE UNIONS WANT SENIORITY AS OPPOSED TO, QUOTE, UNQUOTE, MERIT, BECAUSE THEY SAY, AS YOU POINTED OUT, THIS TAKES AWAY THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PRINCIPALS TO SHOW FAVOURITISM OR HIRE FRIENDS OR FAMILY OR WHATEVER. DO WE KNOW WHETHER THERE'S ANY EVIDENCE IN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM THAT THAT'S WHAT PRINCIPALS DO WHEN THEY FILL THESE VACANCIES?

Laura says I DON'T KNOW. I GUESS THAT WAS SOMETHING THAT BACK IN 2012 WAS BROUGHT FORWARD, I BELIEVE IT WAS FIRST BY THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS, AS TO A MAJOR ISSUE. I THINK YOU'RE KIND OF SEEING BOTH SIDES PLAY INTO THIS. I MEAN, WE HAD THE EDUCATION MINISTER OUT THE OTHER DAY SAYING THAT, YOU KNOW, PHYS. ED. TEACHERS ARE HARD TO HIRE TO TEACH MATH AS A RESULT OF THIS CLAUSE. I DON'T KNOW THAT THERE'S ANY EVIDENCE TO SHOW FOR THAT EITHER. SO, YOU KNOW, IT'S KIND OF ONE OF THOSE REALLY IN THE WEEDS TOPICS THAT I'M NOT SURE IT REALLY RESONATES.

Martin says AND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHERS, BY THE WAY, HAVE ALSO WITHDRAWN ALL EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES, TEAM SPORTS, CLUBS, GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCES, FIELD TRIPS. THE OTHER UNIONS HAVEN'T DONE THAT.

Steve says YEAH.

Martin says SO YOU HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF, REALLY, DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? IT'S NEVER, EVER AS EXTRACURRICULAR APPLIED ANY LEVERAGE TO ANY CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS. CAN WE PLEASE STOP DOING THAT?

Laura says IT ALSO HAS THE HIGHEST IMPACT, OF COURSE, WHEN YOUR HIGH SCHOOL KIDS STAY HOME, THEY CAN GENERALLY STAY HOME ON THEIR OWN AND PLAY VIDEO GAMES, WHICH IS PROBABLY WHAT MOST OF THEM ARE DOING DURING THESE ROTATING STRIKES. FOR YOUNGER KIDS, PARENTS HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT CHILD CARE, THEY HAVE TO MAYBE TAKE TIME OFF WORK, THEY HAVE TO REARRANGE THEIR LIVES AND SCHEDULES. SO THIS HAS A LOT OF IMPACT, AND COULD POTENTIALLY BE QUITE A BIG NUISANCE FOR PARENTS IF THIS CONTINUES TO ESCALATE.

Steve says NOW, MIND YOU, IN THE ELEMENTARY PANEL, THE GOVERNMENT HAS OFFERED TO PAY THE CHILD CARE FEES OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO GO OUT AND HIRE BABYSITTERS OR DO THAT KIND OF THING, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE AVAILED THEMSELVES OF THAT. NOT THE MAJORITY, I THINK, WHO WERE ELIGIBLE TO, BUT A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE. HAS THAT HAD AN IMPACT ON PUBLIC OPINION AT ALL?

Martin says I THINK THE GOVERNMENT THOUGHT IT WOULD TURN TO THEIR ADVANTAGE POLITICALLY. I DON'T THINK THEIR MOTIVES ARE ESPECIALLY PURE. IT'S TO TRY TO MAKE THE UNION LOOK BAD AND MAKE THEMSELVES LOOK GOOD. I THINK IT'S KIND OF A WASH. I'M NOT SURE. IT'S NOT REALLY... IT'S A BAND-AID. IT'S NOT REALLY THE ANSWER. LET'S JUST SOLVE THIS PROBLEM.

Steve says LET'S JUST SOLVE IT, YOU SAY, AND THAT'S GOING TO GET US IN THE REMAINING MOMENTS HERE TO THE BOTTOM LINE. HOW DOES THIS END? LAURA?

Laura says WELL, A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE LOOKING TO BACK-TO-WORK LEGISLATION, AND THAT IS NOT... IF THAT DOES HAPPEN, THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN FOR QUITE SOME TIME BECAUSE IT HAS TO BECOME MUCH MORE OF AN EXTREME SITUATION. THE SCHOOL YEAR HAS TO BE IN JEOPARDY. IT HAS TO BE VIEWED AS MORE OF AN EMERGENCY. SO THE HOUSE IS RETURNING NEXT WEEK. WE'LL SEE IF THIS JOB ACTION RAMPS UP. BUT THAT COULD POTENTIALLY BE AN END RESULT OF THIS, UNLESS THE ELEMENTARY TEACHERS UNION STARTS TO FEEL THE HEAT FROM THE PARENTS, FEEL THE HEAT FROM THE PUBLIC, AND THEY'RE WILLING TO GO BACK TO THE TABLE AND NEGOTIATE WITH THE GOVERNMENT AGAIN.

Steve says I WONDER, MARTIN... I KNOW ONE OF THE REASONS THAT GOVERNMENTS IN THE PAST HAVE BEEN NERVOUS ABOUT BACK-TO-WORK LEGISLATION IS THAT IT SENDS THE DISPUTE OFF TO AN ARBITRATOR, WHO ALMOST CERTAINLY WILL GIVE THE TEACHERS MORE THAN THE 1 percent THE GOVERNMENT IS OFFERING. CAN THE GOVERNMENT CHANGE THE RULES AROUND ARBITRATION TO SAY: BACK-TO-WORK LEGISLATION, YOU'RE GOING BACK TO WORK, WE'RE GOING TO AN ARBITRATOR, BUT WE ARE TELLING THE ARBITRATOR 1 percent IS THE MAXIMUM HE OR SHE IS ALLOWED TO OFFER? IS THAT DOABLE?

Martin says THEY CAN TRY AND THEY PROBABLY WILL AND OTHERS HAVE TRIED. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT HOW TO MAKE AN ARBITRATOR DO WHAT THE GOVERNMENT WANTS IT TO DO AND TAKE INTO ACCOUNTABILITY TO PAY. EVEN IF YOU ASK THE ARBITRATOR, OKAY, DON'T JUST GIVE THEM UNLIMITED AMOUNTS. YOU MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE GOVERNMENT'S ABILITY TO PAY. WELL, THE GOVERNMENT STILL HAS A SIGNIFICANT ABILITY TO PAY. IT COULD IN FACT RAISE TAXES A LITTLE BIT. IT COULD DO OTHER THINGS TO CREATE A BIGGER POOL OF MONEY. BUT ALMOST CERTAINLY AN ARBITRATOR, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, WILL GIVE MORE THAN 1 percent OR THE COURTS WILL BECAUSE IT WILL OFFEND NATURAL JUSTICE. NOW, THIS GOVERNMENT HAS DONE ALL KINDS OF THINGS TO TRY TO TWEAK THINGS TO ITS ADVANTAGE, LIKE THREATENING TO USE THE NOTWITHSTANDING CLAUSE IN THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS. SO WHO KNOWS WHAT THE PREMIER HAS IN MIND. BUT TO YOUR QUESTION, HOW WILL THIS END? I DON'T THINK THE GOVERNMENT REALLY KNOWS. I THINK THEY HAVE THIS IDEA THAT THEY COULD JUST CONTROL THE GAME AND ARRANGE THE TABLE TO THEIR ADVANTAGE, BUT I DON'T THINK THEY REALLY THOUGHT THROUGH THEIR END GAME, HOW THIS WOULD ALL TURN OUT. SO I THINK THEY THOUGHT MIKE HARRIS TAUGHT THE TEACHERS A LESSON AND WE'RE GOING TO DO THE SAME THING, AND I DON'T THINK DOUG FORD AND MIKE HARRIS ARE IN THE SAME POSITION IN TERMS OF POPULARITY, IN TERMS OF STRATEGY, IN TERMS OF UNDERSTANDING THE PUBLIC'S MOOD.

The caption changes to "Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."

Steve says THAT'S THE LAST WORD ON THIS ONE. WE SHOULD REMIND OUR VIEWERS THE HEAD OF THE CATHOLIC TEACHERS ASSOCIATION WILL BE HERE ON THURSDAY TO TAKE OUR QUESTIONS ON THESE AND OTHER MATTERS. AND WITH THAT WE THANK MARTIN REGG COHN FROM THE TORONTO STAR AND LAURA STONE FROM THE GLOBE AND MAIL FOR COMING IN TO TVO TONIGHT AND HELPING US OUT WITH THIS. THANKS SO MUCH, YOU TWO.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Laura says THANK YOU.

Martin says THANKS, STEVE.

Watch: Teacher Strikes and Public Perception