Bill 115: Barking Ontario Liberals choose not to bite at striking teachers

The old adage of a dog with all bark and no bite can be comfortably applied to Ontario's Liberal government when it comes to blocking strike action by an elementary school teachers' union.

Both Premier Dalton McGuinty and Education Minister Laurel Broten announced that they would not stop elementary school teachers from engaging in a one-day walkout on Monday, electing not to use strike-blocking powers hard won in the recent passing of a controversial bill.

CBC News reports that Broten has drafted the "necessary legal documents" to end the strike, but would allow one day of protests. But no more than one day.

"My hope is that after the one-day strike action, ETFO will focus on bargaining," Broten said, according to the network.

Surely the union is relieved at receiving permission to walk off the job, considering the decision was made well before the government expressed its willingness to allow it.

More coverage on Bill 115:

Members of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario will be protesting Bill 115 — passed earlier this year to freeze teachers' wages, cut benefits and (drum roll) give the government power to block strikes and lockouts.

I may need a refresher, but that might just be considered irony.

In a statement on Thursday, McGuinty said he would approve of a one-day strike, but warned the union not to stretch their job action into a second day.

"Just as students and parents have the right to stability in their schools, teachers have the opportunity to strike when there is no collective agreement in place. We need to strike a reasonable balance," McGuinty said in a statement.

"I understand this will be an inconvenience for parents as they make special arrangements, and it is regrettable for students to miss any time learning, even a day. However, a legal one-day strike action does not warrant the government's intervention."

As the Globe and Mail reported as recently as Wednesday, McGuinty had been pushing to block the walkout despite his party's reticence to expand their battle with teachers.

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So what exactly has changed since the Liberal government passed Bill 115 that has made them so hesitant to put their strike-blocking powers into action?

Teachers have pressed them hard on the controversial bill. McGuinty has prorogued legislature and announced his resignation, and the party has begun the process of charting a new course.

Many of the candidates to replace McGuinty have been slow to back his hard-line approach to dealing with the teachers' unions, surely hoping they can get those groups onside should they become the premier.

So for now it appears the Liberals will refrain from biting at the striking union, lest they bare their teeth and have them all fall out.