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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Teacher revolt in Ontario over pay freeze by government

   Canada column for Sunday, Sept. 23/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Tough measures by the Ontario government to deal with a soaring budget deficit have led to a revolt by many school teachers whose pay has been frozen.
   Now, the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty plans to take similar action for the highest-paid public service workers.
   "These measures are necessary to help us meet our fiscal targets and we're asking everyone to do their share," Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said.
   The enactment of the “Putting Students First” bill, which is being challenged in court by teachers’ unions, has frozen their pay for two years, halved their paid sick days to 10 a year and banned strikes and lockouts.
   In response, the unions called on their 136,000 members to refuse to take part in any extracurricular activities, including the coaching of sports.
   The top salary of a fully experienced Ontario teacher is about $95,000 a year for 195 in-class days.
   The government said the pay cap is needed to maintain full-day kindergarten and smaller class sizes, and trim the $15-billion deficit.
   A proposed bill to limit wages of public workers would also include those employed by government-funded agencies, boards, commissions, hospitals, universities and colleges.


   In the past year, two gas-station attendants have been run down and killed by “gas-and-dash” thieves in Toronto and that could prompt changes to prevent thefts.
   The latest incident was last weekend when Jayesh Prajapati was struck and killed by a man driving away after filling up with $112 in gas.
   Liberal politician Mike Colle wants the Ontario government to enact what he is calling “Jayesh's Law" requiring prepayment or credit cards to be used before pumping gas.
   As well, station owners would no longer be able to force attendants to pay for stolen gas and the licenses of convicted gas thieves would be suspended.


   News in brief:
   - Bargaining for a new deal for members of the Canadian Auto Workers has come down to Chrysler after tentative pacts were reached with Ford and GM Canada. The contracts will have new employees paid at a lower rate and receive a revised pension plan. The workers will each receive a$2,000 annual cost of living payment and $3,000 ratification bonus.
   - A bid to preserve the now-defunct registry of rifles and shotguns has been rejected by the Ontario Superior Court. The federal Conservative government ordered the end of the long-gun registry established by a former Liberal government. Judge D.M. Brown said destruction of the records would not violate the Charter of Rights. The ruling counters a recent court decision in Quebec upholding the right of the provincial government to preserve its gun data.


   Facts and figures:
   Pressure on the Bank of Canada to begin raising interest rates has eased as the national inflation rate dropped one-tenth of a point to 1.2 percent last month.
   The dollar is lower at 1.0239 in U.S. funds while the U.S. greenback returns 97.65 cents Canadian before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is unchanged at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are mixed, with the Toronto exchange index lower at 12,445 points and the TSX Venture index higher at 1,346 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Sept. 19) 7, 9, 18, 22, 28 and 38; bonus 26. (Sept. 15) 9, 10, 12, 19, 24 and 31; bonus 17. Lotto Max: (Sept. 14) 2, 27, 30, 31, 37, 46 and 47; bonus 21.


   Regional briefs:
   - The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the right of a British Columbia women’s group to continue its challenge of the country's anti-prostitution laws on constitutional grounds. The Downtown Eastside Sex Workers Against Violence launched a challenge of the law’s prohibitions five years ago.
   - The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. still wants to build a world-class casino on Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront or downtown although city councilors are divided over the proposal. Corporation chairman Paul Godfrey said this would be the largest development project in Canada at $2 billion and create 12,000 jobs. There is currently Woodbine, a slots and racetrack facility in north Toronto and numerous smaller casinos nearby.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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