About 4,500 elementary school teachers in Ottawa’s public system walked off the job today as part of one-day, rotating strikes across the province.
Picket lines were staged at more than 60 English elementary schools in Ottawa and teachers braved the chilly temperatures to get their message out.
Outside Vincent Massey Public School, two dozen teachers paced the sidewalk, carrying cups of coffee and handmade signs decrying the provincial government.
In September, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government passed Bill 115, which would force a contract on teachers if an agreement cannot be reached between the province and the union before Dec. 31. The legislation also gives the government power to end a strike.
However, Education Minister Laurel Broten said the government would not impose back-to-work edicts with respect to the one-day rolling strikes.
Next to a sign reading, "All I want for Christmas is my democratic rights," teacher Janet Fraser said she hopes the one-day strikes send a message to Broten.
"I guess we’re all waiting to see what they’re going to do. So far (Broten) seems to be happy with circumventing democracy in every way she can," Fraser said.
McGuinty has said that if the matter isn’t resolved by the end of the year, it would be settled in court.
Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers' Federation president Peter Giuliani said he thought the one-day strike "went as well as we could have hoped" and insisted the job action was about principles, not wages.
"It is not about money. It is about our fundamental rights in a democratic society," said Giuliani, who said he believed the inconvenience caused by the walk-out was minimal.
Meanwhile, many Ottawa parents were left scrambling to find daycare for their kids.
"It took me a couple of phone calls to organize things to make sure my kids were in a safe place," said Olga Leduc, a mother of two.
Wednesday’s job action by teachers in the capital wrapped up at 2 p.m., but elementary school teachers with the Renfrew County District School Board are gearing up to walk off the job Thursday.
On Monday, the board advised all parents of elementary students to make alternate child care arrangements as elementary schools would be closed and bus service cancelled.
There are 24 elementary schools in Renfrew’s district. Renfrew’s seven secondary schools will remain open and students are expected to attend class.