Wynne expects to keep talking with Ontario teachers

Kathleen Wynne says she expects to continue talking with teachers about the festering labour issues that have come between them and the Ontario government.
Kathleen Wynne, the incoming Ontario premier, has wasted little time in reaching out to teachers since winning the Ontario Liberal leadership.

Kathleen Wynne says she expects to continue talking with teachers about the festering labour issues that have come between them and the Ontario government.

The incoming premier met with the heads of four Ontario teachers' unions on Tuesday evening, including those that represent public elementary and secondary teachers, as well as their colleagues who represent French and Catholic teachers.

On Wednesday, the incoming premier told The Canadian Press that her initial conversation appeared to leave the door open for further conversation on the issues, including the withdrawal of extracurricular activities by many public school teachers.

"That was part of the conversation for sure, and the details are confidential because we need to have further conversations," Wynne said.

"I think the main thing is that it was a positive and constructive conversation, and it will lead to another one."

Earlier this month, the governing Liberals imposed contracts on public elementary and secondary teachers using controversial legislation known as Bill 115 that was then repealed.

The decision to impose contracts has infuriated teachers and the legislation is being challenged in court by the four major teachers’ unions, along with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

During the recent Ontario Liberal leadership campaign, Wynne indicated that she would try to improve the way the government reaches contracts with teachers for the next time the process occurs, but she said she would not rip up the contracts that were imposed.

More scrutiny over cancelled gas plants

As Wynne transitions into the role of leading the government, opposition parties are putting pressure on her to either call a public inquiry or start new legislative hearings into the gas plants that were cancelled by the Liberal government.

A set of planned committee hearings died — just before they were due to begin — when outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the house last fall and announced his resignation.

The Progressive Conservatives want to have legislative hearings begin when the house is recalled next month, according to the timing that Wynne has laid out. But the New Democrats want a public inquiry.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it will ultimately be the decision of the incoming premier as to how the issue is handled.

"One way or another, the people deserve the answers and it’s up to Ms. Wynne to decide which way that’s going to happen," Horwath told reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday.

When Wynne spoke with The Canadian Press, she did not address the opposition’s demands regarding the controversy over the gas plants.

"The fact that Andrea chose to talk about the gas plant issue and a public inquiry, that's her prerogative," said Wynne.

"She can begin with whatever subject she chooses, but I'm going to be looking for a broad discussion of issues."

Also Wednesday, Progressive Conservative critic Rob Leone alleged that Wynne was involved in the decisions to scrap the gas plans in Mississauga and Oakville when she served as the co-chair of the Liberals’ 2011 election campaign.

"With complete disregard for taxpayers, Wynne treated public funds as if they belonged to the Liberal party, and now taxpayers are left with the bill," Leone told reporters at Queen’s Park

Leone suggested the Progressive Conservatives would work to ensure that the incoming premier acquiesces to demands for hearings

"We're pursuing a legislative committee, which means that we’ll do what we have to to make that happen," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press