Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday she's optimistic that extracurricular activities will soon return to Ontario public schools.

Dwight Duncan to join law firm

Former Ontario finance minister Dwight Duncan is trading politics for business law, taking a job as a strategic adviser with the Toronto-based firm McMillan LLP. Duncan announced last week he is quitting politics to make way for new blood in the Liberal front benches. He will leave his Windsor-Tecumseh seat on Thursday, which will force the premier to call a byelection within six months.

Ontario public school teachers have been refusing to supervise activities such as student clubs and sports teams in response to a labour dispute with the province. Earlier this year, the province imposed a two-year contract on public school teachers, a move union leaders say effectively removed their right to collective bargaining.

On her way into her first cabinet meeting as premier on Wednesday, Wynne told reporters that government officials and union leaders are making progress.

"We are having productive conversations," said Wynne. "The conversations are very positive. I’m looking forward to a good outcome, I hope in the near future."

Wynne also made mention of a TDSB student survey released Tuesday that suggests a large number of students between Grades 7 and 12 are feeling stressed and concerned about their future.

"One of the things that I believe alleviates stress and allows kids to have a really good experience in their schools is when they are engaged in things other than academics," said Wynne. "So I want extracurriculars back. I want them back as soon as possible."

Wynne, who was sworn in as premier and named her new cabinet on Monday, was asked what she would say to students who've been without after-school activities this year.

"I'm sorry that the conversation among the adults has meant that you’ve had to do without your extracurricular activities," said Wynne. "I'm doing everything I can to get the extracurriculars back in your schools."

Both Wynne and new Education Minister Liz Sandals could not say what the province can offer teachers in return for restoring activities. Both have said the province cannot afford to re-open the imposed contracts.

"At this point it really isn't a tit-for-tat conversation," said Sandals. "I'm not going in there saying here’s my agenda. My first job is to listen."

With files from The Canadian Press