Wynne to focus on climate change after 2015's hydro, teacher battles
Retrofitting homes, public buildings high on province's agenda for next year, premier tells CBC News
Embattled labour negotiations with Ontario's teachers dogged the provincial government for much of 2015, alongside public trust issues that re-emerged with the charges laid this week against two former Liberal senior staffers connected to the gas plant scandal.
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But when Premier Kathleen Wynne sat down with CBC Toronto's Mike Crawley this week, she focused on the fact that the government managed to negotiate three major agreements with the education sector this year and discussed the climate change agenda she's setting for 2016.
Next year's plans include a review of the new legislation that governed bargaining between the province, school boards and unions representing Catholic, elementary and secondary school teachers. The new framework saw some of those negotiations happening at the provincial level instead of just with the boards.
But deciding which level of administration had jurisdiction over specific areas slowed the early stages of negotiations, Wynne said.
"I guess the question is: 'Is that going to happen every time?'" she asked. "Or, now that we've gone through it once … can it move more quickly? Because everybody will agree on what's centrally discussed and what's locally discussed."
Elementary school teachers reached an agreement in the fall as they ramped up a work-to-rule campaign that included not filling out report cards or doing extracurricular activities. Wynne threatened to dock the pay of those employees not fulfilling all their responsibilities.
"We were bargaining in an environment where there wasn't new money for compensation," Wynne said. "It was a tough mandate that we had … but we got there."
Wynne said that the legislative review will need to sort out the issues around jurisdiction that slowed down the beginning of bargaining.
Retrofitting on 2016 agenda
Division of responsibility also resonates as a key theme in the premier's plan around climate change, one which will include a public building retrofitting program, Wynne told CBC News.
Some of the revenue from the cap and trade system that the province committed to earlier this year — but has yet to release details about — will also go toward helping people retrofit their homes and buildings, the premier said.
She would not provide any details about what such a program might cost, except to say that it would need Ottawa's co-operation.
The prime minister plans to meet with the provincial and territorial premiers in the coming months to set a framework for how Canada will meet the emissions targets reached at the climate change summit in Paris.
"I think [retrofitting] is one of the ways that the federal government can work with provinces," Wynne said. "We know right now, given that we shut down the coal-fired plants, the greatest emission of greenhouse gases comes from our building sector and from transportation."
The closure of the coal-fired power plants also acted as one of the catalysts for the recent privatization of Hydro One, Wynne said, a move that's seen widespread opposition in polling both before and after the first shares began publicly trading in November. The decision has already earned the province more than $5 billion.
Wynne defended the move to CBC News, noting the narrative around "broadening the ownership" — the province will retain 40 per cent of the utility — has missed the fact that the money generated from sales offsets the cost of switching from coal plants and can help fund other clean energy and infrastructure projects.
"In our quest to invest in infrastructure … we said we were going to look at some of those assets that are owned by the people of Ontario and look at how we could leverage them."
Fallout from gas plant charges
The premier has seen her party linked to political scandals this year. Most recently, two senior staffers to her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, are now facing charges connected to destroying evidence connected to the gas plant scandal.
When asked whether she felt that had affected public trust in the government, Wynne said all governments have challenges.
She added that her focus remains on creating more jobs through public-private partnerships.
"What I try to do in my government is respond, take responsibility and fix what needs fixing," she said. "That is my job as the premier and I will continue to do that."