Ontario Liberals want Tory support of teacher bill in writing

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives say the the governing Liberals can expect a controversial teacher bill to pass through the legislature when introduced next week, but the ruling party wants a written guarantee that it will.

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives say the the governing Liberals can expect a controversial teacher bill to pass through the legislature when introduced next week, but the ruling party wants a written guarantee that it will.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Friday that the forthcoming Liberal bill, which would impose contracts on Ontario teachers if passed into law, is a step in the right direction towards reducing government spending.

"The bill’s going to pass. The question is: what comes next?" Hudak said during a news conference at Queen’s Park.

Hudak said the government needs to go further, by looking towards a longer-term goal of reducing the overall size and cost of government.

"I want to see an across-the-board wage freeze for all of us: Teachers, doctors, MPPs, OPSEU workers, firefighters," he said.

"That would save us $2 billion a year and gives us some time, then, to do the next more important steps — fixing government and reducing the overall cost."

But the Liberals want more than a verbal statement from the Progressive Conservative Leader about the level of support he is willing to give to the bill.

Government House Leader John Milloy said Friday that the Liberals are requesting a more formalized agreement because had learned from a deal they made with the New Democrats to get their budget bill passed earlier this year.

The Liberals found themselves fighting the New Democrats and Tories over changes the opposition parties made to the budget after the budget bill was passed.

"We need a letter or a statement in writing from the PCs saying that they will support this bill and that it will not be gutted, as they attempted to do to the budget bill," Milloy said.

Because the Liberals hold only 52 of the 107 seats in the legislature, they will need the support of at least one of the opposition parties in order for the bill to pass.

As Hudak did not provide details on how the Progressive Conservatives will ensure that the bill passes, it is unclear if his party would vote in support of the bill when it is tabled or merely abstain.

'Liberals are always the same'

The NDP won't say how they're voting. But NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said the Liberals' demand the PCs put their support in writing is "ridiculous."

He said the Liberals are manufacturing a crisis as diversion from their record as the byelections approach.

"Liberals are always the same," he said. "It’s about doing what’s right for them, and not doing what’s necessarily right for Ontarians."

The Liberals are recalling the legislature Monday, two weeks earlier than when it was supposed to return from its summer break, to introduce the so-called "Putting Students First Act." 

Unions representing teachers and education workers have warned the bill will plunge the government into a contentious court battle if it is legislated.

Several of the province’s most powerful unions say the bill stamps on the collective bargaining rights of their members.