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Wynne 'pretty positive' about progress on extracurricular activities

Incoming Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne appears before media at Queen's Park in Toronto, Jan. 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is “feeling pretty positive” about the gradual return of extracurricular activities in public high schools. The government continues to await word on what public elementary teachers plan to do.

Wynne, along with Education Minister Liz Sandals and some student trustees, spoke Wednesday at Queen’s Park. Wynne said permission forms have started circulating in some high schools for various activities. An Ontario Federation of Student Athletic Associations (OFSAA) swim meet is also now back on the schedule.

Both public high school and elementary teachers withheld running and coaching after-school clubs and sports to protest Bill 115, legislation that allowed the government to impose a two-year contract on them. Education unions say the legislation violated their right to collective bargaining and have filed court challenges.

Last week, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) recommended that its members resume extracurricular activities at their discretion. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) hasn’t said if it will do the same.

“I hope that we’ll be able to work with the elementary teachers in the same way. Unfortunately we’re not there yet,” Wynne said.

ETFO has meetings planned this week, Sandals said.

Progressive Conservative (PC) Leader Tim Hudak and his education critic Lisa MacLeod attacked the Liberals’ record on education Wednesday, claiming they care more about appeasing “union bosses” than providing quality education.

“Teachers unions are not there to run the education system,” Hudak said. “I guess if you think there should be more power to the teachers’ union bosses then you have two parties on offer, the Liberals and the NDP.”

MacLeod said that the PCs, if elected, would “take away those intimidation tactics that the unions have been employing,” referring to an ETFO memo warning members they could face a $500 fine for not following union directives.

“Our education system in Ontario was built to educate students, not to embolden union activists,” she said.

The PCs are also promising to open up access to parents and community volunteers to run extracurricular programs. They also promise to ensure the “best qualified teachers are hired.”