Ontario’s auditor general says $80.5 million has been given by the Liberal government to teachers’ unions and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation since 2000.
She said giving government funds to teachers’ unions is “unusual” but “within the government’s authority.”
Lysyk said there is “no evidence” of the government reimbursing bargaining costs of other Ontario public sector unions, and no other province gives payments to teachers for bargaining costs.
“We found no evidence of the government reimbursing costs of any other large public-sector unions in Ontario,” Lysyk stated in a release. “We also found little evidence across Canada of a provincial government paying teachers’ unions for bargaining costs.”
“On one hand, some may say that this was good use of taxpayer dollars if it facilitated reaching agreements on central-bargaining issues,” Lysyk said after tabling the report. “On the other hand, some may say that this money should have been spent on providing government services for Ontarians rather than giving the money to unions.”
Bonnie Lysyk said $22 million was given in 2006 for bargaining that had no strings attached – “no requirement for the unions to tell the government what they did with the money.”
She found that the rest of the $80.5 million did have some accountability mechanisms attached to it, including earmarking most of it for professional development of teachers.
“One might reasonably ask why these funds were not instead provided to school boards for their own locally determined professional development needs.”
Lysyk said the government gave another $6.8 million to school boards in 2009, which provided the funds to a teachers’ union for teachers who requested financial support for professional development.
The auditor general had been asked to investigate after it was learned that $3.8 million was paid by the Liberals to unions representing teachers and education workers over the past three rounds of bargaining.
Education Minister Liz Sandals has defended the payments because transitioning to a new bargaining system made talks lengthy.
In her report, Lysyk recommends more transparency, improve efficiency and consider ceasing the practice of funding bargaining costs “to avoid future perception concerns.”
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