Schools across the GTA will be shuttered on Tuesday as elementary teachers at three of the province’s largest school boards, Toronto, Durham and Peel Region, will be walking out.
The day of protest will be the largest yet, with tens of thousands of teachers set to picket outside schools, board headquarters and the offices of candidates for the leadership of the provincial Liberal Party, including former education minister Kathleen Wynne.
The impact of the walkouts could extend beyond schools, as parents in Canada’s financial centre struggle to make alternative childcare arrangements.
“I feel that the only ones that are getting hurt in this are the kids,” said Linda Kessler of Toronto, who has a nine-year-old daughter in the public school system.
Ms. Kessler is travelling to New York for business next week. She is unclear if the daycare attached to her daughter’s school will remain open during the walkout. If not, her husband will have to take Tuesday off work, or her mother will watch the little girl.
“It’s very disruptive,” she said of the one-day walkouts. “I’m not sure how effective they will be.”
Peel, Durham and Toronto are three of the province’s largest boards.
The boards have said they will likely have to close schools without teachers there to supervise students.
Daycares in the buildings may remain open, and parents are being encouraged to call their local provider to find out.
Teachers are angry at the Ontario government over Bill 115, legislation that cuts their sick days and limits their ability to strike. Members of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) began staging walkouts on Monday, with two to three school boards at a time.
“This is not about pay increases,” said David Clegg, president of ETFO’s bargaining unit for York, where teachers walked out on Thursday.
“This is about Bill 115 and the constraints that it has imposed on any form of successful collective bargaining.”
The legislation gives Education Minister Laurel Broten the power to block a strike, but she has said she will not act as long as teachers limit their walkouts to a single day.
Mr. Clegg is among union leaders who are advocating for teachers to walk out for more than one day in an effort to goad the provincial government, and put pressure on the Ontario Liberals to repeal Bill 115.
“I’ve certainly advocated for that,” he said. “[Members] are prepared to defend their rights, and they are prepared to do whatever it takes.”
A day of student protest wrapped up late on Thursday. High school teachers have stopped running extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports teams to protest against Bill 115, and more than 1,000 students descended on Queen’s Park to show their frustration.
John Kang, a Grade 12 student at Northview Heights Secondary School in Toronto, was among the students who crowded on the lawn.
“It’s jeopardized our university [applications], because if we don’t have enough extracurricular activities, we might not get into some universities we want to,” he said.