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Public Editor Public Editor: There was a good reason to hold publication of the Ontario teachers’ payment

Ontario's Premier Kathleen Wynne (File)

MATHIEU BELANGER/REUTERS

On Wednesday morning, The Globe flared (top of the front page) an exclusive story by Adrian Morrow with the headline "Ontario paid $1-million to teachers' union."

That was followed the next day by a second story: "Multiple payouts given to teacher unions" which added another $1.5-million in payouts to teachers unions to cover their bargaining costs. Followed by one more: "Ontario never sought receipts before paying teacher unions."

I heard from a number of readers on Twitter and by e-mail who were suspicious of the timing of this story and wondered whether The Globe held it back.

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One Toronto reader wrote to say: "Many Ontarians felt that the Kathleen Wynne's Liberals gave up the farm to the teachers to avoid any nasty union issues prior to the federal election, the details were kept secret until today. Only one thing remains unclear from the article in The Globe and Mail today, and that is 'who knew what when?' We know that the Liberals knew the details and, for that, they should be ashamed for their devious actions. However it is unclear as to when The Globe and Mail received the documents that outline the deal. If the Globe and Mail had this information prior to the federal election and decided to wait until today to release it – then shame on them."

As the Wednesday article said, The Globe obtained a 42-page confidential document on the labour deal which included the details of the $1-million payment to the high school teachers' union and the government's decision to finance raises for teachers by diverting money from a fund for special programs that help struggling students graduate.

When a document such as this is obtained, the usual practice is that the reporter will ask the relevant parties for comment before publication.

National Editor Dennis Choquette said the earliest the story could have been ready for publication was for Monday morning's paper: federal voting day. He said he decided to wait.

"Voters were not being asked to elect a provincial government, so I did not feel that we were withholding essential information that could inform their decision at the polls. We did risk our appearance of neutrality, however, were we to have published on Election Day," Mr. Choquette said.

In my view, if Ontario was voting that day for its own government, there would be no question the story should be published. Voters need to know as much key information as can be provided to inform their vote. I agree that this was clearly a separate level of government and a provincial not a federal issue.

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