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Education Wynne says school boards will be welcome at the bargaining tables

The new Liberal leader and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne heads to the microphone to speak to the media before her first caucus meeting at Queen's Park on Jan. 29, 2013.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne has pledged to revamp the negotiations process with teachers.

In her first public speech since being elected Premier, Ms. Wynne told a receptive audience of school board trustees that school boards will be included in the discussions at the provincial bargaining table. Boards had strong objections to some of the terms included in Bill 115.

She received a standing ovation from trustees at the annual Public Education Symposium.

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"I want you all to feel respected – because you are respected – and I want you all to have a voice," Ms. Wynne said.

"We have to face the challenges of budgets and politics and the obstacles that are thrown at us all in our day to day jobs," Ms. Wynne said.

"But the tone can change. The process can change."

Michael Barrett, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association said he was pleased with Ms. Wynne's acknowledgment that school boards need to be included.

Both elementary and high-school teachers have withdrawn extracurriculars after the government imposed contracts on them under Bill 115.

Teachers are angry and frustrated with the Liberal government for how it handled their contracts. Ms. Wynne, a former trustee, education activist and education minister, has promised to fix that relationship.

She has met with union leaders and more meetings are planned.

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Catherine Fife, an NDP MPP and former school board trustee, said Ms. Wynne's move to reach out to school officials was the right move, but it will take time to repair relationships and restore peace in the public education system.

"Collective bargaining has been undermined in the province. Changing that channel is going to take a long time," she said.

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