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Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten appealed to elementary school teachers to return to a provincial discussion table to help set the framework for negotiations.Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press

Ontario's elementary teachers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a political protest in the event that Education Minister Laurel Broten blocks their legal strike.

"I'm pleased to inform you that over 46,000 members cast their ballots with 92 per cent voting in favour of a one-day political protest if the Minister ends a legal strike by our members or imposes an agreement on any local," Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, wrote to members on Wednesday.

"This sends a strong message to the Minister of Education. She may think she can mislead the public. However, she will never intimidate ETFO members who are ready to lead the fight against Bill 115."

The message was posted on the Toronto Occasional Teachers website.

Teachers are angry and frustrated with controversial legislation – Bill 115 – that dictates the terms of their contracts and restricts their ability to strike.

Elementary-school teachers are poised to start one day walkouts the week of Dec. 10, while their high-school counterparts will escalate job action by withdrawing voluntary services and extra-curricular activities. Ms. Broten has the power to stop the strike action – and will likely do so after the bargaining deadline of Dec. 31 – but cannot force teachers to resume voluntary activities like clubs and coaching.

Elementary teachers voted Sunday through to Tuesday on a mandate that give union leaders the authority to carry out a day of protest if the government blocks walkouts. For outgoing Premier Dalton McGuinty, who built his political record on achieving labour peace in schools, the demonstration would rekindle memories of furious teachers protesting against Mike Harris in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, elementary school teachers at District School Board Ontario North East, which includes Timmins, will walk off the job Monday morning, said local president Monica Rusnak. Avon Maitland District School Board will join them, a board that includes Stratford. They will be among the first to walk off the job. Ms. Rusnak said other school boards will likely join them Monday morning.

The teachers have promised to give parents 72 hours notice before walking off the job.

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