Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted on Monday evening during a town hall meeting in Toronto that there were issues with the College Employer Council and that there needed to be more accountability.
Wynne called for “reasonable checks and balances” on the collective bargaining process during a response to a college student’s concern over the way the strike was handled by her Liberal provincial government.
Adam Reinhardt, second year Computer Systems Technology student at George Brown College, pointed out that the CEC is a private corporation, not subject to freedom of information requests and is not required to disclose the salaries that it pays.
“My question is how is it fair to ask students to continue with a semester that has been sabotaged by this private corporation thats purpose is to distance public colleges from the ramifications of their negotiation in bad faith with faculty?” Reinhardt asked.
He followed up by asking Wynne why she didn’t intervene previous to Thursday by “giving a binding directive to the CEC?”
The question was met with applause as Wynne responded.
“So one of the big questions for me coming out of this is what are the accountability mechanisms that we’re missing from the [collective bargaining] process,” said Wynne.
Despite criticism from the NDP and students, Wynne explained that she didn’t have the authority to intervene in the collective bargaining process, according to legal advice she received.
“The advice that was given to me was that I did not have that authority,” the premier said in response.
Wynne said that an examination of what exactly the legal authority of the premier would be in a strike situation regarding the public colleges.
“It’s not fair what happened to students, we need to figure out what went wrong.”
Wynne explained that this wouldn’t mean there wouldn’t mean another labour disruption but there was areas of improvement.
“I believe in the collective bargaining process,” she said, explaining that “it is an important part of our democratic society” but that “there should be reasonable checks and balances”.
“I hope that you [students] will stay engaged as the [education] minister and I and our government looks at what we can do to make this a better process.”
Watch the full town hall via YouTube
On Oct 16, over 12,000 faculty, librarians and counselors went on strike, leaving the 24 public colleges and some 500,000 full and part-time students without classes due to collective bargaining negotiations not meeting a 12:01 am deadline.
More details to follow. Image 1 of Kathleen Wynne from Kiss 105.3 Sudbury.