“The only budget decisions we ever made were what to cut,” says Chris Glover. “When Ford is making these cuts… it’s to an already stripped-down system. It’s absolutely devastating what they’re doing to the school system.”
“It’s absolutely devastating what they’re doing to the school system”NDP Critic Chris Glover on Conservative government’s cuts to education
Chris Glover is a Member of Provincial Parliament and Ontario’s Official Opposition college and universities Critic. A former York University professor, he became a part of the legislature in 2018, in the same election in which Doug Ford became Ontario’s Premier.
Glover’s first term as Critic has been a busy one. Four of the province’s education unions began strike actions in late 2019. Negotiations have been being attempted off and on since August. They have been heated. Disagreements between sides include issues like wages that rise with inflation and a proposed increase in class sizes. The list, however, is long.
Glover is a tall, well-spoken man with a head of long but tidy white hair. We are speaking over the phone on Wednesday February 20, the night after the Ontario Legislature has met for the first time in 2020.
“They haven’t had rate of inflation increases over the past ten years,” Glover says. He is referring to the salaries of the union members that make up Ontario’s teaching force. He believes that the Ford government is purposefully trying to undermine the education system, making it so ineffective that charter schools and other private options will become a preferable strategy.
“They want to privatize our publicly funded schools,” he says. “[It’s] the real agenda here and it’s not talked about enough.”
“They are trying to undermine the systems we have. It was the agenda of the Harris government and it’s the agenda of this government,” he says.
Glover represents the Toronto constituency of Spadina-Fort York. In his tenure, he has often demanded more of the Ontario Liberal Party as well as the Conservatives. He got his start holding office as a Trustee in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), serving for two terms. But he got into politics originally as a parent.
“I got active because Mike Harris was making so many devastating cuts to our kids’ school when my kids were in elementary school,” he says.
The late nineties Ontario Premier Mike Harris is a favourite target for progressives. Former Liberal Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has also said that she was inspired to join politics by Harris’ cuts to education. In Glover’s view though, the Liberal Party has not done right by the province’s kids either.
“This is a school system that has suffered cuts for the last 25 years. When I was a TDSB trustee, I made a list of 17 consecutive years under Conservative and Liberal governments where we had a shortfall in funding,” he says.
To Glover, many of the problems that schools all over the province are facing can be seen in the TDSB.
“They’ve had to cut social workers, school psychologists, community support workers. They’ve increased class sizes. It’s a lot of supports that are being cut, across the board,” he says. “There was never one year that we had a surplus in money that we could actually reinvest.”
“There was never one year that we had a surplus in money that we could actually reinvest”NDP Critic Chris Glover speaking about his days as a TDSB Trustee
And to Glover, education is all about “the investment in the future.” In his view, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce has acted “appallingly” in his negotiations with the teachers.
“He’s just been attacking teachers, and vilifying teachers. Instead of actually sitting down,” Glover says.
When asked if he thinks Stephen Lecce should be replaced, Glover sighs and says, “absolutely.”
Negotiations between the Ford government and the teachers’ unions have been going nowhere for months. In Glover’s opinion, tensions will only begin to thaw when the Conservatives realize how unpopular educational cuts are with the public.
“We need to reinvest in our education system and provide well maintained buildings. We need to provide mental health supports,” he says.
“I can tell you that, we would not have a public education system in this province if the teachers had not fought with parents and students against the Harris government. And we will not have a public education system if we do not fight together against the Ford government,” he says.
Although negotiations are still ongoing, all four teachers’ unions were on strike last Friday.
This article was originally published February 24.