OPEN LETTER to Catherine Swift

TORONTO, April 8 /CNW/ - OPEN LETTER

Catherine Swift 
President & CEO
Canadian Federation of Independent Business
4141 Yonge Street, Suite 401
Toronto, Ontario M2P 2A6

Dear Ms Swift:

Public servants and employees in the broader public service, such as teachers, do not give up their right to participate in the democratic process in return for a pay cheque. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms the freedom of expression of all Canadians is protected. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that, "an absolute rule prohibiting all public participation and discussion by all public servants would prohibit activities which no sensible person in a democratic society would want to prohibit."

OECTA members are paid to deliver educational instruction to our children. Our members are proud of their work in laying the foundation for the next generation of doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, construction workers, software developers and others. Our members, as part of the overall education system, are seeing more than three quarters of Ontario's students graduate from high school. Ontario has been recognized internationally for the quality of the teaching in our classrooms and we are very proud of that. A high-quality and equitable publicly funded education system is Ontario's best hope for a prosperous future.

Once our members are paid they are free to use that money as they see fit. They may buy a house, invest, take a trip, patronize their local hardware store. They may even be spending their money at a business owned by one of your members. The point is that it is their money.

It is true that OECTA members at an Annual General Meeting passed a resolution for additional funding for political action. This was the result of our deeply entrenched democratic processes for decision-making. Members across the province receive in advance the motions that will be debated at our provincial annual meeting. Beforehand they can attend local general meetings to debate these motions and inform their local delegations of their wishes so these can be expressed at the AGM. At our most recent AGM, delegates embraced our political action plan, understanding the need for all our members to become involved in the campaign as its outcome will affect all aspects of the society in which they live. Would you deny them that fundamental democratic right? The CFIB says on its website that "What defines us" is "Strength in numbers" and "Members vote on issues." Is that right only for your members?

I would like to draw your attention to your own homepage. Prominent there is the heading, "2011 Federal election: lobbying to keep our victories." With the word "lobbying" as part of its banner, the CFIB publicly proclaims this to be one of the key activities of your organization. You enjoin business owners to become members saying, "There is strength in numbers, and we make your views count." Surely you are not saying that only those in the "private sector" are entitled to work together for a common cause in their own interest? And what is the "private sector"? By your reasoning, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, their employees, are not entitled to engage in the political process because they received taxpayers' bailout money.

OECTA members are citizens of Ontario, of Canada. We do not "interfere" in the election. We exercise our rights as citizens. And just like your members, we are entitled to campaign and cast our ballots for individuals and parties that we believe support our core values.

Sincerely,

"Signed"

James Ryan
President

JR/lh

c:   Premier Dalton McGuinty
c:   Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition
c:   Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader

SOURCE Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association

For further information:

Michelle Despault
Director of Communications
(416) 925-2493 ext 509
m.despault@oecta.on.ca

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Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association

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OECTA

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