Government Repeals Bill 115: What Now?

Just in advance of this weekend’s convention to choose the next Premier of Ontario, the Provincial Government has stated it intends to repeal Bill 115, the controversial legislation that imposed Collective Agreements on most of the provinces public school teachers. That won’t negate the collective agreements she ordered, but it has other consequences which may be unintended.

On January 11th, the OLRB ruled that the one day of protest planned by both the secondary and the elementary teacher unions would constitute an unlawful strike.  It did this on the application of the Minister of Education.  But the ability of the Minister to make such application depended on the provisions of Bill 115.  In addition, the Bill also prevented the OLRB from examining whether Bill 115 was constitutional.  The teacher unions, and others, maintain that the Bill violates the Charter and is otherwise unconstitutional.  That matter will be heard by the courts but not until the fall, at the earliest.

However, by repealing Bill 115, the Minister of Education no longer has the ability to make the application she made to the OLRB on January 9th, and, the OLRB is no longer precluded from ruling on whether Bill 115 is unconstitutional.  Thus were the teacher unions to organize another day of protest, or otherwise step up their sanctions, the Minister would no longer be in a position to make the application to the OLRB for an unlawful strike declaration.  In addition, the OLRB would no longer be precluded from ruling on whether the Act which created the collective agreements in question was constitutional. In his decision of January 11th, Bernie Fishbein, the chair of the OLRB made it clear that prohibition was crucial to the order he made.

Whether the Government was aware of these ramifications when it announced the repeal is not clear.


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