OECTA responds to controversial ads

OECTA members hold a picket outside St. Josephs Catholic High School in Windsor, February 4, 2020. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

A series of ads criticizing teacher’s unions has the attention of one of those unions.

A mystery group known as Vaughn Working Families is behind several full-page ads that appeared this past weekend in the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and The National Post. The ads criticized job action being taken by Ontario’s major education unions and appear to follow talking points made by the Ontario government.

One of those unions is the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), which represents teaching professionals province-wide that went on a one-day strike for the second time, to jumpstart contract talks with the province. OECTA’s First Vice-President Barb Dobrowolski was in Windsor Tuesday visiting with some picketing teachers, and she told BlackburnNewsWindsor.com she would be very interested in seeing who’s behind those ads.

“It would be very interesting to see who is funding these ads, wouldn’t it?” asked Dobrowolski. “We know that the people who are being used as the faces and the spokespeople in these ads are actually not who they pretend to be.”

A Google search by Blackburn News for Vaughn Working Families, which spells the name of the city of Vaughan incorrectly, only turned up a long list of news articles and no website for the group. There is also no Facebook page attached, and a Twitter handle in the group’s name follows only four accounts, including those belonging to Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.

Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, the NDP ethics critic, believed these ads might violate the Elections Act since they are being run in major newspapers while two Ottawa-area ridings, Orleans and Ottawa-Vanier, are holding by-election campaigns. Natyshak said under the Elections Act, organizations that are not registered as third parties may not run ads in an attempt to influence the outcome of an election.

In her view, Dobrowolski said the ads are an example of how the whole negotiating process has been tried in the press and on social media.

“All along, we’ve been saying that there seems to be this very public P.R. fight that is not helping our talks at the table,” said Dobrowolski. “We’ve never engaged in that kind of thing with previous governments when we’ve been in negotiations.”

OECTA returned to the bargaining table on Monday, and Dobrowolski called those talks “respectful”. She was also hopeful that it would lead to additional negotiations with the hope of reaching an agreement.

-With files from Adelle Loiselle