As I have mentioned in this blog before, one of the many reasons I respect The Toronto Star is that it doesn't let its adherence to The Atkinson Principles blind it to good stories, even when those stories may lead to some uncomfortable questions about the abuses that unions are sometimes guilty of. Their stellar series of investigative reports last year, exploring the peculiar relationship between the Toronto District School Board and Jimmy Hazel’s 900-strong Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, upon which I based several blog posts, attests to that fact.
Today's Star reveals some potentially disturbing information which, if its implications are true, further suggest the scope of the Ontario McGuinty government's misuse of its political power, previously chronicled in its attempts to purchase a majority government through costly cancellations of gas-fired plants, engineering unnecessary byelections through the seduction of sitting members of the legislature, etc.
In an interview with The Star, the chair of the Toronto District School Board, Chris Bolton, suggests that the relationship between the governing Liberals and the Trades Council does not perhaps pass 'the smell test,' given the fact that, despite an extensive review of the financially-strapped board, the government has decided to preserve its contract with Hazel's group for the next two years:
“(The trades council members) are major contributors to the Liberals,” noted TDSB chair Chris Bolton in an interview with the Star. Having angered teachers with recent legislation, Bolton, a New Democrat, and others at the board speculate that the Liberals are trying to shore up support from other organized labour groups in the province as they prepare for an election.
The story reveals that Mr. Hazel's group sent two stiffly-worded letters to education minister Laurel Broten asking her to step in and preserve its old contract with Toronto’s public school board.
The Star's earlier investigation revealed evidence of the indebtedness the McGuinty Liberals may feel toward the Trades Council, whose members
...have campaigned for the Liberals, delivering election pamphlets door to door. Political donations to the Liberals from Hazel’s group and related unions who work for the school board total at least $675,000 since 2005. The Liberals responded one year by providing $253,000 of gift cards for Hazel’s TDSB workers, redeemable at Tiger Direct.
Education Minister Laurel Broten has defended the contract extension as an inevitable result of the collective agreements she imposed the other day on Ontario teachers, but one cannot help but wonder why the two have been thus conflated.
Given the increasingly suspect nature of the McGuinty government, however, expect no definitive answers to the disturbing questions raised by The Star anytime soon.