Back-to-work legislation passes

Sam Odrowski

Bill 67 was passed Thursday at Queen’s Park to prevent a strike or lockout at Ontario Power Generation in what the government calls an effort to avoid putting the province’s power supply at risk.
The bill is intended to prevent large-scale power outages across Ontario.
“The people of Ontario can be assured this holiday season that they will have the power they need to light up and heat their homes and businesses,” Labour minister Laurie Scott and Energy minister Greg Rickford said in a press release.
“Our government has been clear that we will do whatever is necessary to keep a steady supply of electricity in Ontario,” they added.
NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said his party wasn’t at all surprised at the passage of the legislation considering the Progressive Conservatives have a majority government.
He said the bill shows no respect for workers and noted that Premier Doug Ford wasn’t in attendance for its passage after stressing its urgency.
Tabuns said the PCs have been misleading the public by saying power outages could have occurred as soon as last weekend without the passing of the back-to-work legislation.
“When I talked to the head of OPG, he said on Christmas Eve they would start the process of shutting down nuclear power plants, which would take about a week,” he told the Times in a phone interview Thursday.
“And beyond that, there was another two weeks for the hydro plants to run,” he added.
“We have a lot of surplus power generation capacity in Ontario so, in fact, we had several weeks of room to sort this out,” Tabuns argued. “But the government was not interested in negotiating for workers.
“To say that it had to be resolved this week was simply not the case,” he stressed. “It was just simply fear-mongering.”
Instead of legislating power union workers back to their jobs, Tabuns said the NDP would have preferred the government to have sorted this out back in the summer after the first negotiated agreement was rejected.
“At that point, the government should have gone to OPG and . . . said, ‘This is too critical,’ we have to sit down and figure this out,” he remarked.
“They should have used their power with OPG to get OPG to move and they should have talked to the union about how important it was to find a negotiated settlement.
“It’s always an important issue, which is why leaving it for almost six months was so irresponsible on the part of the Ford government,” Tabuns added.
Rather, he said the province at least should have tried to let the negotiations take place organically instead of immediately legislating power workers back to their jobs.
“It would have been far better to settle through negotiations than to bring down the hammer of government legislation,” Tabuns reasoned.
The PC government, meanwhile, said Bill 67 was necessary to prevent up to 50 percent of Ontario’s power supply from being shut down.
“By keeping lights and heat on, we’re protecting the health and safety of the people of Ontario,” Rickford and Scott said in the press release.