Ford slams teachers’ union leaders, says province will not back off wage cap

All of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions are now engaged in job action of some kind

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government has made concessions on class sizes, but it will not budge on its salary offer to teachers. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says poor leadership among teachers’ unions is to blame for the protracted labour dispute gripping the province’s education system.

During a news conference Thursday at Queen’s Park, Ford said union leaders have been stubbornly unwilling to negotiate.

“I think they don’t have good leadership at the head of the unions,” he told reporters, adding that he differentiates between teachers and their union leaders.

All of Ontario’s major teachers’ unions are now in various states of escalated job action, ranging from rotating strikes to work-to-rule campaigns. They are all in legal strike positions.

Unions say the government isn’t negotiating in good faith, nor has it done enough to address their concerns about a wide range of issues including class size, mandatory e-learning and compensation.

Unions have also launched legal challenges over the Ford government’s plan to cap public sector wage increases to one per leadershipcent annually, below the rate of inflation.

Labour disruptions in Ontario classrooms are the fault of the teacher’s union leadership, says premier 4:06

Ford said the unions are primarily concerned about wages, not the proposed changes that would affect learning inside the classroom.

“Make no mistake about it, this is about compensation,” he said.

When asked if the province would consider salary increases above one per cent, Ford flatly responded: “No.”

The president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said Ford’s comments were an attempt to drive a wedge between union members and their leaders.

“This is a tired old tactic from this premier to try to pretend there’s a division between the membership and the leadership,” Harvey Bischof said. “I challenge him again, if he believes I’m not properly representing the wishes of the members, to exercise his right to have my members vote on their contract proposals.”

Elementary Educators@ETFOeducators

Parents know that a great public education system helps our children build a solid future. @FordNation pushing for deep cuts. That’s why educators are taking a stand. Stand with us.

VIDEO

In a video posted to Twitter, the union pointed to uncertainties over the future of full-day kindergarten and supports for students with special needs as critical issues not being addressed by the province.

Elementary teachers are set to begin rotating strikes on Monday.

‘Way of the future’

Ontario has partially walked back its planned increase to class sizes, but Ford said proposals to introduce mandatory e-learning will remain because “that’s the way of the future.”

Ford said teachers rely on e-learning for their own career development.

“We’re confident we’ll get a deal and things will be back to normal, hopefully sooner than later,” Ford said.

On Wednesday, the government announced it would financially compensate parents with children affected by rotating strikes.

The Ministry of Education says that as of Thursday morning, more than 33,000 people have applied for compensation. If all the teachers’ unions were to strike at the same time, more than one million children would be eligible for a subsidy.

Sam Hammond, president of ETFO, called the move an “insane bribe” meant to win the battle of public opinion.

In the meantime, parents are planning childcare for next week, while some Toronto-area community centres and libraries are running extra camps and drop-in programs to help out.

“Thank god it’s just one day right now,” said Kristine Gauthier, who has a nine-year-old daughter.

“It’s stressful,” said Gauthier, who said she’s lucky to have a few child-care options. “I can’t just take time off.”

The Royal Ontario Museum is among other organizations offering camps during the strike next week.

Gauthier called the government compensation a “ridiculous use of money” that should go toward negotiations and contract concessions. She urged the government to reverse education cuts.

“It seems like there’s a publicity campaign … to turn the parents against the teachers,” she said.

Kristine Gauthier, who has a nine-year-old daughter in the GTA, is planning her childcare options for when rotating strikes begin next week. (CBC)

SOURCE

 

How to reduce the carbon emissions from home heating

(Shutterstock)

In cold Canadian winters, many of us burn voluminous amounts of fossil fuels to keep warm. A majority of heating systems in this country are either forced-air furnaces or boilers with hot water or steam radiators — most of which burn natural gas — and nearly 70 per cent of residential energy use comes from fossil fuels.

Experts say decarbonizing heating through electrification is key to reducing our country’s carbon emissions. But for many of us, giving up our furnaces and boilers is a huge step that we may not be quite ready to take. Fortunately, there are a number of smaller measures that can cut carbon emissions from our homes.

David Turnbull, a former home builder and current manager at Enerspec Energy Consulting and Home Inspections in Edmonton, suggests addressing heating the way we approach waste: first, reduce the demand; then reuse whatever you can; and then tackle full decarbonization.

Reduce

Turnbull, who is also a board member of Built Green Canada, which focuses on improving sustainability in the residential building sector, recommends first stopping heat from leaving your home by improving the building envelope.

“That’s where you get pretty much the biggest bang for your buck up to a point,” he said.

This can be done by:

  • Sealing gaps and air leaks with things like caulking and weather stripping.
  • Improving insulation in the walls, basement and attic.
  • Installing airtight, well-insulated windows.

Turnbull said the best options for decarbonizing your heating system, such as heat pumps, either won’t meet the home’s needs or won’t be cost-effective unless you’ve already reduced heat loss.

A few other options to reduce demand include:

  • Setting your thermostat lower, especially when you’re away from home or sleeping. (Turnbull said the latter can save three to six per cent of your energy use.)
  • Depending on your system, you may be able to do “zoning,” where you heat parts of the house you’re in more than parts of the house that are unoccupied (such as the basement).
  • Choosing a smaller home.
  • Low-flow fixtures such as shower heads or tankless water heaters reduce the need to heat water.

Reuse

There are a couple of devices that can help you reuse “waste” heat:

  • Heat recovery ventilators. Once your house is air sealed and insulated, you’ll need some ventilation. Heat recovery ventilators provide this while transferring heat from the stale air leaving the house to the fresh air coming in.
  • Drain water recovery units. Turnbull said that when you typically take a hot shower, “you use that heat for truthfully a second — maybe less — and then all that heat goes down the drain.” This device recovers that heat and puts it back into your home.

Decarbonize

All done with those? The next step is looking to replace fossil fuels with efficient electric heating options such as heat pumps. (We’ll have more on this next week.)

SOURCE

RELATED:

Bloomberg unveils plan to make new buildings ‘zero-carbon’ by 2025

 

Critics Say the Green New Deal Is Too Costly. Here’s the Cost of the Status Quo.

Taxpayers are spending billions subsidizing polluting industries.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) at a press conference introducing a resolution calling for a Green New Deal, February 7, 2019. Source: Senate Democrats


Cows. Source: Pexels

Beef and Dairy

There’s enough excess cheese in the US to wrap around the Capitol building. Source: Pixabay
An airport. Source: Pixabay

Air Travel

Airplanes are a significant source of carbon pollution. Source: Pixabay 

The coal gasification plant in Kemper, Missouri. Source: XTUV0010

Coal Power

Coal. Source: Pixabay

The 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC. Source: South Bend Voice

 

One Thing We Can Do: Fix Recycling

Recycling in the United States [and Canada] is broken.

For years, we relied heavily on recycling operations in China to take our waste. But that came to an end in 2018, when Beijing barred the import of recycling materials. The result is a waste crisis that has caused at least dozens of municipalities to cancel curbside recycling programs, with many more implementing partial cuts. Huge amounts of recyclables are now going to landfills.

“When the biggest export market is no longer willing to accept your material, there’s an imbalance between supply and demand,” said David Biderman, the executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America. “That’s just Economics 101.”

So, how can we fix the system?

Experts say that we would need to implement changes across the board. Legislators may need to pass laws requiring manufacturers to use more recyclable materials, companies would need to build much-needed recycling infrastructure and people would need to recycle properly.

Cities can’t do all that. But they can play an important role.

For a possible model, consider San Francisco, which runs one of the most successful waste-management programs in the United States. Through recycling and composting, the city manages to keep around 80 percent of its waste out of landfills.

That’s much higher than the American average. In 2017, the year before the Chinese ban, American cities were recycling and composting about 35 percent of their waste. Europeans do a bit better, keeping almost half of their municipal trash out of landfills on average.

San Francisco’s program has been years in the making. In 2000, it introduced the “fantastic three” citywide curbside collection program with separate, color-coded bins for recyclables, compost and trash. In 2009, it passed a law requiring residents and businesses to separate their waste.

City inspectors monitor bins to ensure that residents sort their waste correctly and leave tags if materials are found in the wrong bin. They can impose fines if they find repeat offenders.

Other policies include bans on hard-to-recycle items including single-use plastic bags and polystyrene packaging and an ordinance requiring food vendors to use compostable or recyclable food containers.
San Francisco’s system is built on a highly unusual partnership with a single waste company. That company, Recology, has had a monopoly on handling San Francisco’s waste for almost 90 years. That no-bid, no-franchise-fee concession has come under harsh criticism over the years.

Critics say that the city could save tens of millions of dollars if it were to break up Recology’s monopoly and award waste collection and processing contracts separately.

Supporters say, why mess with a system that gets results? Having a monopoly avoids a “race to the bottom,” said Robert Haley, zero-waste manager at the San Francisco Department of the Environment, as companies cut corners to win short-term contracts instead of focusing on broader waste reduction goals.

No matter where you stand on issues like regulation and market competition, the Chinese ban means that the United States recycling system needs an overhaul.

But that might not be as bad as it sounds, Mr. Biderman said.

“The ban is a challenge for recycling programs in the United States,” he said. “But it also creates huge opportunities to invest in domestic infrastructure to receive recovered material.” SOURCE

Australia’s fires have pumped out more emissions than 100 nations combined

Climate change is driving climate change.

Fires on Australia’s Kangaroo Island have produced thick clouds of smoke.

Fires on Australia’s Kangaroo Island have produced thick clouds of smoke. NASA EARTH OBSERVATORY IMAGES BY LAUREN DAUPHIN, USING LANDSAT DATA FROM THE U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

The wildfires raging along Australia’s eastern coast have already pumped around 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further fueling the climate change that’s already intensifying the nation’s fires.

That’s more than the total combined annual emissions of the 116 lowest-emitting countries, and nine times the amount produced during California’s record-setting 2018 fire season. It also adds up to about three-quarters of Australia’s otherwise flattening greenhouse-gas emissions in 2019.

And yet, 400 million tons isn’t an unprecedented amount nationwide at this point of the year in Australia, where summer bush fires are common, the fire season has been growing longer, and the number of days of “very high fire danger” is increasing.

Wildfires emissions topped 600 million tons from September through early January during the brutal fire seasons of 2011 and 2012, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.

Wildfire emissions from September through early January, nationwide and in New South Wales.
Wildfire emissions from September through early January, nationwide and in New South Wales. COPERNICUS ATMOSPHERE MONITORING SERVICE 

But emissions are way beyond typical levels in New South Wales, where this year’s fires are concentrated. More than 5.2 million hectares (12.8 million acres) have burned across the southeastern state since July 1, according to a statement from the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Climate change doesn’t spark wildfires. But rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall dries out trees, plants, and soil, converting them into fuel that can amplify fires when they do break out.

2018 report by Australia’s national science agency and the Bureau of Meteorology concludes climate change has contributed to the nation’s worsening fire conditions, noting that average temperatures have risen more than 1 ˚C.  

In turn, these huge fires are fueling climate change. As trees and plants burn, they release the carbon stored in their trunks, leaves, branches, and roots. That creates a vicious feedback loop, as the very impacts of climate change further exacerbate it, complicating our ability to get ahead of the problem.

The fires have had devastating effects on the ground in Australia:

  •  

  • “It’s probably fairly well known that Australia’s got the world’s highest rate of extinction for mammals,” Chris Dickman, a professor of terrestrial ecology, said in an interview with National Public Radio. “It’s events like this that may well hasten the extinction process for a range of other species. So it’s a very sad time.”

    The situation grew more dangerous in recent days, as hot and windy conditions returned. Two giant fires merged into a “megafire” straddling New South Wales and Victoria, and covering some 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres). SOURCE

Should Public Transit Be Free? More Cities Say, Why Not?

Mayors are considering waiving fares for bus service as a way to fight inequality and lower carbon emissions. Critics wonder who will pay for it.Image result for nyt: Should Public Transit Be Free? More Cities Say, Why Not?

Credit…Greta Rybus for The New York Times

LAWRENCE, Mass. — Dionisia Ramos gets on the 37 bus twice a day, rooting through her handbag to dig out the fare and drop it into the slot, so it came as a shock several months ago when the bus driver reached out his hand to stop her.

“You don’t have to pay,” he said. “It’s free for the next two years.”

Ms. Ramos had never heard of anything like this: Someone was paying her bus fare? At 55, she lives on a monthly unemployment check for $235. So saving $2.40 a day, for her trip to and from community college, past the hulking mills of Lawrence’s industrial past — that meant something.

Since a pilot program began in September, use of the buses has grown by 24 percent, and the only criticism Ms. Ramos has of the Massachusetts city’s experiment with fare-free transit is that it is not permanent.

“Transportation should be free,” she said. “It’s a basic need.

The City Council in Worcester, Massachusetts’ second-largest city, expressed strong support last week for waiving fares for its buses, a move that would cost between $2 million and $3 million a year in lost fares. And fare-free transit is the splashiest policy recommendation of Michelle Wu, a Boston City Council member who is expected by many to run for mayor in 2021.

Larger experiments are underway in other parts of the country. The cities of Kansas City, Mo., and Olympia, Wash., both declared that their buses would become fare-free this year.

The argument against fare-free transit is a simple one: Who is going to pay for it?

In communities where ridership has been falling, the cost of waiving fares may be less than expected.

Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, intrigued after hearing his friend Ms. Wu speak about fare-free transit, asked his regional transit authority how much was collected on three of the city’s most-used bus lines. The answer was such a small amount — $225,000 — that he could offset it from the city’s surplus cash reserves.“What I like is the doability of this, the simplicity of it,” Mr. Rivera said. “We are already subsidizing this mode of transportation, so the final mile is very short. It isn’t a service people need to pay for; it’s a public good.”

Around 100 cities in the world offer free public transit, the vast majority of them in Europe, especially France and Poland.

A handful of experiments in the United States in recent decades, including the cities of Denver and Austin, were viewed as unsuccessful because there was little evidence that they removed cars from the road; new riders tended to be poor people who did not own cars, according to a 2012 review by the National Academies Press.

But in another sense, they were successful: They increased ridership right away, with rises between 20 and 60 percent in the first few months. That statistic accounts for its revival among a new wave of urban progressives, who see transit as a key factor in social and racial inequality.

“Think about who is using our buses: It’s black people, folks who live in communities where there are deep, deep concentrations of poverty,” said Kim Janey, who was sworn in last week as the president of Boston’s City Council and has proposed waiving fares on a key route through some of the city’s low-income neighborhoods.

“I know what it’s like to stand on the bus, all cramped up, so I won’t be late to work,” she said. “When I say more representation matters, that’s why it matters. We will bring new ideas like free buses.”

The idea also appeals to moderates in places like Worcester, which is struggling to persuade residents to use its buses. Ridership has dropped by 23 percent since 2016, and the buses now run half-empty, according to a report released in May by the Worcester Research Bureau, a nonpartisan policy group.

At a City Council meeting last week, a parade of citizens lined up to express support for a proposal to make Worcester’s buses free for three years, as a pilot program. Revenue from bus fares is so low, and the cost of collecting them so high, that it could be replaced by an infusion of $2 million to $3 million a year.

“When I heard the news I sat bolt upright and said, ‘That’s a good idea!’” said Howard Fain, a public-school teacher, who said he often saw people struggling to dig out coins on the 7 bus.

“Even people who can afford to pay for dinner love a free buffet,” he said. “Open up a cash bar and see what happens. We can draw people to public transit because people like free.”

In Boston, the idea has run into resistance from officials who say the cost would be exorbitant.

“We have to have that conversation,” said Mayor Marty Walsh, who was pressed for his position in an interview on WGBH, a Boston public radio station. “It’s easy to throw ideas out there. But when you put ideas out there, we have to back it up with how do we actually pay for it. And that’s going to be the key point to this.”

Brian Kane, deputy director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which oversees expenditures on Boston’s public transit system, said bus fares in Boston brought in $109 million in 2019 and $117 million in 2018.

“There’s no such thing as free,” Mr. Kane said. “Someone has to pay. Boston has the highest-paid bus drivers in the country. They’re not going to work for free. The fuelers, the mechanics — they’re not going to work for free.” Advocates of free transit have suggested that the cost could be offset by a gas tax increase; but replacing $109 million would mean raising the gas tax by 3 and a half cents, Mr. Kane said. And all the while, he said, the system is straining to cope with the current demands.

“I hate to be the guy who says, ‘eat your peas,’” he said. “But that’s where we are.”

Proponents of the idea argue that Mr. Kane’s numbers are inflated and that the true replacement cost would be closer to $36 million. That gap, they say, could be covered by a 2-cent rise in the gas tax.

“That’s where something controversial or impossible a few years ago now seems possible,” said Stacy Thompson, the executive director of the LivableStreets Alliance, a transportation research group.

The Boston Globe editorial board, which endorsed the idea of making Boston’s buses fare-free this month, suggested the cost could by covered by philanthropy.

Scott MacLaughlin, a ticket agent for the Merrimack Valley Transit Authority, which serves Lawrence, is already worrying about what happens when Mayor Rivera’s two-year experiment in free transit ends, in 2021.

“You’re going to take it away after two years?” he said. “When you give someone something for free and then you take it away, that’s always going to be an issue.”

And that, Mayor Rivera said with a smile, was exactly the point.

“To me, it’s not a pilot,” he said. “I want people to get used to it.”

SOURCE

RELATED:

The case for free public transit in Toronto

There are 200 cities around the world with some form of free public transit, and 97 that are completely free

How to stop freaking out and tackle climate change

Here’s a five-step plan to deal with the stress and become part of the solution.

Evan Cohen

You are scrolling through the news and see yet another story about climate change.

Australia is on fire. Indonesia is drowning. At the same time, Donald Trump is trying to make it easier to build new fossil-fuel projects.

As you read, your chest tightens and a sense of dread washes over you, radiating out from your heart. You feel anxious, afraid and intensely guilty. Just this morning, you drove a gasoline-powered car to work. You ate beef for lunch. You booked a flight, turned on the heat, forgot your reusable grocery bags at home. This is your fault.

As an environmental writer, I’m often asked for guidance on coping with climate change. I have thoughts. Even better, I have a five-point plan to manage the psychological toll of living with climate change and to become part of the solution.

Step 1: Ditch the shame.

The first step is the key to all the rest. Yes, our daily lives are undoubtedly contributing to climate change. But that’s because the rich and powerful have constructed systems that make it nearly impossible to live lightly on the earth. Our economic systems require most adults to work, and many of us must commute to work in or to cities intentionally designed to favor the automobile. Unsustainable food, clothes and other goods remain cheaper than sustainable alternatives.

And yet we blame ourselves for not being green enough. As the climate essayist Mary Annaïse Heglar writes, “The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous.” It turns eco-saints against eco-sinners, who are really just fellow victims. It misleads us into thinking that we have agency only by dint of our consumption habits — that buying correctly is the only way we can fight climate change.

As long as we are competing for the title of “greener than thou,” or are paralyzed by shame, we aren’t fighting the powerful companies and governments that are the real problem. And that’s exactly the way they like it.

Step 2: Focus on systems, not yourself.

Even if we manage to zero-out our own contributions to climate change, it would be practically a full-time job, leaving us little time or energy for pushing for the systemic changes we need. And the avoided emissions would be tiny compared with the scale of the problem. Each person in the United States emitted an average of 16 metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide in 2018, according to the Energy Information Agency. The entire country emitted 5.28 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide that year.

I have chosen to fight against a proposed gas pipeline, liquefaction facility and liquefied natural gas export terminal that the Canadian company Pembina wants to build in Oregon, where I live. If built, the project would result in emissions of over 36.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. Some 42,000 people submitted comments to a state agency asking it to deny permits for the project. If we manage to stop construction, each of those people could claim credit for preventing one forty-two-thousandth of those emissions — some 876 metric tons per person! It would take 54 years of individual zero-carbon living to make the same dent.

My point is that the climate crisis is not going to be solved by personal sacrifice. It will be solved by electing the right people, passing the right laws, drafting the right regulations, signing the right treaties — and respecting those treaties already signed, particularly with indigenous nations. It will be solved by holding the companies and people who have made billions off our shared atmosphere to account.

Step 3: Join an effective group.
These sweeping, systemic changes are complicated and will be hard won. No single person alone can make them happen. Luckily, there are already dozens, if not hundreds, of groups dedicated to climate activism. Some are local and focused on stopping particular fossil-fuel projects, like Rogue Climate in Southern Oregon, with which I am working. Others are national and focused on changing federal policy, like Zero Hour and the Sunrise Movement. Still others, like Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future, are international and focused on putting moral pressure on climate negotiators and governments around the world. Groups like Project Drawdown research the nuts and bolts of decarbonizing the world. Climate change is linked to income inequality and injustice, so if your passion is fighting for racial justice, the rights of the poor, or indigenous rights and sovereignty, that works, too. Or you might volunteer for a climate-focused local or national political candidate.

 

Step 4: Define your role.

The power of these groups is not simply strength in numbers. They work well because they divide up the work that needs to be done and give each task to those best suited to it. This also makes the fight less daunting. Instead of trying to become an expert in international regulatory law, global supply chains, atmospheric science and the art of protest, you can offer the skills and resources you already have, and trust that other people with complementary skills are doing what they can do, too. If you are a writer, you can write letters to the editor, newsletters and fliers. If you are strong, you can lift boxes. If you are rich, you can donate money. Only you know what and how much you can reasonably do. Take care not to overdo it at first and risk burning out. Set a sustainable level of involvement for yourself and keep it up. As a bonus, working with a group will increase the richness and diversity of your personal relationships, and may well temper your climate anxiety and depression.

Step 5: Know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against.

Even though keeping global warming under 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) would absolutely be better than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) of warming, there is no threshold that means that it is “too late” or that we are “doomed.” The lower, the better. It is always worth fighting.

As we fight, it is important for our mental health and motivation to have an image in mind of our goal: a realistically good future.

Imagine dense but livable cities veined with public transit and leafy parks, infrastructure humming away to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, fake meat that tastes better than the real thing, species recovering and rewilding the world, the rivers silver with fish, the skies musical with flocking birds.

This is a future where the economic inequality, racism and colonialism that made decades of inaction on climate change possible has been acknowledged and is being addressed. It is a time of healing. Many ecosystems have changed, but natural resilience and thoughtful human assistance is preventing most species from going extinct. This is a future in which children don’t need to take to the streets in protest and alarm, because their parents and grandparents took action. Instead, they are climbing trees.

This future is still possible. But it will only come to pass if we shed our shame, stop focusing on ourselves, join together and demand it. SOURCE