Question: What are the implications of the election of a Liberal majority government for Alberta’s teachers, the Association and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation?
Answer: There are likely to be significant changes. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a platform that included the provision of a tax benefit for teachers. Called the Teacher and Early Childhood Educator School Supply Tax Benefit, the benefit will apply to school supply expenditures of up to $1,000 per year, providing a cash benefit of up to $150 per year. The campaign platform stated that the benefit would be introduced effective the 2015 year, but this will require parliamentary approval. The platform provides examples of expenses that would be covered by the benefit, including items for science experiments, specialized art supplies, puzzles and games, posters, bulletin board materials, etc.
Trudeau also promised to repeal legislation that targeted unions. Bill 377, purportedly a private member’s bill but backed by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s office, was approved by the Senate this past summer, on the cusp of the election call, and implements very extensive reporting obligations for all unions in Canada. The Alberta Teachers’ Association would need to add several staff positions to manage the reporting requirements, including the release of information about contractors, procurement, political donations (the Association is strictly non-partisan and does not make political contributions), disbursements to officers and details on expenses of $5,000 or more in order to make transparent to the public the implications of the tax deductible nature of union dues.
Of course, the real agenda of the bill was to diminish the capacity of unions and to provide valuable information about each union to other groups. Trudeau told the Canadian Labour Congress this week that the bill would be repealed, along with Bill 525, which made it harder to establish and easier to decertify a union in the federal public sector. This is very good news for Alberta’s teachers.
The new government also made promises to restore Canada’s international reputation, with a commitment to enhanced international development work. It is unclear at this point what this might mean for the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, but there is every prospect for increased opportunities to engage in developmental work around the world. The Harper government eliminated funding for international development work in the education sector, decimating CTF’s international programs, which had received federal funding for 50 years. (The funding was reallocated to improve trade opportunities in Morocco.) There are very good reasons for optimism on this file.
The Liberal party was not the only party to propose significant increased support for children and families, and there may be implications from these initiatives for teachers. When there is a greater federal investment in children and families, more children will come to school ready to learn. A commentator at recent meetings of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation indicated that, if the new government proceeds as promised, 300,000 Canadian children will no longer be in poverty. That’s good news for teachers, too.
So we do anticipate some changes, under the Trudeau government, that will provide a teacher tax benefit, improved financial support for children and families and new opportunities in international development work, which will be of interest to our members and teachers across the country. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).