About heffernan

High school teacher - History and Social Studies

Ontario election: The devils you know and the ones you don’t know

Debs..I'd rather votevote smart

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” It’s an appealing argument, especially when the proposed course of action implies a favourable electoral outcome.  For those on the left in Ontario, the unkown devil would be Tim Hudak. The prospect of his victory in the next election is regularly invoked to make progressive minded people cringe and consider voting for a party that is not their natural first choice.

Niagara – Strategic voting (SV) has been around for years and goes like this: parties, unions and interest groups will target ridings where, in the last election, the margin separating the first and second place candidates was small. In these ridings, supporters of those parties which came in behind the two front runners will be told, “Don’t waste your vote. Vote strategically. Vote for the candidate that is best placed to defeat the PCs”

In this context, it’s interesting to examine the riding of Niagara Falls where there was a by-election on February 6. In the Forum poll, the week before the by-election there, voter intentions appeared as: NDP 38 % Tories  36 % Liberals 19 % Greens 3%

Voting smart –Looking at the above, those SV enthusiasts on the left would have come to the following conclusion: it’s going to be a close call, we have to convince a good number of Liberals and Greens to switch their votes to the NDP. The phone calls would have gone out “latest polls show the NDP guy is only 2% ahead of the PCs.  Surely you don’t want to wake up on Friday morning to find that that this gap has been closed and that Niagara is sending a PC to Queen’s Park.” And that -“vote smart” message  would have been specifically aimed at Liberal supporters, the 19% who, a few days before E-day, were still planning to vote according “to their guts and not their brains”. i.e. those who were still parked outside the SV camp. For, if you look at the numbers above, it is clear that a good number of voters in Niagara had already decided to vote strategically. How else to explain 3% for Green voting intentions when a different poll, taken outside of an election context, would show their support at 7-10%. How else to explain a projected Liberal vote of 19%  when the Liberal vote, between 1990-2011 in Niagara, averaged out at 38%.

Are the members listening? The question is: does the SV message, when delivered to union members, get heeded and, if it does, what is the impact on the actual vote? When the member gets the SV robocall from the union president, a common reaction will be “Screw you, I’m voting how I want to vote.” The funny thing is that the SV proponents delude themselves into thinking that not only can they persuade their members to vote the “smart” way, they believe that the actual realization of their exhortations could make a difference. Let’s look at how the Niagara vote went on February 6. NDP 39% Tories  37% Liberals 19 % Greens 3% Not much difference from the Forum poll on voter intentions a week before. And the comment in the Toronto Star: the next day: “Polls had suggested Gates (NDP) would win a landslide, but Maves (PC)kept it close as many Liberal voters appeared to rally to the Tories to stop the NDP.”

Etobicoke North: Take one more riding, Etobicoke North, where in this coming election, the NDP challenger, Nigel Bariffe is an elementary teacher, an ETT and community activist. In 2011, the results were as follows: Lib: 12, 082 (share of vote 48%) PC: 6,065 (share of vote 24%) NDP: 5,420 (share of vote 21%) So for the brilliant mathematicians of strategic voting, the analysis goes like this: the incumbent Liberal is threatened by the second placed PC. To push the NDP in the riding is more likely to take votes from the Liberals, thus potentially offering a scenario where the PC guy walks up the middle and wins. Conclusion, we don’t work for anybody in the riding but we advise our members to “vote smart” to keep the PC guy out. So, it’s all cut and dried – no possibility of looking at the forces on the ground and saying, “look, the NDP guy was only 600 votes behind the PCs in 2011; this time we’ve got a good lefty NDP candidate who, with union support, could mobilize a lot of activists to come out and work for him; we have a real chance, if not of winning, at least of pushing the PCs into third place.” And the conclusion? Yes, many voters do vote strategically. The point is, however, that there are as many SV folks on the right trying to keep an NDPer out as there are people on the left trying to keep out a PC. And the other conclusion? Eugene Debs, the American trade union leader and socialist, nailed it when he said 150 years ago, “I would rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want and get it.” And if you want a good socialist analysis of the Ontario election, read this from Socialist Alternative, Canada

Ontario Election 2014: All three parties failing workers: Unions need to prepare to fight Austerity

Tim Heffernan retired secondary school teacher; former Executive Officer, Secondary Teachers’ Bargaining Unit, OSSTF District 12 (Toronto)


Toronto Plaza Hotel victory

Picket line_Aug7_PeterTor Plaza picket line_2Picket line_2_Aug_TimLabour Day coincided with the announcement of the settlement of the strike of workers at the Toronto Plaza Hotel. The issues behind the strike are explained here. REWT supporters in Toronto can be proud of the role they played in supporting the strikers, through raising awareness and money.
Individual members:
– visited the picket lines;
– stayed as “guests” in the hotel to distribute pro striker flyers to clients’ rooms;
-started an online petition to gather support for the strikers;
-wrote a guest blog entry on the blog of OECTA activist David Chiarelli;
– raised the strikers’ issues at the teacher conferences of ETFO and OSSTF in August;
– were the key players at those conferences to persuade the unions to make donations (over $8,000) to the strikers.

The “T” of REWT


REWT's first airing

Reflecting the increasing support for REWT beyond the place where it all started, REWT  now officially stands for “Rank and file Education Workers Together”.  The new banner was aired at a REWT meeting in Toronto on Sunday, September 1st and it will get its first public outing at the 2013 Toronto Labour Day parade

Churchill speaks

Afternoon of August 17, at the Churchill statue, in Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto. From left to right: Janice Patterson (OSSTF D12); Andy Wilson (OSSTF D25); Tim Heffernan (OSSTF D12), Sebastien Bernard (ETT);
Photographer: Jason Liaw (ETT)

This small gathering represents symbolic defiance of the claim of Pierre Cote, General Secretary of OSSTF, that Tim Heffernan’s use of the OSSTF flag is a violation of OSSTF’s common law trademark rights.
Churchill_you have enemies

Some angry petitioners

sign the petitionAt the time of writing, we have 101 signatories to the petition aimed at Paul Elliot, requesting that he and  OSSTF disassociate themselves from Ken Coran and his Liberal party candidacy in the London West by-election (and where Ken came in a miserable third place last week).

You may say 101 is a puny number in the light of OSSTF’s 60,000 membership. And you’d be right. You may conclude that a seeming failure to garner more names to the petition is an indication that most OSSTF members are happy with or indifferent to what Coran has done. And you’d be wrong. Well you might have a point about indifference since the majority of OSSTF members, more than ever, are indifferent, cynical and/ or apathetic. Oops, am I being too negative? I should perhaps use the term “disengaged”, the euphemism they prefer to employ at 60 Mobile Drive, Toronto (home of provincial OSSTF).

But I digress. 100+ is indeed a puny number. But in defence of the puny, it is quite a challenge to reach 60,000 people over the summer months when the only communication means at our disposal is social media with all the randomness and “scatter gunnishness”  which goes with that beast. Not that I would expect Pierre Cote (OSSTF General Secretary) or OSSTF District leaders to hand over private e-mail lists of members so that they could be solicited by the likes of me. After all, electronic communication with the membership is reserved mainly for selling an MOU or scaring people to vote for said MOU with “arguments” about our legal challenge to Bill 115 being undermined if we vote no.

Anyway, 101 is better than nothing. Every time someone signed, Paul Elliot should have received an e-mail indicating this and also the comments, if any, the petitioners made. As organizer of the petition, I am privy to those comments. Here are some of them which I have made anonymous by blanking out names:

Before you read on, the petition is still active and can be accessed by this link:




• Paul, why wouldn’t you meet with us? Member engagement is always an issue within the union, yet your inaction disengages members further. Your tenure as OSSTF President has just started, and you have already stumbled. Coran’s decision to join the enemy is wrong, wrong, wrong. The citizens of London West know this –that’s why he is trailing in the polls in 3rd place, with a mere 17% of the vote. By staying silent, you have backed a candidate who, in addition to losing, is perceived as an opportunist whose interests are purely selfish. You may think that by staying silent, you are staying out of the controversy, but by staying silent, you are condoning Coran’s actions. Coran is setting a precedent for future OSSTF Presidents, and that is unacceptable.

• Although recently retired, for 20 years I was an active leader within the Federation. There was a time when O.S.S.T.F. was widely viewed as the strongest and most principled defender of teachers and of public education in the province of Ontario. We didn’t always win but we seldom had to apologize. Sadly, actions such as Coran’s decision to run for the Liberals have served to breed cynicism and contempt. Public education needs a strong O.S.S.T.F. and its time for the current leadership to show that strength by disavowing Coran’s actions. Lots of folks are listening and continued silence from the top will echo forward for a very long time.

• Because our union should put members first, not the political aspirations of its politician class.

• Just had supper with an ETFO provincial rep and they can not believe it either. As an ETFO member, I look at Coran’s candidacy for the Liberal Party as a betrayal of all we fought for in opposing Bill 115, and a tacit endorsement of what this government has done to all teachers and other education workers. Malcolm Buchanan has asked you to take a principled stand, and if you have principles and really do oppose Bill 115, you must publicly oppose Coran’s opportunistic run for the Liberals, distance OSSTF from him, and follow his former position and endorse the NDP. Perhaps you would like to see the Conservatives win this riding?

• Dear Paul, As our new President it is imperative to make a stand against the actions of Ken Coran running as a Liberal MP. His very actions are now threatening the possibility of a strong NDP candidate from being elected in that riding. His actions are nothing but selfish. The optics of Ken running reek of disloyalty to our Union, regardless of his intentions. Your silence against this issue is acceptance. By you making a stand against his actions this allows us to have faith in our Union and your leadership.

• Ken’s actions are a conflict of interest to the OSSTF union. He has weakened the bonds of solidarity of our Union, by endorsing the actions of the very enemy, who rob us of our constitutional collective bargaining rights, and in doing so, has aligned with that enemy. Failing to be transparent with his members, he has lost our trust. The strength of our Union relies on the Solidarity of the Union, which, in turn, needs to be rebuilt. This can only begin once the Union publically disassociates itself from Coran’s actions. Ken Coran’s actions MUST NOT be endorsed!

• Coran’s opportunistic politics and strategies were no match against the severity of the imposed contract. We must disassociate ourselves to maintain the integrity of our union against opportunism.

• I am appalled at the silence from PE. Say something!

• Very fishy timing. Ken was approached by OLP while local negotiations were still occurring and the implementation of the MOU terms were underway. This reflects badly on the membership of OSSTF. The public already has a poor view of educational workers, and their relationship with the Liberals (see Working Family Coalition). Our union needs to stand firmly, with solidarity, against the OLP for the next few years in order to prevent “Bill 116”.

• I feel Ken’s inaction on bill 115 and suspicious timing of his entry into the liberal enclave proves complicity with Liberal government for his own gain at the cost of millions of dollars of lost wages, benefits and the right to strike! I think we should push for a public inquiry to have him charged with conflict of interest.

• I am an OSSTF member. I am ashamed to be part of an organization that allows such conflicts of interest to occur behind closed doors.

• I feel that Ken is a rat.

• It’s important because the of stink it on Mr. Coran and the liberal party. As well, our “leaders” have a duty to us, not themselves which this clearly is. Lastly, how much credibility does anyone in this current government or Mr. Coran now have in education. They are just enriching themselves at our expense.

• I really liked Ken but this move, so soon after our struggle is a slap in the face to all OSSTF members.

• I strongly oppose Ken’ s move.

• You make us look ridiculous. This is as self-serving as the ‘secret vote’ you engineered –ostensibly in order to garner the part nomination.

• What a great legacy.

• From a long term perspective, Coran’s cosying to the Liberals shows the current political action strategy of OSSTF to be totally ineffective. To negotiate well, political pressure is a necessity. If the Federation is perceived to be as impotent as a eunuch or castrati, no government – Liberal, Conservative or NDP will take the Federation seriously when it negotiates. Furthermore, as long as the Federation buys into the nonsense of a provincial table for negotiations, teachers will find their working conditions and remuneration eroded. Remember what you negotiate has a huge impact on your future pension and your future pension contributions. What Coran did and the silence or perhaps the tacit connivance of OSSTF is Gomperism at its worst.

• Feeling betrayed by Ken Coran’s “leadership” and needing some sort of a sign from Paul Elliot as to where he stands!

• The obvious conflict of interest here causes one to suspect that the interests of the OSSTF members have been sold out for Ken’s personal benifi

• While Ken Coran got what he deserved in the election results, the OSSTF needs to state and maintain a principled stand in favour of candidates who will fight for a fully funded public education system and expose the great harm Austerity is doing to education and our economy in general. Ken Coran joined a party that clearly supports destructive austerity measures.

“Suppressing the vote” in London West

At the end of the car flyering session Around 4:00pm, the guys from "Justice for Injured Workers" show up to protest outside Ken Coran's office. They are pleased to be joined by 2 OSSTF activists (the third is busy at a nearby hospital parking lot, flyering the cars of health workers there with "Don't Vote Liberal" slips.

At the end of the car flyering session
Around 4:00pm, the guys from “Justice for Injured Workers” show up to protest outside Ken Coran’s office. They are pleased to be joined by 2 OSSTF activists (the third is busy at a nearby hospital parking lot, flyering the cars of health workers there with “Don’t Vote Liberal” slips.

The dreaded flyer that got the Lib campaign workers all upset. In case you didn't know, asking someone to not vote for a party/candidate amounts to "voter suppression". That campaign worker obviously was not paying attention in his Grade 10 Civics class.
The dreaded flyer that got the Lib campaign workers all upset.
In case you didn’t know, asking someone to not vote for a party/candidate amounts to “voter suppression”. That campaign worker obviously was not paying attention in his Grade 10 Civics class.

Tim Heffernan and I (Janice Patterson), travelled to London on Saturday July 27th to see what we could do to spread the “don’t vote for Coran” message.  It was Pride Week and we met up with Andy Wilson from Ottawa at the Pride fairgrounds.  The weather was rainy off and on.  We had lunch at Veg Out, which served one of the best vegan meals I have ever had, and planned our afternoon.

Andy had come to London, equipped with a stack of flyers that he had designed and printed.  The title of the flyer was, “Don’t Vote For Coran”.

After lunch, we decided to canvass Coran’s riding of London West.  At first, we decided we were going to canvass an apartment building in the riding, in order to stay out of the inclement weather.  But we didn’t have a riding map, so we drove to Coran’s campaign office to obtain one.  We then had a change of mind and decided to put flyers on the cars in the parking lot of the plaza that Coran’s office was located in.  Andy went into the office while Tim and I started putting flyers on windshields.  I guess I jumped the gun and the campaign staff denied a map to Andy.  You see, I had been putting flyers on the cars right in front of Coran’s office.

The staff were upset with me, to say the least.  One campaign worker came out and took the flyer off her windshield and slammed it into my hands, scream at me, “My two daughters are teachers and we want jobs!”  I couldn’t and still cannot fathom how voting for Coran would result in jobs for her daughters.  Her reasoning seemed rather selfish to me.  She then threatened me not to put a flyer back on her vehicle.  I ignored her.  I continued to put flyers on the vehicles and another campaign team member began taking the flyers off the vehicles as I put them on.  I asked her if she owned all of the vehicles and she said they all belonged to Coran’s workers.  She gave me back the flyers, which I re-used and put them on other vehicles in the parking lot.

Andy came out of Coran’s office to report that we had no riding map to work with.

We intended to go to adjacent plaza parking lots and put flyers on cars.  However, two male members of Coran’s staff went around the parking lot, removing the flyers we had placed on windshields.  I could understand them removing flyers from their own vehicles, but they had no business removing them from all the cars.  I called out to the two men and told them they didn’t own the cars and that the had no right to remove the flyers.  One of the men yelled back that we were committing voter suppression.  I countered that this was Canada and not Russia, and he yelled something unintelligible.

At this point, Andy decided to go to an adjacent parking lot – at the least the flyers would remain on the cars there.

Tim and I continued to re-flyer the cars in the lot, while several Coran campaign workers stood outside and watched us and took pictures.

In the meantime, Tim confronted the men removing the flyers, and a little set-to occurred. One of Coran’s workers claimed that giving out a flyer with the demand to vote against the Liberals amounted to vote suppression!!  Then Tim was approached by a woman who told him off about placing flyers on car windshield and claimedthat I had pushed the flyer while she was driving and that she almost ran over my toes.  This was a complete lie.  But her irrational behaviour didn’t stop there. I later saw her talking with one of the women from Coran’s office.

A little while after this, Tim was re-flyering the cars in front of Staples and National Sports and this same woman took them off the cars and then tore them up and threw the pieces up into the air.  I was on the other side of the parking lot and made my way over to help Tim pick up the torn flyers.  Tow truck drivers who had been parked in the lot for at least an hour witnessed this woman and called out to her that what she did was wrong.  Three National Sports employees, one of which was a manager, were upset with the woman and provided me with her license plate number as well as make and model of car.

One campaign worker, at least, had a sense of humour.  They placed a Coran flyer on the windshield of my car.  It was signed, “Sorry I missed you.  Ken Coran”.

Andy rejoined us and the three of us went into Coran’s office and spoke to one of the campaign workers about the woman who tore up the flyers.  The worker was rude to us.  When Tim asked her how Coran’s campaign was going, she said with a straight face, “It’s going great!”  We countered with something to the effect that you think 17% of the vote is great?  We left the office and told her to say hi to Ken for us. I gave her my name, but I have a suspicion she won’t pass it on to Coran.

At 4 o’clock, several men set up their WSIB protest in front of Coran’s office.  We stayed for about a half-hour but the rain started to really pelt down, so we called it a day.

I believe that removing campaign literature is an offense under the Elections Act, and I am going to send Ken Coran an email.  I’ll post his response.  Stay tuned.  I’ll keep you posted.

From left to right: Andy Wilson (OSSTF District 25, Ottawa); Tim Heffernan (OSSTF District 12, Toronto); Janice Patterson (OSSTF District 12, Toronto) At "Veg Out", great vegan restaurant

From left to right: Andy Wilson (OSSTF District 25, Ottawa); Tim Heffernan (OSSTF District 12, Toronto); Janice Patterson (OSSTF District 12, Toronto)
At “Veg Out”, great vegan restaurant