Bill 28: Ford government shows it has no respect for democracy

By Lindsay Advocate

By David Rapaport

The Ontario government has introduced Bill 28, an act to prevent and outlaw strike action by 55,000 education workers across the province. In a very draconian manner, it is including the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian constitution as well as imposing a new collective agreement ending meaningful bargaining. 

It is becoming more and more evident that the Doug Ford-led, Progressive Conservative Party government at Queen’s Park has little respect or understanding of basic democratic notions. 

The notwithstanding trigger in the Canadian Charter is meant to be used for extraordinary purposes only. The provincial or federal governments may use the trigger in cases where an abridgment or denial of Charter rights is acknowledged but deemed necessary. Much like the federal government Emergency Act, people’s rights are being denied because of extenuating circumstances. 

In its first four decades, no Ontario government has used the notwithstanding clause. That came to an end in 2018.    

The disregard for democracy by the Ford government is nothing new. It halved City of Toronto council seats in the middle of the 2018 municipal election with no consultations. It established strong mayor models for Ottawa and Toronto with no consultations. It diminished third party election-financing rights with no consultations.  In all cases, the notwithstanding clause was either used or threatened. 

On Monday, October 31st the Ford government introduced ‘back-to-work’ legislation to preclude or make illegal a threatened strike by Ontario education workers, represented by CUPE. And once again, the Ford government included the notwithstanding clause in the legislation. In other words, CUPE or any other union or party cannot launch a court challenge with the claim that Bill 28 violates the Charter, collective bargaining rights for workers. Imposing a contract adds insult to injury. 

For decades, Canadian workers and unions fought for full and free collective bargaining rights, up to and including the right-to-strike in the public sector. It is well recognized in international forums, including the International Labour Organization and the United Nations that collective bargaining rights are fundamental democratic rights.  It is a major tool for attaining some sense of justice and equity at work.

Is a public sector strike inconvenient for Ontario citizens? Indeed it is. But like most political disputes, there is always nuance or complexity. Do we wish to deny basic democratic rights to those who work for us? Do we want the power of the government to impose compensation levels and working conditions for public sector workers? We already have guardrails in preventing or limiting public sector collective bargaining. Essential services workers are precluded from striking or being locked out. That includes work and services that protect our health and lives and work that is environmentally important.   

In 2018, the Ford government enacted Bill 124 limiting annual wage increases in the public sector to 1%. A strong argument can be made that this is the basis of the current troubles. Salary levels for public sector workers have been pegged at low levels.  

It is sad and ironic that Mr. Ford is using the courts to avoid testifying at the Emergency Act hearings in Ottawa. Yet, by using or threatening to use the notwithstanding clause he sees emergencies in places where they do not exist. 

–David Rapaport is a Lindsay resident and lecturer at Trent University.


  1. Barbara Langer says:

    Our severe problems with a lack of nursing staff in our hospitals is a direct result of Ford’s Bill 124, restricting nurses salaries to 1% increases. No wonder nurses can’t be hired here! The slogan “From Heroes to Zeroes” is very appropriate. Now, he’s doing the same with educators. I volunteered in a local Lindsay public school for 3 years leading up to Covid and these support staff (& teachers, of course) have very difficult jobs, supervising children with special needs, along with all others, among many other tasks. Sometimes, there are children who require 3 or more adults to assist with their care. Aren’t our children worth the money? They are our future. Don’t these educators deserve a living wage?

  2. Anne MacDonald says:

    Cannot believe this is Ontario.
    You get what you pay for- a good living wage will help attract and keep quality people in this very important profession. Do the math.

  3. Hugh Armstrong says:

    Increasingly voting statistics reflect that fewer people are doing so — imperilling the health of our democracy. To take it for granted or to maintain that one vote will not make any difference is both being complacent and a lazy cop-out! If only they could become interested in reading articles like this one by David Rapaport, they would become better informed and see the imperative of expending the energy to actually VOTE. How else can democratic principles be maintained and enhanced?

  4. Mark Doble says:

    Regardless of how one may feel about unions, the free collective bargaining process is a basic democratic right. But in point of fact, our sense of outrage goes well beyond the issue of whether or not one approves of unions or collective bargaining. That a government would so casually utilize such a draconian method of enforcement is utterly unconscionable. The use of the Notwithstanding Clause has plunged us into a constitutional crisis that renders the Rule of Law virtually meaningless. Citizens of every political stripe should be chilled to the bone!

  5. D'Arcy McGee says:

    Interesting to note that Rapaport’s article has no mention of the harm COPE’s ridiculous wage demands are inflicting on the children of this province. An increase of almost 50% over 4 years is unrealistic & borders on insanity.Their thinking is obviously based on using the kids as pawns after 2 years of chaos during the pandemic They thought the had the advantage & the government would rollover to their demands. These are part time employees, who get extraordinary benefits & only work about 9 months a year. I’m fed up with public sector workers constantly holding a gun to the head of the of our government, & indeed the taxpayers of this province. The nurses of our province are the individuals who deserve a larger raise

    • B Masterton says:

      I followed your argument until the end where you said nurses deserve a large increase. Both nurses and educational workers were subject to unreasonable wage freezes and restraint. We will see what the negotiations bring. Certainly CUPE was demonstrating how poorly paid education workers were treated and that the last 8 to 10 years of wage restraint made them loose 10 to 20 percent of ground compared to private sector wage increase rates. Why are nurses mor deserving than education workers?

  6. F. Morris says:

    Ah if only we had the great and all-seeing wisdom to pick and choose who deserves a raise like this commentator. And to be able to look into minds and see the evil manipulative motivations of others, truly a gift that must be shared with others. I also admire the ability our commentator seems to have acquired to survive 12 months on 9 months of income, a feat that borders on magic, or is it insanity?

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