Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten
Credits: ANTONELLA ARTUSO/QMI AGENCY
Until now, the Education Minister has been cheerful, smiling and confident whenever she talked to reporters.
You got the feeling she felt in control.
On Wednesday, the strain started to tell. She started to sound testy, frazzled even.
Reporters asked Broten about the teachers who are refusing to take part in extra-curricular activities at schools across the province.
Did the government really think there'd be no repercussions when they forced through such controversial legislation? That these powerful unions they worked so hard to woo on-side would simply roll over for them?
Broten urged teachers to take out their angst on the government, not on students.
"I'm very disappointed with the fact that extra-curricular activities are being cancelled for students and I'm yet again asking teachers to put students first and to ensure that they're not part of this conversation," she told reporters.
Well that's fine talk, but it's not going to bring back the football team or the chess club.
This was all about politics. It was about positioning the government going into two tough by-elections.
New Democratic leader Andrea Horwath was able to quietly rub salt in Broten's wounds.
"Here we have a government that rushed through legislation in the middle of a by-election claiming it was going to create peace and stability in the classroom come the first day of school and we see the exact opposite," Horwath said.
"It had nothing to do with peace in the classroom. It had everything to do with their own political fortunes."
Students plan to protest at Queen's Park on Saturday.
Some teachers have even cut their participation in charity fund-raisers.
Fair enough; you can't force people to volunteer.
But you do start to wonder just who the adults are here.
My children suffered through the strikes and bans on extra-curriculars during the Mike Harris years. A whole generation of young people had what should have been a fulfilling school experience turned into a spiteful standoff that put them in the middle.
So here we go again.
Premier Dalton McGuinty told us he wanted to be the Education Premier. He poured money into pay and perks and costly programs like full-day kindergarten, then suddenly slammed on the brakes.
As PC leader Tim Hudak pointed out, he's increased spending on education by $8.5 billion.
"We have 250,000 fewer students in school, so a lot more spending, a lot fewer students and we're seeing test scores actually go down and extra curriculars being cancelled," Hudak told reporters.
Just who are the adults in the school system?
The teacher unions told us it wasn't about their pay and perks. They were protecting the kids by fighting the government.
What a lot of Crayola that turned out to be.
The first people they round on once the legislation is passed are - you guessed it - kids.
For some youngsters, the only thing that gets them out of bed and off to school is the notion that there's a basketball practice at the end of the day.
And teachers have had it quite good over the past nine years of McGuinty's government.
No one begrudges them a decent pay and pension, but when the economy starts to sag, it's not unreasonable to expect them to hold the line.
So kids lose their school sports - and the adults play games with them.
You want a football club? The government uses students as a political footballs in their ploy to win by-elections.
And the chess club? Well, the teachers are using students as pawns in their battle with the government.
Welcome to the extra-curriculars of politics.