The education minister found herself on the defensive at Queen’s Park Tuesday, under fire for payouts to unions to cover bargaining expenses.
The Opposition demanded the government apologize to parents and students.
The payments are now believed to add up to about $7 million. The money doesn’t have to be accounted for through receipts.
The government said the payments allowed the negotiation of net-zero contracts, meaning salary increases are offset by savings elsewhere.
Liz Sandals was asked why the money would go out, without accountability.
“The accountability is net-zero,” she responded.
Sandals described the payments as compensation to the unions for the length of what she called “historic negotiations”.
Global News asked repeatedly whether the net-zero contracts justified not requiring receipts.
“We came to an agreement with our partners; it was part of a new process,” said Sandals.
The Opposition continued to criticize the payouts.
“This is inappropriate. Nowhere in Ontario is it appropriate to have major expenses with no receipts,” said PC Leader Patrick Brown.
Among those who received funding are the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, teachers working for the French board and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association.
In contrast, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario said it has not accepted any government funding related to bargaining; it pays its own expenses.
Money has been paid to the Ontario Public School Board’s Association, which does the bargaining for the boards.
Its president said in their case, they absolutely have to provide receipts, and said the money goes toward things like hiring staff and paying per diems.
“There’s a very, very strong audit process for the reimbursement of expenses,” said Michael Barrett.
The Opposition said that in the interest of transparency the government should request the same of every union that receives funding.