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Dalton McGuinty pleads with teachers to return to extracurricular activities

Embattled Premier Dalton McGuinty is urging teachers to “do what they’ve always done” and provide extracurricular activities in schools.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday at George Brown College in Toronto, McGuinty pleaded with teachers to return to coaching and running school clubs despite their outrage with anti-union legislation.

The premier reminded them their “beef” is with the Liberal government and not students in classrooms.

“Teachers can do whatever they want, of course, at election time. What I’m saying is let’s save it for election time,” he said.

It was his first media availability since his minority Liberals joined forces with the Progressive Conservatives Tuesday to ram through legislation freezing teachers’ wages, banning strikes for two years, cutting sick days in half to 10 annually, and ending the practice of banking sick days to cash them out upon retirement.

In response, some 136,000 Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario and Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation members have launched a one-day protest across the province.

They’re refusing to do voluntary extracurricular activities and high school teachers are wearing black clothes or black armbands.

McGuinty also addressed Municipal Affairs Minister Kathleen Wynne’s criticism of her own government on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

“Believe me, there will be internal discussion about that,” Wynne told CBC. “We’ve got to take some lessons.”

“I’m very supportive of Kathleen’s comments,” McGuinty said, referring to Wynne’s decrying of the Liberals’ heavyhanded strategy with the teachers’ unions, which contributed to last Thursday’s by-election loss in Kitchener-Waterloo.

The minister, widely seen as a potential successor to McGuinty, made her statements as Liberals gear up for a leadership review vote in Ottawa on Sept. 29.

“I have no magic number in mind and I’ll leave it up to the good people of my party,” the premier said, joking that support of “50.0001 per cent would be fine with me.”

McGuinty, party chief since 1996 and premier for nine years, added he “absolutely” plans to lead the Liberals into the next election, which could come as early as spring.

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