News / Halifax

Premier not surprised by teacher strike, says bill will return 'normalcy' to classrooms

Premier Stephen McNeil said the Liberals are acting in the best interests of teachers by ending work-to-rule and setting up a council on working conditions.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil talks with reporters in St. John's on Thursday, July 16, 2015.

The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil talks with reporters in St. John's on Thursday, July 16, 2015.

Premier Stephen McNeil attempted to strike a conciliatory tone with teachers after news the union had called for a walkout on Friday.

“When I became premier, the one place I thought I could make a difference was in the classroom,” he said during the State of the Province address Wednesday in front of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) called for the strike in light of the government’s decision to table a bill that would impose a contract on teachers. The legislation came after the membership overwhelmingly rejected a third agreement last Thursday.

“We knew that there was always potential of a strike,” McNeil told reporters after the speech.

“It’s my hope that the opposition parties will help us move this legislation forward, and get back to some level of normalcy in the classroom.”

McNeil claimed to understand the discontent among teachers, but said the sentiments date back to before his tenure.

“I walked into a powder keg of 20-plus years of frustrations,” he said during the address.

McNeil said teachers had told him they did not feel represented on either side of the negotiation table between the government and the union. The legislation, which includes a committee on working conditions, “will allow nine teachers from across the province to come in and directly have input,” he said.

The premier said his government has put more money into education with each budget, but cautioned that growth across the public sector needed to be curbed.

“These are tough times,” he told the crowd in stark contrast to his overwhelmingly positive address, which included talk of balanced budgets, trade deals, and record levels of immigration.

“But I want reassure all of you, classrooms in this province require investment, and our government has and will continue to invest in classrooms and programs for our kids.”

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