Open Letter and OSSTF Candidate Questionnaire

The following letter and questionnaire was sent to all declared candidates for OSSTF President, Vice-President, Executive Officer, Treasurer, OTF Governor and OTF Table Officer. If an email address could not be found for a candidate, we contacted them through social media.

The deadline has been extended to March 6, since some candidates have said they did not receive it.

Again, our sincere gratitude for the engagement of the candidates.

To the Candidates seeking election to OSSTF Provincial positions at AMPA 2017:

Thank you for your courage to put your names forward for leadership positions. We appreciate your willingness to take the risk and participate fully in the democratic process of elections.

Just over two years ago, the Educators Climate Alliance (ECA) was formed and launched a divestment campaign aimed at pressuring the OTPP and OMERS to divest from fossil fuels. Since then, many conversations have taken place and much has transpired globally in a world-wide divestment movement.  Since Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline clash, the divestment movement has broadened to include the Big Banks that fund these destructive projects. At this point, we are not asking for divestment from the banks, but motions going to AMPA 2017 through OSSTF Limestone District 27 are asking again for divestment from fossil fuels. The motions can be found on the ECA website here.

“Indigenous Peoples are standing up to protect land, water and our collective future: not only for us but for the very existence of the human race.” – Crystal Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree

Examples of Indigenous movements and First Nations on the front lines:

RAVEN – Beaver Lake Cree – Tar Sands Trial

Elsipogtog stands up to fracking

Chard Métis Society VS TransCanada

Idle No More

Indigenous Rising

Will OSSTF stand with First Nations and all Indigenous Peoples and put people and the planet over profit?

We think that OSSTF  has the capacity to be a real leader in social justice and human rights causes. Our union has fought for the rights and interests of our members and has a history of advocating for progressive change on issues affecting broader society.

As a candidate seeking a leadership position within OSSTF, we would like to know your position on these issues. We request that you answer the three questions below before AMPA 2017. We will post these questions on the Educators Climate Alliance blog and share them on social media. By answering these questions you are agreeing to have your responses published verbatim on our website.

Our deepest gratitude for your participation! Please see the questionnaire below.

On behalf of the Educators Climate Alliance,

Adam Davidson-Harden (D27), Kevin Bowers (D27), Anik Hahn (D26), William MacCallum (D15)

Educators Climate Alliance Questionnaire

Please respond by email by March 3, 2017.

  1. Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada is not just about the legacy of residential schools, it is also about the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples to govern their lands. Indigenous peoples are leading the ways towards an environmentally, economically, socially and culturally sustainable future.  As educators and members of OSSTF, we understand that we are on the frontlines of this Reconciliation process.As Union leaders, how can we push for progressive change in the Reconciliation process that is concrete and substantive?
  2. Climate change is a defining issue of our time and many are suggesting it will require mobilization and organization on an unprecedented scale. What can OSSTF do to proactively assist in climate solutions? And how can we use this opportunity to strengthen our union and the labour movement?
  3. Lastly, how might we use our internal investments, and investments of our pensions, to support meaningful progress on the above issues? What role might Divestment play in our leadership?

OSSTF AMPA 2017 #ClimateAction Motions

The following motions have been submitted to AMPA by OSSTF District 27. The Educators Climate Alliance thanks District 27 for agreeing to bring the divestment discussion once again to OSSTF’s annual meeting. We appreciate everyone for taking time to consider these motions.

  1. Moved that AMPA direct the Provincial Executive and the OTF Governors to request the OTPP and OMERS Board of Directors to direct asset managers to stop any new investment in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 2 years, as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’.
  2. Moved that Policy 10.7 be amended by the addition of a new subsection that reads: “It is the policy of OSSTF that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) should not invest in fossil fuel companies. Specifically, the OTPP and OMERS should stop any new investments in fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds as determined by the ‘Carbon Underground 200’ and should promote divestment until it is achieved.”
  3. Moved that Bylaw 9.5.2 be amended by the addition of a new subsection that reads:  “9.5.2.x  No part of the Internal Investment Fund shall be invested in fossil fuel companies.   9.5.2.x.1  Notwithstanding 9.5.2.x, the Internal Investment Fund shall divest from public equities and corporate bonds that contain fossil fuel companies, as determined by ‘The Carbon Underground 200’, by July 1, 2019.”

Last year a motion regarding supporting refugees failed to pass. In the last few weeks, the refugee issue has become very significant. We hope that OSSTF and affiliate unions will find a way to lead on this issue that will seriously impact the frontline workers in education in Ontario. Find our blog post from AMPA 2016 here arguing that OSSTF needs to take action. Below is the AMPA 2016 motion:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT AMPA establish a work group that will investigate ways to support the education and community needs of refugees in Ontario.

The work group will be composed of the following: a) three bargaining unit presidents/leaders, with an interest in human rights, as selected by the Provincial Executive from applications; b) one Provincial CPAC member; c) one Provincial Executive member, assigned by the President; d) the Secretariat Liaisons assigned to CPAC.

The Work Group will report to Provincial Council, as appropriate, and submit an interim report with recommendations to AMPA 2017 and a final report with recommendations to AMPA 2018.

Engagement vs Divestment: Questioning OTPP’s strategy

by William MacCallum, OSSTF Member

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, in their annual report in April, 2016, acknowledged that the world is currently transitioning to a low-carbon economy. At the same time the Plan’s managers claimed that, from a risk management perspective, ‘engagement’ with fossil fuel companies is a better policy than divestment. At the annual general meeting, Bjarne Graven Larsen, Executive Vice-President, Investments and Chief Investment Officer, gave the example of his experience during his previous employment in Denmark, with the Danish energy company Dong being convinced to stop exploring for oil and invest heavily in wind turbines.

No similar examples of OTPP having this sort of effect on any fossil fuel company were given at the meeting, and it was stated that this ‘engagement’ philosophy was a long term proposition. This shows a staggering lack of understanding that time is no longer a luxury we have when it comes to climate change, and that the issue is bigger than the way they continue to try to frame it, as a ‘risk-management’ problem.

We at the Educators Climate Alliance say that if OTPP thinks that they can have more effect by “engaging” with fossil fuel companies, prove it. We expect to be informed specifically about what OTPP has accomplished to change the direction of fossil fuel companies at the next annual general meeting in April 2017. How many companies has OTPP convinced to pull out of the oil sands, or invest heavily in renewables, and where is the proof that it was the OTPP’s lobbying that actually caused them to change? Since the OTPP has stated that the world is currently transitioning to a low-carbon economy, it will not be good enough to claim, for example, that they invest in Shell, and Shell has announced that they will not drill in the Canadian arctic. These sorts of announcements are to be expected now that the world is transitioning to a low-carbon economy, so claiming these sorts of announcements as victories for their “engagement” philosophy would be disingenuous, unless proof is provided that the corporation acknowledges OTPP played a part.

Unless OTPP is able to convincingly demonstrate that their policy of engagement is directly influencing fossil fuel corporations to move away from the production of fossil fuels to burn, OTPP needs to publicly recognize, at the AGM in April 2017, that a new policy is needed. We suggest complete divestment from at least the 200 largest fossil fuel corporations.

To continue to argue that it is simply a risk-management issue shows a lack of courage and leadership. Even though the board of directors and senior management have acknowledged that they have duties beyond simply maximizing returns for pensioners, their actions speak louder than their words. These actions say that when our children and grandchildren realize in a few years that these leaders had the opportunity to help mitigate the effects of climate change sooner but chose the path of short-sightedness and selfishness instead, by framing the crisis as simply a risk-management problem, there will be no honest rebuttal open to today’s leaders of OTPP. Currently the only path to an ethically justifiable pension open to Ontario teachers is to take the commuted value of their pension prior to age 50 and invest it themselves.