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Over half of Ontario Voters support making Public Education an “Essential Service”

Campaign Research has conducted a public opinion study with 1003 Ontario Voters on their views with the ongoing dispute between Ontario Teachers and the government of Ontario. This study was conducted between February 24th and February 26th, 2020.

52% of Ontario Voters support making public education an essential service while only 28% of Voters were opposed and 20% “didn’t know” or were “unsure”. Respondents were presented with the following explanation and question:

Firefighters and police officers are some types of employees that are deemed “essential services”. This means that they cannot go on strike. They must resolve their issues with their employer (governments) through arbitration because their jobs are essential. In 2010, the City of Toronto asked the Province of Ontario to designate the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as an essential service, to stop Toronto Transit employees from striking and other work stoppages, given the importance of the service to the general public. Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario government made the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service in 2011. Do you think that the Government of Ontario should make public education an “essential service”?

Public education as an essential service

The “essential services” question was presented at the end of the survey to all Respondents once they had an opportunity to consider all the various issues involved in the current dispute between the Ontario Teachers and the government of Ontario.

The Teacher Unions, pundits and many in the media have focused the dispute on 3 main issues that remain unresolved. Before the “essential services” question, we give the following statement and ask them to choose on all 3 issues:

If you had the power to force The Teachers and the government of Ontario to make a deal please choose 1 option from each of the 3 lists below that you believe would be a good deal for Teachers, a good deal for students and a good deal for Ontario taxpayers.

Class size issue

E-learning issue

Wage increase issue

On the 3 main issues as defined by the Teacher Unions and others, it is clear that on the matter of wage increases, the government of Ontario position has over 50% support (a 1% wage increase or less), while only 37% of Voters support a 1.5% increase or more.

With respect to “e-learning”, the Teacher position (no e-learning credits to graduate) does not have majority support. The government of Ontario position (2 e-learning credits to graduate) has even less support than the current Teacher position. But it seems that the enough of Voters would support a compromise such as “some e-learning” or “e-learning with opt-in from parents”.

With repsect to class sizes, the findings are quite interesting. The fact is that the “class size” issue is very polarized when it comes to public opinion. 1/3rd of Voters support the Teacher position at class sizes capped at 22.5 (average) and 1/5th of Voters support the government position to increase class sizes to 25 (average). But 37% of the Voters are somewhere in between. If the Teachers and government of Ontario want to actually get to a deal, they would garner the the most public support at class sizes of about 23.75 (average).

Finally, on the question of whether or not the government should legislate the Teachers back to work and what that could mean for wage increases, the results are even more interesting. The following explanation and question was put to Respondents:

If the government of Ontario was to legislate the teachers back to work in the schools immediately, to stop any more work disruptions or a full strike, then the Teachers could go to court and likely win a settlement that would give them a pay raise higher than the 1% increase per year that the government is now offering. But, if the government of Ontario continues to try and negotiate with the Teachers and an independent panel (3rd party panel) decides that the school year is in jeopardy, then at that time the government could legislate the Teachers back to work with very little risk that a court would award the Teachers more than a 1% wage increase per year. Note that an Independent Panel would not rule that the school year would be in jeopardy until there was 3 to 4 weeks of a full strike. Which is closer to your own view?

Best way to legislate teachers back to work

Voters (3 to 1) have very little interest in the government legislating the Teachers back to work, if the result will mean that Teachers will win in the Courts on their issues, specifically gaining more than a 1% per year wage increase. Voters prefer that the government continue to negotiate and wait for the Independent Panel to rule that the school year is in jeopardy before legislating teachers back to work.

“The Ontario Teacher Unions have done a masterful job framing the entire debate. But, the Voters in Ontario are not being fooled by the well executed Teachers campaign and/ or propaganda. Voters want a deal, they clearly lay out a path where both the government of Ontario and the Teachers need to put a bit of water in their wine and find a compromise to avert any more inconvenience to the public and any negative impact for students. Failing that, the Voters are clear that they want the Teachers legislated back to work when an Independent Panel deems that the school year is in jeopardy. The Voters also quite strongly support making public education an essential service so that Teachers can no longer carry out strike actions during the school year, said Nick Kouvalis, Principal at Campaign Research Inc. Nick can be reached at 519-791-9663.


This online study was conducted by Campaign Research as part of its monthly omnibus study between February 24th to February 26th, 2020 through an online survey of 1003 randomly selected Canadian adults who are members of Maru/Blue’s online panel Maru Voice Canada and were provided with various incentives to respond. The panelists were selected to reflect Ontario’s age, gender and regional distributions in line with 2016 Statistics Canada census data. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 3.1% 19 times out of 20.

The results have been weighted by education, age, gender, and region (and in Quebec, language) to match the population according to 2016 Census data. Certain areas or groups may be oversampled but have been weighted to reflect their proportion of Canada’s population. This is to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

The following screening question was asked in order to determine eligibility for participation in the study

"Are you 18 years of age or older and eligible to vote in federal elections?"

Media contact:

Nick Kouvalis

Campaign Research



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