A New Education Politics: Bob Rae's Legacy and the Response of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation


310 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55028-488-6
DDC 379.713




Reviewed by Rebecca Murdock

Rebecca Murdock is a lawyer with the Toronto firm Ryder Wright Blair &


Readable and straightforward, Part 1 of this book chronicles two
flashpoints in Ontario’s political history: first, the 1995 Social
Contract—the NDP brainchild that legislated away collective agreement
rights for thousands of public-sector employees, including teachers
represented by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation
(OSSTF)—and second, the Royal Commission on Learning—which,
according to the author, “continued where the Social Contract left
off[,] stripping the public school system of more of its basic funding
and opening up a new front for union-busting.”

As an NDP insider, Martell is able to offer a narrative contains
insights into the power brokers behind the Social Contract—foremost
among them Bob Rae (here termed “class chameleon”), who fastidiously
ruled his party with silver-tongued rhetoric and an iron-clad fist. Part
1 aptly captures the labor movement’s outrage at the Rae
government’s betrayal of social democratic principles, embracing
instead neoconservative policies more akin to the Progressive
Conservatives who succeeded them in power.

In Part 2, Martell attacks many of the core recommendations of the
Royal Commission on Learning, exposing them as little more than a
public-relations campaign to justify funding cutbacks and the divestment
of decisionmaking power from local boards. Martell explores the good
sense of the underrated 1995 Alternative Budget published by the
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in Winnipeg. As critic and
visionary, Martell revisits time-honored debates about curriculum, class
size, taxes, and professional regulation. Those debates take on a
grimmer reality, however, with a reigning government that is committed
to deficit reduction and hence is not adverse to corporate sponsorship
of education.

As its title indicates, the book centres on the OSSTF’s reaction to
the Rae government and its initiatives. This approach succeeds at
bringing a specific historic focus to Martell’s work while placing his
analysis in the larger context of the labor movement’s struggle to
create effective coalitions against an employer that is uniquely armed
with legislative power. As a history of the NDP’s only stint at
Queen’s Park, this book has much to offer students, parents, and
teachers who are either involved in public education or the labor


Martell, George., “A New Education Politics: Bob Rae's Legacy and the Response of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/5800.