City Centre Mirror
With the Liberal leadership convention taking place at Maple Leaf Gardens, thousands of teachers, union members and labour supporters descended on Allan Gardens for a rally.
Those in attendance carried placards and chanted pro-labour slogans before heading over to make their voices heard outside the convention.
With teachers being bused in from across the province, organizers estimated some 30,000 joined the protest and, though the actual figure appeared to be well shy of that figure, the number of people at the rally was impressive.
Addressing the crowd, Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan said the provincial government has to stop cutting taxes for the wealthy and for corporations and must start investing in the public sector.
"The austerity program that they introduced over two years ago is causing devastation throughout this province," he said, adding the province has made "scapegoats" of teachers throughout recent labour battles, which culminated in the government passing the much-maligned Bill 115.
"This was a deliberate strategy, a crass move by the McGuinty government that said 'we will demonize schoolteachers,'" he said.
Public Service Association of Canada president Robyn Benson said the issues facing Ontario's workforce were the same issues facing labour groups across Canada.
"They're slashing public services and taking away our right to collective bargaining," she said.
Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition pointed out the provincial government has continually cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations, leaving the working class to pick up the slack. She pointed out the last provincial budget in particular called for drastic cuts to public services.
"Unions did not create the deficit in Ontario," she said. "The recession and endless tax cuts for the wealthy did that."
Following a round of speeches from labour leaders, the group made its way along Carlton Street to protest outside the Liberal leadership convention.