Bill 115: Whose Agenda is Being Pushed?

There has been much news coverage of the recent wage freeze bill, Bill 115. When looking at it from a critical point of view, the way the media portrays it is quite negatively. There are many frames that are evident throughout the coverage of the ongoing event. Furthermore, it comes rather as a surprise that the vast majority of the media gives an unfavourable characteristic to the Liberal government which is implementing Bill 115.

The article written by Kate Hammer (2012), deals more with the teachers’ unions position on Bill 115. It shows the union as defending the teachers and criticizing what the liberal government is doing. This is clearly shown when Sam Hammond talks about how little negotiation the province has done with the teachers. He demonstrates that the government is in the wrong and they should be coming to the negotiation table with the teachers with more to offer (Hammer 2012).  The title of the article “Teachers challenge Ontario Bill” has a strong connotation to it, making one assume that the only parties involved in the issue are teachers and the Ontario government that must have done something wrong if someone is challenging them.

The news coverage by the Canadian Press is a bit different than the one examined in Kate Hemmer’s article. The authors of this article also use pretty strong language, but there is less of a bias in it. For example, the article does deem the bill “controversial” which is a pretty strong word for something that was passed by the liberals (The Canadian Press 2012). On the other hand it uses the term “war” when talking about the actions of the union workers that are being affected by the new legislation. When referring to the word “war” it automatically makes one assume of violent actions rather than what the teachers are actually doing, which is abstaining from some responsibilities. It is interesting that the first sentence of the article is “Three powerful unions representing Ontario teachers and education workers declared war Tuesday against the governing Liberals after a controversial anti-strike bill passed in the legislature” (The Canadian Press 2012). The choice of words for the actions of the teachers creates a violent frame. A violent frame makes one believe that whatever is going on is physical and harmful (Boykoff 2007). When talking about teachers who are called for war against the government, a reader can assume that there is violence involved in the protests, which is not necessarily true.

An opinion column written by Christina Blizzard (2012) makes out the liberal government look like a pathetic entity that cannot stand behind their own legislation. Her tone in the article is rather sarcastic and can easily make an uncritical reader look at the current ruling government as incapable. Her choice of words like “slammed” and “bitter irony” help confirm her stance on the subject of Bill 115 and the government’s foolishness in imposing it (Blizzard 2012). Ms. Blizzard uses a freak frame to depict the liberals. A freak frame usually accounts for the non-mainstream beliefs and ideas (Boykoff 2007). She shows that her views are not standard, making out the liberal government seem as unreliable and untrustworthy. Her position on the Liberal government is clearly demonstrated in her final words in the article “And what bitter irony that the guy who wanted to be remembered as the Education Premier, the guy whose wife is a teacher, will be remembered for leaving the school system in a shambles as he slipped out the door” (Blizzard 2012). It is a very interesting concept because usually it is not the government that gets the characteristics of someone of a freak but rather the people that are doing the protesting.

Unlike the previous articles mentioned above, the one written by Kristin Rushowy and Louise Brown (2012) in the Toronto Star, seem to make out the union workers, in this case the teachers, as the bad guys. The title of the article “Ontario teacher protest: Toronto students may not get report cards” is very interesting in the choice of words. A reader that has not followed the process of Bill 115 might assume that Ontario teachers are doing a protest literarily and that students are going to be punished by not receiving their report cards. The title and the article itself is very one sided, sugar coating what the liberal government is doing. The article makes it seem like the liberal government is pleading with an unreasonable child (the teachers) to stop its tantrums, they want teachers to communicate with parents on their child’s progress and put effort into report cards.  Furthermore, it turned into a battle of inner administration versus teachers, principals refusing to sign off on report cards that have scarce comments on them. In this article not only the teachers are seen as the delinquents but now the principals as well who are stuck in the middle, trying to keep parents happy while trying to convince teachers to provide adequate progress reports. This article clearly has the governments agenda in mind, it helps spread the government’s hegemonic techniques to target the public. They attempt to demonstrate that everything is being done to protect the greater good for citizens.

A City TV News coverage shows angry students at their teachers rallying against the cancelation of extracurricular activities. The video is very interesting because it only talks about how the students are at a disadvantage and how the liberal government is telling teachers not to take out their anger on students (Criger 2012). This video is very biased because it failed to capture the whole picture behind the protest of Stephen Lewis Secondary School students, which was if you cannot beat them, join them. Meaning, as a student body they were in support of the rights and freedoms that the teachers have and should exercise. The video montage by City TV showed a suppression of the teachers through a tact called disregard (Boykoff 2007). They tried to depict the fact that students were not on the side of the teachers which was not necessarily true. They chose not to cover the part of the story which showed the students rallying for the teachers. Furthermore, it creates a frame of disruption, where the students rallying creates a disruption to their own studies.

Overall, there was vast coverage of the events which are tied to the passing of Bill 115. There was a broad facet of media angles that were shown and written, each in support of their own agenda.

References

Blizzard, Christine. 2012. “Blizzard: All the fuss over Bill 115 and for what?” lfpress.com, December 7. Retrieved December 8,2012 (http://www.lfpress.com/2012/12/07/blizzard-all-the-fuss-over-bill-115-and-for-what)

Boykoff, Jules. 2007. “Mass Media Deprecation.” Pp. 216-47 in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.

Boykoff, Jules. 2007. “Mass Media Underestimation, False Balance, and Disregard.” Pp. 248-60 in Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.

Canadian Press. 2012. “Wage Freeze Bill for Teachers Passes in Ontario Legislature: Unions Urge Teachers to Halt Voluntary Activities.” cbc.ca, September 11. Retrieved October 15, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/09/11/toronto-ontario-teachers.html)

Criger, Erin. 2012. “Vaughn high school cancels extracurricular activities” citytv.com, September 13. Retrieved December 6 (http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/news/local/article/224446)

Hammer, Kate. 2012. “Teacher Challenge Ontario Bill” theglobeandmail.com, October 11. Retrieved January 8,2013 (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/teachers-challenge-ontario-bill/article4607725/)

Rushowy, Kristin and Louise Brown. 2012. “Ontario teacher protest: Toronto students may not get report cards.” thestar.com, November 8. Retrieved December 7, 2012 (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/education/article/1284875–ontario-teachers-toronto-students-may-not-get-report-cards)

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2 comments

  1. Great job. You did a great job identifying the role that mainstream media plays in producing representation of “good” and “bad” form of expressing dissent in liberal democratic societies. The depiction of the government as a pathetic entity helped to illustrate that the teachers’ strike represented a good form of dissent, showing that the government’s actions were unacceptable. However, the depiction of the teachers as bad guys shifted teacher’s strike towards bad form of expressing dissent, favoring government’s corrupted actions. I feel that the inclusion of the consequences of such negative representation would make your argument that much stronger. For example, how such media representations can be seen as a powerful mechanism of criminalization? The negative media representation can criminalize teachers in public’s eyes, leaving them without support that they need in order to win their fight. Farther, teachers’ criminalization can help the government to legitimize their actions against teachers, making bill 115 even more powerful.

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  2. Good mix of news sources, you have implemented a wide range of sources from different newspapers and a video too! Doing this provides your blog with many different lenses/biases to critique. I feel that a limitation of your analysis is that you were overly sympathetic to the teachers/unions and you failed to critically discuss any news coverage which might have ‘sided’ with the liberal government. This undermines your argument because you only offer your reader half of the story from the teacher/union perspective. Furthermore, including the liberal governments point of view would give some perspective to readers who may not know much about the liberal governments motives/intentions.

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