Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Trinity-Spadina Candidates speak

I was at yesterday (September 14, 2011) evening's candidates debate for Trinity-Spadina. It consisted of a 3-minute speech from each candidate, followed by 1.5 hours of Q&A from the audience.

Most of the questions were about transportation, municipal-provincial relations and jurisdiction, and the environment.

I asked the following question (all of the below is from memory, and represent my best recollection, not a transcript):

Leslie Rosenblood: Hello, my name is Leslie Rosenblood. I moved into Seaton Village a little over seven years ago and am a policy advisor for the Canadian Secular Alliance. Given that Ontario's discriminatory education system has been condemned by the United Nations, twice, given that the extra costs of the separate school board cost the province 500 million dollars, at a minimum, every year, given the extreme homophobic behaviour of the Catholic school boards in the province, including banning a student from bringing his same sex partner to the prom, banning the symbol of the rainbow, and banning the existence of Gay-Straight Alliances, and given that just two weeks ago the Toronto Catholic District School Board passed a resolution stating that when Catholic dogma and human rights conflict, Catholic dogma must prevail, what will you do to change your party's stance on the separate school board and move to a single publicly funded secular school system in Ontario?

Sarah Thompson, Liberal candidate: A waiver first - twenty years ago, Leslie worked for me at one of my service stations [true - when I was in high school she had a Sunoco franchise where I worked] and so this is payback. This is a very interesting question, and one that was dealt with in the last election. [I shouted, "No, it wasn't!" then immediately apologized for interrupting.] Personally, I am in favour of moving to a single school system, and hopefully we can move to that over the next ten years or so."

Tim Grant, Green candidate: The Green Party pushed for a single school system in the last election, and the media paid no attention to us then even though it was a major issue in the campaign. The Green Party supports a secular school system in Ontario, for most of the reasons outlined in the question. I would take issue with one aspect of the questioner's assertions, however. I looked at the costs of running a separate school system four years ago and the $500 million figure assumes amalgamation of school districts. They're already too large, so we shouldn't take actions that will make them even bigger. But we certainly can save at least a couple hundred million dollars, and put that money right back into the education system, with smaller school districts. And I say this as someone who came through the Catholic school system.

Rosario Marchese, MPP and New Democratic candidate: We wouldn't actually move to a single system by this proposal, because we have the English public school board, the French public school board, and English and French for the separate school system as well. [I nodded in agreement.] But I would not support removing support for the separate school system, because I think the current system is working very well. And I say this as an atheist. I am dismayed that the government has not enforced its own equity policy. It is my belief any group that has the support of the students and principal support should be allowed to form. Eliminating the separate school board wouldn't solve any problems, because the system is working pretty well overall, though it does have some issues, the way it is today.

Mike Yen, Progressive Conservative candidate, declined the invitation to participate in the evening's event.

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