Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[BRIEF NOTE] The 2007 Ontario Elections: Why the Progressive Conservatives Lost

It's quite important to note that the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, under John Tory, lost the elections because of Tory's promise to extend state funding to faith-based schools, on the long-established model of Roman Catholic schools. He may have been motivated by an honest desire to treat members of relatively new religious denominations fairly; he may have been trying to get votes in immigrant-heavy areas like Toronto. Suffice it to say that the idea spooked potential voters very badly, and that the electorate may respond to the need for equity by stripping state funding from Roman Catholic schools. This, I think, would clearly be the best solution, judging by the example of example of Newfoundland and Labrador, which provided state funding for faith-based schools until recently and in so doing helped cement sectarian divides to the detriment of education standards.

The intense animosity between people of different faiths was bound to spill on to the ice. Parents, fans, they all encouraged it among the hockey players at school.

Such was the violence of Newfoundland winters. "The hockey matches between Protestants and Catholics in Grand Falls where I grew up were legendary," remembers former premier Roger Grimes. "These were wars on ice, and designed to be so. One of the highlights of the winter was to see the bloodbath."

It was a grim fact of life in that province under its historically sectarian education system in which the churches ran the schools with money from the public purse. Besides the rivalries, students and neighbours were divided along religious lines, often driven on half-empty buses across town to schools that were homogenous but under serviced.

By the 1990s, the tensions had eased, but the economic burden of too many groups operating too many schools remained. That is, until a dramatic and complex political move uncoupled schools from the churches, turning the education of Newfoundland youngsters on its head, from one that was entirely denominational, to one that entirely was not.

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory now wants to do precisely the opposite in this province, extending public funding to all religious schools – provided they follow the provincial curriculum – if he's elected next month.

It's worth noting that attitudes like those in Newfoundland exist in Ontario, and have even managed to reproduce themselves in the current generation of students.

"Even the thought of making Catholic schools (the same as) public is preposterous and outrageous – we really need religion in our lives," says Nora Butris, 13.

Her Grade 8 class watched a recent election commercial on John Tory's vow to fund private faith-based schools, and then discussed the issue of Catholic education.

"Put all students of different religions in one building together?" asked Nora. "It would be like Jerusalem – religious wars.

I leave it to other people to expound on that irony, and simply note that in a very multicultural society like Ontario's, some attitudes and ideologies shouldn't be given credibility by the state.
Tags: clash of ideologies, elections, ontario, religion
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