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September 6th, 2007:

Faith-based schooling in Ontario

Well, the olTrashmeister has been away from his blog for a while – too long perhaps. But summer is over and my little sabbatical ends with it. Back to school. Back to serious work. And back to making my usual keen observations about the state of the country, the world and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There is an election just around the corner in Ontario. The main contestants are the Conservatives – led by John Tory, and the incumbent Liberals led by Premier (and my MPP here in Ottawa South) Dalton McGuinty.

The issues thus far have been rather motherhood-ish… guns in schools, better funding for hospitals and schools, extending faith-based funding to schools to not only include Catholics, but all religions… pretty boring stuff, eh?

Wait a doggone minute! Read that last one to me again!

John Tory has indeed raised the spectre of faith-based funding for Ontario’s schools and I for one am pleased as punch that he has done so. Not because I am in favour of this – because I am most definitely NOT – but because the raising of the issue gives me hope that we can have an open policy debate in this province about the funding of ALL religious schools – namely, the Catholic boards.

Bill Davis was my grandfather’s lawyer. And for that , I guess I respect him as much as I can respect any lawyer. But his caving in to the Archbishop of Toronto in 1987 represents the crassest possible exhibition of policy-making for votes.

Faith-based and publicly funded education do NOT belong in my Ontario of the 21st century. It is an in-your-face example of the wastefulness inherent in catering to special interests – in this case, Catholic Ontario.

But, oh boy, is there a politician out there who is going to intentionally inject this debate into their re-election plans? Naw and no way. They know that in spite of more than one quarter of Ontarians being not born in this country (and we ain’t talkin‘ about Irish Catholic immigrants here – that is so 19th century!) the province persists in believing that there is a need to publicly fund the education system of an increasingly irrelevant and declining religion.

One system of education for a secular Ontario is how it must be – and how it will be when we have some enlightened leadership in Queen’s Park… for oh so many reasons.

My dear wife wrote this to the G&M and it is worth repeating here cuz the the Globe didn’t publish this well-written statement:

“What’s next? Needing medical treatment and driving past the Mennonite, Jewish, Muslim and Baptist hospitals before I arrive at the truly ‘public’ one that accepts all patients? Our tax dollars should fund institutions – educational or otherwise – that are available to the entire population. Those dollars should be allocated efficiently; running parallel administrations is shameful given the fundraising and student fees needed to run the average school. A politician who stands behind the principle of inclusive education – not to mention the economies of scale to be achieved – has my vote. Anyone?”

A very secular Amen to that.

Anyone ready to debate this? Mr. McGuinty?