Ontarians saw the televised leader's debate on Sept. 20, 2007. The Conservative leader, John Tory, was clearly the overall winner - sincere and to-the-point on all the issues throughout the debate, projecting his message clearly, and showing himself as a capable and trustworthy leader. We saw the current Liberal premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty - a proud product of our Catholic 'separate school' system - proudly try to justify his hypocritical stand to deny education funding to a minority of other faith groups in Ontario. Saying one thing in opposition, then doing something else in power, has become pretty much a hallmark standard operating procedure for the Liberals, whether on healthcare, education, the environment...the list goes on. (Remember 'flip-flop McGuinty'?)
Seeing McGuinty's debate performance, reminded me of two articles, both of which deal with the Liberal's hypocritical stand on the faith-funding issue:
The first article, by the Toronto Sun's Lorrie Goldstein, was published yesterday, Sept. 19, 2007. The second article, by Enzo Di Matteo of Now Magazine, was published SIX YEARS AGO, in 2001!
Bizarrely McGuinty's Liberals, in opposition, were in favour then of what they claim to vehemently oppose today! Does anyone really have to point out the Liberal propensity for lying, or are they spinning that yarn all by themselves? You have to really wonder what the Liberals who were mentioned in Now Magazine's piece then - and who are still around - must be thinking today. If instituting faith based funding was a matter of Liberal fairness before, why is it not a matter of fairness still today? Why the new-found prejudice?
"McGuinty has done this before"
By Lorrie Goldstein, Toronto Sun, Sept. 19, 2007:
"Question: Why did the McGuinty go to a publicly funded, faith-based school to tell us Conservative Leader John Tory's plan to publicly fund-faith based schools endangers public education?
Answer: Because it's all he's got, turkeys.
So far, despite media hysteria, the polls haven't really changed. Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberals are stuck at 40% support -- with the Conservatives stalled five or six points back.
While those numbers give McGuinty enough to win, they won't give him a majority government. If that holds, McGuinty won't be celebrating Oct. 10. That's why McGuinty keeps doing his Chicken Little routine that on Monday, saw him descend on a poor, unsuspecting publicly-funded faith-based school (Catholic) to denounce public funding for faith-based schools (non-Catholic).
A few years ago, McGuinty, his past and present education ministers (Gerard Kennedy and Kathleen Wynne), and other Liberals said the policy he's now denouncing was the fair thing to do.
So why is McGuinty, educated at a publicly funded, faith-based school, smearing Tory as a segregationist and fear-mongering by implying that whatever's going on in those privately-funded Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and other faith-based schools, it's probably not anything good?
Why is this self-described champion of diversity, stooping to this?
Because what else is he going to do, silly, to get his support up to the 43% level he needs for a majority government?
Run on his record of keeping his election promises? Ha, ha ha!
Argue that John Tory isn't up to the job? Actually, when asked, more voters prefer Tory as premier than McGuinty.
Finally, if McGuinty is so proud of his record, why isn't he running on it?
Why does he run back to denouncing funding faith-based schools every time anyone mentions the crisis in long-term health care, job losses in the manufacturing sector or that Ontario's coal-fired generating plants, which he promised to close this year, will be polluting our air until at least 2014?
It's because he wants to win, silly, and he'll say anything to do it. Which, of course, is exactly what he did in 2003."
"Two-faced grits, They can't make up their minds on private school funding"
By Enzo Di Matteo, NOW Magazine, May 24-30, 2001, issue Vol.20, No.38:
"We thought Dalton Mcguinty, aka premier-in-waiting, was ready for prime time. But last week's fiasco over Tory plans to extend tax credits to private and religious schools shows that it doesn't take much to knock the Liberal leader off the rails.
The Grits should have been making political hay by pointing out how the Tory proposal is nothing but a break for the Richie Riches who send their kids to Upper Canada College, Havergal and other private institutions of finer learning.
Instead, McGuinty's Grits are in damage-control mode. And the leader himself is facing a caucus mini-revolt. How did it come to this?
Shoot-from-the-lip McGuinty, it turns out, was a little too quick to condemn the Tory proposal. Several members of his caucus -- at least half a dozen, one MPP says -- are not averse to extending tax credits to religious schools, which is also part of the Tory plan.
It turns out McGuinty isn't opposed to the idea either, if we're to believe the tune he's singing now, but that's not the impression he gave when he wrote former Foreign Affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy on the subject last year. That was shortly after the United Nations criticized Ontario for funding Catholic schools but not those of other faiths.
The Liberal leader now says money for religion-based educational institutions should be made available, just not right away. First, he says, we need to fix a public school system that's in total disarray.
As usual, the Liberals want to have it both ways.
What a mess. Still, Gerard Kennedy, the Grits' education critic, doesn't see a contradiction in the Liberal position.
He contends that funding for religious schools doesn't necessarily mean less money for the public system. Both can be accommodated, he says. How?
"We don't have the answer to that at this time," says Kennedy.
If he will admit to any failing, it's that the Liberals haven't been able to articulate their position clearly enough. Go figure.
"People are talking about religious schools, which is exactly what the government wants," he says. "But the real beneficiaries are the private-sector schools. We're paying the price, in terms of communication."
On CBC Radio Tuesday morning (May 22), McGuinty said, just in case there's any confusion, that a Liberal government would repeal the Tory measure.
But there's still the small matter of that caucus revolt. MPP Monte Kwinter is a long-time proponent of funding for religious schools, notwithstanding the fact that the feds already offer a tax credit to parents who send their kids to parochial schools.
"I've always supported full funding for faith-based schools," Kwinter tells NOW. "There should be some recognition in the (provincial) tax regime. I'm personally delighted that that's happened. I don't think anyone accepts the argument that Catholic schools should be funded and the others not."
Grit MPP Michael Bryant is another who has publicly expressed support for funding for religious schools.
Bryant, whose own St. Paul's riding, like Kwinter's, includes a substantial Orthodox Jewish constituency, won many a vote campaigning on this very issue in the last election.
But this week the MPP seems less anxious to fan the flames of division within the Grit caucus. He declined to respond to several requests from NOW for comment.
Kathleen Wynne, who unsuccessfully sought the Liberal nomination in St. Paul's before the last election, says the party could have avoided this mess if it had taken what she calls a "principled stand" in favour of funding for religious schools during the election.
She says she personally urged McGuinty's advisers to do just that, apparently to no avail.
"I'm disappointed we didn't come out earlier on this," Wynne says. "I think we could have claimed some ground."
Wynne is talking now about moving toward a confederated school board system. The horror. McGuinty also has to worry about the teachers unions he's been stroking.
Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation president Earl Manners says it's premature to say whether Grit support for faith-based schools will mean no OSSTF support for the Libs come the next election.
But there is a subtle warning. Manners says the Grits "need to oppose this legislation without equivocation."
The Liberals will be out in full force this week flailing away at the Tory plan. Election-style factsheets and pamphlets have been prepared. MPPs will be working the phones. But the damage may already have been done. "
The Liberals are attempting, in this 2007 election, to make their opposition to faith-based funding as their defining issue, for they have no credibility left on essentially anything else of consequence, having broken practically all their promises over the last four years. And when you look at it, do they sincerely even have faith in their own defining issue?