PC Leader Doug Ford promises to scrap the Liberals sex-ed curriculum
“We will repeal it and then we’ll make sure we consult with the parents and teachers,” Ford told reporters. The updated sex-ed curriculum was put into effect by the Liberals in 2015.
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Newly elected PC Leader Doug Ford says he will scrap the sex education curriculum passed by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.
He made the promise during a round of media interviews Monday, two days after being elected leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party.
“We will repeal it and then we’ll make sure we consult with the parents and teachers,” Ford told reporters, building on a promise he made during the leadership race to review all areas of the curriculum, including sex ed and math.
“We have to make sure we tweak a few things in there and then we’ll move forward,” he said.
An updated sex ed curriculum was put into effect by the Liberals in 2015 despite objections from religious groups, who claimed it didn’t align with their values, and parents, who said the government didn’t allow them enough input. The previous curriculum dated from 1998 and did not include any mention of many current issues facing students, such as sexting and cyberbullying.
On Monday, one social conservative voiced his support of Ford’s promise to do what former PC leader Patrick Brown would not.
Controversial Christian leader Charles McVety told his thousands of followers on Facebook to vote for Ford if they want to see “radical sex education” repealed.
McVety has been a fierce opponent of the sex ed curriculum, same-sex marriage and abortion. About a decade ago, the CTS television network removed his program from its lineup, after the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council found it made “malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial” remarks about the gay community.
McVety told the Star he is confident Ford will repeal “radical elements” in the sex ed curriculum, including teaching young children about gender identity.
“We see Doug as a fighter, a fighter for the regular folk,” McVety told the Star, adding that he sees himself as a social conservative — a political ideology focused on preserving traditional values — but doesn’t define Ford as one.
“The economy. That’s mainly what gets me excited about Doug,” McVety said.
Wynne defended the updated sex ed curriculum to reporters during an event at a downtown Toronto school Monday.
“It needed to be updated, and kids get all sorts of information from the internet and all different sources now, more than we would have 40 years ago,” she said. “So it’s really important that our curriculum reflects that, and that’s what the curriculum does.”
During the debate over the curriculum in 2015, hundreds of people protested outside Queen’s Park. At the time, Wynne said some of the opposition to the curriculum was due to homophobia.
The next year, Brown, then the PC leader, promised to scrap the curriculum and develop a new one, only to retract the offer days later. He said he was actually in support of the Liberals’ sex ed update and would keep it in place if elected premier.
Brown resigned in January amid allegations of sexual misconduct, triggering the Tories’ leadership contest.
Ford told reporters on Monday the sex ed curriculum would not be a main priority if the Tories win the June 7 election.
“Our focus is going to be on straightening out the finances of this province,” he said, noting Ontario’s $312-billion debt. “We’re going to reduce hydro rates and start attracting great-paying jobs and businesses.”
Ford has not yet released his campaign platform and provided few details of how he will “turn the economy around.” He did say he would put up a “big neon sign” at the border that reads, “Ontario is open for business.”
During his leadership campaign, Ford said he would reopen the debate about abortions being available to minors.
A Tory source said it is unlikely he will wade into the abortion issue again during the campaign. Scrapping the sex ed curriculum gives social conservatives a big victory, as it has been their rallying cry for several years now.
Ford also said he would not force MPPs to vote against their beliefs.
That was good news for 20-year-old MPP Sam Oosterhoff, a free speech and anti-abortion advocate, who felt Brown clamped down on such discussions within the party.
“Doug has a willingness to make all parts of the party have their voices heard, respected and valued, and appeals to social conservatives,” said Oosterhoff, who represents Niagara West—Glanbrook.
But Ford is taking a risk by aligning the PC party with social conservatives, said Kathy Brock, a political science professor at Queen’s University. “On the other hand, he will probably gain support from people who don’t feel their views have been heard in the past.
“It will be a tough balance to manage, but it can be managed.”
Ford is also appealing to social conservative voters by promising to repeal the sex ed curriculum because it’s been a “staunch” demand of the party base and supporters of leadership candidate Tanya Granic Allen, said Christopher Cochrane, an author and political science professor at the University of Toronto.
Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion group that originally backed Granic Allen, expressed its support for Ford following the leadership results. In a statement, president Jim Hughes said he expects Ford to, among other things, “protect free speech and conscience rights.”
But at least one conservative group is concerned by Ford’s promise to repeal the sex ed curriculum. LGB Tory Canada, an organization for LGBTQ conservative voters, supports the current sex ed curriculum, said spokesperson Eric Lorenzen.
“We believe it is generally a positive document for everyone, including the LGBTQ community,” Lorenzen said. “It promotes responsible sexual behaviour, acceptance of differences and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.”
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