Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I'm with Greg Sorbara on ending separate school funding in Ontario

I could write today about Russia's latest petty move in that country's despicable campaign against LGBT people by removing a memorial to Apple founder Steve Jobs in St Petersburg after the man who succeeded him at the helm of the company, Tim Cook, came out as gay.  But those bigots aren't worth my energy today.

I could also write about something closer to home in BC where, according to this report, many ignorant Chinese suburbanites are worried progressive school board forces are planning to inject their children with some kind of serum to turn them gay.

But those idiots aren't worth my energy either.  There seems to be no end to the stupidity of our species.

But one slight bit of hope has emerged from reading this article about former Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara's (pictured) declaration that Ontario should finally scrap its antiquated, separate school system, in which one religion - Roman Catholics - receive special status by getting public schools funded by taxpayers, while all other religions do not.   Sorbara makes the comments in his new memoir. 

In a modern, secular, pluralistic society like Ontario, it's long past the time we do the right thing on this issue.  Of course, Premier Kathleen Wynne, who's openly lesbian and couldn't work as a teacher in the separate school system in Ontario if she wanted to, has said she has no plans to pursue the dismantling of public funding for Catholic schools.  I hope she changes her mind.  She has a majority now so she could begin a process to examine the issue and allow the voters to speak on the subject.

I wrote in February 2012 about a strategy I think could be deployed by any premier looking to create a mandate to act on the separate school issue without having obtained one in the previous election.  I stand by that plan today.  As John Tory taught us, running for or against Catholic or religious schools in an election can be an election loser.

But now that we have a stable Liberal government under Wynne until 2018, perhaps now is the time to revisit the issue.  The people of Ontario have never had the chance to weigh in on our public education system.   It's now time for a plebiscite that would allow them to do that.  The process I prescribe is laid out in detail here.  But basically it would go like this:

The Ontario government calls a non-binding plebiscite on the issue in which voters would be asked to rank 3 options in order of preference: Ontario's status quo (one public system and one Catholic system); or one public system and several religious-based systems where numbers warrant; or one public system for all students.  Which ever result gets over 50% support after the first or second round wins.   For full details, click here to read my original post.

Such a vote would give the government direction and a mandate to act where none exists now. 

It's long past time Ontarians get a say into how their public education system money is handed out. 

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