Green Party candidate supports merging school boards. NDP candidate fears Catholic voting bloc
(Ottawa, Ontario): Today the Green, PC, Liberal and NDP candidates in Ottawa Centre participated in a Student Vote debate at Fisher Park public school in Ottawa Centre. A student asked for each candidate's opinion on whether or not Ontario should give preferential treatment to one religion.
"I am disappointed all of my opponents support religious and LGBTQ discrimination in Ontario's publicly funded school system," said Kevin O'Donnell, Green Party candidate in Ottawa Centre. "It is deplorable that in front of children, in front of tomorrow's leaders, each said in their own way that religious discrimination is ok and here to stay."
O'Donnell firmly answered "No" and reiterated his party's position that Ontario should have one public system with english and french boards because it is the only fair option remaining after voters rejected full funding for all faiths in 2007.
An audio recording of the NDP, PC and Liberal responses, summarized below, is available here:
(In order of responses)
Jennifer McKenzie (NDP) acknowledged that the "major parties" are afraid to tackle the issue because "the Catholic schools, and churches, vote as a bloc". As an OCDSB trustee McKenzie voted in favour of merging boards into a single public system with English and French boards, a position that matches the Green Party's current proposal. McKenzie has now abandoned that position. (OCDSB agenda reference: http://www.ocdsb.ca/ab-ocdsb/bm/mr/Committee%20of%20the%20Whole%20Pilot%20Project%20Meeting%20Minut/COW%2009%20Oct%202012%20Report%203.pdf
Robert Dekker (PC, audio begins at 2:15) responded that merging the school boards is not a PC priority until, perhaps, after the budget is balanced. This response ignores the fact a merged system will save up to $1.6 billion per year. More troublingly, it demotes fundamental human rights to being less important than budget concerns.
Yasir Naqvi (Liberal, audio begins at 3:35) responded that in 2007 Ontario elected a Liberal government that supported the status-quo (vs. then PC leader John Tory's proposal to extend education funding to all religions). Naqvi confirmed a Liberal government would not address the issue of school board mergers, thus preferring the status-quo levels of discrimination.