Those of you who have been reading me for a while know it’s no secret that my rate of posting has slowed down these past few months. True, I have a lot of other work on my plate, but it’s also because my interest in politics has waned. For the first time since I started this blog, I decided against giving much coverage of a current election campaign.
The reasons behind this are a mixture of things, I think. I’ve said a lot of things during my ten years of blogging. I’ve said them multiple times. In the end, you can only repeat yourself so often before you get bored with it all. Also, this provincial election has given me a collection of leaders I don’t particularly care strongly about, and a series of local candidates whom all seem like decent sorts of people I’d be happy to share a beer with.
So, I decided to stay out of this campaign, even as I watched in amazement as Conservative leader Tim Hudak squandered a twenty-point lead to bring this race to at least neck-and-neck. Other bloggers were saying what was needed to be said about things like Hudak’s characterization of decent Ontario citizens as “foreign workers”, or Horvath’s willingness to stand by her hilariously incomprehensible candidate in Niagara.
But then the Hudak campaign went decidedly negative. Not that this should be a surprise in an election this close, and not that it should suggest that the Liberals or New Democrats have their hands clean. But this pamphlet, introduced with the official blessing of the Conservative Party for its use in Brampton area ridings, was something I simply could not ignore. In it, the Conservatives suggest that the McGuinty Liberals have “a hidden agenda” to sexualize the education of children as young as six, with references to “cross-dressing” and “celebrat(ing) sexual diversity (with a) kissing booth”.
A lot of things get said in an election. A lot of inaccurate things. A politician’s character gets impugned, and the opponents’ policies are predicted to bring economic ruin and the death of kittens. But I cannot stand idly by with this flyer in the campaign. My daughter turns six this November. She is currently in grade one. I have paid attention to her education, been in touch with her teachers, and just this afternoon had a pleasant and productive conversation with my daughter’s school principle over concerns I had over the school’s fundraising.
In short, I have a fairly clear picture of what’s going on, and I know that what this flyer is claiming is being done to our children’s education is inaccurate. Worse, it’s misleading. It is a deliberate attempt to manipulate me and my vote by wrongly suggesting that my children are in danger. That’s ugly.
Ivor Torsell does a thorough point-by-point fact check on the offending pamphlet in the Toronto Standard. And it irks me beyond belief that Hudak sidesteps the inaccuracies in this flyer by raising a further spectre, hyperventilating about the possibility (considered and then dropped) of teaching sexual education to our children as early as grade one. Never mind that this isn’t currently planned under the Liberal government. Never mind the fact that we’re just talking about describing the body parts in the correct way. Never mind the studies which suggest that this is of benefit to our children in dealing with the overly sexualized images they get in the media these days. Never mind that we’ve already given frank answers about where babies come from to our eldest daughter when she asks. What does Hudak propose instead? Ignoring the issue does not make it go away.
The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario should be ashamed of itself, to have stooped to such misleading levels with this pamphlet, and to have engaged in such blatant fear mongering throughout this campaign, using our children for their political gain. Their attacks have had no basis in fact, have demonized decent people, and really do not paint an accurate picture of how education is being conducted in this province at this time.
Ultimately, it shows that their policies, especially with respect to education, cannot stand on their own merits. Why else would they choose to lie? Remember that Hudak originally dismissed full day kindergarten as “a frill”. As a parent whose children have or will make use of this program, I can tell you from personal experience that it is no frill, and to his credit, Hudak has backed off from the suggestion that he’d roll back McGuinty’s initiative. But, other than that, what separates Hudak’s education plan from that of McGuinty? Suggestions that he’ll get more for less based on “getting tough” with the teachers’ unions? Find efficiencies in spending without affecting the availability of teachers, teaching materials, class sizes by hunting down mythical gravy? Increasingly Torontonians are becoming aware of the value of that promise.
Still, it’s disappointing that the Conservatives should have taken this route. This is a party with a venerable history, whose previous premiers have helped build up an excellent education system. It is a shame to have this party turn their back on this legacy, to campaign instead on fear, using a shrill pamphlet that does not give an accurate picture of what is happening in our schools. As a parent of two young children, I resent being told that I should be afraid. I resent being manipulated by this party.
And I don’t think I’m alone. How else can you explain how Tim Hudak lost what was, by all accounts, a twenty-point lead on the Liberals based on opinion polls taken six months ago? A lot can still happen over the next two days, but there is some suggestion that, based on his poor performance, the knives will be out for Hudak come October 7th. Good riddance, I say. In all my years observing provincial politics, I’ve never seen a more deserving end.