The Parties and Education Before the 2018 Election, Featuring the Tories...
On June 7th Ontarians will make a decision that they may have to live with until 2022. What kind of province do we want and for educators, what kind of education system do we need?
The Ontario Liberals seem to languish in the polls, driven there by an astonishingly
moronic move to privatize Hydro to pay for transit. These results linger in recent polls, notwithstanding some reports that say the Liberals still have a pulse. The NDP has benefited somewhat, from the Liberals problems with the 5-10% of ‘promiscuous progressives’ ,bi-conceptuals who may prefer the NDP but vote to save the Liberals for strategic reasons to prevent the barbarian hordes of Tories from storming Queen’s Park.
The Tories have also benefited as some bi-conceptual conservative Grits have migrated, perhaps temporarily, to the Tories. Due to their own bi-conceptual nature, Liberals are often on a vain quest to seek popularity with major public expenditures but not honestly willing to pay the piper by taxing the rich and corporations to get the money. At some point, this will catch up to them like it has in western Canada and most of Europe, where it creates politics with a genuinely progressive party, likely the NDP, facing off against a genuine conservative party, usually the Tories. With income polarization comes political polarization. The Liberals recognize this but they can only go so far in the progressive direction before their own ‘blue Liberal’ wing begins to howl. The Liberal Party in BC is actually a Howe Street conservative party flying a false red flag as Liberals.
The McGuinty regime began a serious incestuous relationship with the British Labour Party under the neo-liberal sell-out Tony Blair regime, particularly on the education front. The faux progressive gurus of ‘Sir’ Ken Robinson and Michael Fullan influenced Liberal education policy. British Labour has since broken with the Tony Blair’s reactionary idiocy but the Ontario Liberals are still in the thrall of these false prophets.
We will discuss the NDP in in upcoming issues. Safe be it to say that the NDP has not yet fully learned its lesson on political positioning. I was powerfully influenced by a discussion I had with a group of BC NDP types who told me, “the Ontario NDP is too conservative to come to power”. As counter intuitive as it sounds to many soft left types, the fundamental belief of this report is the following: not only is it the correct moral position for the NDP to take a tough, no bull shit, democratic-socialist position similar to Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, but consequently, there are actually more votes and more seats in full throated, authentic, progressive positions than there are in trying to to say we are, for all intents and purposes, the left wing of the Liberal Party. For those who listen, the working and middle class majority is demanding significant concessions from capital- infrastructure jobs, wages, childcare, tuition, pharmacare. Those who offer placebos and half measures run the risk of being run over by the new polarized circumstances. There are at least two clear lines of demarcation between Liberals (also Greens) and democratic socialists. They are public ownership and an absolute dedication to the working class. Greens and Liberals just don’t have it.
Let us save the rest of this for subsequent issues.
The education platform of the Ontario PCs for June 7th is tissue paper thin and as progressive as the disgraced Patrick Brown and his acolytes could take it before the knuckle-draggers rebelled. With a new leadership campaign, the mouth breathers are on the loose again.
The Tories make the following four promises and literally nothing else.
The PCs will impose a moratorium on ALL school closures.
The Tories will continue the expansion of the ‘financial literacy’ pilot program into all secondary schools.
The PCs will take concretes steps to get math scores back on track.
The PCs will appoint a task force of former teaching professionals to learn from the provinces best teachers to inform curriculum updates.
That is it. No seriously, that is it. Here is the link. Please set aside 30 seconds to read the entire Tory education policy. We will deal with the four promises one at a time.
The Moratorium is ironic. Under normal conditions, the Tories would be at the front of the line to close schools saying “if you don’t have the students how can we keep the school open?” Here is the problem. Tories with long memories remember Tory health minister, Frank Miller touring the province closing small rural hospitals and becoming wildly unpopular in the process. It so happens that the small schools on the hit list to be closed are overwhelmingly in rural towns where Tories rule the roost, like Markdale. Perhaps they see that one of the few ways that the Tories could possibly lose any of these safe rural seats is to be the school closer. Also it fits the Tories latest attempt to be the kinder, gentler, Tories. The wolf is donning the sheep’s clothing as we speak. The id of the Tory party hates anything in the public sector, but if a hard line would keep them from governing they are ‘flexible’.
Financial literacy may not be a total waste of time, but the Tory motivation, along with some conservative Liberals emerges from their deeply held beliefs that the poor have only themselves to blame for their poverty. This is in Tory DNA ‘the undeserving poor’ “If these people (the poor) just had the discipline to balance their own bank book we would not need to increase the minimum wage” - the type of pap you hear at the local Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The Tories will take “concrete steps” to raise math scores. Well everybody would like to see higher math scores but the fact is that PISA scores indicate Canadian and Ontario math is not so bad. Our idiotic EQAO tests tell us otherwise but when you set tests to show half the kids are not up to par, it is not surprising that half the kids are not up to par. The solutions are obvious. Quebec has very similar demographics to Ontario but leads Canada in PISA TIMMS scores. Give math more guaranteed curriculum time. Reorganize to have math specialists, teach math from grade one on. Involver John Mitton in curriculum development, target more resources to poorer schools where the problem lies. This is not rocket science.
See the link below for PISA rankings. Of 65 nations in OECD-PISA 6 real countries are higher than Canada. There are also some artificial city-states like Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore. And China is represented by Shanghai its most educated city. If the USA only entered Massachusetts they would be higher than Finland.
PCs will appoint a task force of “former teaching professionals” to learn from the best teachers to inform curriculum updates. Try to stifle your laughter at this one. Do we really expect the Tories to to contact the teachers’ unions to get a list of former teachers? No, these will be hand picked Tories chosen from both the public and private schools, who will sound like the Grumpy Old Man (or woman) from SNL sketches who will yell about how much better it was back in the day.
In a preamble to the Tory policy outline, the Tories commit to “honour the existing funding of tuition support and all day kindergarten.”
However, the Tories also commit to income tax cuts in other parts of the document, 10% to the first tax bracket and a 22.5% cut to middle class taxes.
To paraphrase an old bar room favourite, “they like to drink, they just don’t like to pay for it.”
Let’s break that pledge down. First, they don’t say if honouring the present funding means keeping up with inflation or simply the dollar commitment, which means the support would erode over time. Secondly, in both cases the funding is already inadequate for the programs as it presently exists. Thirdly, if you are also cutting taxes, there is some magical thinking involved. Yes yes, the Tory economy will be so fabulous that trickle down will take care of contradictions. We have all heard that one before and we aren’t buying it. The Ontario economy is actually roaring at this moment and still both Tories and Liberals are scared to death to raise taxes on corporations or the 1%ers, notwithstanding the fact that they can no longer retaliate by funding the opposite party.
Now the big one. We have yet to hear from either the Tories or the Liberals that they will adjust the profoundly reactionary, Mike Harris funding formula. The Tories initiated it and the Liberals have had 14 years to adjust it. They failed.
The Tories are in the middle of their leadership battle. The party would like all of the candidates to accept the “People’s Guarantee” PG, which resulted from broad consultation with the party but already Doug Ford, Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney are all rejecting the carbon tax on which the rest of Tory spending hangs. The PG is essentially dead. For those who actually care about the public school system,
elitist Mulroney has all four of her kids in private schools. This puts her is a profoundly awkward position in dealing with the public education system and its unions. The entire education system is 25% of government expenditure. Health and education is what provinces do.
Ford is also attacking the LGBTQ friendly sex education curriculum staking out a position as the far right candidate. Christine Elliott or Caroline Mulroney Have are more muted saying they may seek age appropriate changes. to the sex ed curriculum. A new candidate Tanya Granic Allen, wants to represent the social conservatives who are concerned about the sex ed curriculum, abortion and so on.
Pat Brown is now attempting to reclaim the leadership by entering the race, saying he has passed two polygraph tests and has discredited his accusers. He says he will run on the People’s Guarantee and denounced the others for moving away from the major party consultative document.
Stay tuned. The Tory circus is held over.
Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen debate Tory leadership. Pat Brown entered race later.