Crossposted to tvo.org. Today’s question: “An Ipsos-Reid survey released on September 10 reported that 62% of Ontarians are against religious school funding. Did John Tory make a mistake politically by promising to fund faith-based schools?” (400 word limit)
Currently, Ontario uses public money to fund the schools of one denomination of one religion (Catholicism) to the exclusion of all others. On two separate occasions the United Nations has censured Ontario for this clear discrimination on the basis of religion. There are historical reasons why this may have made sense back at the time of confederation, but surely we can agree today that the status quo is unfair and unacceptable.
Given that, I personally concluded several years ago that there were only two options: we must either fund all religious schools or none. And there, in a nutshell, we have the positions of the Conservatives and the Greens, respectively. The fact that the Liberal party and the NDP argue that our government should continue to discriminate on the basis of religion is beyond my comprehension (particularly the cynical Liberal position, which is to pretend to oppose the funding of religious schools, when what they’re actually opposing is the equal funding of all religions).
On this specific issue, therefore, I don’t have much of a desire to criticize the Tory position too strongly, since at least it advocates for fairness. I do not believe, however, that their solution is workable or acceptable to most Ontarians. The Liberals are at least right when they say that the money to fund religious schools would inevitably have to be diverted from public schools, and I’m not sure I want my government getting into the business of deciding which religions are “legitimate” enough to deserve school funding. Did John Tory “make a mistake politically?” Maybe. More importantly, I think he’s mistaken in thinking that his solution is the best for Ontario.
The Green Party position [pdf], on the other hand, is to create one publicly funded school system, where children of all religions and creeds can learn together, and from each other. It is the most realistic and sensible position, and enjoys the support of most Ontarians. We can do it without opening up the constitution, just as other provinces have already done. In addition to resolving the current inequality, this will also eliminate duplications in administration, facilities and transportation between the Catholic and public school boards, getting more out of every education dollar. For me, it’s the obvious choice.