Tanya Granic Allen was declared the winner of the Feb. 15 Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership debate on TVO after she took on the legacy of former leader Patrick Brown, focused on policies, and directly challenged the record of presumptive frontrunner Christine Elliott.
After a number of job-interview type questions about their leadership styles and resumes, moderator Steve Paikin asked about improving math scores. Granic Allen, former president of Parents As First Educators and endorsed by Campaign Life Coalition, said she would repeal Kathleen Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum. The curriculum has been criticized by PAFE, CLC, and other parents and religious groups, as fundamentally flawed and too sexually explicit for elementary school children. Paikin interrupted both Granic Allen and Ford when they started talking about sex-ed, saying he would get back to that topic momentarily. Granic Allen explained that classroom instruction time dedicated to “teaching anal sex” to sixth graders meant less time for math classes.
The debate returned to sex-ed and Christine Elliott promised to have parental consultations in a non-committal review of the curriculum. Doug Ford spoke out about the curriculum as not age appropriate, railed against the phony consultations held by the Wynne government, and promised a thorough review. Caroline Mulroney Lapham said she was fine with the curriculum and would not review it.
Granic Allen showed mastery of the issue saying she would repeal the “radical sex-ed curriculum” and give parents “ultimate responsibility to take care of their kids” if elected leader of the party and ultimately premier of Ontario. The curriculum, implemented in 2016, teaches homosexuality and “gender identity” in Grade 3, masturbation in Grade 6, and oral and anal sex in Grade 7, and a gender ideology that promotes six genders rather than two biological sexes.
As head of PAFE, Granic Allen was a leading critic of the Wynne curriculum. “I’m not against sex-ed, I’m just against Kathleen Wynne’s radical sex ed,” she said. “I run a not-for-profit that represents over 80,000 parents in Ontario; I have yet to meet a parent who’s comfortable with anal sex in the classroom.” Granic Allen said she would repeal the sex-ed curriculum, review it line by line, and “replace it with something that is age appropriate that doesn’t sexualize children and that parents are okay with.” She said she would be guided by a “4 R” response that included “respect the parents, always give them an opt out, always give them notice before these lessons are introduced and we’re going to give them ultimate responsibility to take care of their kids.”
In another exchange Granic Allen challenged Elliott over her co-sponsoring Bill 77 in 2015 when she was an MPP. Bill 77 outlawed treatment for children confused about their gender. “Parents were upset about that because that decision and that vote that you made overrode parental choice,” to decide medical treatment for their children Granic Allen told Elliott. “So now parents who have a gender confused child can’t seek out that therapy because you voted for that bill and it passed.” Elliott replied: “I want to be an advocate to make sure that everyone can have a voice at Queens Park, not everybody who lives the same kind of life.” Allen shot back: “yeah, but at the same time you don’t have to get rid of, you don’t have to erode parental choice. If a parent has a child who needs some therapy, why should politicians be making decisions that will limit the parents’ options for therapy for that child?” Elliott claimed that parents “should be involved in making those decisions.” “Then why did you co-sponsor that bill?” persisted Granic Allen.
When the issue of Patrick Brown running in the general election as an MPP for the party after the sexual misconduct allegations was raised, Granic Allen said that was only one concern. She said he rigged nominations, falsely claimed 200,000 members when the real number was about 70,000 less, and interfered in the policy-making process to shut out the membership. She argued Brown had no place in the party because of “his corruption and his corrupt executive, (and) the corrupt manner in which he has run this party into the ground.”
Pundits in the mainstream media applauded Granic Allen’s performance. The CBC’s Mike Crawley said she had the “feistiest” performance. He said, “she made her presence felt throughout the hour,” writing on the CBC website: “she dismissed the federal carbon tax as a ‘cockamamie idea’ hatched by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She said the PC party’s campaign platform, called the People’s Guarantee, ‘died the day Patrick Brown resigned.’ She wrapped by slamming Ontario’s ban on so-called conversion therapy, aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of young people.”
The Toronto Star’s Rob Ferguson reported on Granic Allen’s debate dominance: “the newest candidate in the PC leadership race came out forcefully at her better-known opponents in a debate Thursday, knocking their political pedigrees and blaming low student test scores on sex ed.”
The Ottawa Citizen’s David Reevely also remarked on her performance: “Granic Allen (was) the candidate with the clearest policy positions of the bunch so far. If you want a straight-up social conservative who knows what she stands for, she’s it,” he wrote. “Granic Allen speaks for a lot of people in her party.”