On June 7, voters in Ontario will have the chance to replace Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne by electing a new NDP or Progressive Conservative government. Technically, this is not one election, but 124 simultaneous elections, one in each riding across the province. In Canada, voters do not directly elect a government or premier, but rather members of federal or provincial parliaments that will ultimately decide which party gets to form government.
Most voters do not think of elections in this way. Because of how the media covers politics, most voters focus on the records of governments and the leaders of political parties, with the local candidates often ignored. This is not to say that the party leaders and platforms are irrelevant. Far from it. The party with the most elected members typically gets to form government, and its leader will usually become premier and the platform will often form the basis of the government’s agenda.
Looking at the leaders of the Liberal, NDP, and Progressive Conservative parties, and their respective track records, there are obvious differences in governing philosophy and ideology when it comes to life and family issues. Because most MPPs will follow what their leaders tell them or simply go along with the party for the sake of tribal unity, it is necessary to take these factors into consideration.
Campaign Life Coalition and other pro-life and pro-family groups have called for the defeat of the Ontario Liberal government based on its track record. It is easy to see why.
Under Kathleen Wynne, the Liberals have introduced a sex-ed curriculum, written under the direction of convicted child pornographer Benjamin Levin, then deputy education minister. In this curriculum, sex-ed begins in Grade 1 and by Grade 3 (age eight), students are introduced to the theory that gender is a social construct and is fluid. In Grade 4 (age nine) there are lessons on dating and in Grade 6 (age 11), students will be introduced to masturbation. Wynne said the curriculum was developed in consultation with parents, but the consultations consisted of one parent-representative per school, often hand-picked by administration. These parents participated in an online survey with narrow questions designed to elicit particular outcomes. Furthermore, while Wynne and then education minister Liz Sandals maintained that parents had the right to remove children from classes to which they objected, the Liberal government fought Hamilton father Steven Tourloukis in his legal battle with his public school board seeking parental notification and the guarantee that he could remove his children from classes to which he objected.
In October, 2017, the Wynne government rammed through Bill 163, the “Protecting a Woman’s Right to Access Abortion Services Act,” which created anti-free speech bubble zones near abortion facilities, criminalizing peaceful, pro-life witnessing. Her cabinet ministers argued that it was necessary to prevent intimidation and harassment of abortion-minded women and abortion facility staff, even though intimidation and harassment are covered by provisions of the federal Criminal Code. With NDP and PC support, Bill 163 passed in an 86-1 vote, with Trillium Party MPP Jack MacLaren (Carleton-Mississippi Mills) voting against it on free speech grounds. Pro-life protesters found guilty of witnessing within 50 meters of abortion facilities face up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine on first offense and double the penalties on subsequent charges. Critics charge that the law, which came into effect on Feb. 1, is an unconstitutional infringement of the rights of speech, expression, assembly, and religion. The law has yet to be tested in court.
Other government bills that attacked the traditional, two-parent family were bills 89 and 28. In 2017, Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau introduced Bill 89, “Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017,” which gave family and children’s services agencies sweeping new powers to scrutinize and investigate families on the basis of their religious and moral views. Critics of Bill 89 said the effect of the change would be to punish Christian parents who do not support the LGBT agenda by either denying them the right to adopt or removing biological or adopted children from their families. It passed 63-23 with 20 abstentions when the PC caucus reversed then-leader Patrick’s earlier decision to support Bill 89.
In 2016, the “All Families Are Equal Act” redefined family to include up to four legal parents, none of which have to be blood-related. Bill 28 undermines the parent-child relationship between natural parents and their biological offspring. It removed the words “mother” and “father” from all provincial laws and government records, including birth certificates. Critics of the bill said it also opened the door to legalizing polygamy. Bill 28 passed 79-0 with 28 abstentions (mostly Tories).
Last year, the government’s Bill 84 established Ontario’s framework for euthanasia, defining the practice as “medical treatment” under Ontario’s healthcare system. The “Medical Assistance in Dying Statute Law Amendment Act, 2017,” did nothing to protect conscience rights for health care workers. It passed by a 61-26 vote with 20 abstentions, again with most Tories opposed.
In the April Ontario budget, Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced a universal daycare scheme to fully fund licensed daycare for children aged two years to four-and-a-half. Sousa announced nearly a billion dollars for the initiative, which would provide a no-cost space to families with toddlers in daycare. It is estimated this will cover the costs for about 100,000 children in daycare, out of more than 400,000 currently enrolled, and bring total provincial spending on daycare to nearly $2.5 billion.
While NDP MPP Cheri di Novo (Parkdale-High Park) is not running again, the NDP got behind her private member’s bill, “An act to amend the Human Rights Code with respect to gender identity and gender expression,” which provided special rights to people who self-identify as transgender or transsexual. Bill 33 was passed in 2013 when it was supported by the NDP and Liberals and not opposed by the PCs, then led by Tim Hudak. Another di Novo private member’s bill, “The Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act, 2015,” which criminalized conversion therapy for people with same-sex attractions, was passed in 2015 with the support of both the NDP and Liberals.
Like the Wynne government, Andrea Horwath’s NDP has promised to bring in a daycare scheme if elected. The platform, “Change for the Better,” promises free daycare to low-income earners and then a subsidized daycare spot for families making more than $40,000 annually with gradually increasing fees that max out at $12 a day. Like Wynne, the NDP say they want more women in the workforce and free or cheap daycare helps achieve that goal.
Since being elected leader of the Progressive Conservatives in 2015, Patrick Brown had moved the party to the left on a variety of social issues. He marched in Toronto’s Pride Parade, flip-flopped to support the Wynne sex-ed curriculum, and in 2017 proudly announced he would not allow socially conservative policies to be considered in the party’s online consultations. Brown resigned as party leader in January after media reports of two women alleging he sexually harassed them. The allegations are unproven and Brown is suing CTV for airing the report, but with his reputation impugned, Brown could no longer lead the party. In a four-person race to replace the deposed leader, Doug Ford beat pro-life and pro-family candidate Tanya Granic Allen and pro-abortion candidates Christine Elliott and Caroline Mulroney. Ford won because he earned the support of the vast majority of Granic Allen’s voters on the preferential ballot after he promised to revoke the sex-ed curriculum and said he was uncomfortable with teenagers getting abortions without their parents knowing (although he has not tied any promise to this inclination).
Once he became leader, Ford re-opened a number of nominations where there were problems. Not every riding in which there was some sort of shenanigans resulted in a new open contest for the nomination, although many did. In some cases, a candidate was replaced by another appointee; Ford’s election team said that it was not possible to properly conduct two dozen nominations in the six weeks before the election writ was dropped and the campaign started. Tanya Granic Allen won in Mississauga Centre. Christina Mitas was appointed in Scarborough Centre. In several ridings where some problems were anticipated if Brown had still been leader, notably Cambridge and Waterloo, the local pro-life candidate won the nomination.
Although Granic Allen was the only leadership contender to appear with Ford when he was declared the winner of the PC leadership in March and the two seem to get along well, it is probably too much to hope that she will be named the next minister of education. But she and other pro-life voices will probably be treated respectfully within a caucus led by Ford and a few might even be considered for cabinet.
The Progressive Conservative platform had yet to be released when The Interim went to press. It is will be interesting to see whether repeal of the sex-ed curriculum will be included in it, although it will be difficult for Ford to abandon a promise that he made repeatedly on the leadership campaign trail in February and March, just months before the provincial election.
Doug Ford talks about respecting free speech, respecting parents, and respecting his MPPs. He talks forthrightly about the problems with the “Liberal ideology” within the sex-ed curriculum and talks common sense about whether teens should be able to have an abortion without their parents knowing – after all, schools need parental permission to distribute an aspirin to a minor. How far a Doug Ford government would go to reverse the damage done to life and family under Kathleen Wynne has yet to be seen, but there is no doubt that he provides a change in direction from the anti-life and anti-family agenda relentlessly promoted by Premier Kathleen Wynne, her Liberal caucus, and their NDP allies.