What of the province's large network of Montessori schools, or bilingual schools? How in the world can he justify discrimination against schools that are not faith-based?
During his short stint as Premier, Ernie Eves enacted policy to provide a $2,000 tax credit for each child attending private school. I didn't agree with the policy and was glad that Dalton McGuinty cancelled the program before it started, but that policy was at least reasonable public policy. Tory's proposal is so scandalously bad that it should be unconstitutional.
Another issue with Tory's proposal is the extra cost of busing tens of thousands of students to the school of their choice. That cost would be enormous, and would be on top of the estimated $500 million that his proposal would drain from public education.
This isn't an off-the-cuff idea of Tory's. It isn't the fault of his policy committee. This is Tory's baby and he has been proposing it for years. He stuck to this policy even in the face of an outraged public during an election campaign, softening only so far as to say that as Premier he'd allow a free vote on it.
Some see Tory's proposal as a way to right the wrong of the Catholic school system. I also oppose the Catholic school system, but shattering the system will not fix it, or make it more equitable - it will just create a lot of new inequities, and a province full of ill-educated kids to boot. It was Conservative Premier Bill Davis who brought in the fully-funded all-grade Catholic school system, and it's not going to be easy (or possible?) to remove. Nearly half the province is Catholic, and there are 650,000 students enrolled in Catholic schools (out of a total of 2 million students). Catholics argue that their schools provide a better education than public schools. At the least, dismantling the dual school system is going to require compromises. If one compromise is to provide a half day for religious training in every school, then I could see opening up the program to other faiths.
But is Tory's proposal really about Catholic schools? Remember that his other unpopular policy proposal during this election was to introduce two-tier health care by allowing private medicine in the province. Allowing a multitude of faith-based school boards is a form of privatization of the school system, just as he wants to privatize the health system. Both proposals would enormously weaken the public institutions' funding and their ability to provide essential services. It seems that privatization at all costs is Tory's goal. What he wants to do is dismantle our government.
It is mind-boggling that Tory never thought through the implications of his proposal to fund faith-based schools - that he doesn't have the intellect to see the implications, and doesn't have the right people around him to set him straight, and doesn't listen to people with differing viewpoints. We are very, very lucky that McGuinty is forecast to win a majority in tomorrow's election. The Conservative Party of Ontario should seriously consider finding a new leader who has more common sense and at least a basic understanding of good public policy.