Thursday, August 23, 2007

Election making me sick

I follow Canadian politics really closely and have taken a more active interest in the past year. I have been actively arguing to support the Conservatives Party for supporting funding of Jewish day schools. The Conservatives have created a leaderboard to recognize people contributions to their campaign. Currently I am sitting 4th in my riding even though most of my contributions are off the record.

For the first time ever in an election, the rhetoric and slander in the campaign has on more than one occasion made me feel physically sick to my stomach. So far funding of faith based schools is the only defining election issue. It is at the forefront of the campaign every single day. Last week the Liberal Party website had 2 of the 5 new articles they keep in their headlines condemning funding faith based schools.

Currently in Ontario the government provides 100% percent government funding to secular public schools and Catholic schools. All other schools in the province receive nothing. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec provide some sort of funding for faith based schools (usually in the range of 60% of what secular public schools get). New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland & Labrador do not provide funding to schools outside of the secular public schools system.

The Conservatives have condemned the status quo as being discriminatory & unacceptable. They have proposed that the 'faith based' schools to be incorporated into the public schools system the same way the Catholic schools are. They would need to hire certified teachers, teach the Ontario curriculum and participate in standardized testing. I believe this is a fair way of balancing the desire for faith based schooling and the government's responsible to provide a proper education for everyone. The Liberals and NDP have stated that they support the status quo. The Green Party is in favour of abolishing funding to the Catholic school board.

What is making me feel ill is the lack of intellectual honesty in the arguments the Liberals have been making. They have been arguing that funding 'faith based' schools doesn't bring children from different background's together. They also argue that It takes money out of the public school system.They have defended their continuing support of the Catholic school system which creates the exact same 'problems'.

When I contacted the Premier in February he told me that funding the Catholic schools was necessary to uphold the governments constitutional obligation. Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador have received constitutional amendment freeing them from their obligations to support the schools that existed at the time of confederation. Ontario could do the same.

The Liberals have argued they are in favour of supporting 'public' schools and not 'private' schools. This is a complete abuse of language as public vs. private is not the issue at hand. The Liberals have recently stated that funding faith based schools would create social unrest. They have also stated they support the Catholic school system because it is the system the inherited. I am sure glad McGuinty wasn't in charge when Rosa Parks choose to stand up for what was right instead of the status quo. It is funny that the slogan of his last election campaign was 'choose change' There are also the accusations that the Conservatives are catering to the 'ethnic vote' which plays into the hands of the anti-immigrant sentiments that already exist. My e-mails asking for clarification on the government support for Catholic schools have been ignored by the Premier, Minister of Education and my local MPP.

I just hope the average voter is able to see through the political posturing and make an honest intellectual decision to reject the discrimination that exists in Ontario and urge the next government to either support the Green Party plan or the Conservative plan. In the mean time I will keeping fighting for the truth to come out on this topic.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Quebec Superior Court challenges criminal background checks for teachers

Schools across the continent have adopted policies to have criminal background checks for their teachers. This policy is designed to protect students and keep schools safe.

A man applies for a teaching position in Montreal. The application form asks if he has a criminal background. He fails to mention the fact that he has just spent 7 years in jail for killing his wife. The school is happy with his job performance until they discover his criminal record. He is immediately fired. The union files a grievance. The Quebec Superior Court upholds a ruling by the Human Rights Council that the skill must give the teacher his job back. Their reasoning is that the criminal conviction was in no way a factor in his ability to perform his job. They sight the details of his conviction that he is not a risk to re-offend and posses no risk to the students. Quebec law makes it illegal to refuse to hire someone because they have a criminal record, if it is not a factor in their ability to perform the job.

There are two very dangerous precedences that could come out of this ruling. The court is establishing that it is OK to lie on a job application if it does not affect their ability to perform the job. These factors may not be significant in determining if a person is qualified. They could be significant when a manager is making a final decision between 2 or more applicants. If a person gets hired based on the law they have no fear of being fired when the lie is finally uncovered. This hurts honest job seekers. Nothing good can come out of this reasoning.

Schools have a responsibility to protect the safety of their students. The burden is now being placed on the principals to not only establish if an applicant has a criminal record but if the crime will effect the potential teachers job performance. They must take a detailed look at the individual details of the crime to determine if they pose a threat to students. Being a murderer is not enough to disqualify them from the application process. A wrong decision will either result in unnecessary danger to students or a law suit against the principal.

Hopefully this ruling will be appealed and struck down by the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Rhinos return from extinction

The Federal Government successfully passed this years budget and the Prime Minister no longer has the right to call an election. As a result the huge ramp up for an election that never happened. Since Stephan Dion took over as leader the Liberal Party seven seats have been vacated. Five of them belonging to Liberals including MPs making seats available for the runner up of the leadership convention.

The Liberals have been complaining for months that Harper waited the full 6 months (which he is entitled to) before calling the first by-election in the riding of Outremont. The by-election has been called and things are getting very interesting considering the riding has been Liberal in all but one election since it's creation in 1933.

When the hand picked Liberal candidate has already been condemned by B'nai Brith for his open anti-Israel views. Dion responded by criticizing the Conservative foreign policy. The candidate called himself a "critical friend of Israel" He justified is position by the fact that former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler attended his nomination announcement. The riding is 10% Jewish so this could become significant.

The NDP who have finished 3rd the last two elections are hoping to have a shot with the increasing focus on the environment and other social issues. The Green Party has the same hope as the environment has started cropping up as the number 1 issue for Canadians. Governments never do well in by-elections. Picking up seats in any of the by-elections would be significant in reaffirming their mandate and getting the Senate to finally approve legislation they have been holding up, in some cases for more than a year.

Today the Rhinoceros party announced their return to politics. Their self appointed party leader (who has legally changed his name to Satan) will be making a run in the Outremont riding. They have also launched a $50 million lawsuit "Satan versus Her Majesty The Queen" to strike down the 1993 legislation that lead to their parties extinction. The legislation required a $1000 deposit for all candidates who seek legal office. In order to gain party status they must run 50 candidates in an election. The courts should do away with the lawsuit fairly easily. It is good to see some political campaigning that are not arrogant and take themselves too seriously. Personally, I would have liked to see a return on the Lemon Party but this will do.