Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some religions are more equal than others

Andrew Coyne in today's Post - McGuinty's indefensible stance on schools.

...So Mr. McGuinty, asked to respond to the Tory proposal, might have simply shrugged and said: "Not my policy." Or, seized of the unfairness of funding one religion over others, he might have followed Quebec's lead, and amended the Constitution to remove any reference to religious schools...

That is the elephant in the room, right there.

If you want the Working Families', er, sorry, government side of things, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne provides it here - Doing right by Ontario's students. Gee, I would have titled that one, Doing 'left'...

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A note to my national readers - Please do not despair. I intend to get back to Federal politics very, very soon. It's just that Dalton and Co. provide so much fodder!

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Update: The Sudbury Star - Fairness in Faith; why do Catholic schools get funding, when other religious schools don't?


Lord Kitchener's Own said...

I've gotta say, though I'd prefer NO funding for religious schools, period, it does seem that if you're going to keep the Catholic schools, and you want to be equitable, you have to fund other schools too (with a great deal of emphasis on them teaching the Ontario curriculum, and using accredited teachers, etc...). It also seems to me that this issue effects SO VERY FEW PEOPLE that it's a bit silly to overemphasize the effect this will all have. Most Ontarians simply aren't going to send their kids to religious schools. How do I know? Because there are plenty of (private) religious schools out there now, and plenty of people who could afford them still choose not to send their kids there. Frankly, most people in Ontario just aren't religious enough to want to send their kids to a religious school. This'll be such a tiny blip in the big picture, and it's mostly such a big issue because of the emotion of the issue, not it's realistic impact.

I also like the idea that under the Tory plan, religious schools would have to attach themselves to a public school board (i.e. we wouldn't be setting up a bunch of separate school boards) which also means the religious schools would have the opportunity for interaction with public schools and public school kids (basketball games, science fairs, musical competitions etc....) which is probably best for both groups.

I'd like to hear more detail on how we'll determine which religious groups get funding, and which don't (just figuring out which protestant denominations get funding could be tough) but I don't think that's some insurrmountable challenge (though it's a very important point that I wish the PCs were more detailed on). However, as Tory is fond of pointing out, Ontario wouldn't be the first province to do something like the Tories propose, we'd be the 7th, and it's not like those other 6 provinces fell apart over this! I just wish he'd say more than "Other provinces have figured out how to deal with these issues, so we'll be able to as well" and come right out and explain the plan that he actually suggests we use (and maybe he will).

Not certain how I'll vote in October yet (though I'm voting for MMP!) but if the election were really just this one issue, right now I'd have to vote Tory.

Anonymous said...

Keep it simple stupid, as they say. Don't fund "religious" schools at all.

Why do politicians have to complicate things?

That's a wonderful thing about Canada - all kids are able to be educated and all are not denied their religion.

There's no way Tory's plan would be helpful financially - he'd have to raise taxes or cut programmes or put the province in massive debt.

We have churches/synagogues/mosques, etc. that teach their respective religions together with family - why 24/7? Necessary?

This is a totally bad idea. Bill Davis succumbed to threats by the Catholic Cardinal of the day (I can't remember his name) that Davis would not get the Catholic vote if he didn't do things their way - yes, it's about "VOTES".

Joanne (True Blue) said...

LKO - That is about as honest and thoughtful a post as I have read to date.

Personally, I worry about these fringe religious groups if MMP does get in. I think it would lead to more fringe parties. The main ones would likely be abandoned by them, and our whole system could get mired down in a morass of one-issue parties.

valiantmauz said...

How does over 126,000 votes translate to fringe, Joanne? That's the 2.8% of voters who cast their vote for the Greens. The next highest bloc was the Family Coalition at a meager .8% or 34,000 votes.

Neither party would be entitled to a seat under MMP, though the Greens are in striking distance. At best, if their numbers squeak past the 3% threshold, they might have get one or two list MPs under an MMP system.

But getting the Greens into Parliament isn't the point. The point is the numbers below:

Last election, the Libs got 70% of the seats on 46% of the vote. The PCs got 23% of the seats on their 35% vote share, while the NDP got only 6% of the seats on 14% of the vote.

Note that Dalton McGuinty would not have had four years of Liberal bliss had we anything approaching a representative government. If anything, he would have had a bare majority, but more likely would have had to put up with an effective opposition from the NDP and PCs combined.

You could argue that the NDP and Libs are more likely to form some sort of coalition government, freezing out the conservative population, but that would have the effect of reflecting over 60% of the population's wishes.

But here's the kicker - from where I sit, a Lib/PC coalition is equally likely, and that vote bloc reflects 80% of Ontario voters.

Eighty percent is huge.

MMP waves a great big stick over the heads of the Big Three parties, encouraging them to govern cooperatively, responsively and responsibly - knowing that pissing off a fraction of their votes will drive them to the Greens, or a Conservative grassroots party, or a new Left. Piss off enough of your votes, and it costs seats.

Three percent is nothing to sneeze at, and a vote bloc larger than the Peterborough metropolitan area is not "fringe".

Lord Kitchener's Own said...

Not to hijack the post, but as you can imagine I largely agree with valiantmauz's comment. I don't think there'll be a sudden explosion of small parties under MMP, and I've said time and time again that I don't understand what's so terrible about a party that receives 3% of the vote getting 3% of the power in the legislature. Any so-called "fringe party" will only enjoy power in the legislature commensurate with their support among the voters, and I rather thought that was the point. It's not that MMP is so perfect, it's that FPTP is SO BAD!!!

The example that wasn't given was the 1990 election. Bob Rae's NDP received 37.6% of the votes cast in that election, but this gave the NDP a pretty solid majority in the legislature with 57% of the seats. The Tories got 23.5% of the vote that year, and only got 15% of the seats. On the votes cast, there was a 5% difference between the first place NDP and the second place Liberals. In the legislature, that gave the NDP a 29% advantage.

VOTES: 37% to 32%
SEATS: 57% to 28%

Frankly, if a bunch of crazies can get the support of the people of Ontario then they should be represented in the legislature of Ontario. The voters should get the legislature they voted for, not the skewed legislature FPTP gives them, where you don't even need to get the most votes to form a "majority" government.

Bemoan minority governments if you like, but we get them ALL THE TIME. In fact, every Ontario election since the 1930s. It's just that under FPTP we give majority power to a lot of parties in what SHOULD be minority legislatures.

Anyway, back to the actual topic of the post (sorry!).


Joanne (True Blue) said...

Anyway, back to the actual topic of the post (sorry!).

No, no. Don't apologize. This is interesting.

I don't think either method is perfect. The Bob Rae example sure does give me pause for concern.

To be honest, the whole matter is very confusing. I'm planning to do a lot more reading and such. So far still on the "No" side, but you never know.

Lord Kitchener's Own said...


OK then! :-) One other point that I've made before, though perhaps not here, is that I feel that getting MMP is important if we want to get ANY type of electoral reform. I'm afraid that a rejection of MMP (even if more than 50% vote for MMP, as happened with STV in B.C., fyi :-)) will just be spun as an acceptance of FPTP, and it's going to become exponentially harder to reform the system the next time around (which I think will be a LOOOONG time away).

People have a notion that our electoral system is sacrosanct, or carved in stone and that it CAN'T be changed, totally aside from whether it SHOULD be changed. However, if we vote in MMP and we end up wanting something different once we've seen it in action, or just to make tweaks to it, then I think that's entirely doable, especially given that we would have just finished showing that the elctoral system CAN be changed. I wouldn't go so far as calling it "change for change's sake", but personally, I loathe FPTP so much that I really do feel we need to change to something (almost ANYTHING) better, and I feel this is our opportunity to take back control of our electoral system from the politicians. Once we've asserted that control, if we want to make more changes in the future (and I agree that MMP too can be improved) well, we'll do that. Nothing is irreversable or unchangeable.

Also, keep in mind that while there is a fair bit of detail in the Citizens' Assembly's recomendations regarding MMP, there is also a lot of room to tweak the practicalitites of those recommendations. A vote for MMP in the Referednum is by no means the END of the process, but the beginning, and the legislature we elect October 10th will still be responsible for crafting new electoral legislation regarding the specifics of how MMP will actually happen in the real world, which provides yet another opportunity for improvements to the system. There will be plenty of back and forth and negotiation in the legislature before the final version of MMP that we use will comes fully into focus, and lots of opportunity for critiques of MMP to be voiced again, and in many cases, I suspect, dealt with.

If we vote for FPTP though, we keep FPTP, and I'd imagine we'll be stuck with it for a long while (as inertia will quickly set right back in). For some, that's comforting. But for me, FPTP kinda makes my skin crawl, and as much as there are flaws to MMP, I much prefer them to the flaws of FPTP!

Brian in Calgary said...

Why do politicians have to complicate things?

Politicians are fallible human beings. As a result, when hasn't there been something, anything, that politicians (from any part of the ideological spectrum) haven't done their best to screw up?

Dirk said...

We've got a huge issue now with voter apathy. How often have we heard "my vote doesn't mean anything"? MMP makes everyone's votes mean something. Hopefully, that will motivate more of us to participate politically.

More voter involvement = better government.