AMHERSTBURG, Ont. - Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is defending a piece of campaign literature on sex education that the rival Liberals have branded as homophobic.
"I think they reflect (Premier) Dalton McGuinty's out-of-the-mainstream policy ideas to have a sex-ed curriculum that would begin with grade ones," Hudak said during a campaign stop at an elderly couple's home in Amhurstburg.
Hudak, who is the father of a four-year-old daughter who started junior kindergarten this fall, said kids in Grade 1 should be learning the alphabet or math instead.
"I just think this shows another example of how Dalton McGuinty's lost touch with mainstream Ontario, and the NDP? I mean, they're just right behind them. I don't agree with it."
The Tory flyer (see below) urges parents to vote against the Liberals for "keeping parents in the dark" about what's being taught in schools.
It says Ontario's sex-ed curriculum teaches "cross dressing for six-year-olds" and suggests that teachers allow students to hold their own gay pride parade in their school.
The literature paraphrases from a handbook provided to Toronto teachers that was obtained by The Canadian Press, which the Liberals say has been completely misrepresented by the Tories.
The Toronto District School Board updated a 219-page curriculum resource guide for the 2011 school year to cover kindergarten through Grade 12 called "Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism."
Among other things, it recommends schools not advise parents when teachers will be introducing concepts such as gender discrimination, homophobia and non-traditional families in the classroom.
The board said it does send a newsletter to homes at the beginning of each term to keep parents, guardians and caregivers informed of all upcoming equity talks in the classroom, but "without having to single out one topic over the other."
The Liberals point out that Ontario's sex-ed curriculum hasn't changed since 1998, when the Conservatives were in power. They also accused the Tories of misrepresenting what the guidebook actually says and focusing on elements that they believe will alarm parents.
McGuinty withdrew a new sex-ed curriculum last year after some religious and conservative groups said they were uncomfortable with kids in Grade 3 being taught about same-sex families and sexual orientation.
The "Challenging Homophobia" guide recommends schools not send home notes or permission slips before starting any class work on lesbian, gay, bisexual transgendered or queer issues.
If a school treats sexual orientation or anti-homophobia differently from the other curriculum topics "this could be construed as discriminatory practice," the curriculum guide concludes.
The guide also says there should be no accommodations for parents who want their children exempted from the anti-homophobia discussions because of religious reasons or for teachers who feel it contradicts their beliefs.
Hudak, who has embarked on a marathon campaign day through southern Ontario, also laughed off suggestions that he's stalled in public opinion polls and has only managed to win the endorsement of one national newspaper.
With just three days to go until Thursday's election, polls suggest Ontario may end up with it's first minority government in 26 years, with the NDP as kingmakers to either a Liberal or Tory administration.
By Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press