POLITICS
07/24/2018 13:20 EDT | Updated 07/24/2018 13:23 EDT

Doug Ford Is Causing ‘Nothing But Confusion’ On Sex Ed, Andrea Horwath Says

The Ontario premier says it's not up to politicians to decide on the curriculum.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauds as Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivers the speech from the throne to open the new legislative session at the Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 12, 2018.
Frank Gunn/CP
Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauds as Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell delivers the speech from the throne to open the new legislative session at the Ontario Legislature at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 12, 2018.

Ontario's premier says it isn't up to members of the legislature to decide if students should learn about sexual orientation, gender identity, and LGBTQ families when school starts in September.

His main rival says the whole situation is sparking "nothing but confusion" for students, teachers, and school boards.

Doug Ford faced more pressure in question period Tuesday from NDP Leader Andrea Horwath over his government's controversial decision to scrap the province's sexual education curriculum, which was revamped in 2015.

An earlier lesson plan, which was last updated in 1998 and lacks discussion of online bullying, sexting, same-sex marriage and gender identity, will be taught instead this fall while the government plans new consultations with parents.

Watch: Ontario premier promises 'rapid' consultations on sex ed

Horwath pounced on comments made by Christine Elliott, Ford's deputy premier and health minister in a scrum Monday. Elliott told reporters that "LGBTQ issues" and "issues related to self-identity and self-expression" will be included in the revamped curriculum, according to QP Briefing's Jessica Smith Cross.

"Will the premier confirm that all information about sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBTQ families... from the updated health curriculum will be taught in Ontario schools this September?" Horwath asked.

"Mr. Speaker, that's not up to us to decide in this chamber," Ford responded. "It's up to the people. I know you don't believe in consulting with the people. It's up to the people of this great province to give us the direction to make that decision."

The premier's remarks sparked applause from his Progressive Conservative bench. Finance Minister Vic Fedeli referenced the PC election slogan, saying "listen to the people, for the people."

Ford 'repaying his political debt' to radical activists: Horwath

Horwath then charged that Ford made a "backroom deal" with social conservatives who supported his election as PC leader in March.

"Now he's repaying his political debt to those radical activists, doing it at the expense of Ontario students and in apparent opposition to his deputy premier and education minister," she said.

Horwath was referring to how Education Minister Lisa Thompson told reporters last week that only a portion of the curriculum would be changed — only to walk it back just hours later and say that the whole document would be scrapped.

Ford is putting his own interests first and putting kids in jeopardy, Horwath said.

The premier pivoted by complimenting Elliott, calling her the "greatest deputy premier I could ever ask for." He again said his government will listen to parents.

"We don't believe in the big government, we don't believe in the nanny state, we don't believe in politicians dictating to the people," he said. "We believe in empowering the people and let them make the decision."

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Ford and Horwath also had a spirited exchange in question period Monday when the premier took exception to his rival saying his government was turning back the clock 20 years.

"I think the leader of the Opposition is getting her numbers wrong. We're actually going back to the 2014 curriculum," he said.

However, in 2014, Ontario teachers were using the plan introduced in 1998.

Ford reiterated his promise that thorough consultations would be held in all 124 ridings before moving forward with a more "modern" plan.

"Maybe this premier has trouble with what century we're living in," Horwath shot back.

With files from The Canadian Press