Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ford Moves to Appease Social Conservatives, Vows to Replace Sex-Ed Curriculum

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ford Moves to Appease Social Conservatives, Vows to Replace Sex-Ed Curriculum

Article excerpt

Ford vows to replace sex-ed curriculum

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TORONTO - Doug Ford moved to appease social conservative voters on Tuesday, vowing to scrap and replace the Liberal government's sex-ed curriculum days after dropping one of its staunchest opponents as a candidate in the spring election.

The Progressive Conservative leader also said he'd tie post-secondary funding to free speech as he announced three education pledges ahead of Wednesday's official start to the campaign.

Several Canadian campuses have seen incidents recently in which controversial speakers or professors have come under fire for their views. One of the most publicized was that of Lindsay Shepherd, a Wilfrid Laurier University teaching assistant who was chastised for airing a clip featuring professor Jordan Peterson, who has refused to use gender-neutral pronouns and has become a hero of the campus free speech movement.

Ford did not provide details on how his proposed process would work, but said universities are supposed to be a place where people exchange ideas, and too many schools are putting limits on that.

"We will ensure that publicly funded universities defend free speech for everybody," Ford said. "But we have to remember that free speech is not an invitation to be reckless or hurtful and it all comes down to respect."

Emmett Macfarlane, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, said free speech on campus has become a far-right issue by virtue of the fact that most of the controversies have involved people with conservative views.

Ford likely picked core social conservative issues to talk about Tuesday after dropping candidate Tanya Granic Allen over the weekend, he said.

"I think he's entering the proper campaign on the tail-end of possibly angering some segment of his base with dismissing Granic Allen's candidacy," Macfarlane said. "It seems like there was a decision made here to emphasize those kind of meat and potato conservative issues."

At his campaign launch in Etobicoke, Ont., Tuesday night, Ford repeated his pledge to replace the sex-ed curriculum, getting cheers from the crowd of hundreds.

"We will respect parents," he said. "We will scrap the current sex-ed curriculum and we will make sure that we consult with parents."

During the rally, Ford hammered the Liberal record and fired up the crowd, predicting that with their support a PC government would put him a position to deliver on all of his promises.

"On June the 7, with your help, we will win this election," he said. "We will win a strong, stable majority government. And we will send Kathleen Wynne packing."

The sex-ed curriculum sparked controversy, particularly among social conservatives, when the Liberal government introduced it in 2015. It was the first time the curriculum had been updated since 1998 and included warnings about online bullying and sexting, but protesters zeroed in on discussions of same-sex marriage, gender identity and masturbation.

"For too long the Liberals have ignored Ontario parents," Ford said Tuesday. …

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