Public Values

Ontario comes up snake eyes on education with HST gamble

McGuinty puts early learning strategy, health, social services at risk.

Going along with PM on HST puts education up for grabsby Doug Little The Little Education Report

When I started writing on-line about education issues, I told myself to stick to the politics of education only and not drift inexorably into politics in general. It is not as easy as it looks. To some extent this was inevitable but I promise to keep it to an absolute minimum.

I really need to say that when I saw the recent Angus Reid poll with Tim Hudak’s PCs at 41%, McGuinty’s Liberals at 29%, and Andrea Horwath’s NDP at 20% and the GPO at 11% my reaction was “these stupid Liberals are going to throw away a minimal education agenda by rolling the dice on the HST.” It looks like they came up snake eyes. Yes, they will get billions in bribe money from Harper to sugar coat the bitter pill but that will go straight onto the deficit so there will be no social offset to put in the front window. Their own handlers warned them this was a really tough sell but they drank the Kool-Aid anyway. The government seems sanguine at the moment.

  "In rolling the HST dice, McGuinty and Duncan have irresponsibly put everything in education, health and social services up for grabs... Class size will be on the table, schools will disappear even faster than McGuinty’s program."

The Angus Reid poll also shows the reason for the precipitous Liberal decline. Yes eHealth and Lotto scandals didn’t help but the HST is wildly unpopular with 75% opposed to it and 57% strongly opposed to it. In BC the HST issue has put the NDP far ahead of the very conservative BC Liberals but the NDP usually leads between elections. It is possible that this issue has legs. The HST is as unpopular in BC as it is in Ontario which has BC Liberal MPs running for the hills.

I carry no brief for any of our parties. They all pull some bone headed moves in education and in other areas. I have tried to position this journal in a progressive but post-partisan political space. If you are actually interested in my political feelings in education I would say on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being Finland or as good as it gets and 0 being Texas the home of NCLB where they do everything in education in a reactionary way and they like it that way, I would put the NDP at 5, the Liberals at 4 and the PCs at 0. The Greens are just like green Liberals.

In rolling the HST dice, McGuinty and Duncan have irresponsibly put everything in education, health and social services up for grabs. A Hudak PC government would slow down, stop or even reverse the early learning strategy. They will not be able to help themselves from attacking the teachers setting off School Wars 2.0. Class size will be on the table, schools will disappear even faster than McGuinty’s program. Even the Flat Earth Phonics only crowd could see a revival.

Progressive voters need to consider their support carefully. There is a “just vote Liberal” crowd. The problem with this is that a Liberal Party with no threat to its left very quickly gravitates to the right to occupy and compete with the PCs on centre right territory. There is a “just vote NDP” crowd as well. The problem with this strategy is that the NDP is too weak right now to win government in the near future so the result is likely to be a PC victory with the NDP in second place. NDP insiders might love this result. It repeats the Steven Lewis Official Opposition period but the possibility of 50 years of Tory government is too high a price to pay. The NDP government did not distinguish itself in the education field.

So what is left in both senses of the word? The best that could possibly happen for the non-delusional is that Horwath’s NDP would gain 5-10 seats at the Liberals expense with the PCs holding what they have or losing a few. It is too bad but that is the best possibility for now. McGuinty is sure not making it easy.

Doug Little works as a member of the secretariat at the provincial office of OSSTF in the Communication and Political Action Department.

Posted: January 07, 2010


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