Public Values

Education moving to centre stage as Hudak tops McGuinty in poll

But by opposing popular early learning program, Tories play into Liberal trap for a repeat of John Tory debacle.

Education moving to centre stage as Hudak tops McGuinty in pollby Doug Little

Well it was only one point 36-35% but it marked the first time the Hudak Tories had come first in a legitimate poll. Of course 36-35 is well within the margin of error so it could easily have been 37-34 for McGuinty but the point is, Hudak came first for the first time and on other points Hudak outpolled McGuinty on many aspects of leadership and the public is much more in the mood to 'change the government than it has been in a long time.

Notwithstanding their good fortune, the Tories seem determined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and education may play the lead role in the unfolding drama. The Tories ideological blinkers have allowed them to blow two elections on education, the Frank Miller disaster that followed the extension of funding to the catholic schools resulted in the Peterson-Rae government and the ill-fated John Tory decision to fund private schools killed what might have been a Tory victory.

They are about to do it again. McGuinty has staked his next election on the Early-Learning Plan (ELP) and Hudak took the bait hook, line and sinker. Hudak has basically said he would freeze the program at the point that he becomes Premier and consider other options for early childhood education.

The Tories face a tough decision, they could alienate their base vote that hates public spending, hates the expansion of the public sector in any direction except the police, the jails and the military, and wants to keep women barefoot pregnant and in the kitchen. The Tories know the program is and will continue to be popular. Still they are hoping that the pro side will split between the Libs and the NDP while they will have the ante-deluvian mouth breathers all to themselves.

It is a political error of John Tory proportions and could become the ballot box question. In this case the Tories would be shooting themselves in the foot once more. They better switch feet. One of them already has two holes in it.

If the ELP develops as a ballot box question, the NDP is also in an awkward spot. Bob Rae passed on a similar plan after the Royal Commission which placed the NDP to the right of the Liberals now. They need a position to take into the election that actually sets them apart from the other two parties. The only position with any credibility is the one that follows former leader Howard Hampton's immortal line, "it doesn't go far enough...." The NDP needs to enter the election with a costed proposal for a radical and rapid expansion of the ELP that outflanks the Liberals beginning at an earlier age, voluntary of course, but universally available , beginning at toilet training or age 2. For the NDP, "we are with the Libs on this one" just won't do.

The Little Education Report

Posted: September 23, 2010


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