By Hilary White and Steve Jalsevac

  TORONTO, August 30, 2007 ( – Bernie Farber, chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, in comments to the National Post on Tuesday, accused Ontario’s Premier Dalton McGuinty of doing “a complete about face” from his previous position of support for limited funding of independent religious schools.
  Last week, the Liberal premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, called faith-based schools “segregationist” and harmful to Ontario’s “social cohesion.”

“I don’t think that Ontarians believe that improvement or progress is defined as inviting children of different faiths to leave the publicly funded system as we know it and go to their own schools,” McGuinty said. “I think that’s regressive, I think that takes us backwards, I think our responsibility is to continue to improve the publicly funded system of education.”

  Farber responded, “It’s not fair—it’s offensive—to link our day school system and [other] faith-based schools with segregation. It’s fear mongering. It’s time for him to step up to the plate and to retract this.”

  The Post reports that McGuinty’s comments are a flip-flop from his previous support for religious schools. Citing a 1998 meeting with the CJC, at which McGuinty had indicated his support, Farber said, “At the time that was a hugely significant statement. He stood up in front of the leadership of Ontario’s Jewish community and said he was prepared to do it.”

  McGuinty’s attack on religious schools came in response to a pledge by the Progressive Conservatives that, if they are elected to head Ontario’s government, they will create tax benefits to offset the cost of tuition for parents of children in private religious schools.

  His opposition to independent religious schools, however, is well founded in his government’s actions. In 2003, Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals threw out a program set up by the Progressive Conservative Harris government that allowed a tax credit of up to $3,500 per student annually for tuitions up to $7,000.

  The cancelled program, initiated by Ontario Progressive Conservative finance minister Jim Flaherty, was praised for its minimal requirements to receive the tax credits which went directly to families rather than educational institutions. The program allowed, within some limits, parents and private schools to maintain their independence from excessive government interference in programs and would have increased much needed competition to the monolithic, left-wing union dominated public school system.

  The independent schools tax credit program was to have been expanded but developments planned were quickly dropped by Red Tory PC leader Ernie Eves during his brief premiership. 

  The latest faith-based schools funding proposal by Progressive Conservative Tory leader John Tory is dramatically different than the Flaherty plan. Non-faith based schools are excluded this time. Also unlike the Flaherty program, the new PC proposal will give the government considerable powers to influence independent school programs in exchange for money to the schools, as happened with the now fully funded and substantially secularized Catholic school system.

  Read related coverage:

Ontario Tories Pledge Financial Aid for Faith-Based Schools

  See related story
  Toronto Catholic School Board Pro-Gay Harassment Policy Threatens Priests


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