A campaign flyer that some have described as homophobic was defended by Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak Monday, as he began his final push for Ontario's top job.
The flyers have been distributed around the Greater Toronto Area, and use a series of quotes from news articles in an effort to suggest they relate to controversial portions of the Liberals earlier plan to revamp the Ontario education curriculum by introducing the topic of same-sex marriage to Grade 3 students and a mention of anal intercourse in Grade 7.
Mr. McGuinty shelved the new curriculum last April after a Christian group led by evangelist Charles McVety expressed outrage. The sex-ed curriculum being taught in schools is the one that has been in place since 1998 when the previous Tory government introduced it, and remains unchanged, the Liberals said in a statement on Monday.
The Tories are quoting from a Toronto District School Board curriculum guideline that says, "Sending a school newsletter home at the beginning of each term is a best practice for keeping parents informed of all upcoming equity topics in the classroom."
Still, the PC flyer warns parents against classrooms that would introduce concepts such as "cross dressing for six year olds" and "reclaiming Valentine's Day [by celebrating]sexual diversity with a kissing booth."
The statements aren't based on what was proposed, however. The Valentine's Day example was an idea to give chocolates to students who complete a "school climate" survey. As for cross-dressing, the Liberals said "there is no such thing." The page cited in the PC flyer is a list of "Significant International" gay and lesbian individuals, including Ellen Degeneres, Rosie O'Donnell, Virginia Woolf and Harvey Milk.
A Liberal official pointed out that the flyer itself has nothing to do with sex ed, but is aimed at stopping discriminiation against gay and lesbian students.
There is no reference to six year olds cross-dressing in the guidelines, the Liberal noted.
"Don't want this for your kids?" the flyer asks as it encourages parents to vote against Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty. "Parents don't have a say."
Small print identifies the flyer's Progressive Conservative origins. When asked if he supported the message, Mr. Hudak turned the question around on the Liberals and suggested the party was out of touch with mainstream voters.
"My little girl Miller – it's her birthday today – is just four and she has started JK," he said. "The notion that Dalton McGuinty thinks a priority in education is sex-education curriculum starting at Grade 1 when they should be learning their ABCs and how to tie their shoes is another example of how Dalton McGuinty has lost touch with mainstream Ontario."
Mr. McGuinty accused Mr. Hudak of starting his campaign on a "divisive" note by attacking the Liberals' proposal to provide tax credits to employers who hire highly skilled new Canadians to help them get accredited in their profession. He is now winding up his campaign on another divisive note, Mr. McGuinty told reporters in Vaughan, where he visited a Magna car parts manufacturing plant.
"If you don't have a plan to create jobs in the face of a looming economic challenge, I think you're going to grasp at whatever straws you can get your hands on," Mr. McGuinty said.
In a letter accompanying the flyer, Willowdale PC candidate Vince Agovino says the "future of parental rights" is one of the main campaign issues and he references his Catholic faith. He also refers to a controversial ad that appeared in the National Post – that the paper has apologized for publishing – that railed against educating children about sexuality.
"I am a believer in that parents are the first and most important teacher of any child," the letter said.