The Green Party of Ontario has called for the merger of Ontario’s public and Catholic school systems.
“We have four systems right now, and for reasons of fairness, we cannot be funding the schools of one religion, not in Ontario in 2014,” said Dave Bagler, the Green Party candidate in Ottawa Vanier.
Bagler was one of four Ottawa-area Green Party candidates contesting the June 12 Ontario election who met, June 2, with the Communications and Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
The other candidates in attendance were Alex Hill (Ottawa West Nepean), Gordon Kubanek (Nepean Carleton) and Bob Bell (Ottawa Orleans).
Separation of church and state is an issue, said Hill, who attended Hillel Academy and Yitzhak Rabin High School, and is now studying political science and philosophy at the University of Ottawa. According to Hill, there are Catholic schools that have used taxpayers’ dollars to send students to anti-abortion protests, and that Catholic schools discriminate against non-Catholics in their hiring practices.
When the candidates were asked whether funding could be made available so that services for students with special needs at public schools could be extended to Jewish schools and the schools of other religious groups, Bell said his mother is a speech pathologist in private practice and he has observed the issues.
“The school system does a good job with some special needs, but not necessarily with the autism spectrum.”
Bell said his own personal opinion would be “to put the money in the parents’ hands where they can get their children the services they need.”
The candidates were asked about funding for ethno-specific social service agencies such as Jewish Family Services, Hillel Lodge and Tamir and Bagler agreed that funding isn’t keeping up with need. He said the Green Party emphasizes home care and home retrofits which might take some pressure off underfunded social service agencies.
Noting that half of every tax dollar goes to the health care system, Hill said the Green Party would emphasize preventative care rather than not sick care.
“It’s not solely an issue of funding; it’s an issue of how the dollars are being spent,” said Hill.
Hill also said the Green Party is the only party recommending a guaranteed annual income to address poverty.
Shortly before the election was called, the government of Ontario announced it would open an office in Israel to promote trade and economic co-operation between Ontario and Israel and the candidates were asked if a Green Party government would follow through with the plan.
Having the government of Ontario open an office in Israel to promote trade and economic co-operation is a good idea, said Hill. “We support the reduction of trade barriers.”
“If the Green Party were to win, that’s the kind of country we want to do business with. We would both benefit from that relationship,” added Bell.
Asked about anti-Semitism, Hill noted there are “great opportunities for coalition building” to combat anti-Semitism noting that “many groups got together to oppose the religious symbols legislation” in Quebec.
Hill also criticized the media for marginalizing the Green Party noting that they were grouped fringe parties for some radio interviews and that their leader, Mike Schreiner, was excluded from the sole televised leaders’ debate.
The four men said they were Green Party candidates because they support “evidence-based decision making” and “building towards tomorrow.”