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Part II of our series comparing the education platforms of the major Ontario parties. Yesterday was the PCs, today is the Liberals and NDP, and tomorrow we cover the Greens, Commies, and Libertarians.

 

If I’ve learned anything in school over the years, it’s that you don’t trust politicians. Not because they aren’t trust worthy, though many very well may not be (I’m looking at you Harper), but because they effect policy like education, and while in school, under the changing hands of one politician’s curriculum, funding, classroom size or another’s, the only lesson that I could afford to learn is not to trust them. It’s just about the only universal tenant carried from year to year.

Don’t believe me? Listen: the Ontario election educational debate has devulged to name-calling and schoolyard tactics (though admittedly, it wasn’t much more before that either).

 

The one promise no one is willing to makeCole Burston

The one promise no one is willing to make
Cole Burston

 

The proposed policies for the Liberal and NDP parties serve as proof enough (Hudak’s hilarious horror-show of an educational platform was discussed here). In both cases, the math is rudimentary, a sloppy carry over of a one in the wrong direction.

In Kathleen Wynne’s case, the one is carried over to raise the wages of $1 an hour in 2015 and $1 an hour in 2016 for those outside the public school system. As always with the Liberals, such wild fiscal promises are without concrete follow-up (perhaps a way to back track their campaign hacks, like with the hospital expansions, eHealth, or Poverty Reduction Plan).

To add to the mess, they wish to expand the Student Nutrition Program to more schools (how?), support school community-hubs to promote better use of public assets (I repeat: how?) and give every grade 7-12 student access to their own online career-planning tool (am I talking to myself again – how?).

The irony is sweet in the last platform push. Children will be able to plan for a careers in a fiscally-exhausted system. And when that wasteland comes, it looks like janitors to clean up the mess may be the way to go.

Andrea Horwath is no better. In fact, she’s more of the same – a loudspeaker for policies so reductionist that they seemed to be have been constructed by a third-grader (which may be an insult to third-graders). In short, they are spend, spend, spend in that order.

Forget that she’s started this electoral snafu with rejecting the budget (one which was so pro-NDP that it was as though it was drafted by them, not the minority Liberals). Forget that she wanted an Ontario Pension plan, and rejected it. Forget that claims herself blue collar, but she’s wearing orange (or more importantly: that she’s sticking her hand into corporations pockets with less of a tax raise, trying to maneuver herself politically into their favour).

What is important is that her educational policies are Wynne’s just reinvented on a Dr. Frankenstein proportion – the result of rejecting the NDP-godsend of a budget and thus driving Ontario into election for purely political, rather than ideological, reasons. They are an abomination of fiscal mismanagement: hiring 1,000 new phys-ed teachers, hiring 1,000 more Educational Assistants, invest $15 million per year on nutrition, among others.

Where the money comes from, no one is sure. What is plainly clear instead is that they take bits from the Liberal’s budget, and remold it as their own until the point of hilarity. In a way, the third-grader (again: sorry to all the third graders reading this) analogy fits: perhaps Horwath believes money grows on trees.

Education is complex – a conglomerate of partners both public and private, secular and not, and to pass off half-hearted, poorly constructed, and general policies denies the issues concrete within each individual component. The result is an entire sector that is equally reduced, rather than each individual piece honed and criticized for their own strengths and weaknesses.

Both parties – the Liberals and the NDP – seem to forget this intricacy in their humdrum pandering and proselytizing. Maybe it’s because they learned not to trust politicians, like I did in school. So maybe, then, it’s possible that they don’t trust themselves. I wouldn’t. Their ideas are just sloppy math.