Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton
In the run up to a recent Scarborough by-election, Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown spent much time making speeches and handing out press releases supporting his candidate, as political party leaders often do. Towards the end of that political contest, he made a pledge that, should his party form a government, he would scrap Ontario's revised sex education curriculum.
However, all of this effort proved to be nothing more than toying with the emotions of poor parents for no other purpose than to grab their votes.
But, lets step back for a moment. In 2015, Patrick Brown wanted to win the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party win a seat in the Ontario parliament. In order to do this, he needed strong support from a broad range of people across the Conservative party, and in the riding he ran in to gain a seat in the legislature.
One theme that came up numerous times was his criticism of the Liberal Wynne Government’s controversial sex education curriculum, which was received by a section of parents with serious reservations and mixed feelings. Brown and his party seized on this uneasiness, and as the Conservative leader, he has repeatedly spoken of revising it or scrapping it altogether.
And, in my opinion, he and his party have benefited by taking this position.
And now, back to the recent Scarborough by-election. In the final days of this contest, we saw a huge flip-flop by Brown.
First, a letter “pops up” at the end of the campaign repeating the party position that he as leader would scrap the curriculum. Then comes the flip-flop and Brown’s denials, complete with a watering down of the much promoted “scrap the curriculum” platform.
In the mean time, voters were bombarded with newspapers and television news broadcasts repeating the original Conservative pledge.
By the time Brown flip-flopped, his party had a new seat in the legislature and any hope parents may have about seeing the controversial curriculum dealt with flopped with Brown’s flip, leaving many confused about what the leader of the Progressive Conservative party actually stands for.
Patrick Brown’s now famous flip-flop is, to paraphrase former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, is like politicians who promise to build bridges, even where there is no river. In this case, Brown would have us believe he was asleep at the switch when all of this was going on.
First, he was unaware of the highly organized tactic that saw 13,000 copies of the now famous letter, in both English and Chinese, delivered to homes at the end of the Scarborough by-election. Then, he denied any part in it, suggesting the letter was the product of the party. Then he flip-flopped on the policy itself, saying he will at least review the curriculum.
Brown needs to be reminded of the old story about the boy who lived in the jungle and decided one day to play a prank on nearby villagers by screaming, “help me, help me, lion, lion!!”
The villagers stop what they are doing and immediately grab their tools and rush to the boy’s aid only to find him laughing, and admitting it was all a joke. The villagers left confused and a bit angry. The next day the boy played the same prank, the villagers ran to his aid, and again, he had to admit it was all a joke. The villagers left very angry.
The next day, a lion did appear and the boy screamed for help, but the villagers were tired of his pranks and no one came to help him, so the lion ate him.
My point: Mr. Brown, you can’t continue to treat the voters of Ontario like that boy treated the villagers.
In 2018, there is going to be a provincial election. As leader of the Conservative Party, Mr. Brown, you either have a platform and policies or you don’t. The voters of Ontario are not looking for a party or a leader that plays fast and loose with his promises, or compromises his party’s policies.
People are looking for a friendly and honest leader who is prepared to make commitments and deliver on them.
I question whether you are that leader.