TORONTO - Political parties serve an important function. They function as a catch basin for people and ideas with occasionally convergent or overlapping views. They summarize the shared values into a ‘political plan’ and seek public support. It is not a bad democratic tool for individuals whose own individual appeal may be limited at best and surely insufficient to stir the hearts and minds of the electorate.
Officially, political parties [as entities] do not exist in municipal or school board elections. You will not find their names on a ballot. There are constitutional reasons, some of which we explored in summary yesterday (you can read the article here: "Advance polls are open: time to get serious").
From a practical point of view, there is not much local boards can do with the curriculum. It is decided by the Ministry of Education while the Magisterium determines [for Catholic schools] the socio-cultural-religious lens through which that curriculum is delivered. Political parties answer to other goals, in other arenas.
This does not prevent individuals from informally ‘grouping” themselves to achieve specific objectives, once elected. To do it before would suggest an intent to work with some but not all trustees. It could, and does, lead to dysfunctional boards. Lobby groups take over.
And remember no one is forced to send their children to Catholic schools. Indeed, one goes to Catholic schools by choice, as candidate Gabriella Mazarakis said the other night at the debate. Lobbyists try to get hold of what doesn’t belong to them.
When that happens, the interests of parents are shuffled to one side, it’s happening in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. There, the Maria Rizzo Party (De Domenico, Di Pasquale, Kennedy and Li Preti) seems determined to efface all that is Catholic in the board. Their tactics are disruptive, deplorable and downright vicious. The Maria Rizzo Party appears to rely heavily on the support of a publicly-funded community group whose interests are anything but Religion, especially the Catholic faith.
After the Rizzo group determined to overturn a Board decision regarding one of their own colleagues (Michael Del Grande) on a matter of religion, a shocked and disappointed trustee Crawford said, “this is abominable”. Our political “cartoonist” depicted them as a pack of wolves. Del Grande was forced to sue the Board and the trustees in Court to clear his reputation and get relief.
These individuals have marginal attachment to Catholic education: Li Preti spent the better part of a year seeking election as a woke Liberal. She lost. De Domenico lobbied hard to replace Ron Baber MPP when he was ousted from the PC caucus. Once he was turned down, he lobbied as hard for the opportunity to represent the Liberals against Minister Kinga Surma in Etobicoke Centre. Angela Kennedy begged for a PC nomination in Toronto’s east end and promptly lost that election. Norm Di Pasquale managed to cajole the NDP into naming him as their candidate in Spadina-Fort York. He earned the distinction of losing to someone who had been thrown out of the Liberal party in mid campaign.
In Halton, a particularly bitter group of individuals have actually published their agenda for change. The group endorses two sitting trustees (Agnew and O’Hearne-Czarnota) and “two activists”, Ian Mc Combie and Alexandra Power. The group may appeal to some, but nothing in it speaks to the rights and expectations of Catholic parents for whose children the system exists.
It is questionable if they even have the authority to do this given their obligation to uphold and promote the values they disdain. One of their slogans is to vote out the Dinosaurs in the Board: Catholics.
Several in the group may not even be qualified Catholic electors. The allegations are now too numerous to ignore. No one is taking responsibility to ensure the integrity of the election.
In July 2021, they engineered a complaint letter to the Human Rights Commission requesting a public inquiry into the conduct three trustees who stayed loyal and faithful to their oath of office. It ended up nowhere.
Section 19.1 of the Human Rights Code prohibits the Human Rights Tribunal from actions that may infringe on the constitutional protections granted Catholic schools.
This is no time for complacency.
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