Andrea Horwath Hammers Doug Ford’s Pivot To Math Scores During Heated Sex Ed Debate

Ryan Maloney
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath walks to her office following question period at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Aug. 1, 2018.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath didn't pull punches in question period Tuesday after Premier Doug Ford brought up math scores during a debate about the sexual education of students.

"If they have been raped or bullied, math won't matter very much to them. Will it?" Horwath said, spurring applause from her bench.

Ford called Horwath's remarks "outrageous." At least one Progressive Conservative member could be heard in the background accusing the NDP leader of fear-mongering.

"I can assure all of us in this chamber that we certainly do know who and what is outrageous around here," Horwath shot back.

The NDP leader was again targeting Ford's controversial plan to revert to a sex-ed curriculum that was last updated in 1998. Tories are shelving the curriculum Liberals revamped in 2015 to include discussions of LGBTQ rights, online safety, and consent.

Consultations are expected to take place in all 124 provincial ridings to inform the government on a new lesson plan.

Shortly after, Horwath joined Queen's Park protesters and union members representing Ontario's elementary school teachers and groups such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Ford falsely claimed in the legislature that there was "zero consultation" on the Liberal government's revamp of sex ed and charged that New Democrats feel parents should have no say on the issue.

He also turned to a report from The Globe and Mail to support his argument that the "number one issue" should be students' math scores.

"We have some of the greatest teachers in the world right here in Ontario, they haven't even been given the tools to learn math themselves," he said, before claiming that "one-third of teachers at teachers' college have failed Grade 6 and Grade 7 math because they are only getting 36 hours of teaching."

NDP want to ignore math scores, Ford says

The report from Globe and Mail reporter Caroline Alphonso showed roughly a third of teaching students scored "at or below" the provincial standard of 70 per cent on a Grade 6 and Grade 7-level math test administered by an Ontario teachers college. The story also found that Ontario student teachers spend "anywhere from 36 hours to 72 hours on math," while more time is dedicated to the subject in Quebec.

Under fire in question period, Ford noted that just half of Ontario's Grade 6 students met provincial standards for math in standardized testing in 2017. The NDP, he said, want to ignore that problem.

"They don't care about our kids, Grade 6 math students that are failing. Fifty per cent of them are failing," Ford said. "They don't worry about those kids."

As she had in the past, Horwath accused Ford of merely appeasing social conservatives who helped him become PC leader and premier.

"Sex ed saves lives," she said. "Sex ed helps keep kids safe."

Watch the exchange at the 3:56 mark in the video below:

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns later took to Twitter to question why, if math scores are so poor, Ford's top priority was "attacking sex ed."

As the Ford government resists calls to scrap their plans — including a petition signed by nearly 1,800 health-care workers — the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario is urging members to teach the 2015 curriculum once classes resume in September.

"The government's decision to revert to the 1998 Health and Physical Education Curriculum while initiating further consultation is irresponsible, discriminatory and jeopardizes the safety of the students that we teach,'' ETFO President Sam Hammond said in a statement this week.

"Teachers will not be muzzled by a government whose political agenda takes precedence over the protection and education of their students.''

With files from The Canadian Press

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