Standing in front of a shuttered Etobicoke high school with ties to his late brother, Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Doug Ford vowed to revisit the province's sex-ed curriculum if he becomes head of the official opposition and then premier following the upcoming election.
"Sex-ed curriculum should be about facts, not teaching Liberal ideology," he told reporters on Monday outside Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School.
"Parents should have the final say in what they want to teach their kids past this point."
The former Toronto city councillor blasted the province's controversial sex-ed program for Grades 1 to 12, calling how the Liberals rolled it out in 2015 "totally unacceptable."
Under the current sex-ed guidelines, students in Grade 1 learn the proper names for body parts. Grade 2 students are taught about the broad concept of consents by being told that no means no. Concepts of gender identity are introduced in Grade 3, though the curriculum doesn't get explicit and positions sexual orientation as one of the potential qualities that distinguish people from one another.
Discussions about puberty start in Grade 4 and Grade 5, while education about intercourse takes place the following year. Masturbation and "gender expression" are taught in Grade 6, while kids in Grades 7 and 8 discuss contraception, anal and oral sex, preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
These changes prompted some parents to protest by keeping their children out of school.
Ford said the consultations with parents were "insufficient" and the Progressive Conservative party under former leader Patrick Brown, "refused to consult its own members" and "stonewalled the debate of the issue."
In 2016, Brown came under fire within his own party for changing his mind on the new program and eventually supporting it.
Brown resigned as leader Jan. 25 after two women accused him of sexual misconduct. He denies the accusations. The opposition party decided soon afterward to hold a leadership race, even though the next provincial election is just four months away.
Ford joins former MPP Christine Elliott, and lawyer Caroline Mulroney as candidates.
Ford also said he would "revisit curricular documents in all core subjects." He referenced a report put out in August by Ontario's Education Quality and Accountability Office, which showed only 50 per cent of Grade 6 students met the standard for mathematics for the second straight year.
"Something is broken at the province and we need to fix it," he said.
"Ontario's education system is setting up our children for failure, when we should be the force to be reckoned with around the world."
Correction : An earlier version of this story reported that Doug Ford referred to Ontario's sex-ed curriculum as "totally unacceptable." In fact, he was commenting on how it was rolled out.(Feb 13, 2018 12:55 PM)