A parent activist who opposes Ontario’s updated sex-ed curriculum is the fourth official candidate in the race to replace departed Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown before the June 7 provincial election.
Tanya Granic Allen of Parents As First Educators enters the March 10 contest with the first of two televised leadership debates slated for Thursday and the deadline for selling party memberships kicking in Friday.
“We have to make sure the social conservative voice is being respected,” Allen, who is now registered with Elections Ontario as an entrant, said in a recent post on the lobby group’s website.
“When it comes to these leadership contests, we are far better off supporting candidates who we can trust and who will speak out on our issues,” she added.
Allen’s entry comes as leadership rivals have, to varying extents, reached out to social conservatives who had been courted by Brown in his successful 2015 quest for the leadership.
Many social conservatives felt abandoned by Brown, who quit Jan. 25, amid allegations of sexual misconduct he denies, after he decided to support Premier Kathleen Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum as part of efforts to move the party closer to the centre of the political spectrum after four consecutive defeats by the Liberals.
In the last week, leadership contestant and one-time city councillor Doug Ford has promised a review of the sex-ed curriculum. Former MPP Christine Elliott says parents need to be consulted on the “age of appropriateness” for sex ed. She has also promised Tory MPPs would be able to vote freely on matters of conscience.
Fellow contender Caroline Mulroney has said she would not undo any of the sex-ed changes Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has made, but promised parents a bigger say in the development of curriculum in future.
Calling herself “one of Brown’s most outspoken critics” for his sex-ed decision, Allen told supporters “you and I can have an impact in the June election through this leadership race.”
Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris said earlier this week that backtracking on the modernized sex-ed curriculum would be a mistake and insisted there had been “extensive consultation” with parents.
“In the age of social media, we have a responsibility to make sure students have the information they need to keep them safe. Through the updated curriculum, students learn (about) consent, healthy relationships and how to stand up for themselves.”
Ontario Progressive Conservative party officials have not yet said whether Allen has entered the race in time to appear in Thursday’s debate, to be moderated by TVO host Steve Paikin.
Allen could not immediately be reached for comment.