Despite the ongoing debate, the premier refused to take a stand on the issue.Well, despite the criticism, I think this was a savvy play by McGuinty in not rising to take the bait. I say that having previously expressed (twice!) my opinion in this space on a few occasions that religious instruction should take place in the home or in houses of worship and that if faith groups wish to distribute their texts they should do so exclusively through their houses of worship and community outreach, not through publicly funded public schools.
"This is the kind of thing that I would encourage the trustees who presumably were involved in this decision to make sure they're listening to parents, and not just parents, but folks in the broader community," said McGuinty. "Is this a practice with which they are comfortable? I leave that to them."
McGuinty, a Roman Catholic, wouldn't say if he was comfortable with Gideons giving Grade 5 kids Bibles to take home.
"I'm not going to weigh in on that, other than to say that I encourage the representatives of the school board there to make sure they give this careful consideration, listen to the population."
It's the on-the-ground reality that makes McGuinty's refusal to engage on this question the smart move. This question -- and it's always going to be led by the Gideons in most areas as I've yet to hear of a non-Christian faith asking for permission to distribute its texts this way -- has a different answer in different parts of the province. Trustees in local boards, who have been known to complain about how little decision-making abilities they supposedly have, should be the ones listening to their communities on this question.
Kitchener-Waterloo is a bible belt. Rural Ontario would answer this question very differently than larger urban centres. Districts where the Catholic and public boards are almost equal in population would also likely have a different answer to this question.
If trustees judge their communities want this practice to continue and their communities aren't giving them any different feedback, then they can decide to allow it to continue. If they review it and the support isn't there, then they can prohibit it.
Plus, not that I want to disagree with Annie Kidder all the time, but this really isn't an election issue. It's another bait-and-wait issue that would only distract us from the ones the pending campaign should be focused on.