Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lack of focus on Toronto trustee elections is concerning

TORONTO - Trinity-Spadina public school trustee candidate Richard Klagsbrun was barely one minute into his opening statement at Monday night's debate when moderator and interim trustee Briony Glassco interrupted and warned him to just say "nice things about people."

What ruffled the feathers of the fill-in school trustee-- appointed four months ago after board chair Chris Bolton resigned over a myriad of school board scandals, including one related to his own charity--was that Klagsbrun dared raise the somewhat questionable past of his opponent, Muslim Ausma Malik.

"This is a table of respect," Glassco chirped, muzzling him before he could finish what is on the public record about the controversial Malik, who is endorsed by NDPers Mike Layton, Olivia Chow and would-be councillor Joe Cressy.

"You've said enough ... just be nice to people," Glassco added, while a contingent of Malik's NDP pals and recognizable QuAIA supporters clapped vigorously.

As revealed in this space 10 days ago, Malik attended what she characterized as a peace rally during the heat of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon in 2006. At that rally there were numerous Hezbollah flags. Malik delivered a blistering attack on Israel, contending the country committed "state-sanctioned murder" --a comment she confirmed as correct in an e-mail to me.

According to published reports in The Varsity from September of 2008, Malik also played a key role in a complicated and controversial bid to overturn a March election that saw the incumbent lose as president of U of T's powerful Arts and Science Student Union. Malik, in that same e-mail to me, denied doing anything inappropriate.

It was this latter issue that Klagsbrun endeavoured to raise before being shut down by Glassco --especially legitimate in my view since Malik kept talking all evening about bringing "integrity, transparency and accountability to the TDSB."

Yet, why should those entrenched in the far too leftist-driven TDSB worry considering how few pay attention to trustee races. The massive Central Toronto Academy Auditorium was less than one-quarter full--shocking considering that the seat is up for grabs for the first time in 11 years and that the TDSB has been so mired in spending and other scandals, including very public incidences of trustees actually bullying each other, over the past four years.

What followed was a surreal exercise in political correctness and nearly two hours of Glassco-ordered fuzzy-wuzzy happy talk.

There was not a single question about curriculum or what the candidates would do to ensure students graduate from high school with the ability to make proper change or perform basic math without a calculator.

There was a question as to how candidates would support "queer youth" in Ward 10, sadly predictable. By the way, being an openly gay woman, I absolutely loathe the use of "queer."

But let's get back to our Muslim candidate. Never mind Malik's seemingly checkered past or that she characterized my column about her and other media reports on her past as "vicious, mean-spirited and misleading attacks" aimed at limiting her participation in public life.

It is how she came across that troubled me even more. Even though Glassco's questions were mostly Pablum, at least the other eight would-be candidates had some interesting thoughts about how to tackle their role and how to make a difference at the TDSB. Besides Klagsbrun, Colleen Kennedy and Sabrina Zuniga had some very practical things to say.

The darling of the left and self-proclaimed progressive, Malik, however, spoke largely in mind-numbing NDP bumper stickers all evening, not surprising given who has endorsed her.

She talked about "building an inclusive and responsive public school system," "the diversity of need" in Ward 10, "safe and welcoming spaces," "willing partners," the need to "engage in an ongoing dialogue," "marginalized" youth and "community building."

Ugh. There must be an NDP script of meaningless phrases passed on from trustee to councillor to Queen's Park.

That is what should also be concerning about the lack of focus on trustee elections.

I know from my years of covering education and political issues that the school board is often the stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Premier Kathleen Wynne got her political feet wet first as TDSB trustee in 2000, jumping immediately into provincial politics from there. Chow--a mayoral candidate and former NDP MP--and Councillors Janet Davis, Paula Fletcher, James Pasternak, Josh Matlow and Shelley Carroll were all once Toronto school trustees. Mike Del Grande was a Catholic school trustee and is looking to return there.

For that reason alone we should be paying far more attention to who are suitable candidates.

Now, as for Glassco, when I approached her after the debate about her efforts to muzzle Klagsbrun, she told him she was "sorry if she hurt his feelings."

Oy vey. I rest my case.
Please share this

No comments:

Post a Comment