Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says he's changed his mind about Ontario's sex-ed curriculum — in particular, about whether or not teachers should be allowed to teach "values" to their students.
During his campaign for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party, he told parents at a February protest against the curriculum that his first principle on sex-ed, as PC leader, would be: "Teachers should teach facts about sex education, not values. Parents teach values." He also released those remarks to the media in a statement.
However, in response to questions from QP Briefing after question period Tuesday, Brown said that's no longer his belief.
"I think it's fair to say there should be a shared responsibility, that parents and teachers are both involved," Brown said.
His other views from the leadership race statements on sex-ed — specifically that the government had done a poor job of consulting parents on curriculum changes — still stand, he said.
Brown attributed the change of heart to changes in the curriculum. "I think it's fair to say the sex-education curriculum has evolved here since it was first introduced, since there were rumours about what it was going to be, to where we are today," he said. "I think the government has made some adjustments, but I stand I stand by my positions on public consultation being important, but I do think there should be a shared responsibility."
However, he gave those comments about teachers not teaching values at an anti-sex-ed curriculum rally on the day after the latest version of the curriculum was introduced.
He said the values he's speaking of — which he now believes teachers should teach — are those that he wrote about in his recent op-ed on sex education, disavowing the letter and voicing his support for the curriculum.
"I will never support removing LGBT sensitivity or combating homophobia from schools. I will always support consulting with parents and giving them a voice, but I will never support intolerance in our society," he wrote. "I am determined to lead an Ontario PC Party that is modern, inclusive, pragmatic, and that reflects the diversity and values of our province. I was proud to be the first PC leader to march in the Toronto Pride parade. I was proud to be the first MP in Barrie's history to attend a pride flag raising. I fully support marriage equality. It doesn't matter who you love, the government has no business in your personal life."
His comments come as Brown has found himself remains under fire from the Liberals over the letter sent out under his name in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection, promising to "scrap" the updated curriculum.
The letter controversy has left Brown facing many questions from the press. He said he's been consistent in his view on sex-ed all along, and is fighting the notion that his sex-ed stance is all about politics — that he ran on the socially conservative right to win the leadership campaign, and had sent the letter in attempted to do the same to win the Scarborough riding with numerous socially conservative voters, while simultaneously pivoting toward the centre in order to win the general election in 2018.
But there are some things he still won't answer — including whether or not he knew his party would be sending out a letter about sex-ed bearing his signature. He's said he didn't see it, but wouldn't say what he thought it would say, if he knew it was being sent, or answer any questions about how his chief of staff and PC party executives knew about the letter, when he didn't.
In response to numerous questions, all he would say is the letter was "a mistake," and he's taking responsibility for it.
Premier Kathleen Wynne weighed in on the issue Tuesday, and the Liberals heckled Brown with, "Who wrote the letter?" in question period. Wynne also took questions about the letter from the press.
"I think that Patrick Brown has a lot to sort out in terms of what did or didn't happen," she said. "I'm also confident you guys have that covered, in terms of asking him questions, so I'm going to leave that to you. For me, what's important is that I've been completely consistent on the need for an upgraded sex-education curriculum in this province."
You can list to audio of that part of Brown's scrum here: