the liberals are taking more positions on the funding of private schools than a tantric sex goddess, providing the NDP with an opportunity. The third party badly needs an issue to prove that it's crucial to the political process, and this might be it. Last week the party held a summit on public education, and it illustrates how the education controversy might bring the social democrats back from the brink or not.
Room 230 at Queen's Park would seem an ideal place to hold the summit. Not only is it a beautiful space, with majestic windows, but the very fact that it's in the Provincial Parliament sends a subtle message that the nine-member NDP caucus is still in the game.
Alas, there are drawbacks, too. The room is so small that the refreshment table has to be folded up to make way for more chairs. More seriously, the fact that the event is in the legislature means that it must be non-partisan , which provides an excuse for Liberal education critic Gerard Kennedy to crash the meeting and demand a place on the podium. Perhaps it's the presence of the much-despised (by the NDP) Kennedy that makes Howard Hampton offer such a stiff and uninspiring opening address.
An impressive panel on education stakeholders has been assembled: parents, unionists and school trustees, with MPP Rosario Marchese chairing. They put together an action plan at the summit that includes a demand for full public hearings across the province rather than the quickie debates that count for parliamentary process at Queen's Park now that the Tories have twisted the rules to their own advantage.
Of course, with Kennedy on the panel, there are the inevitable suggestions from the floor about a joint effort by the two opposition parties to fight the Tory funding scheme. The Liberal MPP -- derided by CUPE members in the audience for voting with the Tories last month to order them back to work -- promises not to make it a partisan matter. The fact is, the principled glow that would shine on his own divided party as the result of an association with the NDP would probably help him and other Grit MPPs.
But it would not do much for the NDP, and MPP Marilyn Churley looks doubtful when I ask her after the meeting if she thinks some NDP-Liberal project is in the works. "What exactly is the Liberal position?" she asks.
To be sure, the NDP needs a chance to shine. The adrenaline might lead to some caucus bonding, which has been in short supply of late. Churley, for instance, scaled back her caucus responsibilities because she didn't like the appointment of firebrand Peter Kormos to the sensitive position of house leader.
Another notable absence this evening is MPP Frances Lankin, who is getting married soon and is thought to harbour thoughts of retiring from the Queen's Park grind altogether.Yet, if it's lucky, this will be the NDP's moment. It may not get a chance at another.
TORY TAX PLAN
Tories proposed tax credit would be phased in over five years beginning in 2002.
Fully phased in, it would amount to up to 50 per cent of eligible tuition costs, to a maximum of $7,000 annually per child. (The maximum tax credit, then, is $3,500.)
Parents would apply for the credit on their tax form. It could only be applied to tuition, and does not include other expenses like books, uniforms, boarding and sports.
Currently, where a private school has charitable status, parents can write off the religious instruction portion of tuition.