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My statement on the math curriculum

Going door to door in Scarborough Southwest, I’m hearing from parents who are worried their children are falling behind in math.

More than half Grade 6 students in this province did not meet the provincial requirements in math. That’s not their fault. That’s not their teachers’ fault.

The blame lies squarely with the curriculum. 

It’s been failing our students years. Over the last decade, there’s been a steady slide in math scores.

Teachers I’ve talked to have spoken of their frustration with a curriculum they know just isn’t working.

When smart kids stumble over simple arithmetic and don’t know their times tables, it sets off alarm bells.

When I was a journalist, I interviewed Dr. Anna Stokke, a University of Winnipeg Math professor who pushed for change in Manitoba.

“People think they want to teach creativity and problem-solving and all that sort of thing from the top down.

“Those are all really good things. We want students to be able to problem solve and think creatively, but they can’t do that unless they have a solid foundation to work on,” she told me several years ago.

Several years ago, she and other math professors started the Western Initiative for Strengthening Education in Math (WiseMath). They were successful in petitioning the Manitoba government to have times tables and standard arithmetic teaching restored to the curriculum.

She told me “terrible textbooks” are party of the problem. Part of the problem, she said, are the “terrible textbooks,” this province uses.

“The big focus is on using multiple strategies for coming up with simple arithmetic.”

Stokke uses the example of multiplication tables. If a child is asked to calculate 8 x 7 and doesn’t know the answer, the new math teaches them complex methods to come up with the answer.

They’ll be told to calculate 4 x 7 — and then double the answer – a ludicrous and convoluted way make an easy calculation

I’m no mathematician, but I do know I use the times tables I learned as a child every day. I use them when I go to the supermarket. I use them when I balance my bank account. 

I’m not suggesting we go back to the old way of kids sitting in rows learning by rote. We need a balanced approach – with children taught the basics they will need for the rest of their lives in a creative fashion.

My statement on the sex-ed curriculum

The province’s health and physical education curriculum – commonly known as sex-ed – is an issue many parents care about and raised as I have gone door to door across Scarborough Southwest.

I have read the entire curriculum and have a vested interest in keeping children safe: My grandson will be entering the public school system before long.

We must educate young people to protect them from on-line stalkers  and sexual predators. They need to be able to understand their bodies and discuss issues such as gender identity, consent  and cyber-bullying.

The new curriculum was introduced without meaningful consultation with parents. That caused hostility and anxiety among groups that did not fully understand its content. It also became overly politicized when the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne chose to hold a vote on it in the Legislature. This turned the curriculum into a divisive and partisan political document, which it should never have been.

The math curriculum does not get voted on in the Legislature. The geography curriculum does not get voted on in the Legislature. It is inappropriate, therefore, for the sex-ed curriculum to be voted on along party lines.

In the past, the Toronto public school board was able to develop parts of its own curriculum, within provincial guidelines. The sex-ed curriculum is an example of why we should revert to that model. Toronto District School Board should produce programs that are appropriate to urban schools and tailor-made for Toronto.

Young people need to have access to information that will keep them safe and families need to have a comfort level with what their children are being taught.

The director of the Toronto District School Board has issued a directive confirming that teacher prompts in the 1998 curriculum allow teachers to address issues from the updated 2015 version. And I support that! 

At one time, sex-ed was an issue that was addressed only by the family. In many instances, that is no longer the case. In the complex world of social media, students need to be taught the knowledge of how to navigate through an often difficult and perilous cyber world. While some parts of the new curriculum were, in my view, not age appropriate, I believe with small tweaks it can work for everyone. 

Scarborough Southwest is a community with a great deal of cultural and religious diversity. Schools must teach sex-ed in a way that respects that diversity and consults with parents every step of the way.

Curricula are living documents that are constantly being up-dated. With consultation and co-operation, we can create a new and better curriculum that will keep our children safe while respecting parental rights.

Who Am I? Why Am I running for trustee?

  • Award-winning journalist
  • Covered school board, City Hall and Queen’s Park for the Toronto Sun and Sun Media
  • Former President of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Queen’s Park
  • Awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her contribution to Canada
  • Serves on her condominium board
  • Former warden at her church

• Mom and grandmother

If elected, I will:

  • Put kids first – not politics
  • Be a strong voice for Scarborough Southwest at the school board
  • As a fiscal conservative and work to protect your tax dollar and make sure it’s spent wisely
  • Work with all students and parents to ensure the safety and well-being of young people in their schools
  • Work as a fiscally responsible person to protect your tax dollars and make sure they are well spent
  • I am not a member of any political party and will work with all residents to ensure their concerns are heard
  • I will be a full time 

I care passionately about children and education. I will work to ensure all young people get the quality education they need and deserve to succeed in a competitive global economy

Christina Blizzard for School Board Trustee


Dear Residents of Scarborough Southwest,

My name is Christina Blizzard and I’m running for School Board Trustee.  Please follow this post for information about my platform.

Thank you,

Christina Blizzard

Following the Wolfpack

There’s no better way for a little old lady to spend a Saturday afternoon than watching young men run around in short shorts.

If you haven’t experienced Rugby League, take yourself down to  Allan Lamport Stadium to catch a Toronto Wolfpack game – soon.

It’s fast-paced, bone-jarring and immensely good fun.

I was surprised when the Wolfpack arrived in Toronto. While Rugby League is firmly established in the UK, particularly in the north, Toronto is the only North American team.

In the UK, there are two distinct forms of rugby. Rugby Union, where 15 players are on the pitch at any time and Rugby League with 13 players.

More than other sport, though, it’s class that defines the two kinds of rugby. Rugby League is very much a working class sport. 

Rugby Union is played at universities and supported by the professional class. Well-to-do players have no need to be paid to play.

Rugby League is a professional game played predominantly in the north of England. Historically, they were working lads who needed an income to put food on the table. There was once a snobbism between the two games: Union fans frowned on a paid professional rugby league

What propelled me to Lamport Stadium was a Wolfpack game against Hull Kingston Rovers. My parents were both from Hull, a gritty port city in the east coast of Yorkshire. We proudly followed Rugby League. (Full disclosure, though, we supported the other Hull team, Hull FC, and not Hull KR. The whirring I heard throughout the game was my late father spinning in his grave.)

It’s a take-no-prisoners game, where players wearing very little protective gear take each other on with bone-crunching tackles. North American footballers swaddle themselves in massive amounts of gladiatorial armour. Not these guys.

While the game appears similar to North American football, in fact the game is more readily comparable to hockey, with  its speed and sheer physicality. Wolfpack owners took a risk investing in a transatlantic version of  rugby league two years ago. I suspect they recognized Canadians like their sports with a side order of red meat.

Just as the hockey player’s toothless smile is a badge of honour, so broken noses and assorted facial scars are viewed with pride as war wounds by rugby players.

The Wolfpack lost to Hull KR, but it was fierce and close – 28-22.

In 2018 the Wolfpack competed in the Betfred Championship for the first time. Having finished top of the league during the regular season, they’re two games into a post-season campaign for a place in Super League. The post-season, or “Super 8s The Qualifiers,” consists of the top four teams of the Betfred Championship and the bottom four teams of the Super League breaking off at the end of the regular season to compete in a mini league of their own. Teams play each other once in a round-robin format, with the top three teams securing a place in the Super League for next season and the bottom three teams a place in the Championship. The fourth and fifth placed teams then compete in a one-off, play-off game dubbed the “Million Pound Game”, with the winner going to the Super League and the loser to the Championship. The Wolfpack currently sit third in the standings with five postseason games still to play.

The Wolfpack is proving to be a big T.O. tourist attraction. One Hull visitor told me that as many as 400 KR supporters came over for the game. All of which makes it easier for Canadian fans to learn the game. In the UK, northerners are known for their openness and their blunt talk. They’re proud of their game and happy to explain it. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, ask a visiting Brit. Chances are, they’ll be happy to explain the intricacies. 

So for those of you who enjoy an afternoon watching large, muscled, sweaty men in very small shorts – and be honest, who doesn’t? – Wolfpack games are just the ticket.

They stay true to their working class roots. At the end of the game, players do a victory lap to thank the fans for showing up. They’ve been known to show up in the beer tent afterwards.

They play the London Broncos September 1.  Tickets are reasonably priced, it’s easily accessible and immense fun. And they’re Toronto’s most winning team right now. Let’s cheer them on. See you in the Den.


Double standard

It used to be that politicians’ kids were off limits.

Specifically, reporters and columnists were careful about reporting where the children of politicians went to school. It used to be beneath contempt to use them as a weapon.

It was, we were told, none of our business.

The 2007 provincial election was all about education. Specifically, it was about faith-based schools. The McGuinty Liberals were on the attack against then PC leader John Tory’s pledge to fix the century old unfairness that is explicit in the Ontario public school system, whereby only one faith – Catholic – has its schools paid for from the public purse.

Tory suggested funding all faith schools.

In one of the most disgusting displays of hypocrisy, McGuinty and his Liberal sheep candidates prissily opined that Tory’s plan would confine students to silos. Never mind that McGuinty’s kids all went to Catholic schools and that his wife taught in a Catholic school, he sanctimoniously declared throughout that campaign that faith schools were bad.

And his finance minister, Greg Sorbara, sent all his kids to private schools – a fact no one in the media wrote about. So much for “silos.”

The only conclusion I could come to was that in the eyes of the Liberals, Catholic and private schools are good silos and Jewish and Muslim schools are bad ones. And that’s revolting. Apparently, I was the only person who came to that conclusion. Tory was roundly punished for his platform and McGuinty and all his wasteful baggage were re-elected.

Now PC leadership contender Caroline Mulroney is under fire for sending her kids to private schools. And since she’s a Tory, that’s OK. Liberals can send their kids anywhere they want and no one will raise that issue – even when it’s central to the campaign.

It used to be beneath contempt to drag a candidate’s kids into the campaign. But Liberals are losing badly in the polls, so no depth will be unplumbed. Their nasty attack dogs are already baying for blood.

Here’s the thing: Parents make decisions that are in the best interests of their children. Mulroney and her husband Andrew Lapham, like hundreds of thousands of other parents, have chosen what they believe is the best for their children. Perhaps what they see in the public system worries them. Looking at the math curriculum, I’d agree. The system is failing thousands of kids.

The Liberals have been in charge of the public school system for the past 15 years. Thousands of parents have voted with their feet and removed their kids because they don’t like what they’re seeing there. Perhaps Mulroney would like to bring the public system up to a better standard so that all parents can put their kids in it with confidence. It’s not her system to defend. That’s up to the Liberals.

Perhaps the question would be better put to Kathleen Wynne: Why are thousands of parents choosing to put their kids in private schools? What are you doing to reverse this trend? Why is the Ontario system no longer one in which parents show confidence? What are you doing to improve the math curriculum that is failing thousands of bright kids?

Her choice is a stinging indictment of the Liberal education system. It seems the politics of envy only apply when it is a Tory voters are envying and not a Liberal. When Liberals put their kids in private schools during an election when separate education is front and centre, everyone snoozes. When it’s a Tory, they go on the attack. I’ve seen it over and over.

Where does Mulroney send her kids to school? It’s none of your business – for any number of reasons.



Brown out

When it comes to allegations of sexual misconduct against Patrick Brown, the jury is out.

Or, more accurately, the jury will never be out, because the likelihood of charges being laid against him is zero to nil. Which makes it impossible for him to clear his name. The allegations are flimsy at best, baffling in nature and have now shifted from the original claims  that forced him to quit.

The precedent this sets is unsettling. Someone – or some people – have inserted themselves into the democratic process, thereby possibly altering the outcome of an election. Many of us are left wondering why, yet marvelling at how easy it was for them to do so.

In the U.S., they talk about Russian meddling. Here we just don’t know what happened.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not supporting Patrick Brown for leader.  I think his decision to run is foolish and demonstrates why he lacks the judgment to be the leader. The provincial party, I sensed, was never really comfortable with him as leader.  He came across as young and brash.  Don’t forget, he was only a backbench MP in Ottawa. Some of these MPPs, such as Vic Fedeli, had years of public service behind them. Fedeli was a mayor in North Bay before running provincially.

I recall when Brown arrived at Queen’s Park he was full of bravado about how provincial MPPs kept losing elections. They didn’t know what they were doing. He’d show ’em.

That never goes over well. It is,  I suspect, part of the reason why his own party was so quick to abandon him when the allegations first came forward. I think back to other leaders and the people around them. Mike Harris and John Tory were two very different  politicians, yet they had people around them who were fiercely loyal to them. In the worst of times,  they would at least have helped them through a brutal news conference before they quit.

The alacrity with which Brown’s people abandoned him, I believe, speaks not so much about their fear of the sexual misconduct allegations but to their frustration with him as a leader.

He doesn’t take direction well, and he needs to. He was very poor in interviews and never seemed to be prepared. He blundered into a lawsuit with Premier Kathleen Wynne, when all he had to say was, “I am sorry, I misspoke.”

Questions had swirled about nominations; his performance during Question Period was lacklustre. Many Tories feared that, once the election writ was dropped, voters would look to him – and not see in him the leadership they expect from a premier.

The allegations of misconduct were mishandled and now Brown is seeking to blow up his own party by inserting himself into the leadership race. He needs to reconsider before he becomes a sad footnote to history.



Rumours .. rumours ..

I’ve head a number of commentators say they weren’t surprised to hear of allegations of sexual misconduct against former PC leader Patrick Brown, because “we’d all heard rumours.”

Well, yes we had all heard those rumours. But they were just that – rumours, rumblings, whispers and scuttlebutt.  Someone’s cousin was at a party with someone else’s ex-girlfriend who said someone else told them something else had happened with a girl who looked pretty young.

Odd, then, that no journalist at Queen’s Park wrote that story.

Here’s what I learned in the more than 35 years or so I spent covering politics. Number One: If you’re going to write a story such as this, you pretty well have to have this nailed down with names, dates, witnesses and evidence. Preferably a witness who was in the bedroom at the time. Preferably with photos.

Second, consider the source – and this is key for any political journalist. Politics is a blood sport. There are some “black ops” political strategists out there who will do anything to bring down an opponent. They know – and I’ve had this happen to me – that all they have to do is plant a damaging story with a journalist and if the journo is not careful how she investigates it, the story will spread like wildfire – and truth be damned. I had people plant damaging stories with me about rivals and opponents, hoping I would start asking questions in a way that would actually spread the story.

Someone once told me that a person  in his own party had dressed as a neo-Nazi in his youth. He provided me with no photos, no witnesses. I interviewed this source at length, and he sounded credible and sincere. The story did not.

I was in an awkward situation: If the story were  true, it was in the public interest for people to know this information. Were it false, I could damage an innocent person’s reputation simply by asking the question in a ham-fisted way.

Before I even made any calls, I discussed the story at length with a very savvy editor, who advised me carefully on how to go about probing the story. In the end, we decided there was no story, and we dropped it.

Which is a long way of saying that you can’t write a story from whispers. If I’d written every rumour I’d heard as fact, I’d have been in serious trouble. When you cover politics, you hear wild rumours every day. The question is do the rumours stand up to scrutiny?

Journalists don’t write rumours. They write fact.

Or, at least, they used to.

Nothing to see here?

The outraged tone of CTV news last night suggested it was somehow unreasonable for former PC leader Patrick Brown to hire a team of investigators, lawyers and crisis managers to discredit the two anonymous women who made sexual misconduct claims against him.

I’m not sue how you discredit anonymous accusers, but I’ll take their word for it. Their allegations led to Brown’s rapid resignation as Opposition leader and threw the Ontario PCs into turmoil heading into the June election.

And CTV thought – what? That he was going to roll over and not fight back? That, his career in tatters, he would allow these allegations to just hang there unchallenged? Newsflash, CTV. If you bring down the leader of a political party on anonymous allegations, chances are that person will do everything in his power to fight those charges, to restore his previously good reputation and to revive his political career.

It seems one young woman is recanting claims she was “underage” and “in high school” at the time she was drunk in a bar. She allegedly went back to his house and went to his bedroom, where he allegedly dropped his pants and asked her to perform oral sex.

She complained Brown was a sober, older man seeking to take advantage of an intoxicated young woman.

Now the ground has shifted. The woman now says she was of drinking age – so at least 19. And it happened about 10 years ago, so Brown was about 29. Well, when I was 20, I was dating a guy who was 29. So that is not a big age gap, nor even a power gap. Brown is a lawyer and was at that time an MP – so quite  a good “catch” in the whole dating scheme of things.

Instead of drunken women complaining about sober men taking advantage of them, perhaps those aforementioned drunks should stay sober, so sober guys don’t have the advantage. Then you drive yourself home, instead of having the sober guy make sure you get home safely.

And words to the wise to all young women from a much older woman: If, when intoxicated, you agree to go back to a man’s house, and if you agree to go to his bedroom, do not be all that surprised if that guy drops his pants. Just be rather relieved when/if that guy takes “no” for an answer and has the courtesy to drive you home.

And, oh yes. If you are going to make allegations of this gravity, please tell us your names.

Chris Stockwell, RIP

Chris Stockwell was a funny guy, a witty heckler who, as a backbencher, could be passionate and eloquent. He was possibly the most effective Speaker of the provincial Legislature I’ve ever covered.

Why? Because if you want the class to behave, you put the naughtiest kid in charge. The  most disruptive kid knows the rules.  He knows how to break them  – and he’s more likely to hold others to account.

Stockwell was legendary in the Speaker role because he held his own party – Mike Harris’s Tories – to account. During the megacity debate, when the government was amalgamating the six municipalities into what is now Toronto, Stockwell forced the Tories to sit through hours and hours of amendments.

In a majority Parliament, no one person can stop legislation from passing. But they can slow it down. They can force the government to consider what they are doing – over and over again. They can focus media scrutiny on the bill. They can raise red flags.

That’s what Stockwell did. He loved this city and its government – serving as a Metro Councillor before running provincially in 1990.

He was outspoken, but not out of control. He was feisty and funny, while always respecting the Parliamentary tradition. He had a true fire in his belly for the democratic process and wielded the often arcane rules of parliamentary procedure as a sword in its defence.

RIP, Chris. Gone too soon at 60.