On Political Suicide
Some people, when asked for their opinion on the abolition of the public funding of the Roman Catholic separate school system, have said they thought such a move would be political suicide. Their reason seemed to be “because there are enough Roman Catholics in the province to throw out a government if one dared to do so.”
However, all evidence that I can find leads to the opposite conclusion.
1) Having a policy of supporting separate school funding did not get the Liberals or the NDP elected when Bill Davis was premier. . . .
2) After Bill Davis made separate school funding part of the Progressive Conservative platform for 1985, the next election reduced his party to a minority and the next election put the PCs in the political basement until 1995. Why didn’t this policy result in overwhelming support from the Roman Catholics?
3) Going back further, despite intense lobbying by the Roman Catholic church, Wilfred Laurier, a Quebecer and a Roman Catholic, when in opposition, spoke against a remedial bill in the federal Parliament to force Manitoba to reinstate the publicly-funded Roman Catholic separate school system which Manitoba abolished in 1890. The next year Laurier was Prime Minister. Why didn’t the RCs punish him for not forcing Manitoba to return public funding to the RC separate schools? Laurier did not commit political suicide through his non-support of publicly-funded Roman Catholic schools in Manitoba.
4) Despite an intense campaign by the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland to defeat the proposed school reforms in a referendum, the vote in St. John’s, with a majority of Roman Catholic residents, was more in favour of the reforms than the provincial average.
5) Despite an intense lobbying campaign by the Roman Catholic church of MPs, and despite a Roman Catholic Prime Minister, and despite a free vote allowed by the federal government, the constitutional changes for Newfoundland were passed by an overwhelming vote of 171 to 41. No political party committed suicide in the process.
6) On a political talk show in early January of 1997, Premier Brian Tobin of Newfoundland and his two opposition leaders were questioned. On the topic of the school referendum to abolish church control of education, Tobin was asked: “Did you check with the RC church on this?” Tobin’s reply went something like this: “When I campaigned for election as Premier, I campaigned to represent all the people of Newfoundland and not the RC church. I am a Roman Catholic and so are my two colleagues, but we all supported the reform of the Newfoundland school system.” There was no political suicide.
7) Through submissions to the Estates General in Quebec with regard to the abolition of the denominational school system in Quebec, 67% of Quebecois agreed and 88% wanted community schools notwithstanding the religion of the parents. The Association of Quebec Bishops also agreed it was time for change. There are no longer any publicly-funded Roman Catholic schools in Quebec – and no political party committed suicide in the process.
8) The only very evident and acknowledged political suicide where religion is concerned, was the political suicide of Bill Davis and his progressive Conservative government when he added the public funding of the Roman Catholic separate school system to PC policy. That political suicide put the PCs into the political basement for 10 long years.
9) If anyone has an example of a political party committing suicide as a result of that party instituting any policy which removes Roman Catholic privilege, saves the government over a $ billion every year, and finally comes in compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, I would be pleased to be informed.