Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested a Progressive Conservative leadership candidate is homophobic in a sharp rebuke to his opposition to Ontario's new sexual-education curriculum.
The dramatic Question Period smackdown unfolded Tuesday morning as roughly 200 protesters opposed to the curriculum rallied outside the legislature. It came a day after the government unveiled the new curriculum, which includes instruction on sexual orientation and fighting prejudice.
Tory MPP Monte McNaughton tried to grill Ms. Wynne on the curriculum. But the Premier, the first openly gay head of government in the English-speaking world, swiftly turned the tables. She pointed to one of Mr. McNaughton's comments from the previous day, in which he said, "it's not the Premier of Ontario's job, especially Kathleen Wynne, to tell parents what's age-appropriate for their children."
"What is it that especially disqualifies me for the job that I'm doing? Is it that I'm a woman? Is it that I'm a mother? Is it that I have a master's of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education?" Ms. Wynne thundered. "What is it exactly that the member opposite thinks disqualifies me from doing the job that I'm doing? What is that?"
Liberal MPPs leaped to their feet to applaud the Premier.
Education Minister Liz Sandals, for her part, implied opponents of sex-ed do not believe in science. When Mr. McNaughton called on her to allow schools to opt out of teaching the new curriculum, she shot back: "And I assume if he was premier, you could vote to opt out of teaching about evolution, too?"
In a scrum after Question Period, Ms. Sandals said Mr. McNaughton's comments about Ms. Wynne were "quite homophobic."
But Mr. McNaughton denied that he had said anything bigoted.
"When I started back in November questioning the Premier on this I was very clear that this is about public consultation, talking to parents across the province," he said.
Both Mr. McNaughton and fellow leadership candidate Patrick Brown later gave speeches to the protest rally.
Mr. McNaughton said "it's not the government's job" to decide what children should learn in sex ed; Mr. Brown said the Liberals' handling of the issue "is not acceptable to any of us." MPP Christine Elliott, who is also seeking the leadership, did not attend the rally but issued a statement charging the Liberals had not consulted enough with parents.
The assembled protesters included members of religious and social conservative groups, such as the Campaign Life coalition, and many carried anti-abortion signs.