Patrick Brown says promise to scrap Liberal sex-ed curriculum was a 'mistake'

Ontario's Progressive Conservative leader now says it was a "mistake" to pledge to scrap the Liberal government's sex-ed curriculum if his party wins the 2018 election.

Progressive Conservative leader reverses course on Ontario government's new sex-ed syllabus

Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown (left) campaigning with Scarborough-Rouge River candidate Raymond Cho (centre), a few days before the byelection in that riding. (CBC)

Ontario's Progressive Conservative leader now says it was a "mistake" to pledge to scrap the Liberal government's sex-ed curriculum if his party wins the 2018 election.

In a letter distributed last week, just days before a byelection in the east Toronto riding of Scarborough-Rouge River, Patrick Brown wrote that a Progressive Conservative government would "scrap the controversial changes to sex ed."

The curriculum was updated last year, for the first time since 1998, but some parents complained that the government didn't consult them enough and others were angered by mentions of same-sex relationships, gender identity and masturbation.

In an op-ed in the Toronto Star Monday, Brown says it was a mistake for the Scarborough-Rouge River campaign to send out a letter saying he would scrap the curriculum because he will not.

'I want to correct the record'

Brown says the curriculum changes are "hot topics" in the riding, and that while parents should be consulted, it doesn't mean "opening the door to intolerance."

He says sex education is important "to combat homophobia, and raise important issues like consent, mental health, bullying, and gender identity."

"I want to correct the record before the byelection on Thursday, whatever the political consequences. I do not want people voting in Scarborough-Rouge River thinking I will scrap sex education. I will not."

Ahead of the op-ed, the party's byelection candidate Raymond Cho maintained the issue was one that his riding was passionate about.

"When I look at my riding, the huge majority are Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Chinese. All these parents are quite concerned about this issue," Cho said.

But in a statement released Monday by Institute for Canadian Values president Charles McVety suggests Brown may have indeed lost the social conservative vote.

"Patrick Brown campaigned to become leader on a pro-family platform, promising to protect children from the radical sex education curriculum of Kathleen Wynne," McVety wrote. 

Values group 'deceived and betrayed'

"It is always sad to see a politician be deceitful," McVety's statement continued, "but it is especially troubling when he is so brazen the he will flip three times on the same issue. We have been used, deceived and betrayed."

Brown's spokeswoman tweeted Friday that the letter was not a new announcement. Brown himself tweeted late that night that he "strongly" supports an updated curriculum "that takes into account changing attitudes and (the) world in which children now dwell" and said parents must be consulted, but didn't dispute that he planned to scrap the Liberal curriculum.

During the party's leadership race last year, Brown spoke at a rally protesting the sex-ed curriculum, saying, "Teachers should teach facts about sex education, not values," without identifying what parts of the curriculum he felt were teaching values. 

The Liberals have alternately accused Brown of harbouring extreme social conservative views and tried to paint him as "an old-style politician who just says whatever he thinks people want to hear."