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Rare coverage for a school board candidate --- is it all planned?

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Candace Maxymowich is doing a pretty good job of getting her name in the media.

Considering there are 61 public school board seats in eight school divisions which are open to eligible residents within the city, and considering where the mainstream media rate school board elections compared to the mayoral and council elections, Louis Riel Ward 4 candidate Maxymowich is doing remarkably well in generating media attention.

And just because the Twitterverse and the comments section of our paper have not reacted kindly to what Maxymowich has to say and tweet and blog, doesn’t mean that she’s unaware of the voters whom she’s trying to reach, in an election generally plagued by low voter turnout.

You can read my latest story on her here.

Maxymowich, who grew up in Vita and rents in Royalwood, is 20, and the first round of coverage was largely due to her being a rarity at that age — very, very few school trustees under the age of 25 get elected in Manitoba, and almost as few run.

Prominent in Conservative youth circles, having worked for city councillor Paula Havixbeck and now working for MP Joyce Bateman, Maxymowich originally drew attention a few months ago for her social media attacks on veteran Ward 4 school trustees Hugh Coburn and Tom Parker. A retired police officer, Coburn has been a trustee longer than Maxymowich has been alive. Parker goes back 16 years on the school board, after retiring as a high school principal in the division.

Maxymowich accused them of failing to communicate and consult with residents on major issues, and asked on Twitter how Coburn could sleep at night. She challenged voters to elect integrity over incumbency, which she later claimed did not imply that she was saying that incumbents lack integrity — a disingenuous argument at best.

Anyway, back in May, I interviewed Maxymowich. Full disclosure — as soon as the story ran, she said that I had misinterpreted pretty much everything she had said.

In that interview, Maxymowich said she wants the private sector to run school breakfast programs. While she did not know how much teachers are paid, Maxymowich said she would consider reducing the number of teachers on the payroll as a way of keeping down taxes. She called on trustees to donate their stipends back to the community, as she promised to do.

Which brings us to the latest round of media coverage.

I came across it on Twitter early Tuesday. Maxymowich declared she is the defender of parental rights and supports the moral integrity of children. She also cited through hashtags two anti-abortion organizations, Life’s Vision and the Campaign Life Coalition.

The Twitterverse went totally squirrelly, and we members of the mainstream media sought interviews. Maxymowich declined to talk by phone, but told me she would reply by email to specific questions.

She did so, in a fashion, but subsequently declined to provide further answers when I followed up seeking elaboration and clarification in specific areas.

So, boiling down what she said by Twitter and email, which was pretty consistent across the mainstream media...

Maxymowich believes that abstinence is the only acceptable part of sex ed in schools. Sexual education, it needs to be pointed out, is only a portion of the family life curriculum, like all curricula a massive document. However, Maxymowich would not push abstinence-only if elected, even though she told her campaign fundraiser last month that you should never waiver from your personal values.

The provincial family life curriculum, when it gets to reproduction and contraception, puts abstinence first among a long list of topics to be taught in class. The curriculum also notes that schools are to consult parents before teaching sensitive material, and that parents have the right to hold their kids out of any part of the curriculum.

She wouldn’t do a lot of explaining about parental rights and the moral integrity of children, providing no definitions of what Maxymowich means by those terms and what she sees as the problems. One wonders which trustee or candidate would be opposed to the moral integrity of children, though I’m not naive about the different approaches people take to defining those buzzwords.

Likewise, Maxymowich urged candidates to debate family values and religious freedom during the election campaign, but, again, wouldn’t elaborate on what she means.

My family has values, and it has beliefs about religious freedom, but I expect that what the four of us in our family value doesn’t share the same universe as the family values and definition of religious freedom of the people who have co-opted those buzzwords for their exclusive use.

It would be helpful if Maxymowich would elaborate; as it stands, her touting those terms suggests she is signalling certain potential voters that she is one of them.

And as for the two prominent anti-abortion progamizations to which Maxymowich gave a shoutout, she would say only that it’s because they have some positions on education. So do lots of people and organizations and groups, but she cited only those two, and would not elaborate.

The Campaign Life Coalition website is huge, and includes a long list of positions on schools. The CLC concentrates on attacking the education policies of the Ontario Liberal government, which it notes repeatedly is headed by openly lesbian Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Ontario has a family life curriculum as does Manitoba, it teaches kids about sexual orientation in what appears to be a similar positive manner as does Manitoba, and it has a bill very similar to our Bill 18, including protecting the right of students to organize a gay straight alliance in their schools.

The CLC calls the sex ed portions of the Ontario curriculum disgusting, and says that the Ontario government — headed by its lesbian premier — is ‘Christophobic’ because, among other things, it teaches children that they must accept gays, lesbians, and other non-heterosexuals as normal people.

OK, so Maxymowich isn’t saying that. But she did choose to single out those two organizations, and she did so because they take positions on education — so, it’s legitimate to ask, what are her beliefs and values about the education positions the CLC takes?

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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