I have been keeping up with the Canadian mathematics education battles from the last few years, especially in how the media discusses it. In fact, my last graduate assignment had everything to do with this issue.
I know that the "Math Wars" in Canada and in the United States are closely related. The debate has to do with a "traditional" vs, a "reform" mathematics education, and stems from an even longer history of mathematics education which Schoenfeld describes very well in his paper, Math Wars: http://www.math.cornell.edu/~henderson/courses/EdMath-F04/MathWars.pdf
As presented by the media, discovery learning seems to be a method of student-centered teaching and learning, coupled together with a corresponding style of assessment and evaluation. The prevailing media image is that given a problem, a student can "discover" a mathematical concept on their own, with very minimal guidance from the teacher, and be able to extend their abstractions to solve other problems. The motivation behind this method is to have students take initiative in their own learning and gain experiential knowledge. Dr. Jawaharlal explains guided discovery learning in this blog post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mariappan-jawaharlal/teaching-discovery-learning_b_856463.html
The pushback from parents is from a misguided notion of what this looks like. Parents see "new math" homework and don't understand what they are looking at because it is unlike their own educational experience. The idea that their children are not getting direct instruction and might end up "discovering" a wrong understanding of concepts leads to more confusion and backlash.
However, the missing element in this misunderstanding of discovery learning is the teacher. This is where classroom design has to be done very carefully - the teacher is supposed to challenge understanding and correct reasoning. Parents' notions that traditional teacher-centered learning would prevent this from happening is also misguided - it is easy to just assume that dispensing correct information from the source would allow students to get it right and move on. Follow-up in both situations is essential.
Since most parents don't get to see or understand current educational research, their only sources come from what they hear in the media. As you might imagine, media is not very good at delivering a balanced message about this because they often rely on the loudest voices to inform them, and anti-reform advocacy groups will be the one to take up the pitchforks and torches.
EDIT: I neglected to give the journal reference to Schoenfeld's paper:
Schoenfeld, A. H. (2004). The Math Wars. Educational Policy, 18(1), 253-286.