Laval’s French public school leadership returned to city council last week asking for support maintaining elected boards in the face of the Quebec government’s education reform.
The chairs of Laval’s only two school boards were present, with only one speaking, as Louise Lortie again asked council to consider the ramifications of Quebec’s Bill 40, which would do away with elected councils in favour of service centers.
Laval Mayor Marc Demers reiterated that the CAQ “was elected with a very strong majority… it’s a fact,” but agreed to hear the motion in support of elected boards by former school principal and Opposition Leader Michel Trottier. “But what I refuse, is to pronounce myself for or against school commissions, with whom we have always worked in collegial manner.”
The discussion did not include councillor and Sir Wilfrid Laurier school board chairperson Paolo Galati. As Saint-Vincent-de-Paul city councillor he would not comment or participate, pronouncing himself in a conflict of interest.
Thus with no voice present in defense of the English sector, Lortie lauded elected councils’ benefits for students and for women in politics, citing the law is discriminatory because the English system would have different rules for choosing leadership. Like her colleagues last month denouncing what they saw as an inequitable law, Lortie did not cite as inequitable the preceding governments’ school tax regime that gouged Anglo board taxpayers for years, nor the permanent legislated linguistic choke-hold on English enrollment.
Trottier noted that despite the SWL chair’s silence, the English board already positioned itself against Bill 40. Indeed, it already committed ¬– before consulting its parents’ body – up to $111,356 to its QESBA lobby group “for the promotion of English public education in its current form,” which includes fighting the provincial government on its legislative plan.
After council chair Christiane Yoakim attempted to stop his preamble, Saint-Bruno councillor David De Cotis said some elected officials “lacked political courage,” adding that François Legault’s government is in power for the next three years, “maybe even another four years after that.” But with only one Laval MNA (Sainte-Rose’s Christopher Skeete) elected, “only 16 percent of the population said ‘Yes we are for the abolition of school boards in Laval… and 84 percent said ‘We are not in favour’.”
Saint-Martin councillor Aline Dib recalled that Quebec has changes to the law forthcoming, adding that “studies, analyses and memos” are important elements of reform and that “We should trust studies to respond to the needs of our youth.” Laval-les-Îles’ Nicholas Borne also spoke effusively about his pride in the public education system. The pair, like the mayor and entire Mouvement lavallois caucus, voted against the motion, defeating it 13 to 7.