Message to Stakeholders
From Angela Mancini
Chairman, English Montreal School Board
``Premier praises English school board system as Liberals shift education focus``
The Premier of Québec, Philippe Couillard in his final speech to supporters at the weekend LPQ conference, the Liberal leader said he now wants to follow the example of English school boards and therefore bury Bill 86 – the bill to reform the school board system – for good.
He said that the English school board models were the way forward, considering their graduation rate of 85 per cent. He praised the success rate of the English public schools, saying they should serve as an example.
“The level in of involvement in the community in their school system is very significant and frankly is something to compliment the community about. That's something we should all be doing,” he said.
“We must say again to our English-speaking fellow Quebecers that the way they did things, the way they conducted their school boards and their schools is the way to go for all Quebecers and this is what we get,” he added.’’ (CTV newscast Sunday May 15, 2016)
It is indeed an unprecedented shift by the government along with the recognition of our accomplishments as English School Boards across Québec. This is the single most important compliment a Premier can offer our community and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our stakeholders for their support towards efforts to counter Bill 86, the proposed legislation by the provincial government which would have restructured school board governance and limited the public’s right to vote for commissioners.
The united front against Bill 86 was successful. Education Minister Sebastien Proulx has confirmed that he will not proceed with the law. While he has indicated that some changes to the way school boards function will be enacted, school board elections will be maintained.
An enormous amount of time and effort has gone into opposing Bill 86. We are glad that the government has decided to focus its attention on more important things like student success. In our case, we never lost sight of our pedagogical responsibilities throughout this process and still maintain the highest success (graduation) rate among public schools in the province at 87.8%.
Defeating Bill 86 was a team effort. First and foremost, this exercise resulted in a bonding experience between English and French school boards across the province. Only a month ago we held an unprecedented press conference at an EMSB school with two of our sister English boards and three French boards.
The Quebec English School Boards Association, the umbrella group representing the nine English boards in the province, showed great leadership. In particular, the appointment of former Liberal Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings to chair a committee to examine school board governance and oppose Bill 86 provided increased credibility to our cause.
At the EMSB, I want to thank all of our union representatives, management associations and members, the EMSB Student Advisory Committee, the Central Parents Committee, governing boards and some of our municipal leaders who spoke out loud and clear on this issue. I express my gratitude to the Council of Commissioners for their support against Bill 86 and a special thank you to our Vice-Chairman, Sylvia Lo Bianco for her tireless efforts during this past year along with Commissioner Joe Ortona for presenting with us in Québec City at the parliamentary commission. When Bill 86 was deposited by former Education Minister François Blais last December, many people told us that we had no chance in fighting this law – that it was a fait accompli. We never had a defeatist attitude.
We must thank Mr. Proulx, who as Education Minister clearly listened to the concerns expressed by all school Boards, for having the courage to do away with this legislation. As well, we extend our gratitude to those Members of the National Assembly who supported us. Many of these individuals are in the Liberal caucus, but we must recognize the assistance from the Parti Québecois, their now former leader Pierre-Karl Peladeau and education critic Alexandre Cloutier. When Mr. Blais tried to cancel an EMSB by-election prior to Bill 86’s introduction in November for the Cote St. Luc–Hampstead ward, it was Mr. Peladeau who stood up and stopped that from happening. They stepped up again when the EMSB was not included among the groups invited to present a brief during the hearings for Bill 86. That decision was reversed. At the hearings themselves, Mr. Cloutier spoke out loud and clear that Bill 86 was unconstitutional. We may not always see eye to eye with the PQ on issues, but in this case their position was completely the same as ours.
The EMSB is able to effectively manage its schools and deliver results due to the confidence invested in it by taxpayers who freely and fairly elect their commissioners to represent them at the Board. The legitimacy that comes from being elected via the process of universal suffrage cannot be underestimated, nor can it be taken for granted. Integrity and transparency are incumbent on all elected officials resulting from them being democratically chosen by members of the community.
We are eager to hear what plans Mr. Proulx has in mind and together with other Boards are most ready to cooperate.