MONTREAL, SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 – English Montreal School Board Chairman Angela Mancini says she wishes the new Parti Québécois government well in its mandate, congratulating in particular Premier Pauline Marois, Minister of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS) Marie Malavoy and Minister Responsible for the French Language Charter, Immigration and Cultural Communities Diane De Courcy.
“We recognize the fact that it was Premier Marois, as education minister, who introduced the concept of linguistic school boards in Quebec,” commented Ms. Mancini. “While we did indeed have some differences with the previous PQ government when it was in power, we also had some excellent exchanges and signs of support in certain areas.”
Ms. Mancini said that she hopes the fact that Premier Marois was a former education minister, Ms. Malavoy a former teacher and Ms. De Courcy the immediate past chairman of the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), will bode well for the immediate future of public school boards in Quebec.
“When it comes right down to it, we are all here for the same reason,” Ms. Mancini said concerning school boards. “That is to prepare the future leaders of society. This is something which should go beyond linguistic boundaries. I know that Premier Marois, Ms. Malavoy and Ms. De Courcy are well aware that in the case of English boards such as ours, French immersion programs are second to none. Our kids speak fluent French and graduate bilingual and billiterate.”
Ms. Mancini also took the opportunity to call upon the new government to make its position clear on when the next school board elections will be scheduled. They were supposed to have taken place last November. However, the then Liberal government postponed them until a future date and at the same time issued an advisory that the number of commissioners at each board would be significantly reduced. At the EMSB, for instance, the Council of Commissioners would go from 23 elected officials to 10, with additional parent representation. The EMSB formally requested a derogation to allow for 15 commissioners, but never got a response.
“We raised this important issue during the recent provincial election campaign and officials from the PQ told us very clearly that the scheduling of school board elections would be a priority for them,” said Ms. Mancini. “We were told that our elections will be twinned with the municipal vote scheduled for November 3, 2013. That is just more than a year away, so we hope that the PQ will in fact make this an urgent action item.”
EMSB Vice-Chairman Sylvie Lo Bianco notes that school boards like the EMSB do not have a new and approved electoral map, which by law needs to be sent out for consultation. “We are already looking at a process which will take several months,” she says. “To do all of this during an actual election year represents a challenge. If our school board and municipal elections are to be twinned, that opens up an entirely new series of questions which have never been answered such as how will the English and French voting lists be managed at polling stations?
In the case of Ms. De Courcy, who now represents the Cremazie riding in EMSB territory, Ms. Lo Bianco points out, “We have a longstanding relationship with Ms. De Courcy and we know for certain that she has the best interests of the public education system at heart. While education is not her dossier with this government, we are comforted by the fact she is seated at the cabinet table.”
Ms. Mancini also commented on the appointment of Jean-François Lisée as minister responsible for Montreal and the anglophone community. “We are anxious to sit down with M. Lisée to see what concrete action his government will take to nurture relations with Anglophones,” said Ms. Mancini. “Between 2007 and 2017, the EMSB is projected to lose over 4,600 or 20 percent of our students while the francophone school boards on the Island of Montreal will increase by 18,000 or 13 percent over the same period. A lot of damage has been done to our English system.”