Letters to the Editor, May 22, 2014

Dear Editor,

After submitting my questions and comments in writing, I attended the May 8 meeting of the School Tax Committee, known also by its French acronym, CGTSIM (cgtsim.qc.ca).

I wanted to ascertain how much our school taxes would be hiked this year, and repeat a recommendation: School boards should get out of the tax-collecting business.

As we will find out soon, school taxes are going up 2.5 per cent, which a fair portion of these taxes go toward board-level administrative expenses.

With that thought in mind, I also wanted to find out from exactly which tax ‘envelope’ did the following expense come from but I found out nothing as boards are autonomous.

According to the “Commissioner Expense Reports” about six weeks ago, the LBPSB chairperson, a member of the CGTSIM, spent $2537.90 to attend a school board weekend session, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was accompanied by the chairperson of the Executive Committee who also used precious school tax dollars, $2545.95, to attend the event in a country whose education standards are a lot lower than ours.

No report was given at either the subsequent Pearson Executive Committee or Regular Council meetings as to any benefits for our students that were gained from this trip.

That said, last weekend, the President of the Quebec Treasury Board Martin Coiteux rightfully blasted school boards for their lavish spending at their convention at the Chateau Montebello. From May 22 to 24, the English boards are off to the Château Frontenac, in Quebec City, to basically have a good time, at their conference, in a luxurious setting, at taxpayers’ expense. (Months ago, Lester B. had allocated 15 spots.)

How refreshing it was to read Mr. Coiteux’s comments, in which he expressed “outrage,” and said these things are “unacceptable.” He expects school boards “to work in the same direction as the entire public sector,” and “must put their shoulder to the wheel,” and “conduct these activities at a lower cost in a manner more acceptable to Quebecers.”

Indeed. Why not plan for more modest ceremonies during these global belt-tightening times? Why not use a school to cut down on costs?

For example: The school where I used to work has an auditorium that was suitable for former premier, Robert Bourassa, to give a speech. The school grounds are fitting to hold St. Jean Baptiste festivities; Céline Dion sang there once before she became a star.

The building has air-conditioning, emergency electric generators, and was deemed by the Canadian Armed forces, in January 1998, to be most decent to house 3000 people in the event the Ice Storm continued.

Trudeau airport is about 25 minutes away and nearby is a golf course where Tiger Woods played a few years ago.

The ‘Leadership Defined’ conference, in Montebello wraps up with a Grand Ballroom dinner dance with the invitation: “Celebrate our greatness as leaders!”

Imagine.

To conclude: Bravo newly-elected West Island MNA Martin Coiteux for calling it for what it is, thinking of the overburdened taxpayer, and sending a clear message: Be frugal.

That’s leadership compared to school commissioners, who under the guise of professional development, waste a lot of money, showing off an inflated sense of self-importance.

Chris Eustace

Pierrefonds

Dear Editor,

I’m late - I know. Who knew what’s involved in recouping after a fire?

I’m glad that Pat Shaar thanked everyone, but I would like to do the same.

First of all, the firefighters! If not for their courage and expertise, our story would be much more tragic. My mom’s apartment was badly water and smoke damaged, but miraculously, one of her cats, Tiger, survived unscathed (terrified and soaking wet, but unscathed) hidden under a chair in the apartment because the fire never reached there. A huge thank you to all firefighters.

Thanks to Michel Najm for opening the pharmacy and supplying everyone with medications and comfort items. Such kindness you would never see in a larger, less personal town.

Thanks to Kathy Murphy for opening her beautiful home to strangers who needed a place to keep warm and dry. Sorry for the mess we made.

Thanks to Laura Bergeron, Jessie Charlebois and Matthew Bain for rescuing and caring for Mom’s second cat, Michael, and taking the time to contact the Hudson Fire Department, making it possible for us to reunite. Thanks specifically to Adrian and Dawn for remembering us and putting us in touch with Laura.

And thanks to the numerous strangers who asked how they could help, where they could donate, what they could do. Specifically to the two young women who asked, as I was leaving the apartment for the last time, if there was anything they could do to help. Just knowing that so many people care and want to help gives strength.

Having left the most amazing and important thank you till the last - a huge thank you to Terry Connolly - who went back into the burning building to make sure that my mom, Betty Mailer, friend of Lilian Connolly was escorted out safely. Words cannot describe how grateful we are!

Cathy Mailer

Hudson

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the great article written by John Jantak (St. Lazare resident working hard to realize proposed indoor skateboard facility, Your Local Journal, May 15). I had a feeling you would make us look good and you did. Since your distribution covers even the West Island I am hoping this will take us to the other side of the bridge because right now we are pretty well supported within 20 km but out in St. Polycarpe (and in the direction of Valleyfield) or more importantly over the Ile aux Tourtes bridge and Galipeault we do not appear to be known. Your article should help us greatly on this.

Mario Lapointe

St. Lazare

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