Letter to the editor 4, Nov. 26, 2015
The adoption of a new code of ethics by the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) at its convention, held November 14-15, brings to mind a recommendation in a report put out, last September, by the English school boards' "Elections Panel."
The QLP Code of Ethics, which applies to all members who hold positions with the party, highlights values and principles such as: integrity, accountability, respect for individuals, abuse of power, and aims, "to prevent conflicts of interest."
The Panel's report, which, basically, dealt with the contentious issue of school board elections, had several recommendations.
The most significant one states:
"That ethical and conflict of interest guidelines be included in the Education Act with the mechanisms to ensure adherence to these guidelines."
That said, Article 168 of the Quebec Education says: "... a question period must be provided at each public meeting during which the persons present may put oral questions to the commissioners."
With the exception of one meeting, I have been present for all the Executive and regular Council meetings for several years.
However, since November 2013, (two years!) I have not been allowed to participate at Question Periods unless I meet with the school board lawyer and sign a document that contains conditions.
One of those conditions deals with school tax dollars, which benefit the chairman's economic interest, such as membership to the Quebec English School Boards Association and the School Tax Committee.
Presently, school boards make up their own "Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct applicable to the Council of Commissioners."
Moreover, boards are expected to create an Ethics Committee and even hire their own Ethics Commissioner.
This set-up lends itself to all kinds of problems, especially when a board's chair is also the chairperson of the Ethics Committee, and commissioners, at Pearson, are sworn to secrecy for four (4) years after leaving office.
In my unsuccessful run for chair of the Pearson board, last November, my platform called for a "Revamp of the Code of Ethics," and my bio read: «J'ai dénoncé des pratiques administratives douteuses.»
Soon, the Liberal government will table a most-welcome bill that restructures antiquated elected school boards.
At the same time, the government should come up with a uniform code of ethics for whatever entities replace these increasingly pricey institutions.
This action would not only protect citizens, but would also see a lot of money happily diverted from voting booths to the classrooms of Quebec.