Letter to the editor 2, Feb. 20, 2020

CAQ education Bill 40 and building new schools

Dear Editor,

On February 8 the Legault government adopted school board reform Bill 40 which basically transforms outdated elected school boards to modern service centres to provide better support for our children.

However, there were amendments attached to the bill that displeased some people. One of them was that land had to be ceded by municipalities - for free - to service centres to build new schools. This would only apply if an agreement could not be reached between the parties within two years.

Naturally, mayors were upset by this. But let's back up a few years to understand and appreciate where the government is coming from with this amendment.

Consider the years of horrendous long term planning by the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) that turned a proposed off-island elementary school project into a "multimillion dollar mess."

About 13 years ago, the Vaudreuil-Dorion area was the fastest growing English community in Quebec. It was characterized as an ‘explosive growth’ by the press. A much-needed elementary English school in the Pearson board off-island territory was needed immediately.

But there were all kinds of holdups and fights between the mayors and the LBPSB, which was headed by then Chairman Marcus Tabachnick. The blame game was in full swing and was widely reported. Think of the saga of Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary School.

Parents held a Town Hall meeting with the mayor and school board officials to express their concerns. At Pearson Council meetings, I heard the parents’ complaints and the board's excuses. This lasted for years.

So what happened? At that time, it was understood there are three parties involved when any consideration is given for a new school to be built – the government (money), the municipality (land) and the formal request from the board.

Finally, the problem was resolved when Chairman Tabachnick acknowledged the board did not follow the provincial rules regarding the building of new schools. The board neglected to follow the formality of putting the request for land - in writing.

Bottom line: The aforementioned amendment by the Coalition Avenir Quebec government is warranted. After all, the law says children must attend school.

Chris Eustace


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