Early-birds encouraged to run for school board posts
By Robert Frank
with files from Rhonda Massad
Elections Quebec has opened the door early this year to register to run in long-overdue school board elections.
The provincial election authority made the move in order to maximize participation in the upcoming vote, which is slated for Nov. 2.
“The idea is to encourage to candidates consider running,” Elections Quebec spokesman Denis Dion told The Suburban in a telephone interview. “By registering, they can begin to receive contributions to finance their election campaign.”
The future of Quebec’s school boards hangs in the balance, as they await the outcome of the upcoming election. Abysmal voter turnout in previous school board elections in 2007 alarmed former Education Minister Michèle Courchesne.
Only 7.2 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in French school board elections in 2007—the last time they went to the polls. That was 11 percent fewer than the 8.1 per cent who went to the polls in 2003.
In contrast, voter participation rose more than 14 percent at English school boards to 16.7 percent. Though more than double their French counterparts, it still meant that five out of six English voters didn’t bother.
Regardless of language, the feeble turnout gave school commissioners very weak mandates, opening the door to unelected provincial officials to intrude into their jurisdiction.
Courchesne was so alarmed that only about one in 14 francophones bothered to vote, that, while she was education minister, she got the Quebec legislature to pass a law postponing the next round of school board elections, which were due in 2011.
“I was directly responsible for the delay in the elections, because I felt it was important to take the time to get it right,” she said during a seminar for prospective school board candidates, Feb. 22.
One direct result of her work is that the school board chair must, henceforth, be elected by all eligible voters, rather than selected by the handful of commissioners whom they elect.
“This will ensure accountability,” she explained.
Anyone eligible to vote in the SWLSB elections is qualified to run, provided that they have lived in the school board’s territory for at least six months.
When this week’s edition of The Suburban went to press, no one had yet registered to run to become the a Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board commissioner or the SLWSB’s next chairman the election or re-election.
Dion noted that even if candidates file now, they will again be required to register again with Elections Quebec during a five-day period that begins 40 days prior to the Nov. 2 vote.
“This time, it’s important to get school board elections right,” said former Education Minister Michèle Courchesne, during a seminar for prospective school board candidates, Feb. 22.
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