School boards say they can’t cover upcoming election costs

By Robert Frank

Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board (SWLSB) is about to join with its counterparts from throughout Quebec to ask the province to pick up the tab for upcoming school boards elections, Nov. 2.

A senior SWLSB official told The Suburban that it will set back the school board more than $300,000 to conduct the poll, and that education budget cutbacks imposed by the previous Parti québécois government mean that SWLSB no longer can afford to pay the price.

The last time Laval voters went to the polls to decide who will run SWLSB was in 2007.

Normally, school board elections are held every four years. However, in 2011, Liberal Education Minister Michelle Courchesne got the Quebec government to pass a law that postponed school board elections.

Courchesne temporarily suspended democracy because Quebec school board elections have suffered from voter apathy. Five out of six eligible English voters and 13 out of 14 French voters didn’t bother to cast a ballot in 2007.

Former Parti québécois Education Minister Marie Malavoy ordered elections to go ahead, Nov. 2, but she didn’t allocate any money to compensate Quebec school boards who must pay election officials, print ballots and cover other obligatory costs.

That means they will have to find the funds internally from money that they had budgeted for other purposes.

Consequently, SWLSB plans to join with other English and French school boards throughout the province in signing a letter to ask the Quebec government to provide the money they will need to conduct the election, the SWLSB senior official said.

The Nov. 2 election will be the first time that voters get to choose directly by universal suffrage who will get the top job at the school board.

The current SWLSB head, Nick Milas, was elected to represent a single school district, Ward 17 during the last school board election in 2007. He was, in turn, elected chair by a vote of just 19 fellow school commissioners—four of whom were acclaimed.

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