Invitation to Education Minister

‘Tentacles of Bureaucracy’

By Joel Ceausu

Steve Mitchell has a message for Quebec Education Minister Yves Bolduc.

“Come on down,” said the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School commissioner, after news that the Commission scolaire de Montréal and the Commission scolaire des Patriotes are to be audited by Quebec’s Education Ministry, intent on discovering their ability to make prescribed cuts.

“[Bolduc is] tossing the word ‘audit’ around like it’s some sort of weapon,” Mitchell wrote on his blog “I encourage the Minister to audit our books. I am confident with what we have been told that we have no further fat to cut. I would ask one thing though—can we please audit the MELS (Education ministry) itself?”

Running for re-election on Nov. 2, the Rosemere resident and vice-chair of the board’s executive committee told The Suburban that “If he wants to audit it, he should go ahead. But at the same time, let’s audit his operations, because there’s a whole ton of money sitting there where the real waste is. If you look at the ministry’s entire budget, and its allocations per student, which must cover guidance counsellors, maintenance of buildings, everything, we’re running about a 4.5 per cent administrative cost.”

“Where’s all the money? There’s about a billion dollars sitting in the tentacles of the bureaucracy in Quebec. I don’t hear anybody talking about auditing that.”

While many observers feel that this may be the last school board election in Quebec, at least in their current form, Mitchell said it does not change the simple fact that “governance still matters, whether or not we have school boards. You can change their name or set up regional centers or whatever, but the same things still need to be done. There has to be accountability, somebody representing you.”

Mitchell said the first task at hand for him is school taxation—the famously unfair Quebec system that charges more taxes for those with kids in English schools than in French. After that, it’s true transparency.

“I’ve always wanted us to be a model of transparency with real debate, no more in-camera decisions. I’d love for us to be open, and out there ready to accept real criticism.”

Mitchell has a challenge for other candidates, particularly incumbents:

“What have you done in the last few years? And I don’t mean chairing a meeting or raising your hand to ask a question. What have you actually brought to the table? I think I’ve done a good job, and I have a list of things to stand on that I did to improve this board and better serve our students.”

Mitchell said that while it’s great that newcomers are presenting themselves in the election, he feels that with the existential threat hovering over school boards these days, boards are going to have to act fast to prove their mettle.

“We may not have so much time for a learning curve. This is so much more than popularity contest, but unfortunately it’s often what it comes down to.”

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