French election primer for English-speakers

By Tracey Arial

At least 22,366 English-speaking families will have the right and obligation to vote for commissioners at one of Montreal’s three French School Boards on Nov. 2.

They come from English-speaking homes attended French public schools in 2012-2013. Anyone else who didn’t make arrangements to transfer to an English school board by Oct. 14 will join them by default.)

They’ll be choosing from an incredible array of choices.

There are 122 candidates running for the three French school boards in 36 different divisions on the island. Figuring out who to vote for is tricky, and the school boards don’t make it easy.

If you don’t know someone in the race, you’ll have to wade through school-board bureaucracy just to figure out the names of potential candidates.

Incumbents have a clear advantage in such a race. Parents who know the system are more likely to vote, and they only know the names of people already serving.

Newcomers have to use three different systems to figure out which school board serves their area. They can begin searching the website or calling 1-888-ELECTION (1-888-353-2846).

Everything is available in English and voters can simply plug in or tell an agent their postal code to learn which school boards serve their area.

After that, clarity breaks down.

Voters are directed from the DGEQ to school boards directly to find out which of 13, 12 or 11 divisions (circonscriptions in French) they reside within.

The three Montreal school boards offer no English services.

Marguerite-Bourgeoys’ website does offer a large colourful button that’s clearly labelled Vote 2014. Users can click see links to district maps. Each map is clearly labelled with boroughs or parts of boroughs too. Using that site is relatively painless.

Pointe du l’Île has a clear button, but voters have to wade through 11 different maps to find out where their division might be. Montreal has a single map, but the button to find it is tiny and the map is too full of information to be clear for this particular purpose.

Once voters identify their divisions, they can refer to a website that went live Monday:

That site shows how individual candidates are trying to make voter choices simple by joining together into unofficial parties. Voters can choose between “perseverance” and “success.” They can vote for “a modern and open school,” “priorities: schools” or the “Montreal school renewal coalition.” The Marguerite-Bourgeoys teams are simply running under potential chair names.

Most divisions have an independent or two for people who don’t like parties, as well.

Some candidates probably have strong positions on big political issues facing school boards across the province, including school board existence, school board financing and transparency. To discover that however,voters will have to attend rallies and speeches—most of those will be in French.

Marguerite-Bourgeoys basics

• 36 candidates will run in Marguerite-Bourgeoys’ 13 divisions.

• Two people, Diane Lamarche-Venne and Max Martel running against one another for chair.

• One acclamation likely: Abi Koné in division 3, which covers the western portion of the St. Laurent borough.

Phone: [514] 855-4500

Montreal basics

• 42 candidates will run in the Commission scolaire de Montréal’s 12 divisions.

• Four candidates are running for chair, Martin Boyer, Jocelyne Cyr, Christine Fournier and Catherine Harel Bourdon.

Phone: [514] 596-6000 

Pointe de l’île basics

• 36 candidates are running for spots with Pointe de l’Île’s 11 divisions.
• Vincent Arciresi and Miville Boudreault are running against one another for chair.

Phone: [514] 642-9520
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