Only committed vote in school board elections

Only committed vote in school board elections

By Tracey Arial

Less than ten per cent of Quebec citizens voted in the last two school board elections.

Bureaucratic hassles mean the voting rate may be similarly low this year. Unless you already support a candidate, it takes multiple phone calls and researching to figure out who would be a good representative.

If you’re not a parent, who cares?

Everyone should. The people who win these elections maintain, upgrade and sell public property, protect citizen health, help develop communities and help educate people. Yet in the last two elections, almost 70 per cent of them were acclaimed. No one ran against them.

More elections will take place this time, in part because people can vote directly for school board chairs this year. Everyone gets at least two votes—one for the chair of the school board and one for a commissioner who will represent people living in various communities.

In the Montreal region, only three people will be acclaimed so far. Abi Koné is running solo in Marguerite-Bourgeoys’ division 3, which covers the western portion of the St. Laurent borough. Daniel Olivenstein and Wayne Clifford are running for Lester B. Pearson’s 11 and 12 divisions in Rigaud, Hudson and St. Lazare and Pincourt, Vaudreuil, Dorion respectively.

Multiple elections are good. The difference between the cost of elections in which no one runs and those with lots of candidates don’t differ much. The last school board election cost in the range of $20 million to run and this one is estimated to be only marginally higher. In 2007, the Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGEQ) spent $1.1 million in advertising and public interest oversight. This year’s tally is expected to be $1.5 million. Last time, candidates claimed $1,045,000 in expenses, so that figure will definitely go up. The 69 school boards haven’t officially announced their costs last time with a comparison to this time, but most of those costs differ little with the number of candidates. If each spends $250,000 or more, as Wilfrid Laurier, Laval and the EMSB recently claimed, their total cost will add up to $17,250,000.

MELS also has expenses that aren’t disclosed in a full tally, but like the DGEQ and the school boards, the number of candidates is unlikely to change costs exponentially.

The candidate problem is widely corrected, but will more voters turn out this time?

That’s not yet clear. There are many bureaucratic hurdles just to make sure you get on the right electoral list and any exception to the usual rules takes multiple telephone calls to figure out.

For example, I have a daughter in French public school outside of my voting division. Can I vote for English representatives? DGEQ said yes, but the wording on the Lester B. Pearson transfer form implied no.

It took four phone calls to ensure that I could legally add three extra words “in your territory,” sign the transfer and submit it by email. Lester B. Pearson officials agreed to accept it, but until the proper voter card arrived, it wasn’t clear whether more would have to be done. Luckily, I am on the right list now.

Election candidates tell me they’re struggling to get out the vote too. They had until Oct. 4 to deliver transfer cards to the DGEQ, but that was a Saturday. Did the DGEQ accept transfer forms pushed under the door or will voters have to go in person prior to Oct. 14 to ensure they get on the list they want to be on?

This is a description of just some of the hassles so far. Next up is learning which divisions we’re all in, attending presentations by local candidates, getting informed about the issues and actually turning up to fill in a ballot on November 2.

Time will tell if more voters get engaged this time.

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