Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board elections

Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board elections

Savings, statements and taxes

By Joel Ceausu

“We can find it,” says Steve Bletas. “We will absolutely find it.”

The candidate for chairperson of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board says if his Students First team is elected Nov. 2, “We will ask each department to review its budget to free up $1.5 million right away,” confident that the amount can be found within a short time frame.

“We’ll do it within the first 30 days of our mandate,” he says. “This is not a statement, it’s a promise that our team has discussed, among ourselves and with others.” Bletas says all savings would fund and support special needs services and anti-bullying programs.

“Instead of allocating funds and resources to redundancies at the board level, the money will go back into the schools for the students.”

Bletas shared that message with Mille-Îles MNA and Quebec Family Minister Francine Charbonneau last week. A former chair of the Commission scolaire de Laval, Charbonneau is also keenly aware of the budgetary crunch facing the anglo boards, he said, and wanted to relay to her cabinet colleagues the rising demands of the special needs sector.

“We explained how more and more students are being identified and that there is simply not enough money out there to service this growing population. We also spoke of the importance of getting everyone on the English electoral list that wants to be. She promised that the issue won’t get lost once we stepped out her door.”

When asked about the Sir Wilfrid Laurier press release in which outgoing chair Nick Milas condemned the ethics complaint lodged against him, Bletas said “It’s unfortunate that this has become part of the campaign. For something like that to come out, things that are confidential and not even brought out to council but in public with the full support of the administration? That should never have been approved.”

Ward 6 candidate Emilio Migliozzi says he had hoped—and tried to ensure—that the matter would have been dealt with in another fashion from the start.

“We could have settled this by talking about it in caucus,” he says, adding it was his motion to postpone the issue indefinitely at the last council meeting. “We would have taken it to the new council who would have resolved the issues in question.”

Know what your neighbour is paying

The incumbent commissioner running under the EducACTION banner says the complaint against Milas was launched deliberately right before the election to discredit him.

f“In my opinion this is not good for either side. I’m shocked that this ethics complaint cost us $11,000,” he says, “and we haven’t even received the final invoice. I can’t believe we wasted public funds for someone’s political purposes.”

When asked if the inclusion of a political reference in the board’s release may have put the board in a precarious position, Migliozzi said he wasn’t so sure but that “personally I would have called a press conference and spoken to people about it. That’s me. It would have been the best thing. But I can see why people are upset; our chairman was attacked.”

Migliozzi says he has been getting positive reaction out on the campaign trail, and that the issue that always arises with electors is taxes. “English board voters know what their neighbours are paying,” he said. “Where some pay $1,400 they know their friend next door is paying $800. That’s huge.”

It’s worse he says for people without children in school and perhaps living on a fixed income. 

It’s hard to justify remaining on the English list he agrees, which is contrary to a healthy democracy.

“That’s why we need to support (EducACTION leader) Jennifer Maccarone,” he says, “so when she goes to the government she has our support and can make those needs known when negotiating for a fairer tax system.”

“People also need to remember that the commissioner’s job is not only to vote on issues at council, but to amalgamate different communities in support of the education system, whether it’s business or municipalities. We can facilitate putting things together, get everybody onside. School commissioners don’t only represent students or parents, but all electors.”

Family Minister and Mille Îles MNA Francine Charbonneau talks special needs funding and electoral lists with Students Firsts candidate for chair Steve Bletas.

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