SWLSB under Elections Quebec microscope

By Robert Frank

Quebec’s election authority confirmed that it is assessing a news release issued last week by outgoing Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) chairman Nick Milas.

The news release, published on SWLSB letterhead and posted on the school board’s website, Oct. 21, castigated his political opponents for having questioned whether Milas’ travel to India had violated SWLSB ethics guidelines.

“This is not putting students first,” Milas wrote, in a blatant swipe at outgoing school commissioner Steve Bletas, who is leading the Students First ticket into the Nov. 2 SWLSB election.

Spokesman Denis Dion confirmed that Elections Quebec is analyzing the news release to determine whether the use of the school board’s name and taxpayer-funded resources to publish the news release violated the province’s election laws.

“During an election period, we have to examine every public intervention of an incumbent chair or trustee,” Dion told The Suburban.

“The law says that ‘During an election, no person other than an authorized candidate may incur or authorize electoral expenses,’” he said in an interview. “The cost of any goods or services during an election period to promote…directly or indirectly the election of a candidate…is an election expense.”

Dion added that Elections Quebec is mindful that school boards continue to operate during elections, and that the incumbents continue to administer them. Whether wrongdoing took place boils down to the answer to a single question.

“Was it an administrative gesture or was it a political gesture? This is analyzed on a case-by-case basis,” Dion explained, “and we need to have enough information to be able to characterize the intervention.”

As this week’s edition of the newspaper went to press, Dion told The Suburban that he expected that Elections Quebec would complete its analysis before voters go to polling stations on Sunday to vote in the SWLSB election.
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