Analysis

Premier Philippe Couillard sets sights on education reform in 2015

If you thought the Couillard government's overhaul of some of this province's most cherished programs was over, think again.

Quebec needs to cut additional $1.1B to balance the books by 2016

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says education reform is first up on the agenda in 2015. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

If you thought the Couillard government's overhaul of some of this province's most cherished programs was over, think again.

Health care, daycare and pensions were all targets in 2014. In his year-end interview with CBC, Premier Philippe Couillard said a priority for 2015 will be education.

"We're not going to approach education from only a budgetary lens," he said.

"We want to make it even better, to give more freedom to act to schools, to teachers, parents at the local level and then see how much administrative structure we need to make that happen," said Couillard.

Deep cuts coming to education

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette plans to cut over 1,000 jobs as part of his health care system reform. (Jacques Boissinot/CP)

Minister Yves Bolduc is already off to a head start. He has proposed amalgamating 72 school boards into 46. In the English system, three will become one.

Couillard's vision for education reform sounds similar to his health minister's proposals for an overhaul to the health care system: cut administration and focus on front-line services.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette's reform would eliminate an entire layer of the bureaucracy for Quebec health agencies, with an eye toward saving $200 million a year and improving front-line services for Quebecers.

"We want to seize this opportunity to make, what we consider, the necessary change in the culture of our network in order to make sure once and for all the system will work for the patient — period," Barrette said in September.

The changes come as the Liberal government tries to balance the books.

Another $1.1B in cuts coming

In his financial update in December, Finance Minister Carlos Leitão said his government has made 85 per cent of the cuts needed to get to a balanced budget by the end of 2016.

The government needs to find another $1.1 billion in savings before the 2015-16 budget is tabled this coming spring.

The premier said proposed changes to the education system will be finalized at the beginning of 2015.

About the Author

Ryan Hicks

Ryan Hicks is CBC's Quebec National Assembly correspondent. He has reported from Montreal, Winnipeg, Charlottetown and Ottawa - where he was a producer on Power & Politics in the Parliamentary Bureau.

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