Visit from campaigning Trudeau prompts change to WRDSB policy

After a visit from then-candidate Justin Trudeau to a Waterloo public school during the last federal election, the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is moving to block politicians from visiting schools during campaigns. 

Waterloo Catholic District School Board has had election guidelines since 1999

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sits in with students in a classroom at Sandowne Public School in Waterloo, Ont., on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019 while he was a candidate in the last federal election. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

After a visit from then-candidate Justin Trudeau to Sandowne Public School in Waterloo during the last federal election, the Waterloo Region District School Board is moving to block politicians from visiting schools during campaigns. 

During the visit on Sept. 16, 2019, Trudeau made a speech regarding Liberal Party plans for childcare and other programs, should they be re-elected.

Local media, including CBC, referred to the visit as a campaign stop. As part of the visit, Trudeau also visited a classroom and photographers were invited in to take photos, and he answered questions from reporters in the library.

"Having the prime minister visit a local industry, or a local university, or a local public school is entirely appropriate given his role," school board trustee Scott Piatkowski said. 

"But as soon as the electoral writ is dropped, his role changes to somebody who is running for re-election."

Makes schools 'a prop'

Piatkowski, who has local ties to the NDP, said he had several problems with the visit.

To have only one candidate visit a school during an election could indicate political endorsement and single candidate visits give only a single view of political issues to students. 

Also, "it makes our facilities and our students a prop for politicians," he said. 

Other school boards in the region including Waterloo Catholic and Upper Grand which serves Guelph and Wellington County, have policies that protect against campaigning and other election activities at their schools. 

"When [Justin Trudeau] came last fall, we didn't have a policy saying that a visit of that nature wasn't allowed and so it proceeded with some cautions in place," Piatkowski said. 

The board trustees put forward a draft policy on the issue at their meeting on Monday night, but it hasn't been made official yet. 

According to Piatkowski the final version, along with some amendments made at Monday's meeting, is expected to make it's way back to the trustees in February.


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