Montreal

Yves Bolduc says 'transformation is coming' to Quebec school boards

The future of Quebec's school boards could be at stake, after Sunday's school board election saw low voter turnout across the province.
Education Minister Yves Bolduc says weak turnout during Sunday's school board elections suggests Quebec's school boards are in need of change. (CBC )

Quebec Minister of Education, Yves Bolduc, says the government will propose "significant changes" to the role, organization and governance of school boards over the next few months. 

His comments come after Sunday's school board elections. 

The current [school board] structure does not reflect the needs of the population- Yves Bolduc, Quebec education minister

Going into the election, Bolduc warned that voter turnout would be crucial in determining the future of school boards. 

While the voter turnout for English boards in Montreal was up, turnout for the French boards dropped.

With an estimated province-wide election participation rate of five per cent, Bolduc says the "status quo" is no longer acceptable.

Despite reports of long waits at the polling stations, voter turnout was up for the English Montreal School board election. (CBC News)

"This weak turnout shows that the current structure does not reflect the needs of the population," he said in a statement on Monday. 

The minister would not rule out the possibility that some school boards could be forced to merge. 

A day after the election, school board chairs were already bracing for change.

“I think we need to look at the options of which services can be brought together for efficiency's sake and also because we are in a crunch in Quebec," said Angela Mancini, who was elected for a second mandate as chair of the English Montreal School Board.

"We will have to take a look at all means ... without touching the services to students.”

Voter turnout up for Montreal English school boards

About 21 per cent of people eligible to vote in the EMSB elections cast their ballots — a strong turnout for an election that was mired in controversy.

That turnout was up from 17 per cent in 2007.

The president of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) said he was pleased with the turnout.

I think people were very much behind the English school board and wanted to let the government know- Angela Mancini, EMSB chair

"We were fighting all odds ... Canadiens hockey game, families very busy on a Sunday," said David D'Aoust, the head of QESBA, an advocacy group for English-language school boards.

Despite the higher turnout for English boards, Bolduc said they would not be immune to changes.

D'Aoust said he is waiting to find out more about how those changes will take shape.

"​I hear this idea of sweeping changes but we haven't seen what these sweeping changes are, so it's difficult to comment. Does he want to reduce all the English boards to one school board? I can tell you right now that's totally unreasonable in my opinion," D'Aoust said.

Voter issues, long waits plague school board elections

During Sunday's election, many polling stations were dealing with voter issues, including people being left off the voter list and long lineups.

"I know of at least 200 people who walked away from polls at Dorval Elementary because the lineup was too long," said Suanne Stein Day, who was re-elected chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

Mancini says it's crucial to address those kinds of problems.

“Certainly … there needs to be a better way for people to transfer onto our English voter list, "Mancini told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty. 

She said introducing electronic voter sign up could be a solution.

Despite the hiccups, Mancini said she was glad to see the community came out to vote.

“I think people were very much behind the English school board and wanted to let the government know," Mancini said. 

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