Nfld. & Labrador

Education minister 'scolded' him about open line remarks, says school councils chair

The chair of the Federation of School Councils said the province's minister of education told him his digs at government could affect his group's chances at funding.

Peter Whittle says Dale Kirby implied group could lose funding if he didn't keep quiet

Peter Whittle says the Minister of Education, Dale Kirby, was "condescending" and "arrogant." (John Gushue/CBC)

The chair of the Federation of School Councils said the province's minister of education told him his digs at government could affect his group's chances at funding.

Peter Whittle said the council met with Education Minister Dale Kirby June 14 to discuss a previously agreed upon agenda, including a reduction in the council's provincial funding from $25,000 to $21,020.

The new Virginia Park Elementary school should be ready by 2017, and Whittle has criticized delays in construction. (CBC)

Whittle said the meeting took a bitter turn after Kirby called him out on comments he made to a VOCM call-in show on how the province had handled the Virginia Park Elementary school construction

"I felt scolded," he told the St. John's Morning Show

"I wasn't going to sit there and be talked to condescendingly and arrogantly by the minister." 

And with that Whittle walked out, leaving his executive to handle the meeting. 

Peter Whittle is chair of the Federation of School Councils. (John Gushue)

Whittle said his comments about Virginia Park were personal ones, and shouldn't have had an effect on how the province dealt with the Federation of School Councils. 

"Why would this have been raised at the table in an education meeting, that is about educational issues and the Federation of School Councils, unrelated to anything that's going on with Works, Services and Transportation or any other department."

Kirby expressed 'challenges'

Kirby declined an interview with CBC News but did send in a statement. 

"I expressed the challenges I face when advocating for more funding when the head of this organization is publicly criticizing public servants as a whole," it read.

Kirby's statement goes on to say that his department did meet with the remaining members of the federation for 70 minutes after Whittle left and that he would be open to meeting again.

In a statement Dale Kirby said he was defending public servants who were following orders of cabinet. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

Whittle has since contacted the premier's office.

"It was frustrating to me. I have Charter rights, freedom of expression and assembly, if I want to talk about an issue that's unrelated to Federation of School Councils."

When asked if this whole situation had been blown out of proportion, Whittle said:

"I don't think for a minute it is blown out of proportion when there are dozens of organizations in this province that are funded, that need funding and are scared to talk."

with files from the St. John's Morning Show