English school board promising fight over CAQ's abolition plan

Quebec's incoming premier will have a constitutional legal battle on his hands if his government goes ahead with a plan to eliminate the province's elected school boards, vows the head of western Quebec's English-language school board.

Quebec's incoming government plans to scrap elected boards

Western Québec School Board chair James Shea says the incoming CAQ government is in for a constitutional battle if it proceeds with a plan to scrap elected boards. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Quebec's incoming premier will have a constitutional legal battle on his hands if his government goes ahead with a plan to eliminate the province's elected school boards, vows the head of western Quebec's English-language school board.

"We have the right to take this all the way to the Supreme Court," said Western Québec School Board chair James Shea.

During his first news conference following Monday's historic vote, premier-designate François Legault confirmed his Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government intends to abolish all elected school boards and replace them with "service centres," a term he's yet to define.

Legault said it's one of several constitutional changes for which his government might invoke the notwithstanding clause.

Attempts by previous Quebec governments to tamper with English school boards, including the former Liberal government's Bill 86, fizzled under pressure from the province's anglophone minority.

Premier-designate François Legault speaks to the media on Tuesday, the day after his party swept to power in Quebec. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Shea said the western Quebec board's lawyers are already sharpening their pencils for another fight.

"Our schools are the beacons of our community," he said.

Outgoing premier Philippe Couillard became a defender of the English boards, stating during the campaign that "English-speaking Quebecers are part of who we are. They have built Quebec with us. Their rights and their institutions matter to me."

Liberal André Fortin, who was re-elected in the Pontiac Monday, vowed on election night to support the English school boards in their fight to maintain the current structure.

But the CAQ argues the elected boards, most of which represent French-speaking students, are a waste of taxpayers' money.