P.E.I. school review process 'a sham,' Opposition says
Spring sitting of legislature started Tuesday
P.E.I.'s Official Opposition began a new sitting of the provincial legislature Tuesday on the offensive, hammering away at government over a divisive process to consider closing schools that ended with cabinet vetoing recommendations from the Public Schools Branch.
"Why did you put students, teachers and communities through all this stress and anxiety if you were going to veto the decision anyway?" Opposition leader Jamie Fox asked Premier Wade MacLauchlan.
- Close St. Jean, Georgetown but keep Bloomfield, St. Louis and Belfast says Public Schools Branch Board
- No schools will close, says P.E.I. premier
The school review process began in September, and culminated last night in a public meeting at Bluefield High School attended by hundreds of school supporters from across the province.
Meeting a 'charade,' process a 'sham,' says Opposition
Five schools had been recommended for closure in a preliminary report presented by the Public Schools Branch.
Ultimately the three-person board of directors of the branch voted not to close schools in Belfast, St. Louis and Bloomfield but recommended to cabinet that Georgetown Elementary and St. Jean School in Charlottetown be closed.
Before noon the next day, Premier Wade MacLauchlan told the media it was "not the time to close schools," and said cabinet would not provide the authorization the Public Schools Branch would need in order to do so.
"If cabinet had no plans to change schools, why did you bother to allow that charade to unfold last night?" Opposition education critic Steven Myers asked the premier. Myers represents the district of Georgetown-St. Peters, which includes Georgetown Elementary.
He and other PC MLAs called the review process "a sham."
"You put us all through misery and anxiety and anxiousness for the last eight months, and for those two schools, especially the last 12 hours," said Darlene Compton, MLA for Belfast-Murray River. Belfast Consolidated was another school considered for closure.
Premier acknowledges hard work, passion in debate
"All for a PR gimmick, that in the eleventh hour you'd turn around and make it look like a win for everyone?" Compton asked. "This was not a win for the parents that were struggling all winter long to prove to you that we deserved a school."
"I acknowledge that this has been a lot of hard work, that there has been passion, that people have had to come together and address the future of their communities," the premier finally relented toward the end of question period.
"This is a great moment and we have to go forward ... by taking advantage of, and by harnessing, those good energies and that commitment, and that's exactly what we envisage for Belfast and for the communities throughout this province."
Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said no more school closures should be considered "unless communities themselves are empowered to direct events, rather than simply having to respond to recommendations that are imposed upon them."
MacLauchlan surmised the Public Schools Branch "may indeed have better ideas about how this could be done another time or as we go forward."
MORE P.E.I. News I Wade MacLauchlan says 'learner-centered approach' guided province's decision to keep schools open
MORE P.E.I. News I Stratford school rezoning 'not even a short-term fix'