QESBA President describes phone meeting with Premier as "cordial, frank and productive"

MONTREAL, Dec. 19, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Quebec English School Boards Association's (QESBA) President David D'Aoust and Executive Director David Birnbaum met with Quebec Premier Pauline Marois via teleconference yesterday afternoon, with the QESBA President describing the 25-minute exchange as "cordial, frank and productive". This was a first meeting with Quebec's new Premier since her September 4th election., Madame Marois made the commitment to work towards a future face-to-face meeting with the QESBA network.

Three key items were introduced during the call by QESBA as network priorities: The president discussed (a) increasing and damaging budget cuts to public education, most particularly, a claw-back of some $200 million to school boards in the form of reduced equalization payments on school-tax revenues, (b) Bill 14, an act to amend the Charter of the French language and (c) the 2014 school board elections, set by this government for November 2014.

On budget cuts the Premier was clear that her government is demanding important sacrifices of all public institutions. QESBA echoed a proposal by its partners at the Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec that Mme Marois mandate the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports Marie Malavoy to re-convene the Table Québec-Commissions scolaires to examine the possibility of developing a long-term and more equitable fiscal pact for public education. The Table, originally created by the Premier when she was Education Minister, is a senior consultative body bringing together the Minister of Education with the two school board associations.

QESBA discussed Bill 14, an Act to amend the Charter of the French language, explaining the devastating impact that the proposed elimination of the special right of families of military personnel to English school access would have on the Central Québec School Board, not to mention the numerous families concerned. QESBA also stated its great disappointment with a series of articles that would make it more difficult to procure information and services in English from municipalities and health and social services providers. "We raised this concern from our perspective as the voice of key institutions serving English-speaking communities across Quebec, and with a view to maintaining the vitality of those communities," said QESBA President David D'Aoust. The Premier expressed her recognition of the Associations concerns but offered no specific reaction beyond inviting QESBA to present a brief during the upcoming Commission parlementaire on Bill 14. She did note that her government is deeply committed to protecting the French language, while reiterating that she "absolutely" recognizes an obligation on behalf of her government to secure the historic and on-going place of Quebec's English-speaking communities.

Finally, QESBA thanked the Premier for taking action on the school board elections dossier and requested that she take into account the logistics of electing a school board Chair by universal suffrage. The Association reminded Madame Marois that MRCs have the option of opting out of elections by universal suffrage. The English sector school board territories are immense and running elections on the over-all school board territories would be costly. Any candidate to this post would have to make campaigning a full-time job for the 45-day electoral period. "We have one school board that is the size of Belgium, the complications emanating from an election of this type of geography would be very costly," said D'Aoust. The Premier acknowledged the concern and promised to examine it carefully.

"It is no secret that we have our differences," D'Aoust concluded, "but Mme Marois solemnly recognizes that she is the Premier of all Quebecers. Her interest was sincere, her responses forthright. I thought it was an important and meaningful exchange."

SOURCE: Quebec English School Boards Association

For further information:

Kim Hamilton
Director of Communications and Special Projects
514-849-5900, ext.: 225

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