Minister Meets Eustace

Minister of Education Sébastien Proulx granted education critic Chris Eustace a one-on-one audience at the Quebec Liberal party convention, May 15.

Two days after Proulx announced that he would scrap the overhaul to provisions Quebec education system, Bill 86, Eustace travelled to Drummondville to send a message that many of the province’s non-francophones had supported the erstwhile initiative.

Quebec’s Minister of Education, Sébastien Proulx recognized Eustace’s effort by granting him a 25-minute meeting, during which he took note of Eustace’s recommendations.

Eustace commended Proulx’ willingness to listen and hopes that the Minister will include some of his suggestions when he tables a new set of education reforms, June 10.

“I highlighted abuses of power, intimidation, financial probity and other ethical issues,” Eustace told The Suburban. “Electing commissioners to school boards has nothing to do with student achievement.”

Eustace recommended that the province take over responsibility for adjudicating school issues. He noted that Quebec already operates a municipal commission that rules on ethical lapses in the province’s cities.

He said that he wants restrictions to prevent outgoing elected commissioners from doing business with their former school boards, more transparency to prevent collusion and corruption in the hundreds of millions of dollars of school outsourcing contracts and a ban on school tax money being spent on lobbyists.

Nine days later, when Eustace tried to convey the same message to Lester B. Pearson School Board’s (LBPSB) executive committee, the outcome was staggeringly different.

This time, as Eustace held aloft the same signs that earned him a hearing in Drummondville, LBPSB council emptied, as chairman Martin Sherman repeatedly ordered “Mr. Eustace please take a seat.”

Eustace, who taught at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School for more than 30 years and who in the 2014 school board election ran a close second to Suanne Stein Day in his bid to chair LBPSB, has attended council meetings for years. Yet, for two-and-a-half years Stein Day has barred him from speaking there.

Stein Day told The Suburban in an interview that the ban has the “unanimous support of the council. We’ve discussed it in caucus many times.” However, some school commissioners had told The Suburban that they were shocked when Stein Day reimposed the ban immediately after the election, stating that it was her own personal decision.

Last week, The Suburban canvassed all elected LBPSB commissioners by electronic mail whether they supported the ban. None were willing to go on record. During the subsequent council meeting, May 30, Stein Day refused to put the question to them publicly. “The education act states that the school board chair is the spokesperson for the school board,” she insisted.

Stein Day alleged that Eustace was “not able to follow the rules of our council meetings.” She added that Eustace must speak respectfully, observe time limits and refrain from personal attacks.

“He continues to break the rules like he did on Tuesday night, disrupting our meeting with little unexplainable signs that say ‘Anglo’,” Stein Day complained. “If he wants to come and ask about things relevant to our school board that’s one thing. But if he wants to ask about other organizations, even if I sit on the board of the other organization, my council meeting is not the forum to answer questions on that. He just can’t abide by the rules.”

The Education Act permits any member of the public to pose questions at school board meetings. Eustace said that during his meeting with the Minister he cited the efforts to silence him as an example of how elected school board officials suppress opposing viewpoints.

Article written by: Chloë Ranaldi and Robert Frank

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