MONTREAL — The Quebec school board elections less than 48 hours away and challenger for the chair of the English Montreal school board (EMSB) — Anne Lagacé-Dowson — is claiming that more than 1,000 people have been kept off the voter list.
“What we’re concerned about is that people in good faith, are being blocked,” she said from her campaign headquarters on Monkland avenue.
“That’s a real problem in the English community.”
Lagacé-Dowson’s chief concern is that voters who attempted to switch before the Oct. 14 deadline were kept off the list because they hadn’t filled out the forms properly, checked the proper boxes, or used the proper forms.
She also says the forms are difficult to ferret out of the Internet, and that a process should be in place to allow these voters the chance to make corrections.
Yet in an election campaign that has become the subject of a satirical newspaper cartoon due to the back-and-forth among candidates, the question of how many people have been rejected from the list of voters is a topic of debate.
Lagacé-Dowson is putting the figure at about one-third of 5,000 voters who tried to switch this year.
The EMSB’s election director, Pierre-Yves Bazzaz, pegs that figure as closer to 4,000 voters who tried to switch, with less than 1,000 being rejected.
Lagacé-Dowson’s opponent, Angela Mancini, says the claims are overblown.
“I’m not sure who she’s talking about, or what she’s talking about, but I can tell you from our perspective…we’re getting the vote out,” Mancini said.
This is the latest installment in an election that has been marked by a war of words; it also marks a bit of a milestone because in contrast with previous years, voters are able to vote directly for the chair of the EMSB and other school boards.
Both candidates appear to agree that the barbs traded in the campaign are taking away from issues facing the EMSB, such as falling enrolment, budgetary shortfalls and education quality.
“Instead of talking about educational issues and talking about parents, we’ve spent an awful lot of time talking about technicalities,” Lagacé-Dowson said.
“The electoral machine is flawed. Badly flawed.”
“I’m a little bit upset about it,” Mancini said.
“I think that the negative publicity that they’ve brought on this board is going to affect our enrollment later on.”
The election will take place Nov. 2.