Public hearings on a government bill concerning school taxes became heated Wednesday afternoon when the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) testified. It’s a fiscal issue, but the debate soon drifted to other issues concerning the education system in Quebec.
In a debate that took place in both English and French, QESBA made its concerns clear and they didn’t hold back.
“In our view, the government is literally whittling away at the power of school boards in advance of a larger discussion on a governance model that is appropriate for school boards, and that’s the principle we’re defending,” QESBA executive director Russell Copeman said to the public finances commission.
The debate got particularly impassioned when the finance minister started asking questions about why school boards impose penalties for people who don’t pay their school taxes.
The government’s school taxes bill would strip school boards of the power to set the interest rate on late payments.
“It seems to be taken here that we are the bad guys who are imposing penalties on people who shouldn’t be doing what they are doing, which is not paying their taxes,” Burke said during the commission.
“Our point is there is a principle of being able to set that rate of interest, and it’s one of the autonomy of a level of government elected by the population to serve the interest of students,” Copeman said.
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When asked for his reaction, the finance minister said he appreciated the debate.
“I didn’t think it was heated. I think it’s a consultation process,” said Eric Girard. “It was perfect. People have the right to express their opinion. I think it was excellent.”