The Quebec government is doubling this year’s budget for the Support Program for Organizations and Institutions administered by the Anglophone Secretariat to more than $4 million, up from approximately $2 million last year.
On Thursday, Premier François Legault went head to head with opposition parties in a debate about how this money will be used, but first, he made a confession.
“I have to confess communication around Riverdale could have been better,” Legault said during a budget credits debate at the National Assembly.
The government announced in January that Riverdale, an English high school, would be transferred to a French school board to alleviate overcrowding. The decision was met with backlash from the school community.
Liberal MNA for Jacques-Cartier, Greg Kelley, said the admission helps.
“I’m happy that he did mention that it’s not right when the minister or when the government arrives and just makes an arbitrary decision without consulting people,” Kelley said.
However, the premier’s remarks should not be interpreted as an apology, said Coalition Avenir Québec MNA Christopher Skeete.
“I’m not sure it’s a mea culpa,” he said.
Skeete said the school board needs to take its share of the blame as well.
“We assume our side of that gap in communication, but let’s just, you know, keep things in perspective,” he said.
The CAQ is also not softening its position on getting rid of school board elections, which leads to another debate.
There is a higher percentage of anglophones than francophones living on low-incomes, said Québec Solidaire’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who then asked the premier what the government will do to reverse this trend and help Quebec anglophones living in poverty.
“I’ll help you with your reflection: abolishing school boards is not part of the solution,” Nadeau-Dubois added.
Kelley said he’s not satisfied with Legault’s answers during the debate and said the premier needs to spend more time in anglophone communities.
“He seemed to say: ‘Wow, I’ve been in politics for over 20 years and look at all these groups, that’s amazing.’ And some of those groups, like (the Committee for Anglophone Social Action), have been there for over 40 years,” Kelley said.
Even so, the government says the secretariat will invest its increased budget in those community groups.