Quebec’s Ministry of Education decided English school board elections will go ahead despite previously postponing them due to COVID-19 health concerns.
The government originally postponed the November English school board elections back in October due to public health recommendations. Affected school boards were however informed Friday evening that despite the continuous rise and spread of the virus, the elections will take place Dec. 19-20, even in designated red zones that are on highest alert.
The announcement was met with anger and confusion from many in the English education community.
Russell Copeman, executive director for the Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA), told Global News the process should be postponed until the province has a better handle on the worsening pandemic.
“Five days before Christmas, in a pandemic where the premier is imploring us to reduce contacts with one another,” Copeman said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Judy Kelley, Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) commissioner whose running for LBPSB chair, told Global News that the announcement came as a shock and that the elections should be put off.
According to the ministry, mail-in ballots will be available to people who have tested positive for COVID-19, those waiting for their test results and residents of long-term care homes. Everyone else will have to physically show up at the polls.
In a statement, the Education Ministry said it believes it will be possible to hold the elections in a safe manner that complies with all distancing measures.
“To force the holding of school elections in the midst of an intensifying and deadly pandemic, is more than questionable from a public health standpoint,” the QESBA said in a letter sent to Quebec Education Minister Jean-François Roberge on Saturday. The letter asks the provincial government to rescind its decision.
“It’s a demonstration of disdain for the democratic process within the English speaking community, and will be viewed by many as a bad faith strategy to sabotage these elections for important institutions of our community,” the letter read.
On Saturday, Quebec’s daily COVID-19 case load hit a new single-day peak as the province recorded 1,448 new cases.
Health Minister Christian Dubé took to Twitter to urge Quebecers to reduce contacts and respect health measures, saying everyone has a role to play in reducing the case numbers.