The deadline for nominations for this fall’s school board elections has come and gone and many commissioners and chairpersons have been acclaimed to their positions. Many are blaming the provincial government for too hastily calling the election date.
The elections usually take place in November, but were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. In the Central Quebec School Board for instance, everyone has been acclaimed, including chairman Stephen Burke who was supposed to retire this year.
He said he was encouraged to stay to keep fighting against Bill 40. That is the Coalition Avenir Québec’s bill to get rid of school board elections and replace boards with service centres.
English boards say Section 23 of the constitution gives minorities the right to govern their own schools and the bill is currently before the courts.
Burke said the lack of candidates for this fall’s election could be because electors want to keep the same people in place to continue the fight against Bill 40. He added that the pandemic is another reason — many people are turned off holding elections during a fourth wave.
Others say the government didn’t leave potential candidates enough time to get organized.
“We had to go through the process of filing nomination papers, and filling out the paperwork and spreading the word that the election is back on in a week’s time,” explained Judy Kelley who was acclaimed chairperson of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
A possible tactic to suppress voting? Some believe so.
“I think the government really missed an opportunity to twin the school board elections with the municipal elections (to be held in November 2021),” said EMSB chairperson, Joe Ortona. “Every province has school board elections with the municipal elections. We’re the only one who doesn’t. And I believe it’s to depress the voter turnout.”
He is also concerned that people will not turn up to vote so close to the federal election which is happening on September 20th.