Is this school board election our last?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The Liberals in Quebec are questioning free-standing school boards,
proposing to close many down and centralize school management. 

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The Liberals in Quebec are questioning free-standing school boards,
proposing to close many down and centralize school management. 
The Couillard Liberals’ centralization mantra is very old news – most of the health system restructuring in the last decades were designed to combat the problems of a top-heavy bureaucracy, too far from the people it is mandated to serve. This is less
obvious a problem with the school boards because they have not proven to be as democratic and certainly not as transparent and consultative as we might wish.
This merger mantra is mistaken. Centralization is not always cost-effective. Forget “economies of scale”, at least as applied to bureaucracies – ask, for example, just about anyone who now lives in a merged city (a centralized administration for multiple cities). So, if “savings” are
the government’s only
justification for these forced mergers, that
government is merely
pretending to be planning. 
Furthermore, some services and ideals are more important than only their cost. Local control is one; bilingualism another.  Our democracy must afford local control
and bilingualism.  English
language school boards, besides being a constitutional right, are another service more important than its final cost.
That is not to say there are no savings to be had, or that whole layers of bureaucracy should not be peeled away. There’s big savings.
One alternative to keeping essential services and keeping them nearby is to kiss the whole idea of democracy goodbye. That’s the alternative most
residents are supporting – by not voting. The government has clearly said it will measure the level of public support – percentage of voters who bother to vote.  If we open this door, we’re to blame for the wreaking squads that come through.
So this by-election in zone three (central Pontiac) is really our last chance to stop Coulliard’s austerity axe. It takes about 15 minutes to vote. Turn off the TV for 15
minutes!
Zone 3 has two
excellent candidates. Take your pick, but do pick. McDowell School in Shawville is the polling
station.
As for the Western Quebec School Board itself, it has its problems. They might justify closing the board, but not before giving the citizens, parents, staff, and the new commission itself the opportunity to turn things around.  Lack of transparency, right up there with Prime Minster Harper, secrecy and excessive bureaucracy make the Board a target for merger. The Board’s apparent inability to monitor its contracts was a bombshell released earlier this year. But there is good news.
The new chair of the commission, Jim Shea, has recognized these problems and has vowed to open things up. He’s wise and experienced – as are the commissioners.  Some may be old hands, hence, in part responsible for the deterioration, but this is how change will come, from those who understand the system, its ins and outs, and not necessarily from brand new people full of great ideals but little experience.
Both candidates in zone 3 fit this bill, but one in particular has a well-known commitment to a better school board, one responsive to the community’s needs and not only the Ministry of Education’s agenda.  Candidate Richard Ledbetter penned an editorial which was read across the province – indeed, which won Quebec’s Best Editorial
of the year award – and which certainly rattled the school board’s bureaucracy. Although candidate Heather Egan Duggan would also be excellent, Mr Ledbetter’s election would send a message to Quebec City—and would re-assure the mid-Pontiac that we are not disappearing.
Your vote for either candidate will strengthen that effort.  Just do it!