Imposing closure on education bill 40 is a draconian measure by a government that is increasingly losing touch
with the wishes of the population
of the province of Quebec
Bill 40 is officially titled An Act to amend mainly the Education Act with regard to school organization and governance. The sponsor of this legislation is Minister of Education and Higher Education Jean-François Roberge, who introduced the bill in the National Assembly of Québec on Tuesday, October 1, 2019.
The Government of Québec in office now was elected by only 37.42% of the voters in the provincial general election of October 2018. We also remember that only 66.45% of the registered electors exercised their right to vote, so that the present Government of Québec was really elected by only 24.87% of the registered electors in 2018.
The present electoral system allows a government with the majority of seats: 76 out of 125 ridings – 60.8% of the seats in the National Assembly to impose closure (le bâillon in French) on legislation: Bill No. 40 intends to abolish elected school boards in the province and replace them with regional service centres for schools. Furthermore, the parent representatives and the community representatives on the board of directors for the regional services centres for schools in the English sector would be elected by universal suffrage. The representatives on the board of directors in the French sector would not be elected by universal suffrage.
The Minister of Education and Higher Education himself, the Official Opposition, the second Opposition Group, and the third Opposition Group have all proposed amendments to this fault-filled Bill 40. We must remember that in the election of October 2018, the Québec Liberal Party received 24.82% support, Québec solidaire, 16.10%, and le Parti Québécois, 17.06%, totaling 57.98% of the registered electors.
The fact that Minister Jean-François Roberge proposed so many friendly amendments leads to questions about the quality of the actual legislation. Is it so ill-conceived that it should be withdrawn and sent back to the drawing board and be re-drafted by those who have a clearer vision of how education in the province can be reformed to improve student success and reduce the alarmingly high drop-out rates.
This will be the fourth time in a little over a year that the measure of closure will have been used by the Government of Québec. It may be acceptable in situations of an urgent nature or regarding national security, but none of the four situations in which closure was used was an emergency.
What Premier François Legault and the Minister Jean-François Roberge should do instead of imposing closure to bully through increasingly unpopular legislation is the following:
- Respect the constitutional guarantees regarding minority schools in the province of Québec by allowing the nine English school boards to continue to exist;
- Allow the representatives on the board of directors of the regional service centres for schools in the French sector to be elected by universal suffrage;
- Postpone the next elections for the English school boards and the French regional service centres for schools until Sunday, November 7, 2021 to be twinned with the municipal elections scheduled then across the province of Québec.