Martin C. Barry
On a stop in Saint-Eustache last week, Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault said in an interview with the Laval News that he’s not disappointed the Liberals decided to kill Bill 86 – the government’s controversial legislation which would have done away with elected school boards across the province.
We spoke to Legault last week just a few days after the Liberals announced they were withdrawing Bill 86. It would have fundamentally changed the province’s education system by replacing school commissions with a new and non-elected form of governance.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Legault said, “because right now we have to focus on services, not on structures. But it’s clear that we have a government that improvises. It doesn’t make sense that after two years – they’re not there since two weeks but two years – and still they don’t know what they want to do with school boards.”
Copy catting the CAQ
Legault noted that new recommendations by Liberal Education Minister Sébastien Proulx, including kindergarten starting at age four, were originally suggestions that had been made by the CAQ. “We had proposed putting in place school starting at four years old like they have in Ontario and many other places,” he said.
Legault speculated on what motivated Premier Philippe Couillard to back down from his earlier hardline stance on education reform which saw the education minister’s portfolio change hands several times. “He saw that after three ministers of education he was still not going anywhere. He didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to do.
“You must remember that during the last electoral campaign, he was against our proposals,” he continued. “So he changed his mind to focus on CAQ’s proposals about decentralization, but he still doesn’t know what to do. It’s improvisation in education. It doesn’t make sense. I was minister of education for three years in a row, but now for the last two years we’ve had three ministers of education in a row. This is not good for our children.”
Laval Caquiste Skeete wades in
Christopher Skeete, a Laval resident who ran for the CAQ in 2014 in Fabre and who is currently vice-president of the CAQ’s western Quebec political association, said the government’s emulation of CAQ ideas “is just another example of them copying everything that we propose.
“And what’s really funny this time is that they’re copying us less than a week after,” he added. “What really matters to us is that the right policies get put into place and we’re just happy to make sure that we can deliver for the kids. We’re not worried about who gets the credit. We know that people are aware that they’re our ideas and we’re the ones who are proposing them in the first place.”
When announcing during the QLP’s recent party convention the government’s intention to drop Bill 86, Premier Couillard also mentioned that he felt the province’s English-language school boards were a model of governance that should be looked at as an example by all in the sector. Legault agreed with that assessment.
“I’ve been saying that for a long time,” said Legault. “We see that success rates are higher on the English side. But I would also suggest to Mr. Couillard to see what’s happening in the Jewish community. In the 10 or 12 schools of the Jewish community in Quebec, the diploma rate is 99 per cent. Why is that? Because it’s a question of valuing education, it’s a question of decentralization also.”
Vehicle registration surtax
On another topic, Legault said the CAQ is aiming to win all provincial ridings in Montreal’s North Shore region as well as in the Lower Laurentians in the Quebec general election in the fall of 2018. If the CAQ does indeed succeed in augmenting its share in ridings where the PQ currently holds sway, some of it may be the result of recently implemented Liberal policies in transportation and public transit, which could end up impacting the common man’s pocketbook.
Last week, as the finishing touches were put on Bill 76, the ruling Liberal government’s legislation to even the field in greater Montreal for the allocation of public transit services while determining who should pay the cost, the CAQ pointed out that the law will force drivers who live on the North Shore to pay a punitive $45 surtax on their usual vehicle registration fee.
A disincentive to drive
The surcharge is a disincentive to North Shore residents for using the car and an incentive for ditching the vehicle and switching to public transportation. In the 2014 provincial election, the CAQ gained four seats to rise from 18 to 22 ridings in the National Assembly. It remains to be seen if the vehicle registration issue will change anything at the ballot box in the 2018 general election.
“When we look at the surveys we are consistently rising,” said Legault. At the same time, he pointed out that there’s a “dissatisfaction” with the government “that doesn’t stop going up.” All in all, according to Legault, the province’s voters aren’t interested in Quebec sovereignty. “But what they need to understand is that we are the alternative – not the Liberal Party,” he said.