Holding school elections in red zones “more than questionable”
To Jean-François Roberge, Minister of Education
It was with stupefaction that we received your letter of Nov. 13, announcing the resumption of school elections with voting on Dec. 19 and 20.
When we met with you just over a week ago on Nov. 6, the Quebec English School Boards Association recommended that the elections be postponed until June, health conditions permitting. You gave no indication that your government was contemplating a resumption of the process in the short-term.
The premier of Quebec has been imploring Quebecers to reduce their physical contacts between now and Christmas. To force the holding of school elections on Dec. 19 and 20, in the midst of an intensifying and deadly pandemic, [which] is more than questionable from a public health standpoint, is 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.
In two school boards, namely Lester B. Pearson and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the elections cover the entire school board territory for the position of chair, not simply any given ward, and all the elections are currently in red zones. May I remind you that the suspension of school elections by order-in-council was based, in large measure, on the fact that the affected regions were in red zones.
Furthermore, we are reliably informed that the recruitment of an adequate number of election personnel in the current circumstances will be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The fact that public health authorities may have, surprisingly, given the go-ahead for the resumption of these elections does not mean that the government is obliged to hold them on Dec. 19 and 20. There is no urgency, since the individuals who occupied the various contested positions are still in office and there are no vacancies.
Minister, this decision by the Government of Quebec is absurd and should be rescinded. If your government is determined to proceed with the early resumption of these elections, even in red zones, at least allow unlimited access to voting by mail, as is the case in many other jurisdictions, in order to protect public health and ensure the best possible opportunity for broad, meaningful voter participation.
Dan Lamoureux is president of QESBA.