By Gordon Lambie
Local Journalism Initiative
Coalition Avenir Quebec leader François Legault came to the Eastern Townships for his third day on the campaign trail, Tuesday.
Legault made his way through the Mégantic, Saint-François and Sherbrooke ridings over the course of the day, using the last of these to announce a commitment to build a new building for the Mitchell-Montcalm school by 2026, if elected.
Legault framed the promise within what he said was an ongoing commitment to investing in educational infrastructure in the province
“We are not an ideological party, we are a pragmatic party,” the CAQ leader said, describing his approach as being based in practical decisions.
Although the announcement brought cheers from the assembled crowd of students and school staff, it also raised questions about what has changed regarding the situation of the school, given that Quebec solidaire MNA Christine Labrie had previously made three different appeals to the government for the project to go ahead.
Legault’s response was that the projected $164 million project will be part of a move to further increase the funding for the Quebec infrastructure plan, the PQI. The government, he said, makes investments based on the most urgent needs and to date Mitchell-Montcalm did not qualify. Under a newly expanded plan, however, the party is ready to make the commitment.
In a written statement released following Legault’s announcement, Labrie hailed the news as a “great victory” but also pointed out that the most recent refusal on the part of the CAQ was just a few weeks ago.
“I hope this is not just an election communication operation and that the official paperwork will follow quickly,” she said.
Legault was also asked whether similar investments could be in the future for schools in the Eastern Townships School Board given recent media reports that the board received a D grade for 59 per cent of its buildings and an E, or “very poor” grade for a further 39 per cent.
“We rate the different schools objectively, and as soon as we have enough money, we renovate them, French or English,” he said.