In previous years on city council, I have commented on the actions of the provincial government. Sometimes people agree with this, and sometimes people tell me my job is not to meddle in provincial affairs. I understand both points of view.
However, because I was once a school trustee in Brandon, I do want to publicly state my view that the provincial government should not proceed with its plan (Bill 64) to get rid of all the province’s elected school trustees.
I cannot speak to the work of trustees in other parts of the city but in my experience the trustees of the Louis Riel School Division have been terrific to work with. LRSD has had a "can do" attitude when it comes to building projects in conjunction with my office over the past 10 years.
The school division has worked with me for the benefit of the community as a whole by collaborating on recreation projects (sports fields, a running track, tennis courts, etc.), arts spaces (outdoor theatre at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé) and play structures.
During my third term alone (since 2018) I can name 22 different projects where LRSD schools have worked in conjunction with my office. Hopefully there will be more to come as Glenlawn Collegiate heads towards its 100th anniversary celebration.
It’s also worth mentioning that these projects have also helped build relationships with schools, their staff and their communities. These connections help strengthen our neighbourhood. If I had been dealing with a large, centralized provincial bureaucracy, I doubt I could have made any of these projects work or I may have been told by provincial staff to spend my ward money in some distant corner of the city, which would not be of benefit to St. Vital.
I can understand that the province may want to reduce the number of English-language school divisions within city limit. However, I don’t think the province should be eliminating an entire tier of elected officials. Trustees represent the community of schools and the best interests of the families that frequent them.
I am very pleased that the province is investing $10 million in the expansion of Collège Jeanne-Sauvé and appears to be on the brink of approving a second school in Sage Creek, but these actions reflect local democracy in action, and we should retain some democratic input into the election of trustees.
Brian Mayes is the city councillor for St. Vital.