The Liberal government tabled a bill Wednesday to put a halt to school board byelections, despite approving the English Montreal School Board byelection weeks ago.

The EMSB scheduled a byelection on Dec. 13, with candidates getting nominations and three people filing their papers earlier this week.

The byelection comes after the death of long-time school commissioner Syd Wise.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Francois Blais introduced Bill 72, which will suspend all school board byelections in Quebec -- including the one scheduled by the EMSB if it is passed quickly enough.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard also appears to be on a mission to abolish the school board elections.

“What do we want to achieve? We want to give true power to the schools, to the classrooms, to the teachers, to the parents, to the school principals. It should have been done a long time ago. It's time to do it now,” he said.

“It's our intention to change the democracy, not to abolish the democracy,” added Blais.

Quebec is moving toward abolishing school board elections mainly because of low voter turnout.

Blais said he expects to have support from at least one opposition party.

"I think the CAQs will be happy to do something. If I remember last summer the CAQ said it was possible to approve those changes in two hours, and if I remember it was the same position for the Parti Quebecois," said Blais.

The PQ, however, said it will vote against the bill, accusing the Liberals of improvisation.

“They have no idea what they're doing,” said PQ education critic Alexandre Cloutier. “They have no idea which model they'll put in place. Obviously the Liberal caucus is divided on the issue.”

The PQ is defending the EMSB's right to have its byelection.

“They have started the election, they have spent money on the election, they have found candidates, they have asked the government if they can move on with the byelection, the government said yes and now it's changing its mind? That's totally ridiculous,” said Clouiter.

The new bill puts Anglophone Liberal MNAs in an awkward position. They're toeing the party line, showing solidarity with the education minister, while the PQ is throwing its support behind an English Montreal School Board fighting to go ahead with its byelection.

“I’m very hopeful to find a solution that's satisfactory to the institutions and the English-speaking communities,” said Liberal MNA Kathleen Weil.

EMSB chair Angela Mancini is furious about the turnaround, saying it's unfair for the government to waste candidates' time and money if it planned to cancel the by-election anyways.

“If i'm going to pay taxes and you're going to use the money that I give you, then I sure as hell would have the right to vote you in and vote you out,” she said.

She also points out that the provincial byelections on Monday saw a very light turnout -- about the same as the number of eligible voters as cast ballots in the last school election.

The alternatives being considered include replacing elections with appointments or replace commissioners with parent representatives.

Charlotte Smoley, who is campaigning in Ward 4, said she is comfortable with the idea.

“In our constitution, section 23 protects the rights of parents in minority languages. It does not defend the school board in itself, but the rights of parents to govern and to be involved,” she said.

The school board said it will challenge any changes that would diminish the democratic process in electing commissioners.