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Premier Legault defends education minister over controversial reform plans

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Quebec Premier François Legault came out publicly Saturday to defend Education Minister Bernard Drainville via Facebook post.

Bernard Drainville tabled Bill 23 on Thursday. Among other things, the bill would give him full power to appoint the general directors of school service centers, overturn their decisions, and dismiss them.

According to Legault, Drainville "is taking a big step" to make the network more efficient. The premier believes it is essential "to be able to demand management and accountability agreements from the service centers."

The cold reception of the bill by the teaching community and other political parties appears to have provoked Legault to jump into the discussion.

"It would be easier not to change anything, not to disturb anyone's habits. Bernard will be criticized. But he has the courage to go through and succeed. We will support him wholeheartedly. We're going to do this for our youth," he wrote.

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) was "very cautious" about Bill 23, which it said was not subject to any prior consultation with education stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the teacher's union (FAE) denounced the obligation to impose certain continuing education requirements on teachers as a "frontal attack on their autonomy."

Among the other aspects of the bill that Legault defended was the creation of an Institut national d'excellence en Éducation (National institute of excellence in education) that would allow "the best practices [and] the best ways to help students succeed to be extended to the entire network."

Legault also took the opportunity to criticize previous governments.

"When we arrived in 2018, there was already a lack of teachers and professionals. The schools had been neglected. Teachers were not getting the salaries they deserved. And school elections were ignored by 95 per cent of Quebecers," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 6, 2022. 

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