When it became clear the provincial government would go back on its campaign promise to extend Bill 101 to CEGEPS and vocational-learning centres last Wednesday, a profound sense of relief hit the West Island education and political community.
Lester B. Pearson School Board chairman Suanne Stein Day not only thinks it is great news for her board, but for Quebec in general, saying French boards alone could not accommodate all students who want to go into vocational programs.
“Right now there are barely enough spaces for all those who want to take vocational programs. These programs are so imperative for Quebec. Not every student is destined for university. We absolutely need these trade people in cooking and butchery and electronics and communications and plumbing. These are all essential services that we need and with restrictions that were once proposed, they could not possibly have fulfilled all the needs in Quebec,” she said.
Before the news came out last week, studies were being done at John Abbott College (JAC) to determine how much the college could lose if francophones and allophones were forbidden to attend English institutions.
JAC director general Ginette Sheehy says the studies were not completed but that the amount would have been substantial with about 40 per cent of her clientele being francophones and allophones. Since the many programs at JAC have different tuition fees attached to them, the college would probably not have lost 40 per cent of its revenues, exactly, but the loss would have been keenly felt.
“It all depends on the program the students choose. In nursing, we serve many anglophones. As for other program like social sciences, we serve more francophones. I would say that it is not 40 per cent of our income we would have lost but it would still have been considerable,” she said.
In the West Island political community, the news was warmly welcomed by Robert Baldwin MNA Pierre Marsan who said it's just another misstep by the government.
“There have been many of them (since the election). But this one I may enjoy it a bit more because I thought it was so stupid. I did not understand that people who are able to vote and drive; who are essentially adults could not choose the college in which they wanted to go. It was an aberration,” he said.
Jacques Cartier MNA Geoff Kelley was more reserved in his judgment of the situation when he spoke to The Chronicle last week. While he said the PQ’s about-face was good news if it materialized, he noted that the bill has yet to pass. The PQ is expected to table the bill proposal today.