When it comes to building a new French school, the Yukon New Democrats are speaking both official languages.
They won’t say they’ll build the court-ordered school, but they won’t say they won’t build it either.
Like the recommended land-use plan for the Peel River Watershed, this election issue is polarized.
Either you accept the recommended plan, or you don’t.
Either you build the school, or you don’t.
The NDP has badgered Premier Darrell Pasloski to state his position on the Peel plan. He won’t.
But, by appealing the French judge’s decision, the Yukon Party’s position on the French school is clear.
The NDP’s position on the school is as muddy as Pasloski’s on the Peel.
“There is no ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” said Hanson this week.
But NDP candidates apparently see things far more clearly.
During Tuesday’s annual general meeting of the Commission scholaire francophone du Yukon, NDP francophone candidates Jean-Francois Des Lauriers and Louis Gagnon spoke, in French, with more conviction.
“I think we’re all on the same page, we’re just interpreting that page differently,” said Gagnon. “As a francophone, it’s important to me that if a school needs to be built, then a school needs to be built. But we’re not there yet.”
We never said the NDP was not going to build the school, said Des Lauriers.
“We need to ascertain that the funding is there,” he said.
“I haven’t got any confidence that there’s any money to do this immediately,” said Hanson. “I don’t know if I’d build a school. I don’t know that, because the discussion didn’t start with building a school – or at least that’s what they told me.
“One of the things that we would want to do is make an offer to sit down with the Commission scholaire franco-yukonnaise and say, ‘Can we sort of step back from the court case; can we put that in abeyance for a bit while we have a conversation?’”
Sitting down and having that good-faith conversation could solve “nine-tenths of the problems,” said commission president Andre Bourcier.
And in the interest of the children’s education, the quickest solution would be the best, he added.
“But would we go with something less than the ruling we have right now?” he said. “Well, why should we do that?
“Right now, the decision that we have is calling for an extension of the school and then we have a list of rooms that need to be added to what is already existent on the ground.
“Most of the things we are asking for are already described in the education act. And the decision that we have right now says we are right in our interpretation of the articulation of the education act and the Charter of Rights.”
Along with building the extension, Justice Vital Ouellette ordered the territory to provide the school board with more staff and more authority over its management and finances.
Those finances, he added, will include the nearly $2 million, which the francophone school board alleges has been diverted to French immersion programs.
Returning that money would happen immediately if the Yukon Liberals were elected, said leader Arthur Mitchell this week.
Building the school would not.
The centrist party does not agree with the judge’s over-prescriptive decision, said Mitchell.
In other words, Ouellette could tell the territory they were wrong, but he shouldn’t have told them exactly what to do about it.
“We’re open to negotiations,” he said. “We want to address the issue. But we’re not in agreement with the judge’s ruling. We think that it’s usurped the authority of a legislative assembly to decide how resources are allocated.”
The first French forum in Yukon’s electoral history will be held this coming Tuesday, October 4, at 7 p.m.
It will give the opportunity for French-speaking Yukoners to ask questions in their language. It will be held at Emilie-Tremblay School.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org