Factsheet about Hamilton school board trustee candidates is online

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Published October 3, 2022 at 2:18 pm

There is a one-stop doc for Hamilton voters who want information about that often little-discussed down-ballot choice of local school board trustee.

Historically, trustee races tend to have smaller fields and draw less media coverage than the races for seats on city council, including the mayoralty, which is a factor in having lower turnout. In an effort to counter that information deficit, an academic and writer from Hamilton is keeping literal (browser) tabs on all available information about the 59 trustee candidates across all four public school boards.

The factsheet is being compiled and updated as a Google Doc by Chris Erl, a geographer who hails from the city and is a postdoctoral fellow at Toronto Metropolitan University. On his personal site, Erl describes himself as a “huge political nerd and eager activist.”

Advance polls in Hamilton take place over the next two weekends (Oct. 7-8 and Oct. 14-15). Election day is Oct. 24.

Categories include identifying challengers, incumbents and open races; links to candidate websites; platform points; links to news articles; and endorsements from groups that have professed political leanings. There is also a column mentioning whether candidates are associated, however tangentially, with federal and provincial parties or third-party groups, that have a recognizable ideology. Municipal and school board candidates in Canada do not run with a formal party affiliation.

Some trustees have an endorsement from a “anti-woke” website which is being promoted by People’s Party (PPC) Leader Maxime Bernier.

The Hamilton and District Labour Council, which is generally left-leaning, has endorsed some candidates who are running to become trustees in the Hamilton-Wentworth public board (HWDSB).

What school boards actually do

Both the Conservative (CPC) and People’s (PPC) federal parties have ideologies that view political violence as acceptable expression. While it was not universal, politicians from those parties supported the anti-government and anti-public health Ottawa Occupation last winter, which led to the first-ever invoking of the Emergencies Act.

School boards in Ontario do not make decisions about curriculum. They having hiring authority, but do not decide what teachers and education workers are paid.

Curriculum and employee compensation rests with the Ontario Ministry of Education. (The province’s own Financial Accountability Office reported in September that the province underspent its planned education budget by $195 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2022-23.)

Ontario has four public school systems: one public and one Catholic apiece in English and French alike. Two Hamilton trustees have been acclaimed.

Mark Valvasori has been acclaimed for a fourth term (second in a row by acclimation) as the wards 1, 2 and 15 trustee in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic board (HWCDSB). Pierre Gregory has already been accalimed as the Conseil scolaire Viamonde (French public) trustee,

Seven of the 10 provinces do not fully fund Catholic education. Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and all three territories have publicly funded Catholic school systems.

There is an active court challenge to Ontario’s education structure with a Hamilton tie, though. In February, a Hamilton high school teacher, Adrienne Havercroft, filed a legal application against the Ontario government, arguing its publicly funded Catholic school boards are unconstitutional.

At that time, HWCDSB confirmed with CBC Hamilton that educators typically need a reference from a pastor when applying. Exceptions were made for positions that attracted fewer applicants.

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