‘Bill 64 is an attack on local government’: Winnipeg City Council joins ranks opposing education reform bill

WINNIPEG — Winnipeg City Council is joining the long line of those opposed to Bill 64, the provincial law to reform education.

Council voted to lobby the Pallister Government to put a pause on the proposed legislation and send it back to the drawing board.

Mayor Brian Bowman said you don’t have to go far to see people opposing the bill.

“I’m sure the Winnipeg-based MLAs of all political stripes are seeing the signs on lawns in all corners of our city right now,” said Bowman.

The bill, if passed into law, would eliminate all school divisions and elected school boards, replacing them with a provincial authority.

The motion to rewrite the legislation was authored by two former school trustees, Councillors Brian Mayes and Sherri Rollins.

“Bill 64 is an absolute attack on local government,” said Rollins

Many councillors worry the law will create a centralized bureaucracy which will erode the democratic decision-making process while giving power to unelected political appointees.

Bowman backed the motion.

“This is fitting sadly a pattern which we’ve seen from the provincial government.” said Bowman

The bill would see parent representation on the authority board and it allows for school community councils.

In a statement, a provincial spokesperson says the strategy will improve education and parental input.

“We are listening to Manitobans through a variety of engagements and consultations, and if the City of Winnipeg has questions regarding the plan we would be happy to answer them,” the spokesperson said.

Not everyone on council supported the lobby effort to punt Bill 64. The vote was 11-4 with Councillors Janice Lukes, Devi Sharma, Kevin Klein, and Shawn Nason voting against it.

“This isn’t within our mandate,” said Nason, “If people want to be trustees at city hall, they should resign and go back to that role.”

Coun. Jeff Browaty chose not to vote.

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