The Anglophone East District Education Council is asking the provincial government to explain how it picked a location for a new Moncton, N.B., school after the site became a contentious campaign issue.
It was revealed during the campaign that the province decided to build a new 700-student kindergarten to Grade 8 school adjacent to Bernice MacNaughton High School.
That's not the location the DEC and some parents had favoured. The preferred location was on the site of Bessborough School, one of two schools the new facility would replace in Moncton's west end. Hillcrest is the second school.
Norval McConnell, a DEC member who represents those schools, said community members don't understand the province's decision making.
"They're struggling with it because it doesn't appear transparent to them and I think they were hopeful of where it was going to be and now it's not going to be there or it doesn't appear it's going to be there," he said.
He said residents, the DEC and parent advisory committees at the two schools deserve answers.
He introduced a motion Tuesday evening at a DEC meeting that calls for the province to:
- Present a timeline for the decision-making process to the council and the advisory committees.
- Explain how each site considered was scored.
- Detail other factors considered.
The motion passed unanimously after several minutes of discussion, which focused mainly on whether the presentation requested can happen publicly.
McConnell also lamented that the campaign saw "inaccurate information" and "untruths" about the decision and the DEC's role. McConnell did not name anyone.
"We did not make the decision," Harry Doyle, chair of the DEC, said. Doyle spoke about getting notes from people calling on him to resign for a decision the council didn't make.
During the election campaign, Progressive Conservative candidate Greg Turner suggested the DEC had a more direct role in site selection.
"The reason for this decision, or if it is a decision, really the DEC has not communicated with us and I just want to make that point," Turner, a Moncton city councillor, said at a Sept. 8 council meeting.
He said the DEC doesn't consult the city on school locations, saying the site picked can affect how neighbourhoods develop.
"It really highlights the need ... in the future that we have to address the relationship between the DEC, who are elected for the most part, and ourselves, who are elected to represent you the citizens," Turner said to two parents who had attended the meeting concerned about the location decision.
Turner was elected Monday as the next MLA for Moncton South.
In an interview Tuesday evening, Turner disputed that his comments linked the DEC to the site selection decision, saying his point was to question why the organization revealed the location in an Aug. 27 newspaper story during the provincial election.
However, the Times & Transcript story that revealed the location said Dominic Cardy, who was the education minister prior to the election being called, confirmed the site sometime before the campaign began on Aug. 17.
"By the newspaper article, it seemed like they were really excited about the location," Turner said of the DEC. "I assumed from that since there was no printed news release that they must've recommended that site or they must've preferred that site."
Turner said he thinks the DEC and parents should get the answers they want about the site selection process.
The DEC asked the department to build the new school on the Bessborough site when it voted to close that school in March 2017.
The Education Act says DECs can only provide a general recommendation on school locations and it is up to the education minister to select sites.
The Liberal provincial government announced in February 2018 that a new school would be built to replace Bessborough and Hillcrest. However, no site was mentioned at that point.
The Progressive Conservatives took power as a minority government that fall and announced a halt on planning work for the school for budget reasons.
As the latest campaign started, it was revealed the province had selected provincially-owned land next to Bernice MacNaughton High School.
McConnell said if the process was properly followed, he will support the location picked. However, he said there's been a lack of transparency about the decision making.
"I cannot publicly defend decisions where I was not part of the decision process," he said.
During the election, CBC News requested information from the Education Department about who made the decision, why the site was selected, as well as a copy of any study or analysis of potential sites.
None of that specific information was provided. A spokesperson for the department referred CBC to the Education Act.