Opposition MLAs want PEITF president to resign

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on June 10, 2014

Gilles Arsenault

©Guardian photo

With the president of the P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation announcing his plans to seek a federal Liberal nomination, opposition education critic James Aylward thinks he should resign.

Aylward raised the issue during an education and innovation committee meeting Tuesday where he said in recent years the federation has been quiet about education cuts.

“I’d say now we know why.”

PEITF president Gilles Arsenault recently announced his plan to seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of Egmont for the election scheduled for fall 2015.

The Liberals will likely pick a candidate in November.

Arsenault has been the PEITF president since 2011.

There was nothing on the committee meeting agenda other than considering its work plan and as part of it Aylward asked the MLAs to pass a motion calling for Arsenault to resign as president.

The majority Liberals and independent MLA Olive Crane voted against the motion.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Arsenault said he plans to leave his position as president if he wins the nomination.

He also said he can continue to represent teachers while seeking the nomination and pointed to a rally in Charlottetown during which he was critical of the provincial government.

In May the PEITF board of governors changed its bylaws to require anyone who is nominated to run in a federal election to take a leave of absence.

Prior to the change that same person would have had to take a leave once they made public their intention to seek the nomination.

Arsenault proposed the amendment and Aylward said that put him in a conflict of interest.

“Essentially he broke that out for his own self-serving ambitions, I feel, so he could seek that nomination.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers agreed with Aylward and said the Conservative MLAs weren’t asking the committee to make the decision to remove Arsenault from his position, but rather to support his resignation.

“Is it fair to the children of this province to put politics ahead of education?”

The Liberal MLAs on the committee shot down the motion with several questioning whether they should get involved in how an outside organization is run.

Charlottetown-Lewis Point MLA Kathleen Casey was one of them.

“Do we want to meddle with another organization’s policies?”

Charlottetown-Sherwood MLA Robert Mitchell agreed, saying the opposition can ask Arsenault to step down, but he doesn’t think the committee has a right to ask for anybody’s resignation if they are appointed or supported by a board of directors.

“It’s a slippery slope if you’re going to start being a dictator as a committee.”

Crane said she didn’t support the motion because she felt that getting into a power struggle with another organization wouldn’t help children, their parents or teachers.

“I really believe it’s up to the teachers’ federation.”