(Quebec) Premier François Legault questions that 61% of schools and other school network infrastructure are in poor or very poor condition. He suspects the school service centers of inflating the needs in order to get more money.
Tabled with the Girard budget on Tuesday, the Quebec Infrastructure Plan reveals that the dilapidation of schools is increasing despite the increase in investments to renovate them. In one year, we went from 59% to 61% of the school infrastructure stock having a “condition index” of D (38%) or E (23%), therefore being in poor or very poor condition. The Ministry of Education is missing the target it set in its 2019-2023 strategic plan to reduce this percentage to 50%.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, François Legault questioned this portrait, the process of evaluating the state of schools. “I have my doubts,” he said.
He asked the Minister of Infrastructure, Jonatan Julien, “to assess exactly what that means, the famous ratings for schools”. “Is it one class that’s run down or the whole school?” “, he launched.
“Currently the way it works is each service center evaluates their schools. So obviously there’s like an incentive to say, I need money for my schools.”
He added: “I asked Jonatan Julien to see how we can assess the dilapidation of schools. I hear all kinds of things about how it’s done. There are still improvements to be made. I have doubts. »
According to the Plan québécois des infrastructures, the dilapidation of schools “is mainly explained by under-investment in the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s”. “Furthermore, as most of the schools were built between 1950 and 1970, these have reached or will soon reach the end of their useful life.” They will therefore require “major repairs” or will have to be “rebuilt”.
A school gets a D for “condition rating” when the estimated cost of work to keep it in good condition is 15% of the value of the building; it is E when it represents 30%, explained the Treasury Board during the closed budget session.
The Department of Education changed the school building rating grid in 2018 to have a new “one-size-fits-all process,” to get a fairer picture of the state of schools, it was said at the time. For years, school boards neglected inspections, did not present an accurate picture of the condition of their buildings and underestimated the value of the work, the Couillard government said at the time. In opposition, the Coalition avenir Québec pounded the Liberals on the findings resulting from this new process, that is to say the growing dilapidation of schools.
In 2021, the Minister of Education at the time, Jean-François Roberge, recognized that the state of the schools continues to deteriorate under the CAQ government despite the investments. “Honestly, it’s a little bit embarrassing right now, what I give you as results and the asset maintenance deficit,” he admitted, adding that it was difficult to renovate any faster given the overheating. in the construction market.
The asset maintenance deficit of the school building stock – the estimated bill for the work to restore it – has been constantly increasing for years. It now stands at $7.7 billion (it was $3.3 billion five years ago). Additional investments fail to catch up. Quebec intends to invest 14 billion in 10 years to renovate schools or rebuild them. 7 billion is added to enlarge or add buildings.