2017-07-19

Mark Furey swept into Petite Riviere judicial review

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>MLA for Lunenburg West Mark Furey speaking at a community meeting at the Petite Riviere Fire Hall in February.</p>

Mark Furey, the MLA for Lunenburg West, has previously expressed his support in keeping Petite Riviere Elementary School open, but now the newly appointed Attorney General of Nova Scotia may find himself in a potentially tricky position.

The Greater Petite Area Community Association (GPACA) named the Attorney General as a respondent, alongside the South Shore Regional School Board, in its notice for judicial review back in April. Furey was appointed Attorney General in June.

How this will affect the case is uncertain and Furey says he will not comment publicly on the matter as it's presently before the court.

"I'm not going to do anything that would compromise the diligence and due work of many people," he said.

"There is a judicial process, I have to respect that."

Furey and his department will observe the judicial review which seeks to prevent the school from closing next year.

The GPACA is challenging the school board's decision to close Pentz and Petite Riviere schools by July 31, 2018.

"We understand that the AG is observing because the [judicial review] hinges on an interpretation of a regulation that has been repealed so we are very glad to have the participation of the AG's office," said the group's chair, Stacey Godsoe, in an email.

The regulation Godsoe referenced was repealed in 2014 and stated that a decision on school reviews "is final and shall not be altered by the Minister."

The board has cited this regulation as the reason why it cannot reverse its decision to close the school, but the GPACA contests that.

"Every lawyer we have spoken to feels we have a very strong case," said Godsoe, adding they are pleased the Municipality of Lunenburg will take a stand as an intervenor.

"We have had amazing community support recently and look forward to resolving this in the next few months."

Heather Fairbairn, media relations advisor for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, said the Attorney General filed a notice of participation, meaning the Department of Justice will monitor the proceedings.

The notice will ensure the province is advised of all court dates and receives all filed materials. Fairbairn said this is normal for these types of proceedings.

"The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development otherwise has no direct involvement," she said.

"As this is a matter before the court, we will not be making any further comment."

School board superintendent Scott Milner declined to comment on the case, saying the matter is in front of the court.

On March 30, 2015, Furey penned a letter to then school board chairman Elmer Garber saying he would like to see Petite Riviere school remain open for the long term.

When the school board defeated an appeal last February to revisit the Petite Riviere and Pentz school closures, Furey said he was disappointed in the outcome and called for a decision to be based on facts and common sense.

"Legal advice is just that," Furey said at the time. "Not for me to question the legal profession, but certainly difficult for the elected board members to deal with."

During the provincial election, Furey became visibly emotional at a candidates debate in Bridgewater and said he is looking to show the province evidence that the schools were closed under a flawed process.

Furey went on to win reelection on May 30, taking the polling station in Petite Riviere with 44 per cent of the vote.

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