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Alberta Politics

pc leadership candidates wade into education politics.

A photo of Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership candidates at an Alberta Teachers' Association forum in Banff August 2011
Alberta PC leadership candidates at the ATA conference in Banff.

Earlier this week I had the privilege of sharing some of my thoughts about the Progressive Conservative leadership contest with delegates at the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) summer conference in Banff.

On Wednesday morning, all six candidates for the PC leadership (Doug Griffiths, Doug Horner, Gary Mar, Ted Morton, Rick Orman, and Alison Redford) attended a forum organized by the ATA which gave delegates at the conference an opportunity to submit questions to the candidates on a wide variety of education issues. It said a lot about the strength and importance of the teaching profession in Alberta that all six of the candidates traveled to Banff for the day to participate in this forum.

The six candidates answered a variety of questions focusing on transformation, funding, and the future of education in Alberta. Some candidates did better than others.

Mr. Griffiths was clearly the crowd favourite. A teacher himself, he was able to speak from experience and connected well with the audience of politically active educators. This was Mr. Griffiths coming out party in the leadership contest.

Ms. Redford and Mr. Horner did well, though the general focus around “outcomes” and other buzz words used by all the candidates left an uncomfortable amount of ambiguity in the discussion. The more conservative Professor Morton and Mr. Orman were clearly sailing in unfriendly waters.

In typical front-runner fashion, Mr. Mar said a lot without saying much. He also did not let the facts stand in the way of telling a folksy story. During the forum, Mr. Mar told the audience a story about his time as Education Minister in 1999 when his office wrote a memo to the Minister of Health. Only weeks later, he said, he was shuffled into the Health portfolio and then had to respond to his own memo (cue the laugh track). It was a folksy story, only Mr. Mar forgot to mention that he was actually shuffled from Education to become the Environment Minister in 1999. He was appointed as Health Minister over a year after he was appointed Environment Minister.

Being in the auditorium at the time, there was a few points during the forum when it felt like the candidates were on the verge of having a real discussion about the future of education. Unfortunately, most of the candidates fell back into safe and inoffensive “education is good” language.

Following the leadership candidates forum, I participated in a panel discussion with the ATA’s Dennis Theobald and Mount Royal University Professor Keith Brownsey where we engaged in a good discussion about the leadership candidates and what the political winds of change mean for the education system in Alberta. Although I had hoped that we could have had a broader conversation about the future of Alberta politics, time only allowed us to have a good discussion about what the leadership candidates had said that morning and what they might do as Premier.

Thank you to the ATA and to the teachers who participated in the discussion for a great day.

10 replies on “pc leadership candidates wade into education politics.”

While I’m not surprised to hear that former teacher Doug Griffiths was the clear favourite in the room I still have not been won over by him. He certainly seems to say the right things but he never seems to explain how he will make things happen. I think he understands the issues but I just don’t think he demonstrates that he has the experience or the no how to begin to fix them. After some cabinet experience I am sure his passionate rhetoric will have more substance.

I am concerned when politicians try to avoid saying much or do not offer solutions on the future of education. As a teacher, it concerns me that with the exception of Doug Griffiths, these candidates do not have a real good idea as to the future of education. These candidates need to step into a classroom not a school board office or a pre-arranged meeting in a minister’s office at the Legislature. They need to see first hand what are the challenges in the classroom. They need to talk directly to teachers who are teaching in these classrooms. They are the only ones who can offer solutions. They can explain why the loss of teachers and teacher aids for special needs students will result in serious consequences for the future of our province.

I am from a small town were the school board was going to close our school. I don’t think any of the candidates other than Doug Griffiths can even imagine what education is like in a small school.
Doug Griffiths taught in a small school with triple grades, he knows the challenges and the importance of the school, he knows what it’s like to know every kid and their parents in a school. He knows how the school is the center of the community.
There are allot of small schools in the same category as us in rural Alberta.

Paula, I am happy to present some specific solutions to specific challenges, but I try to refrain from suggesting I know all of the answers. Throw me a problem I will offer up my ideas. As far as cabinet experience, I know what you mean. Some of the best leaders of our past and our present like Peter Lougheed and Brad Wall had extensive experience. Oh wait, they actually never served a day in cabinet. I believe leadership is about values and I have clearly demonstrated mine. Solutions are best found when a leader consults with the public and those who know the field first hand. Be wary of the leader who has all the answers and specifics. They wil seldoml find a need to ask you for your solutions.

My understanding is that Alison Redford and Gary Mar send their children to private schools, which indeed demonstrates their commitment to public education. Further after speaking to a teacher at one of the schools these children attend, one of the two candidates is known to be a tyrant of a parent and the teacher recommends never voting for that candidate; because they know them personally and do not like what they see. Mr. Morton really doesn’t have much of a clue about anything except for fixing something that isn’t broken (aka the license plates and standardized tests.)and manipulating face book. I think Doug Griffiths who used to be seen as a nice guy came across very poorly with the comment above – talk about laced with sarcasm. If he has such a thin skin he won’t make it past the first round. I’m unsure on his face book page who is running, him or his wife… The others haven’t said or done much that is notable. Overall they don’t impress me much but that is no surprise, look at what party they’re in and what that party has done wrong in just 3 short years.

The media and others seem to be presenting Gary Mar as “being the choice”… perhaps because he has been out of the limelight for so long people have forgotten about all of the bad things.

I find it hilarious that Mar can’t even remember when he was minister in what for how long. Maybe he should have taken some of that private school stuff that his kids took while he was off serving in his posh post. All of course, at taxpayers expense.

Funny how the media tends to ignore making those references when they point to his past. If there ever was a member of the old boys club doing things the old boys ways… it would be Mar.

Jan, I can’t speak for the mysterious “tyrant parent” you mention above, as it’s all third-party nonsense, unless you’d like to name the teacher and the parent. I also didn’t read the same sarcasm into Doug’s response that you did.

That said, I do know Doug Griffiths as I’ve had an opportunity to speak with him in person on a couple of occasions, including an interview with him for over an hour here: http://vimeo.com/19757074

Of the two comments, my first impression of yours was the one with sarcasm and negativity.

Jan, I find it completely amusing to hear you take a swipe at Doug Griffiths when he actually took the time to defend himself, his position, and provide rational for not laying out word for word his detailed plans to make changes. Change starts with an idea and is then built upon with careful consultation and input. We are constantly critisizing our governments and elected officials for not listening to Albertans and not hearing our concerns, and yet when they do they are critisized yet again. Maybe the problem with Alberta is there is too many people who think they know everything and “guess” at motive rather than gathering all the facts before making a decision. I applaud Mr. Griffiths for making sure he is using all types of mechanisms to respond to those who have questions or concerns. I guess he could stay silent like a handful of others and we could, again, feel like we, as Albertans, are not being heard or considered. And as for the Facebook comment in regards to his wife, if we could all be so lucky to have overwhelming support of our families in our endeavours we would all be better off. I guess he could just hire someone like the majority of the other candidates to promote their messages as opposed to be 100 percent engaged in the process. I wasn’t sure whom to vote for until this very moment. So people, rather than choose the front runners and try to align yourself accordingly so as to ensure the worst of the worst does not end up in office, just vote for the right person and let the chips fall where they may.

I keep wondering when the ata or a teacher in edmonton will question the proposed downtown arena tax levy. From all accounts I have read, about one million or more in tax dollars annually that would normally be directed to education(to the prov then to education) will be kept within the proposed tax area to help build the arena … makes me wonder where the priorities are. Happy to see them build the arena, but don’t divert tax dollars away from provincial coffers (taxes we would get now) that would pay for my childs school. Was this discussed?

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