Tag Archives: Education

This is sad. Alberta’s leaders’ debate remarkable for being horribly boring

Anyone tuning in to watch Alberta’s leaders’ debate who might have hoped to watch a battle of the titans will have surely been disappointed. Tonight’s televised leaders’ debate was uninspiring and horribly boring.

New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley did well, spending most of her time on the attack against United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, but she did not spend much time providing the positive message that some Albertans may have been looking for.

Notley targeted Kenney on a number of issues, ranging from the environment, health care, and homophobia in the UCP but she stopped short of taking him to task like conservative radio host Charles Adler did yesterday. Notley did not have a “math is difficult” moment in this debate.

A similar review can be given to Kenney, who spent much of his time attacking Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for supposedly stopping the construction of pipelines and destroying jobs in Alberta. Kenney focused on the same economic issues that have been his talking points on the campaign trail – jobs, the economy and pipelines – while skirting around questions about controversial social issues, delivering a similar response to the one he gave Alder.

Notley and Kenney are practiced debaters and parliamentarians, but they certainly did not show off the best of their skills in this debate. Their performances were satisfactory but underwhelming.

A shorter summary of the main two party leaders in this debate could be: Notley argued that Kenney will destroy Alberta if he is elected, and Kenney argued that Notley has already destroyed Alberta. Not exactly inspiring messages for Albertans.

Then, there were the leaders of two smaller parties that were invited to participate in the debate.

Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel actually did okay. He focused on differentiating his party from the NDP and UCP, and had a few memorable lines during the debate about being the only business person on stage and chirping in that “this is sad” as his opponents argued.

But if he was looking to break away from the pack, Mandel was unable to channel the Gordon Wilson moment that was needed to give his party momentum going into April 16.

Liberal Party leader David Khan performed well but with his party on the verge of electoral oblivion he has little to lose. The Liberals are also only running candidates in 51 of Alberta’s 87 districts. The profile earned through his appearance in this debate could help Khan in his bid to hold on to the Liberal Party’s last remaining district, Calgary-Mountain View

Missing from the stage was one of Alberta’s more colourful political actors, Derek Fildebrandt of the populist/libertarian Freedom Conservative Party. The former UCP MLA who is running for re-election in Chestermere-Strathmore was not invited and his party has only fielded 24 candidates across Alberta. While most Albertans watching would not have had the option to vote for Fildebrandt’s party, his presence in the debate may have helped to increase the entertainment value of the 90-minute program.

There were a lot of questions the leaders could have been challenged to answer, and the questions asked by the panel of journalists were good, but the free debate format encouraged the leaders to just talk over each other rather than actually debate the questions. There were points during the program where it was difficult to even figure out what was being said.

This year’s leaders’ debate was a sharp reminder that despite the exciting turning point that the debate played in the last election, most televised leaders’ debates are lacklustre and forgettable. This was one night that will not go down in the history books for any positive reason and it is unlikely it changed the minds of many voters in Alberta. 

UCP loses Eva Kiryakos, Kenney reignites GSA issue, Notley promises big expansion to affordable childcare

Photo: Eva Kiryakos and Jason Kenney (source: Twitter)

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney began the second week of the election like he did the first week of the campaign, responding to the loss of another nominated candidate because of controversial online statements.

Eva Kiryakos announced in a Facebook video last night that she was resigning as the UCP candidate in Calgary-South East because she was being “bullied” by someone who was threatening to “smear” her. It turned out that Kiryakos’ had made homophobic, transphobic, and Islamophobic comments on social media that somehow were not discovered when she was vetted as a UCP nomination candidate.

Kenney thanked Kiryakos for her “selfless” decision to step aside, but did not respond to the comments that led to her resignation.

Kiryakos was acclaimed as the UCP candidate in this district in November 2018 after two other competitors, including Cameron Davies, withdrew from the contest. Until her resignation, Kiryakos was running against Alberta Party MLA Rick Fraser, New Democrat Heather Eddy, Liberal candidate Leila Keith, and Alberta Independence Party candidate Richard Fontaine.

Until Kiryakos’ resignation, it appeared that the UCP had filled its slate of 87 candidates with the nomination of Sanjay Patel in Edmonton-Ellerslie and Heather Sworin in Edmonton-Mill Woods. The UCP is expected to appoint a new candidate to replace Kiryakos before the March 29, 2019 candidate nomination deadline.


Trustees call out leaders on education funding, Kenney reignites the GSA issue

Trustee Bridget Stirling speaks at a press conference in Edmonton.

Trustee Bridget Stirling speaks at a press conference in Edmonton (source: Twitter).

Trustees from Public and Catholic school boards across Alberta gathered in Calgary and Edmonton today to call on provincial political party leaders to explain how they plan to fund expected growth in student population in the public education system.

“Politicians who will not commit to more funding at a time when 15,000 new students will join our classrooms next year need to come clean that they really are planning to cut to Education” Edmonton Public School trustee Bridget Stirling said in a press release.

“We have not recovered from the Klein cuts of the 1990s. More students and fewer dollars is a recipe for a crisis in our classrooms. At the very bare minimum, all parties must commit to funding new student enrollment growth for the next year,” Stirling said.

NDP leader Rachel Notley stated that an NDP government would provide funds to help with the enrolment increases.

It is not clear to me if Kenney responded to the trustees’ challenge, but he did release his party’s education platform today, promising to reinforce standardized tests and lift the cap on the number of charter schools in Alberta and allow charter schools to own property. He also reopened the Gay-Straight Alliance debate by announcing plans to repeal protections implemented by the NDP that bars school administrators from notifying parents if their kids join one of the clubs (potentially outing gay kids to their parents).

The GSA issue created much grief for the UCP over the past two years, so it is surprising to see Kenney reignite the issue during this election.


Notley announces big expansion of affordable childcare program

Notley announced her party’s plan to expand the pilot project $25/day childcare program to cover all childcare across Alberta. Notley said at an event at Calgary’s SPARK Centre that the plan would include adding 13,000 daycare spaces to the current 62,000 spaces in the province. With the youngest population in Canada, the cost and availability of childcare is a particularly important issue for many Albertans.

While I would have preferred the NDP be a little more ambitious, by subsidizing the entire cost of childcare, even at $25/day this kind of program would make a big difference in the lives of many Alberta families.

The Alberta Party released their plans for a child care voucher system last week.

NDP focus on Rachel versus Kenney, UCP sticks to jobs, economy and pipelines.

Standing in front of diverse group of supporters at the National Music Centre in Calgary, Premier Rachel Notley announced that Alberta’s next provincial general election will be held on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Notley’s campaign kick-off speech gave a good idea what the New Democratic Party’s narrative will be in this election campaign – creating a clear contrast in character, leadership and trust between Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney.

Jason Kenny isn’t working for you. He wants two Albertas – one for the wealthy and one for the rest of us. He wants two Alberta’s, divided over people’s rights,” Notley said.

I want to build one Alberta. I say we stick together through this final stage – from adversity to recovery to shared prosperity – that we take care of each other,” she said.

As I have written before, campaigns always try to play to their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. This is why the NDP campaign will put Notley front-and-centre and the UCP will not be featuring Kenney logos on their election lawn signs.

The two main party leaders have divergent popularity among voters. While her party is behind in the polls, Notley has fairly respectably approval ratings, making her the NDP’s strongest asset. On the flip side, Kenney’s approval ratings fall far below support for his party, meaning that he is far from his party’s strongest asset in the minds of many voters.

The NDP’s decision to launch the election in Calgary was not a shock, as the party needs to maintain a hold on its seats in Alberta’s largest city if it wants to be re-elected on April 16. At this point, it is hard to believe the NDP will hold most of their seats in Calgary but the governing party is realistically expected to be competitive in 5 or 6 districts in the city.

Notley also spoke about her government’s commitment to education and health care, including the long-overdue construction of the new Calgary Cancer Centre, and the economy and oil pipelines.

Notley gained the support of a powerful electoral ally in that city today when Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi stepped out of the municipal arena to criticize Kenney, saying the UCP leader is “not a person who is fit to lead this province.” Nenshi also accused Kenney of ‘pandering for votes‘ by opposing the Springbank dam, a critical part of flood mitigation plans for the city following the disastrous flood in 2013.

With recent allegations of collusion and an RCMP investigation into the 2017 UCP leadership race, the Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal, and the resignation of UCP star candidate Caylan Ford, the NDP clearly believed that starting the election campaign today would put them on their best possible footing going into April 16.

The Notley NDP still have an electoral math problem, with the UCP leading in the polls in Calgary and rural Alberta, but after this week’s internal UCP turmoil, the NDP are probably feeling as confident as they ever were going to be before the May 31 deadline to hold the provincial election.

Jason Kenney

Speaking with a handful of tradesmen standing behind him at a job site in Leduc, Kenney launched his first press conference of the election campaign trying to steer the focus away from Ford’s resignation and the Kenney-Callaway collusion scandal. Kenney returned to his key messages around jobs, the economy and pipelines – and how he believed the NDP have failed in these areas.

Kenney’s message will resonate with a lot of Albertans who have felt unease and frustration with the drop in the international price of oil, high than usual unemployment levels, and delays in oil pipeline construction. And the UCP hopes this message will resonate in the Edmonton region, where the NDP swept almost every seat in the 2015 election.

So, as the election gets going, expect the Kenney to try to stick to these three key messages while the NDP focus on contrasting Notley with her main opponent. Let the games begin!


Elections Commissioner issues new fines for donations to Callaway leadership campaign

The Elections Commissioner issued a new series of penalties and letters of reprimand against donors to Jeff Callaway’s UCP leadership campaign under Section 34(1) and 34 (1.1) of the Election Financial Contributions and Disclosure Act.

Maja McAllister and David Ruiz were issued letter of reprimand for donating $4,000 to Jeff Callaway, registered UCP leadership contestant, with funds given or furnished by another person.

Darcy McAllister was issued one administrative penalties of $4,000 for donating $4,000 to Callaway’s campaign with funds given or furnished by another person, and a second administrative penalty of $4,000 for furnishing $4,000 to Maja McAllister for the purpose of making contribution to Callaway’s campaign, according to the Election Commission website.


Writ Day Hot Take

I spoke with 630CHED host Ryan Jespersen this morning moments after Notley wrapped up her speech announcing the election. Here is my hot take: