The Alberta Teachers’ Association president is “very concerned” after Premier Jason Kenney said the union spent $2 million trying to re-elect the NDP in the most recent election.
Ninety-nine per cent of the association’s delegates voted no confidence in the Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange during its virtual annual representative assembly over the May long weekend.
“How can the premier possibly support the minister when 99 per cent of Alberta teachers say they don’t?” NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman asked during the oral question period at last Tuesday’s Legislative Assembly meeting.
Kenney responded by saying Albertans make decisions democratically through an election: “The government decides who ministers are, not special interest groups and not unions.”
“The government is accountable to Albertans, not to a union, not to the NDP, not to a union that spent $2 million trying to re-elect the NDP in the last election,” Kenney added.
On Thursday, ATA president Jason Schilling called upon the premier to retract his statement or repeat it outside the legislature, “where he will not be able to hide behind parliamentary immunity.”
“The ATA has a long history of raising public education as an issue in elections, in a nonpartisan fashion, in order to ensure that the parties clearly outline their plans for education,” said Schilling.
“We believe integrity matters, and so we do this with full transparency, in compliance with election law. Jason Kenney, of all people, should be very careful not to accuse the association of violating election laws.”
In a news release, the ATA responded to Kenney’s statement with the following points:
- The association registered with Elections Alberta as a third party advertiser in the 2019 election;
- The ATA’s message was nonpartisan, asking Albertans to put “education first;”
- ATA ads urged Albertans to ask candidates where they stood on important education issues, such as class size, support for students with special needs and stable, adequate funding;
- The association reported $278,577 in spending to promote a message calling on voters to prioritize support for public education when talking to candidates.