Staff from a Central Alberta school, disgusted by the language during question period at the Alberta legislature, is refusing to take students back to see the daily dialogue between the government and opposition.
Tom Stones, a teacher at Innisfail Middle School, wrote a letter to the legislature following a combative question period his Grade 6 students witnessed. The letter, read in the legislature by Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, outlines how disgusted and disappointed the teachers and students were by the “behaviour and lack of respect shown by our elected representatives.”
The trip to the legislature is part of the school’s social studies curriculum. It took place on Nov. 5, 2013. Stones said they had prepared students for attending the legislature, talking about what to expect. On their trip, they had a mock legislature session and a tour of the building.
“Reiterated by the people there (was) ‘This is where important business takes place,’ ” said Stones. “Then we went into question period and it didn’t look like that at all.”
The letter references one incident where a member said “suck and blow,” during question period.
According to Hansard for the day, Progressive Conservative MP Doug Griffiths, minister of Service, responded to a question from Opposition Leader Danielle Smith with “It’s amazing how the opposition finds the ability to suck and blow every single day.”
“We talked with the kids about it and they felt it wasn’t right,” said Stones.
The group of teachers on the trip to the legislature don’t feel comfortable going back for question period.
Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle said on Wednesday that the day the students visited was a particularly raucus one.
“Question period traditionally is a very heated, very emotional, very theatrical part of session,” said Towle. “However, it does concern me when you have cabinet ministers talking about sucking and blowing, I could understand how that could be offensive.
“Every day is not like that. There are many days when question period, while it is heated, is very respectful.”
Towle said that at the end of the day politicians still can get along no matter which side of the legislature they sit on.
“For that 45 minutes there is a lot of banter back and forth, but we all leave the house and go into committee,” said Towle. “Once question period is done, life goes on. I would not not say ‘Hello’ to someone in the hallway. I don’t leave there and hate my job and I don’t leave there feeling like I was bullied.”