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Highlights from the legislature

December 5, 2017 Kim Dewar, ATA News Staff
Opposition and government spar over Catholic sex education

The fall session of Alberta’s legislative assembly, which officially began Oct. 30, resumed sitting Nov. 27 after a one-week constituency break. Below are highlights of education and labour issues raised from Oct. 30 to Nov. 29.

Curriculum redesign
Oct. 30 - Angela Pitt (UCP—Airdrie) asked Education Minister David Eggen if government would release the names of those involved in the curriculum rewrite. Eggen noted that more than 35,000 people have participated in the curriculum review, which will be evidence-based. Pitt stated that children should not be used as tools to push the NDP world view and expressed concern that the social studies curriculum will be free of important history. Eggen suggested the UCP would out kids who are gay and also “out” teachers who are writing curriculum. Eggen added that he intends to protect teachers and professors from Twitter attacks by Jason Kenney’s “attack dogs.”

Catholic school sex education curriculum
Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 7 - Ric McIver
(UCP—Calgary-Hays) and Leela Aheer (UCP—Chestermere-Rocky View) questioned Premier Rachel Notley about her remarks in response to a proposed Catholic sex education policy. McIver asked Notley to apologize to the Catholic community for alleging that Catholics “condone marital rape.” Notley noted that the Catholic education curriculum document in question contained some “very concerning statements” that discriminated against sexual minorities and also discouraged safe health practices. Notley said it was important for her to clarify how government would respond to the document.

Nov. 7 - Ric McIver (UCP—Calgary-Hays) asked Education Minister David Eggen if he believes that Catholic schools intend to teach and promote marital rape. Eggen responded that neither he nor the government suggested that and added that the member was simply trying to score political points with his accusation. Eggen concluded by reiterating government support for choice between public, Catholic, charter, home-schooling and francophone schools.

Indigenous curriculum content
Oct. 31 - Eric Rosendahl (NDP—West Yellowhead) asked Education Minister David Eggen how the ministry will ensure that all students learn to respect and understand Indigenous peoples. Eggen answered that as of June 2016 government is building new mandatory curriculum including First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture teachings throughout all grade levels in all subject areas. He added that together with the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the ATA, First Nations, and post-secondary institutions, the government is building authentic culture and language to teach.

Tommy Douglas book read in schools
Oct. 31 - Angela Pitt (UCP—Airdrie) asked Education Minister David Eggen about the appropriateness of NDP MLAs reading the Tommy Douglas story Mouseland to Alberta students during a recent classroom visit. Eggen answered that it’s important to have Canadian content in curriculum and that Douglas is a celebrated Canadian. Pitt asked if Eggen would denounce the reading of “propaganda” and demand that his colleagues cease their behaviour immediately. Eggen noted that as a teacher, he believes it’s important not to ban books.

School construction
Nov. 6 - Thomas Dang (NDP— Edmonton-South West) asked Education Minister David Eggen what the government is doing to ensure that schools are equipped for children to perform their best. Eggen, noting that the P3 model used in the past has proven to be deficient, answered that Alberta is in the largest infrastructure build of schools in the history of the province. Dang asked what the minister is doing to ensure that there is sufficient funding for teachers for student growth. Eggen answered that government has funded for student enrolment.

Diabetes support in schools
Nov. 7 - Karen McPherson (AP—Calgary-Mackay–Nose Hill) asked Health Minister Sarah Hoffman why government has not created policies to work with schools and parents in order to address the needs of diabetic students. Hoffman answered that progress has been made with Type 2 diabetes but there is room for improvement with Type 1. Education Minister David Eggen added that government is looking into it further and noted the importance of funding education properly and not making deep cuts.

Advanced placement courses for rural students
Nov. 15 - Glenn Van Dijken (UCP— Barrhead–Morinville–Westlock) asked Education Minister David Eggen why advanced placement programming is not available in rural areas. Eggen said the programming is very worthwhile, and expressed a desire to look for ways that government could provide it to all students in the province.

School nutrition programs
Nov. 28 - Barb Miller (NDP—Red Deer-South) asked Education Minister David Eggen about the success and cost of school nutrition programs. Eggen answered that last year there were 14 school districts taking part and each one received about $250,000. Eggen noted that the pilot program fed about 5,000 students per day and now, with the program having expanded, it’s feeding more than 22,000 students daily. 

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