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Editorial - Dismissing the non-confidence motion is a huge mistake

June 2, 2021 Jonathan Teghtmeyer ATA News Editor-in-Chief


“This is not an ideological issue,” said one ARA delegate in debate. “While we may debate and disagree on the issues, widely on education policy, some things are too far.”

The former UCP constituency president and founding member of the Wild Rose Party said that this government pays “lip service” and engages in “gaslighting” that he, himself, has been subject to from the premier and education minister.

“As a result, they have done the impossible. They’ve united all of us regardless of ideology, against them.”

The vote of non-confidence in the education minister passed with 99 per cent support.

After the vote, ATA president Jason Schilling cautioned the government against dismissing the motion.

“Anyone who thinks that these delegates do not represent their colleagues is deluded,” said Schilling. “They need to take out the earplugs and start listening.”

Listening was an important theme brought up numerous times by speakers at ARA debating the resolution. They expressed frustration with trying to engage MLAs and the minister while receiving responses that were unsatisfactory, if they received any response at all.

Schilling’s comments, though, were prescient. The minister’s press secretary issued a statement Sunday afternoon dismissing the result of the vote.

“It is disappointing that the union continues to play politics with our students’ education,” wrote press secretary Nicole Sparrow in a statement to media. “While the union advances its own special interests, minister LaGrange’s top priority will always be Alberta’s students.” 

By describing the interests of teachers as special interests and characterising this vote as playing politics, the government is continuing its strategy of undermining teachers and brushing off their concerns.

What delegates described throughout the debate was not political at all. They talked about real-world consequences related to numerous government decisions over the past two-and-a-half years: curriculum, inadequate COVID supports for schools, funding cuts, removal of supports for 2SLGBTQ+ students, staff layoffs and the pension takeover. They talked about how they and their colleagues were left feeling as a result of government decisions, messaging and tactics. They brought forward all of the very real concerns from their colleagues across the province that the government has not been listening to.

Premier Jason Kenney went further in question period the following week, turning the response from dismissive to attacking.

“The government decides who ministers are, not special interest groups and not unions,” he said on May 25.

He then went on to share intentionally misleading statements about the ATA.

“Mr. Speaker, the government is accountable to Albertans, not to a union… that spent $2 million trying to re-elect the NDP in the last election.”

Not to dwell on this ridiculously false statement, but the facts need to be stated. The ATA spent $278,577 on election advertising in the 2019 campaign and the ad campaign was non-partisan, asking Albertans to “put education first” when they voted. If Kenney thinks putting education first is a message to re-elect the NDP, then what does his government stand for?

Kenney went further on Thursday.

“The minister of education was elected by her Red Deer-North constituents. She has the complete confidence of this government.”

And he turned the legitimate concerns of teachers, which his government has long been rejecting, into a joke.

“I will point out that former education minister Jeff Johnson achieved a 100 per cent nonconfidence vote from the ATA. My question for our minister is: what is she doing wrong?”

I get why the government might respond in this way. They do not want to show any vulnerability at all, and right now they are very vulnerable — especially when it comes to education.

I hope though that, behind the scenes, this government is using this motion, like the PCs did with the non-confidence motion on Johnson in 2014, as a wake-up call.

To quote the delegate from the beginning of my column: “something is rotten in Alberta.”

And to quote Jason Schilling: “If the government wants to dismiss this motion, they do so at their own peril.” ❚

I welcome your comments. Contact me at


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