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Leadership race a chance to reset relationships


May 31, 2022 Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA News Editor-in-Chief


Jason Kenney is headed for the exit and he should take his government’s approach to education with him.

The premier’s upcoming resignation is a real opportunity to reset the relationship between government and teachers, if they want it.

Kenney announced on May 18 that he would be resigning after receiving a bare majority approval rating from UCP members in his leadership review. In the following days, much was made about how this was a repudiation from the more extreme right flank of his party and a rejection of apparent moderation from Kenney. I reject the premise.

Sure, there was a fair amount of discontent over Covid-related restrictions that were deemed by some to be an overreach. But many, including UCP members, felt that the government reaction often did not go far enough. The two sides tend to agree that the government just did not do a good job of handling messaging around the pandemic and often bumbled their decision making.

What people don’t seem to be talking about enough is how Kenney was being punished in many ways for his style. Regardless of the issue, the Kenney government’s approach often included high degrees of arrogance and entitlement, bombastic rhetoric, contradictions of messaging and the aggressive attacking of perceived opponents.

Let us not forget that the reason the leadership review was called was because it was forced by the passage of a similarly worded motion from around 30 of the UCP’s constituency associations. The president for the constituency association that first passed the motion was quoted in media reports as stating the lack of engagement with teachers on the curriculum was among the issues that motivated the vote.

There is no doubt that the UCP’s sinking polling numbers and weak fundraising figures were a significant motivator for organizers that would be sitting on these constituency boards.

A recent poll by Angus Reid tried to dissect the dissent by looking at public perception of government performance on a number of issues. The disapproval rating on education was 65 per cent, worse than how the UCP was perceived to be handling the pandemic. Only health care and housing affordability had larger disapproval ratings.

Now is an opportune time to be reminding UCP MLAs of discontent and grievances around education issues.

I remember meeting with my PC MLA in the weeks that followed the resignation of Alison Redford. The MLA was quick to try to pin as many of the unpopular ideas as possible on Alison Redford, allowing the party to try to make a clean break from the issues that were dogging them.

This time, there is even greater cause to do this. I have no doubt that Jason Kenney, personally, is a significant driver of many of the bad ideas being advanced in education. He is on record numerous times, both before and after becoming premier, making statements disparaging teachers, calling for a more right-wing oriented curriculum and advancing privatization. These are not popular positions and they undoubtedly contributed to ill will toward the premier.

If we raise the issues with UCP MLAs now, they will again be likely to pin as much of the discontent on the outgoing premier as they can. They should embrace the opportunity to call for a new, improved approach.

Similarly, raising these issues with those entering the upcoming leadership race will have great value. Now is the time to get these wannabe premiers on the record stating how they plan to handle the education file. I am sure that regardless of ideology, most of them will want to differentiate their future approach from the hostility and disrespect that had become the hallmark of the soon-to-be last premier. At least one is already on the record calling for a different approach on curriculum.

This new environment presents a real opportunity for the government to reset the relationship with teachers. However, achieving this will depend on the ability of teachers to seize the same opportunity by making contact with MLAs and other UCP influencers. ❚

I welcome your comments. Contact me at


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