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Throne speech pledges commitment to education

December 2, 2014 ATA News Staff

ASBA grills education minister

Education Minister
Gordon Dirks

The fall sitting of the Alberta legislature began Nov. 17 with a throne speech by Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell. The speech asserted repeatedly that the government is committed to delivering excellence in education. The speech also pledged balanced budgets, a small cabinet and low taxes with no sales tax.

The speech recalled the government’s recent announcement of 75 new school projects, bringing the total number of school infrastructure projects to 230, which the government is calling the largest school construction project in Canadian history.

“We are also committed to improving the way we teach and support our students and teachers,” Ethell said.

“This government will work to ensure that the basics of literacy and numeracy are the foundation for all student learning, from kindergarten through Grade 12. We will also work to ensure students have opportunities to acquire 21st century competencies such as innovation, communication and collaboration.”

Bill 3 revises unions’ use of personal information

Introduced on Nov. 18, the government’s Bill 3, the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act, 2014, proposes revisions that authorize trade unions to collect, use and disclose personal information without consent only in the limited circumstances of a matter relating to a labour relations dispute. The bill was sponsored by Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Sohail Quadri. Debate on the bill was adjourned on Nov. 20 while in second reading.

This amendment is aimed at making the Personal Information Protection Amendment Act (PIPA) constitutionally compliant following a 2013 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. The issue dates back to 2006, when the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 photographed and videotaped people crossing the picket line during a legal strike at the Palace Casino at West Edmonton Mall. In 2011, the union challenged the validity of PIPA after the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled that the union’s disclosure of private information was in violation of the act. On Nov. 15, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that PIPA contravened freedom of expression and association guarantees under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Minister responds to ASBA queries

At its fall conference on Nov. 17, representatives of the Alberta School Boards Association passed a motion recommending that the weighting assigned to Grade 12 diploma exams be decreased to 30 per cent of a student’s final grade from the current 50 per cent.

Education Minister Gordon Dirks addressed the association the next day. As reported in the Edmonton Journal, he said he would consider such a change.

“I want to ensure we have the appropriate research at hand. What are other jurisdictions doing, what would be the implications of that kind of change?”

At the same ASBA conference, in response to a question from Sarah Hoffman, board chair of Edmonton Public Schools, Dirks also said he would “continue to press in on” funding full-day kindergarten for at-risk and socially vulnerable students. ❚

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