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Q & A: What’s this ARA I keep hearing about?

May 10, 2016 Gordon Thomas, Executive Secretary

Question: So what happens at the Annual Representative Assembly? Why is it always on the Victoria Day weekend?

Answer: The Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) is the annual general meeting of the Alberta Teachers’ ­Association, as required by the Teaching Profession Act. The ARA determines the general policy of the Association, establishes bylaws, receives reports from Provincial Executive Council, deals with local and executive resolutions, approves our annual budget and sets member fees. It serves, in many ways, as the ATA’s parliament.

The reason it is called a representative assembly is because its voting delegates are established through a proportional representation process. An annual meeting is made up of anyone who attends it, but a representative assembly ensures the principle of representation by population, assigning one delegate for every 425 teachers who are members of a local association. As a result, a representative assembly reflects Alberta’s demographic realities.

While a representative assembly can do many things, it cannot tie the hands of Provincial Executive Council with respect to its decision-making. The Teaching Profession Act makes very clear that Council is responsible for transacting the business of the Association, and ARA cannot constrain Council in making such decisions. As well, the legislation requires that the executive secretary take steps with respect to member professional discipline, and these statutory obligations cannot be crossed by a representative assembly.

The Assembly is the place for debates about the teaching profession’s views on education, and these views are translated into Association policy — statements of the profession’s core beliefs. The Members’ Handbook is full of ATA policy statements, dating back more than 50 years.

Until about 20 years ago, the ARA was held during Easter or spring break, and was a five day meeting. With significant cutbacks, the cost of ARA became an issue to members and options were sought that would reduce the very extensive release time costs. A revised format was established and procedures changed to facilitate ARA a bit later in the year — in May. The date is determined by Provincial Executive Council.

The meeting is open to the public, excepting the closed session that deals with the Association’s budget. If you aren’t a delegate, you are still welcome to attend the meeting — come check us out at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary on the May long weekend!  ❚

Questions for consideration in this ­column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (

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