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Meet the PC leadership candidates

December 7, 2016

Four candidates are vying for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party, which will hold a vote on March 18 at a convention in Calgary.

As a non-partisan organization, the Alberta Teachers’ Association encourages its members to engage in the political affairs of the province through individual partisan and non-partisan activities. To that end, we encourage members to participate in all of the political opportunities that are available to them, and we seek to keep them informed about all candidates for political office.

Teachers may participate in the PC leadership process by purchasing a membership and then attending delegate selection meetings (DSMs) being held in each of Alberta’s 87 constituencies. Voting delegates at the leadership convention will be nominated at local DSMs. A list of upcoming DSMs is posted at

The four PC candidates were invited to submit a biography and statement of educational beliefs for publication in the ATA News. Jason Kenney and ­Stephen Khan did not respond, so the ATA News has compiled information gathered from the candidates’ websites and comments available in news media.


Jason Kenney



At a young age, I decided to devote my life to public service. I was driven by a passion to renew Canada’s promise as a land of opportunity, so that every one of us — especially those who are least fortunate — can realize their God-given potential…. This is what I have worked to do since first arriving here in Alberta some 25 years ago as a wet-behind-the-ears youngster, to help start the Canadian Taxpayers Federation…. I was emboldened by these experiences when I decided to take the fight for more freedom to the front lines in parliament…. I was honoured to serve as Canada’s longest-serving minister of Citizenship and Immigration, implementing fundamental reforms to help new Canadians succeed, while strengthening the fairness and integrity of the system. I was honoured to serve (also) as minister of Employment … (and) minister of National Defence.

Education-related statements

“I’m very concerned about the direction of the NDP’s curriculum reforms…. I think parents have had enough of pedagogical fads and political agendas in our schools. The focus should be on teaching knowledge and relevant skills with measurable outcomes in literacy and numeracy.

… I think it’s far more important to engage parents in the curriculum reform than the teachers’ union. We have a lot of great teachers, I respect them, and obviously they should have input, but this is a process that should not be driven by interest groups or unions.

… I would want to strengthen standardized testing to the greatest extent possible.”– Edmonton Journal, Dec. 2

On the ATA’s PRISM Secondary toolkit: “There is an alarming decline in numeracy in the Alberta education system, but it seems that some special interest groups are more concerned about politics and social engineering…. We should focus on improving math scores, not calling boys and girls ‘comrades.’”– Toronto Sun, Nov. 4

On schools resistant to the LGBTQ policies outlined in Bill 10: “I’m just suggesting that the minister and his officials should not seek conflict in the media…. I just don’t think it’s helpful for the minister to be lobbing rhetorical bombs at independent schools in the media…. These are very sensitive issues and I think they should just deal with them sensitively and discreetly. –, Sep. 15

On Ralph Klein: “Ralph did the impossible. In the space of just two years he eliminated the biggest provincial deficit in Canada. He then eliminated the debt, brought in the flat tax, and gave Albertans more choice and convenience in their public services.”–



Stephen Khan



I’m a lifelong Albertan because I believe this is absolutely the best place to work and raise my family. I was born in Calgary in 1966. At the start of elementary school, I moved to St. Albert where I happily live today with my wife and two children.

My family roots are deep in Alberta and that is something I’m very proud of. It’s where I went to school, raised my family, coached volleyball and hockey and grew my small software business into one of the nation’s leading school management system providers.

Vision for Alberta


Our province needs leadership that is committed to fiscal responsibility while standing up for Albertans in need. Albertans expect their government to use every tax dollar responsibly while ensuring we are protecting our most vulnerable in the community.

I want my children to enjoy the same made-in-Alberta opportunities I had growing up and to feel pride in being an Albertan. We need to get Alberta back to being a province of opportunity.



Byron Nelson


Byron Nelson is a father, volunteer, lawyer and small business owner. He is a proud fifth-generation Albertan, and 25-year member of the PC Party.

 He is active with the Shriners Hospital for Children, most recently as southern Alberta chair. An avid sportsman, Byron has been a rugby player, coach and referee, and has managed and coached his son’s and daughter’s baseball teams.

Byron has a plan to restore vision and reignite opportunity in Alberta, using proven fiscal conservative principles and an open, team-based approach, while applying a fresh and promising view for our future.

RESTORE VISION — fiscally conservative principles with a modern vision for the future

REIGNITE OPPORTUNITY — bring business and industry back to Alberta along with the right infrastructure to allow them to thrive.

REBUILD — focus on a competitive tax structure, as well as quality health care and education to support Alberta families and workers.

Statement of educational beliefs

People came to Alberta for well-paying jobs and the best standard of living. This included exceptional schools and quality education programs for their children. Today, instead of thousands coming to Alberta, thousands are leaving. Alberta has been very good to my family, and I am running for leader because I don’t want the exodus to include my kids.

I believe a balanced budget is important because it sends a signal that Alberta is a safe and stable place to invest, a good place to start a business and a great place to raise your family. I believe we need to pay down Alberta’s debt so that our tax dollars are spent delivering the best services in Canada and not on making interest payments.

My children attend public schools, and I have seen first-hand both the great parts of our school system but also some of the challenges.

Class sizes have increased in all grade groups, but especially for K–3, where class sizes now exceed provincial guidelines. This is a concern because we know small class sizes are most beneficial to students in their early years. I support adequate funding for education, to ensure that our students are learning in the best environment possible.

Classrooms are becoming more complex and a teacher’s needs are different within Alberta’s cities compared to rural or northern communities. I support local decision making by our elected school boards because they are better placed to identify the unique needs of their communities than bureaucrats in Edmonton.



Richard Starke


Dr. Richard Starke has served Albertans professionally and politically for decades. Born and raised in Edmonton, he became vice-president of policy of the Edmonton-Calder PC Association at age 16.

After earning a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1983, he joined the Lloydminster Animal Hospital. He married Dr. Alison Chiswell the following year and together they raised their two sons and grew their veterinary practice. In 1985 Richard became the youngest person ever elected to Lloydminster City Council and went on to serve two terms. He served his community as a proud Rotarian, Health Foundation Chair, and soccer and speed skating coach.

Dr. Starke retired from practice and was elected MLA for Vermilion–Lloydminster in 2012. He served in cabinet as minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation and was re-elected in 2015. A proud Progressive Conservative, Dr. Starke is ready to lead a re-energized PC Party of Alberta.

Statement of educational beliefs

When discussing education, my most fundamental belief is that excellence in education lays the foundation for success in life. Clearly, this can only be accomplished when dedicated teachers have the necessary resources to skillfully impart lessons both in and out of the classroom. In turn, students must be prepared to learn, parents must be engaged and school administration must effectively co-ordinate the efforts of everyone involved.

I further believe that the greatest challenge facing education today is the ever-widening variation of student needs that teachers must manage in the classroom. At the root of many of these student needs is child poverty. Children who arrive for school hungry, stressed or not properly rested are not prepared to learn effectively. Teachers are also expected to deal with an ever-expanding list of students with mental and physical health challenges, a more diverse cultural mosaic of students, and increasing pressure to provide instruction that includes everything from addressing modern-day issues like cyber-­bullying to a solid grounding in “the basics.” There is an expectation that our schools, and therefore our teachers, must manage the myriad of societal challenges (poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse) that have a direct effect on students and their ability to learn.

Finally, I believe that teachers can only successfully fulfill their role as professional educators if they have the resources and supports required. As the challenges presented by diverse student needs increase, so too must those supports.

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