I had the pleasure of watching a forum on education last night.
Scratch that. There was no forum. There was a discussion. Punctuated with humour.
We had to laugh. It was the only way to look passed the fact that two potential Premiers of Alberta skipped it.
Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice are all running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, and therefore our next Premier.
But Lukaszuk was the only one who showed up for a forum focussing on education at the Alberta Teachers' Association Summer Conference.
Prentice and McIver were given the opportunity to come long in advance. They were given significant encouragements to come. But they didn't.
You see, they don't care about education. Not that they don't care about teachers ... they don't care about education.
You know, the second largest, and arguably the most tumultuous, portfolio in the Alberta Government? Yeah, that one. They don't care about it.
So Prentice and McIver chose to let preconceptions about their positions speak for them. So Prentice is seen as a Jeff Johnson supporter, which is not a friendly position for education. McIver is seen as a tiny Wildroser in training, with a policy on education that is very similar to theirs.
These preconceptions could be totally wrong. But we have no way of knowing.
Lukaszuk was up front and honest with me after the forum; he pandered to his audience. He mentioned how he would have preferred to have been held more to account for what he was saying (moderator Ken Chapman did a great job trying to do that, but he was a moderator, and so couldn't firmly hold his feet to the fire). A good public forum would have done that.
That being said, if he felt like he had to pander to teachers, good. Because obviously Prentice and McIver provide no hope for Alberta Education's future whatsoever.
He didn't pander enough. He didn't lay all concerns about the Taskforce on Education to rest. He didn't commit fully to public education above all else. He didn't provide actionable ways of improving revenues for the province. So while he pandered well with what his platform and party would allow, he didn't pander well enough to convince me to lend even a single red cent to his party.
Thankfully the Alberta Teachers' Association, in the absence of the other PC leadership candidates, were able to bump the opposition Education critics in their place. Kent Hehr (Liberals), Bruce McAllister (Wildrose) and Deron Bilous (NDP) all were going to come on Tuesday, but came on Monday instead. It was truly an incredible opportunity for delegates to get a clearer understanding of the differences between the parties.
Well, at least the elected ones.
If we are having so many problems with the elected parties, then we should be made aware of actionable policies of other, not-yet-elected parties. I would have liked to have seen the Alberta Party and Green Party leaders have an opportunity to share their policies.
Nonetheless, we heard from four oppositions last night. Yes, Lukaszuk is in opposition. With two PC leadership contenders who do not value education, Lukaszuk is in the minority.
When are we going to hear from a government?
To see the live tweeting from the forum at the ATA Summer Conference, check out the hashtag #atasc on Monday, August 11, 2014.
Calgary is all abuzz with the Canadian Progressive Conservatives selection of Joan Crockatt to represent their party in the Calgary Centre byelection. Many are expounding the "slam dunk" victory long before the byelection even gets underway. This is a marketing ploy for the Conservatives. They are marketing Voter Apathy.The Conservatives and their supporters want a low voter turnout. They want to make it so that the only people who vote are the 800 who just voted for Crockatt. In fact, they are counting on it.
And why not? It follows along the same line of contempt the Conservatives have shown for democracy this year. They attacked democracy with their omnibus budget bill, bringing sweeping changes to many laws without the appropriate opportunity for parliamentary review. Why not attempt to malign democracy by convincing non-supporters to simply give up?
Voter Apathy is a plague of our politics. It is perpetrated, as expected, by those with the power. We, as voters, must ignore this marketing ploy. We must not relinquish the right of governing to any individual. We must make each candidate earn their right to represent us.
Any provincial party that claims to value democracy would not lend themselves to this marketing ploy. Not one party, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, the Wildrose, the Alberta Liberals, the Alberta NDP, nor the Alberta Party, should ever support Voter Apathy without due recourse.
Remember those who would attack democracy by predicting "slam dunks", and hold them accountable.