Tomorrow night Alberta will have a new premier. Either Doug Horner, Alison Redford, or Gary Mar will win the second ballot in the Progressive Conservative leadership race tomorrow and, since Alberta is virtually a one-party state, will become the new leader of our province as well.
During the campaign the candidates have debated many issues, but there is just one that is dear to my heart. I would like to ask the three remaining candidates this question: ‘Gary, Alison, and Doug: which do you think is more important: NHL hockey, or enough teachers to do a good job of teaching our children?’
I have a very personal interest in this question. You see, my daughter worked very hard to get her education degree, because the only financial help I was able to afford to give her was a free place to stay. She got a small inheritance, and she worked part time, and she worked a summer job through ’til Christmas one year, taking five years to get her B.Ed. instead of four, but she came out without a student loan to pay off. She then decided to take advantage of the opportunity to teach in England and ended up working over there for two years.
My daughter decided to come back to Canada in the summer of 2010, hoping to get a teaching job here. Bad timing! Budgets were so tight and there were so many unemployed teachers around that she was not able to even get her name on a sub list here in Edmonton. And as for getting a job this Fall – forget it! School boards across Alberta were laying off a thousand teachers because of inadequate funding from the government. Consequently, she is now back in England, looking (so far unsuccessfully) for another job over there.
Meanwhile, here in Edmonton, what does our city council think our province should be spending taxpayers’ dollars on? A brand new hockey arena! Darryl Katz (a millionaire), who owns the Edmonton Oilers (another group of millionaires), apparently thinks that he doesn’t have enough money to build this piece of private enterprise himself. So, like so many capitalists, he wants to be socialist with his costs and capitalist with his profits; he wants the city to contribute money. The city has agreed to put a total of $225 million into the project, and is asking the provincial government – the same provincial government which is apparently too poor to continue to employ the one thousand teachers it laid off this summer – for another $100 million.
Please understand – I know it is not a simple issue of the next premier of Alberta making a straight choice between $100 million for an Edmonton arena or $100 million to put more teachers in our classrooms. I know that there are many potential projects for funding and that the issue of provincial budgeting is a huge one. But nonetheless, the idea that I might possibly be a citizen of a province that laid off a thousand teachers while giving Edmonton $100 million to build a new arena for its millionaire hockey players somehow sticks in my craw. Just as it sticks in my craw that in our province child and youth care workers (who often put their personal safety on the line) working in group homes still make about $15 an hour, while provincial cabinet ministers make $184,000 a year (one third of it tax free!).
So far, to his credit, Premier Stelmach has said ‘no’ to direct cash grants to Edmonton’s arena project, although he has mused about other ways of helping. But of course, after tomorrow night Premier Stelmach will be out of a job. So I would like to ask the three people who are contending for his job this one question: Gary, Alison, and Doug, which do you think is more important: NHL hockey, or teachers?
I would really like to know.