A school’s decision to keep Grade 6 students away from question period seems to have caused Alberta MLAs to rethink their behaviour.
“In a province where we have immense opportunities for success our actions should encourage youth to be involved in public service,” government house leader Robin Campbell wrote in a statement released Wednesday in light of the letter from Innisfail Middle School.
“Coming to the Legislature is often an exciting day for students and seeing this letter is disappointing. We must do better.”
In the letter released Tuesday, the school expressed concern about the decorum in the house when 90 students sat through question period on Nov. 5.
They witnessed Doug Griffiths, then the municipal affairs minister, commenting on how the opposition members “suck and blow” as well as then deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk inviting another member to fight.
The letter was sent to Speaker Gene Zwozdesky, Premier Alison Redford and the leaders of all three opposition parties. It was also forwarded to every member of the legislative assembly.
Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson says question period that day was more raucous than usual, but he admits the letter has struck a chord.
“It was a bit of an eye-opener for me,” he said. “When I read it, it made me think twice about the way I will conduct myself.”
The two cabinet ministers singled out for exhibiting bad behaviour that day are also contrite.
Lukaszuk and Griffiths both said they were sorry, but suggested their remarks and gestures were misconstrued.
“It came from the exchange with the leader of the official opposition when I said ‘bring it on,’” Lukaszuk said.
“Unfortunately, that is how it was construed and the fact is if anything offended anybody I sincerely apologize.”
Griffiths says the “suck and blow” remark was a comment on how opposition kept doing two contradictory things simultaneously.
“I’m very sorry that they feel that way,” Griffiths said when asked about the Innisfail letter.
“I know the debate in the house can get heated sometimes and its a good reminder for both sides to keep our language incredibly appropriate and realize there are young children up there that look up to us.”
Innisfail Middle School will still take students to the Alberta legislature, but will stay away from question period.