Premier Rachel Notley defended her decision to give a partisan speech attacking her political foes before a group of Grade 6 students gathered Tuesday to celebrate the opening of their new school.
"They would say instead of making sure Alberta's young people have a modern education, that instead we should be cutting funding for schools," Notley told the students. "And using that money, quite frankly, for tax giveaways to people who make the most in each of our communities."
The comments were made to a group made up of mostly 11 year olds in front of the new Lois E. Hole elementary school in St. Albert.
"There are some people who would say we shouldn't be building new schools," Notley said. "They would say we shouldn't have so many teachers and they would say your classrooms should have more kids in them, not less."
Her political speech aimed some veiled shots at opposition critics, particularly those from the now defunct Wildrose and PC parties, who have widely criticized the Notley government for overspending.
'These buildings ... don't happen accidentally'
Asked about the tone of her remarks at a media availability afterwards, the premier made no apologies.
Had it not been for her government's decision to accelerate capital funding, she said, the new elementary school may not have been built yet.
"These buildings, these communities, the quality of education don't happen accidentally," Notley said. "They happened as a result of choices. And so we're going to talk about those choices. We're not going to back down from talking about those choices."
The board chair of the St. Albert public school board, who took part in the program, said the premier's remarks were "appropriate" given the context and the setting.
"I wasn't surprised," said Glenys Edwards. "I guess I was interested in the tone."
Edwards, a former teacher, said she thought the Grade 6 teachers at Lois E. Hole elementary would debrief the students afterwards to discuss what was said.
"As soon as it became political, I was very aware of the students and hopeful it would be a learning opportunity for those kids," said Edwards.
She said students in Grade 6 are taught about local and provincial governance.