Education minister hammered for byelection school announcement

The opposition continues to hammer Education Minister Gordon Dirks on why modular classrooms were announced for a school in the Calgary-Elbow constituency days before the Oct. 27 byelection.

Modular classrooms were announced in Calgary-Elbow school days before Oct. 27 vote

Education Minister Gordon Dirks was elected the MLA for Calgary-Elbow in the Oct. 27 byelection. (CBC)

The opposition continues to hammer Education Minister Gordon Dirks over modular classrooms that were announced for a school in the Calgary-Elbow constituency days before the Oct. 27 byelection.

Critics say William Reid School received the classrooms even though six other schools were higher on the priority list.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley demanded Dirks explain the reasons for putting that school first.

“Only Calgary-Elbow received the byelection bonus,” Notley said. “Why will you not explain to this assembly how you made that decision?”

Dirks would not answer the question. Instead, he told Notley, just as he told Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith earlier in question period, that he was responding to requests from parents.

“Ensuring that we have a quality education system is on the top of the marquee of our priorities for this government, and we’re going to continue to respond as Albertans would wish us to,” he said.

Smith said the move raises questions about Premier Jim Prentice’s vow to uphold high standards in government.

Prentice stood by his minister. He told reporters that the school is located in an area that was badly affected by the 2013 floods and that Dirks was only trying to do the right thing.

“He made the choice, people are challenging the timing, but I’m not hearing anyone say that that school did not require modulars,” Prentice said.

Notley called on the province to adopt legislation used in Manitoba and Saskatchewan that bans governments from making announcements during election campaigns.

Prentice ruled out the idea.

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