CBC News has obtained a letter from Conservative MLA Hector Goudreau to a northern school division in which he warns it could lose futher funding if it continued publicizing their school funding problems.
"In order for you and your community to have the opportunity to receive a new school, you and your school board will have to be very diplomatic from here on out," Goudreau wrote in a Feb. 9th letter to Superintendent Betty Turpin of the Holy Family Catholic School Division.
"I advise you to be cautious as to how you approach future communications as your comments could be upsetting to some individuals," wrote Goudreau, the MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace. "This could delay the decision on a new school."
Goudreau did not specify which "individuals" would be upset or how they could delay funding for a new school. But opposition parties seized on the letter as evidence of bullying by the government of Premier Alison Redford.
More proof of bullying culture, opposition says
"It's just the latest example of a culture of corruption and extortion that exists in our province right now, politically," Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson told CBC News Friday.
"At some point, Albertans are going to have to look at this and say, are we willing to have third-world politics governing our province? Because that's exactly what this is."
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said the letter shows how the Tories rule the province like "warlords."
"These people have to be stopped. Politicians were elected to serve the people, not to dictate over them and threaten them," Sherman said in a news release.
"This letter proves that the PCs have been in office far, far too long. Their power has gone straight to their egos, and they’re acting like rulers instead of public servants."
Former education minister David King told CBC News he has heard of school boards being threatened verbally, but has never before seen a letter as strongly worded as Goudreau's.
"The experience of Albertans in the last few years is that the government wants to make decisions behind closed doors and does not want public discussion and tries to intimidate people away from public discussion," said King, who served as education minister from 1979 to 1986, and is also a former director of the Public School Board Association of Alberta.
Letter sent after video made public
Goudreau sent the letter after CBC News aired a video detailing numerous problems with the Holy Family Catholic School in Grimshaw.
The problems included leaky pipes, exposed wiring and broken heating that required students to wear winter coats in the library.
The school division spent $7,000 on the video, which it sent to Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, after its repeated requests over the past 10 years to the province for a new school were ignored.
Lukaszuk criticized the school board for spending money on the video, and said other school divisions were in more need of a new school than the Holy Family Catholic division.
School division chair Dianne Lavoie told CBC News Friday that Goudreau wrote two subsequent letters in which he apologized for the tone of his first letter.
He said he never intended to threaten the school division.
Lavoie said she and the board were "disappointed" by Goudreau's letter, but want to avoid a "fight" with the province over the issue.
Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said he does not support Goudreau's letter.
"I believe that Mr. Goudreau made an error in judgement," Lukaszuk told CBC News.
Goudreau could not be immediately reached for comment Friday. The 61-year-old is seeking re-election in the looming provincial election.