Teachers assembly votes non-confidence in Alberta education minister

Alberta’s teachers have lost confidence in provincial Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, according to a Sunday vote by Alberta Teachers' Association representatives on Sunday.

ATA annual assembly also rejects draft curriculum

A woman wearing a pink blazer speaks to the camera.
An annual assembly of representatives from the Alberta Teachers' Association have voted to express a loss of confidence in Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Alberta's teachers have lost confidence in provincial Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, according to a Sunday vote by association representatives this weekend.

The annual representative assembly of the Alberta Teachers' Association, held virtually this year, acts in a parliamentary function to pass resolutions on the future and policy of the organization. It includes more than 450 teacher delegates who represent each of the ATA's 55 locals.

A resolution to express a loss of confidence in Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was jointly drafted by 20 locals this year, according to the ATA.

It passed with 99 per cent of the vote. 

The ATA, which represents about 46,000 members, has been critical of the province this past year on multiple fronts, including school re-entry plans, the draft curriculum, and the vaccination rollout initially not prioritizing teachers.

In March, it filed a lawsuit against the province over a ministerial order that allows the government-owned Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) to reject any changes proposed by the Alberta Teachers' Retirement Fund (ATRF).

Two years ago, the province passed a bill to transfer teacher pension investments under AIMCo's management by the end of 2021.

Teachers feel disrespected

More than a dozen representatives from the assembly spoke in support of the motion during the debate portion, which ran for over an hour. 

"This is not about the UCP — this is about competent leadership," Michael Lisboa-Smith, a delegate from the Calgary public local, said in an interview after the vote. 

Lisboa-Smith is particularly disappointed by actions he sees as harming LGBTQ students, including the removal of provisions related to gay-straight alliances with the passage of Bill 8 in 2019 as well as a lack of representation in the draft curriculum.

He said more generally, the pandemic has left teachers burned out and feeling disrespected by the minister.

"Teachers of all political stripes have said, 'This minister is not doing the work.'"

ATA president Jason Schilling said in a media availability after the vote that he was not surprised by the result.

"The ball is in her court and if she wants to repair this relationship with Alberta teachers, then she needs to be able to reach out and start that work."

Nicole Sparrow, press secretary for LaGrange, said it was disappointing that the union "continues to play politics" with student education.

"We will continue to work with the education system, including the teacher's union, to ensure our students receive the world class education they deserve," she said in a statement Sunday.

Sarah Hoffman, NDP critic for education, released a statement saying the vote is the result of two years of hostility from the UCP government towards public education.

Curriculum rejected

A slew of resolutions against the new draft curriculum were also passed the previous day.

These included a non-confidence vote and a call for a moratorium on piloting the draft, both passing with support from around 98 per cent of the vote.

Schilling called the curriculum's current state "deplorable" in his opening remarks on Saturday.

"Nothing about this curriculum is right: the way it was developed, the content, the feedback process, the assessments, and the resources have all been politicized."

Sparrow said on Saturday that the government has been clear that it is seeking feedback on the draft. 

She said the ministry will continue to work with the ATA to gather feedback to make the best curriculum possible.

With files from Janet French