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Political Updates

Concerns with April 18, 2016 Motion and Proposed Amendment

On April 18, 2016, PC Leader and MLA McIver made a motion speaking to parental choice in education. This original motion contains wording of concern. While the foundational principle of parental choice is supported by AHEA, the exact wording of Mr. McIver's motion leaves true parental freedom in question.

Motion 504: Mr. McIver: Be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly urge the Government to affirm its commitment to allowing parents the choice of educational delivery for their children, including home, charter, private, francophone, separate, or public education programs.

Concern 1: The first concern is with the phrase "allowing parents". This wording implies that the parent is not the one ultimately in charge of the child's education. It implies that someone else has the ultimate authority, and that it is this authority who 'allows' the parent to participate. This is completely backwards as it is the parent who is in charge of their children’s education, with the education system providing a service to parents and our children.

The government can only recognize a parent’s right to choose the type of education their children will receive; it does not allow or permit them to have that right.

Concern 2: The second concern is in the phrase 'educational delivery.' This implies that the only thing parents will have authority over is 'where and how' education is delivered, but that the 'what' of education is not under the authority of parents. If only the 'delivery' of education is an option, then the fundamental choice of determining 'what' is delivered is left to someone else.

Implications of the Motion: This motion implies that the parent is NOT the one in charge of educational decisions for their children. Are we going to accept that there is another who has more authority than parents for the education of our children?

Motion 504 Proposed AMENDMENT:

MLA (ND) Ms. Luff's proposed amendment to the motion: “Be it resolved that the legislative assembly urge the government to support public education including francophone and separate schools, while affirming its commitment to allowing parents the choice of education delivery for their children, including home, charter and private education programs in such instances where they offer alternatives not available in the public system.”

Amendment Concerns: In addition to the above noted problems in the original motion, there is an even more serious problem with the amendment: the wording 'in such instances where they offer alternatives not available in the public system' is a significant attack on parental choice. The amendment states that the government will only support education alternatives provided in home, charter or private education programs when they are not available in the public system. This would eliminate a parent's authority to choose the form of education that they feel is best for their children, and only allow for programming of a parent's choice when it is not available in the public realm. This is NOT a support for parental choice; rather it is a reduction in the choice and alternatives that parents have.

Action:

AHEA always encourages its members to let their MLAs know when there are issues of concern. It is important to have a good working relationship with MLAs.

Some questions to ask:

  • Who does your MLA believe has the ultimate authority for the education of your children?
  • Do they think the parent is the one responsible for their children's educational decisions, or that they are only 'allowed to participate'?
  • Do they think your parental choice and authority are limited as is implied in the motion and the amendment?

Share with your MLA your thoughts on the education of your children, and that parents hold the ultimate authority and responsibility for the education of their children.

Democratic Concern with MLA Luff’s Amendment to Motion 504

April 26, 2016

In light of the recent motions and amendments made in the Alberta Legislature, some discussions surrounding democracy, democratic procedure and democaratic freedoms have occurred in the legislature. In order to provide some clarity, the following information from Hansard (the written commentary of the Alberta Legislature) is shared.

Hansard: April 19, pg 665

Private Members’ Business Mr. Cooper:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to talk about the importance of democracy and to ask all members to protect it in this Assembly. Yesterday we had a serious issue over a private member’s motion. The government chose to play politics and moved an amendment that fundamentally changed the intent of the motion. The Speaker allowed the amendment, which might be the correct ruling on a technical level but leads us down a very dangerous path. This Assembly has a long-standing tradition of allowing debate on motions to proceed without amendment unless the mover agrees. Yesterday’s ruling was inconsistent with past rulings, in particular a 1999 ruling that pointed out that allowing amendments to private members’ motions would do a great disservice to members who “may only get one chance in every three or four or five years” to put forward a motion on a topic that matters to them. We have now overturned that ruling and opened the door to where it is very likely that every single future private member’s motion will be amended or subject to potential amendments. Allowing a private member’s motion to be changed and remain in the name of the original mover is a clear example of the tyranny of the majority. It is my hope that government members will be much more respectful of the traditions of this Assembly. Yesterday the government played politics with private members’ business, and then in fixing it, they made a mess. The government made it clear that private members’ business will actually be government political games business, controlled by the Government House Leader. What will flow from this is a further damage to our democracy. As a leader in this House I hope that we can all work together to ensure democracy is respected, Albertans’ voices are heard, and that you, Mr. Speaker, can continue to fulfill your role in defending the rights of the minority.

Private Members’ Business Dr. Starke:

Mr. Speaker, with the exception of the Premier and cabinet, all other members of this Assembly are private members who share in a long-standing tradition to sponsor motions and bills on issues of importance to them and their constituents. These opportunities are very rare. It is done on a purely random draw, and it’s not unusual for members to be drawn only once or even not at all. Private members matter. In 2007 Speaker Kowalski stated that “the work and the advocacy of private members [is] to be paramount in the Assembly.” Retiring members giving their farewell address often state that their sponsorship of a private member’s bill was their proudest moment as a legislator. The three hours of private members’ business yesterday saw those principles, those rare opportunities both honoured and trampled. For two hours we had great debate on the benefits of tourism in our province. Members from all sides participated in a spirit of respect. But that all changed at 5 o’clock. The Member for Calgary-Hays introduced the motion to affirm parental choice in education. An amendment that had not been shared with the mover and did not have his support was introduced. This amendment effectively denied the Member for Calgary-Hays his potentially only opportunity to introduce and debate his motion during the term of this Legislature. Now, as I learned yesterday, private members’ motions can be amended, but it is very rare, and it has always been done with the knowledge and consent of the mover. Sadly, both Deputy Government House Leaders either overlooked or purposely neglected to note this when they argued that these amendments are commonplace. This point, however, was raised by the Member for Calgary-Lougheed, who was there and witnessed it happen along with the Member for Edmonton-Calder, today’s Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, the 68 private members and their constituents deserve to have their limited opportunities to raise issues respected by all members of this Assembly and especially by those in government, that hold the majority. But at 5 o’clock yesterday that didn’t happen. It was a sad day for democracy in Alberta.

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