There’s a time and a place for politicians to make political statements. That place should never be in front of children at a school.
Yet that is what happened this week in St. Albert as Premier Rachel Notley and Education Minister David Eggen visited the brand new Lois E. Hole elementary school.
It’s fine for politicians to visit schools, but they should do so in a non-partisan capacity. They shouldn’t take the opportunity to attack their opponents, but that’s exactly what Notley did.
“They would say that instead of making sure Alberta’s young people have a modern education that instead we should be cutting funding for schools and using that money, quite frankly, for tax giveaways to people who already make the most in each of our communities,” said Notley.
Politicians making politically-charged statements at these type of back-patting grand openings are nothing new, but they need to maintain decorum when children are involved. Isn’t being associated with a positive news story like a school opening enough?
Notably, Notley seems to be disregarding the advice given by the office of Municipal Affairs, who admonished St. Albert city councillor Sheena Hughes for her behaviour at an elementary school. In George Cuff’s municipal inspection report he said the language used was “quite disparaging” and that the behaviour was “quite improper and irregular.” In both the incident involving Hughes and this week’s event with Notley, the audience was Grade 6 students.
The Cuff report also states, “Whether Council members are speaking at a chamber luncheon or a church or school classroom, each member ought to speak well of their colleagues and acknowledge their contribution of time, talent and energies to the community.” Shouldn’t the same principle apply to the premier?
The opening of Lois E. Hole school is a big deal for our community and a positive news story. The story is not about the opposition and what they might do if they get in power.
St. Albert Public Schools board chair Glenys Edwards, said she thought it was appropriate for Notley to make these remarks, given that it was a political event organized at the government’s request.
“From that point of view, I would say it was appropriate for them to get their political message out.”
Delivering a message is one thing, but attacking political opponents in front of children is simply not appropriate. These are 11-year-old children who can’t vote. Does Notley want these children to deliver a message to their parents? If the message is intended strictly for the public, don’t use these children as props in a political display.
Edwards also added that the premier’s presentation was a learning opportunity for the kids, but it’s really Notley who needs to learn a lesson. She can take a look at Cuff’s report for some guidance.
Our schools should never be soapboxes for politicians. It’s inappropriate behaviour and we should demand better of all elected officials, including the premier.