Airdrie parents not pleased with minister's comment
Local parents were disappointed with Alberta’s Education Minister’s controversial comment made during a province-wide conference call, March 19.
Minister Thomas Lukaszuk told Airdrie residents to ask their local MLA Rob Anderson “not to oppose” his plan to borrow money to fund infrastructure if they want more classroom space for students.
“That comment really got to me,” said Steve Goodall, president of the Airdrie School of Schools Council.
“It really sat with me that this is not right.”
Rocky View Schools, the division that oversees local schools, put in a request for eight portables to cover critical classroom shortages last November. The Province rejected the request, issuing no new portables for the burgeoning community of 43,000.
During the conference call, local parents asked him what they could do to get additional classroom space.
Lukaszuk responded, “You know what I’m really itching to say it, so I will, even though I know I shouldn’t, but the first thing you can do, actually, in Airdrie is to call your MLA and ask him not to oppose me in the Legislature every day on considering new ways for funding infrastructure.”
When later asked to clarify his comment, Lukaszuk was quick to admit his mistake, saying the remark was unprofessional.
“That made us feel a little better,” said Goodall.
Later, when interviewed by the Airdrie City View, Lukaszuk said his controversial comment was referring to his belief that the Province should look at alternative funding options for building schools, a conviction vehemently argued by Anderson.
“Cash up front has proven itself to be a failed model, it doesn’t allow the Province to build enough schools,” said Lukaszuk. “(Mr. Anderson) is of the opinion that nothing gets amortized, because he thinks (we would) be living off the backs of future generations.”
“I have been to Airdrie three times in the last (several) months and one thing that I am hearing over and over again is we need new schools,” said Lukaszuk.
“It is obvious and frankly (Airdrie) will need more schools over a short period of time.”
Goodall was pleased to learn Airdrie is still on the priority list for new schools.
“I am happy that he stated that kids will be taken care of and the needs of Albertans will be taken care of,” he said.
However, Anderson, who is the Wildrose education critic, is demanding proof that construction of future classroom space will not be politicized.
The Wildrose party’s platform calls for the Province to release a province-wide list of prioritized school projects.
He is also asking for the same from Lukaszuk’s Progressive Conservative government.
“It seems to me to be a threat,” said Anderson. “The reason we didn’t receive the portables was because I was bugging him in the legislature about funding. His suggestion that Albertans would get more schools for their children if his political opponents kept their mouths shut epitomizes this PC government’s culture of bullying and corruption.”
In addition, Anderson is calling on Premier Alison Redford to fire Lukaszuk.
“You can’t threaten Alberta parents,” said Anderson. “If Alison Redford had any leadership skills at all, Lukaszuk wouldn’t be the Education Minister.”
Lukaszuk contends that none of his choices are politically-based.
“I don’t give a damn if (the students’) leader is a Wildrose member or a Communist… these kids need schools. It is that simple,” he said. “I am out there begging… let’s have some dialogue about alternatives.”