When the 39,000 member Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) passed a vote of no confidence in Education Minister Adriana LaGrange recently it was anything but good news for the embattled first-term Jason Kenney government.
It is also a concern for the thousands of students and parents in this district who are counting on the minister to do the job she has been entrusted to perform.
Following a similar 98 per cent vote of no confidence in Health Minister Tyler Shandro by Alberta physicians in 2020, the ATA vote puts the premier is a difficult position.
On one hand, bowing to pressure from teachers and physicians to get rid of two of his most important and high-profile cabinet ministers at a time when his government is already battered by MLA dissent would be a very risky move for Kenney.
And that’s because, in the end, Shandro and LaGrange are both acting under the leadership of the premier, making it all but impossible for Kenney to distance himself from the pointed criticism of these two key ministers.
On the other hand, if he keeps ministers LaGrange and Shandro in the cabinet fold, the premier will continue to face stiff opposition from thousands and thousands of teachers and physicians, leaving him open to daily attacks by two of the most trusted professions in Alberta.
Coming at a time when his government’s COVID-19 response has been anything but universally applauded, the Education minister crisis certainly doesn’t make things easy for Premier Kenney and his cabinet, including area ministers Jason Nixon and Devin Dreeshen.
Alberta Education is one of the most important government departments in this province, overseeing and guiding the future of countless young people, including tens of thousands of current students in Chinook’s Edge School Division and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.
As such, the ATA’s vote of no confidence in minister LaGrange is a troubling development in what has become a lamentable list of problems for the Jason Kenney UCP government.
Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.