How Do You Do, Fellow Social Democrats? Alberta NDP Convention 2018


Team Advantage treks to the great northern bastion of social democracy known as Edmonton, Alberta. We speak to some really excellent Alberta NDP members doing important work, and witness some flawlessly executed stage management. The funniest part was when we heard the UCP observer ask “are they all related? how are they all each other’s brother and sister?”

Transcript (special thanks to Isaac for transcribing)

[intro music begins]

Intro: The Alberta Advantage is a bi-monthly political commentary podcast that offers analysis on Calgarian and Albertan politics from a left-wing perspective.

[intro music ends]

Kate Jacobson: Hello, and welcome to the Alberta Advantage. I’m your host, Kate Jacobson, and today we are bringing you a very special episode of the podcast. From October 26th to 28th, Team Advantage members traveled up north to Edmonton where we attended and reported on the 2018 Alberta NDP Convention. We wanted to do some reporting on the provincial NDP that goes beyond what you tend to see in the mainstream medium. I sat in the media tank in the back of the hall for most of the weekend, and other than live-tweeting some of the resolutions on the floor, most media were concerned with speeches from party bigwigs like Rachel Notley and Joe Ceci and, honestly, not much else. The NDP is Canada’s left-wing party – or, at least, its social-democratic party. But there are a really large range of political beliefs held by party members. Our hope with this episode is to give you an idea of the types of people who hold membership in the NDP – what their politics are, what they are trying to do at this Convention, and what their frustrations and their victories with the first New Democrat government in Alberta look like. Our interviews are arranged in roughly chronological order, and all of them were conducted by me, Kate Jacobson, from October 26th to 28th at the Alberta NDP Convention in Edmonton. I interviewed Michael Hughes on the first day of the Convention. He praised the changes made to the Alberta Labour Relations Code by the NDP government and spoke about how unions can serve the party best in a critical role. As a heads-up, the audio on this interview is a little bit wonky; if you stick it out, I promise they get better from here.


Michael Hughes: My name is Michael Hughes. I am a delegate at the NDP Convention, but I also work for the United Food and Commercial Workers. I was here in this hotel when Rachel Notley won the election, and I remember very distinctly hearing her say some really positive things that were inspiring to me. As far as electoral politics goes – great policy on labour reforms that actually brings us up, kind of, in the realm of the rest of the country – yay, that should be applauded, but in terms of other things out there, there’s a lot of work to be done. I think there’s a lot of – I think that social movements, including labour unions, can serve the party a lot better by being a critical voice and by trying to push a workers’ agenda more in the party. You know – I mean, there’s talk of oil and gas industry and the deep state and all this kind of stuff, and I think that unions can serve a purpose to steer the party away from that kind of attention, or that kind of focus, and be more worker-centered. So I think, you know, they’ve done a good job introducing a lot of this stuff. There’s been some disappointments as well, but that’s kind of what a party ought to be. Having said that, you know, I’m curious what this Convention’s going to be like, because I don’t know if there’s going to be a lot of dissent. I’m not sure how many people are here with an agenda, or are here that are going to be, you know, riding unicorns, right? So I think – I’m not sure where the unicorn riders are. But I’m curious to find out.


Kate: Michael made reference to comments from Premier Notley that clearly got under a lot of delegates’ skin when she called pipeline opponents “unicorns” at an October 13th address to the Alberta Teachers’ Association. During a speech, Notley said, “Maybe on Salt Spring Island you can build an economy on condos and coffee shops, but not in Edmonton, and not anywhere in Alberta. Here in Alberta, we ride horses, not unicorns, and I invite pipeline opponents to saddle up on something that is real.”


Michael: Resolutions – I mean, what does it really mean? Especially when, you know, getting elected, there wasn’t this big focus on pipelines, and now it’s the focus. So my question is, what does it even matter when, you know, a party’s in power and they’re going to do what they’re going to do, right? And parties, when they do get into power, I’ve noticed that they become more pragmatic, let’s say. And I see that as really problematic, and you end up with the rise of what we call neoliberal socialists. [laughs]


Kate: [laughs] Bit of an oxymoron.


Michael: An absolute oxymoron, and I think it’s a head-scratcher, right? I think there’s room for unicorns in the party, or unicornism, because I think that that’s how we got things like healthcare in this country, was people dreaming and people pushing for things that didn’t already exist and not accepting the status quo. That’s what I hope the party could be, but, you know, I’m here to find out if that’s actually something that people want to listen to.


Kate: The first day media was allowed into the Convention hall was Saturday October 27th, and the first order of business at an NDP Convention is basically voting on the order of resolutions, which sounds really dry, but is actually one of the most important parts of the whole Convention. While there are usually around a hundred or so resolutions included in the policy book, the Convention debates somewhere under twenty. So this means that resolutions lower down the list will not be discussed by the membership and will instead be referred to a far more opaque provincial council. At the Convention, delegates were given the opportunity to propose amendments to the order of resolutions. The policy committee that ordered the resolutions would then be given the opportunity to respond, and a vote on the Convention floor basically determined whether the order of resolutions would be amended or not.


Patrick King: Hi there. My name is Patrick King, representing Calgary Foothills. I would like to move that Motion C6 on rent control trade places with Motion E5 – Resolution 84, rent control, change places with Resolution 4, park designation for the Big Horn. Thirty percent of Albertans rent, and we are still living under the regulatory regime set up by the former PCs. Landlords can raise rent by an arbitrary amount once per year, and many rent from large property trusts that follow markets closely and aggressively raise rent wherever they can. So Alberta is one of the few provinces without real rent control, and it’s time for us to lend working Albertans, the people we represent, a helping hand. It’s time for our government to take action on rent control. Please support this motion to prioritize it highly. Thank you.


Erica Bullwinkle: Okay, I’m going to oppose this one a little more vehemently. I think that the moving of the act taking action on the Big Horn is something that we’ve heard about quite a bit, and that was why we raised it highly. The one on rent control, we thought, needed a lot more work, and could probably benefit from, you know, not being too high on the order. Thanks.


Speaker 2: Thank you. All those in favour of the appeal, please signify. Those opposed? The appeal’s defeated.


Kate: I spoke to Patrick after his motion to move the resolution on rent control up the order of proposed resolutions failed on the Convention floor following the rebuttal by the policy committee.


Patrick: I’m Patrick King, delegate from the Calgary Foothills at the Alberta NDP Convention; also, a fairly regular podcast contributor on Alberta Advantage. At a Convention, you get to talk about maybe six, maybe eight, maybe ten of the resolutions all in. There’s about four hours of time, so it’s really a question of priorities. There’s a list of ninety-odd resolutions here – not going to get to all of them. If there’s something that you feel passionate about, that your party ought to be taking care of, you’ve got to move it up the list. So I’ve got nothing against the creation of national parks or provincial parks – great project, it’ll certainly feel good when it gets done, but it’s not the kind of issue that affects huge swaths of Albertans like the 400,000 Albertans who rent. This is our bread and butter. We’re the party of working people. It’s out job to represent these folks, so I thought it made sense to – I didn’t want to damage all the resolutions further down the list, that’s why I proposed to exchange it. And I thought, “Hey, we’re going to create this park anyways, this is just kind of a feel-good resolution. Let’s slot rent control up in spot number four where it’s going to be heard.”


Kate: During the lunch break, I also spoke to Don Ray (sp?). He was one of the authors of the rent control resolution, and Don told me about why moving on rent control was important to him as an NDP member.


Don Ray: My name is Don Ray, and I’m from Calgary Varsity Constituency NDP, and I’m here at the provincial NDP Convention. We went through a process in Calgary Varsity – I’m the policy chair for Calgary Varsity – and it seemed that there was a real need to move on the questions of rent control, while it’s still possible, in the sense that we need to get ahead of when the economic recovery is fully in swing and rents really start escalating, and when those rent escalations start to really eat up the increases in the minimum wage that our party has brought in. Then there’s the question of renters who need security so that they don’t have to worry that they’re going to be evicted by their landlord, either because the landlord decides they can get more money from the next renter or they want to, for example, turn rental units into condos.


Kate: It wasn’t just rent control that the policy committee had a problem with. Overall, they were pretty hostile to any motion that amended the order of resolutions.


Erica Bullwinkle: If you put it higher up, you’re displacing resolutions that we took a lot of time to analyze as being important and should be higher up. That’s all I can say about that.


Kate: Patrick, however, sees amending the order of resolutions as a crucial part of Convention.


Patrick: I take the point that the resolution committee has done a lot of work to think about the precise ordering of all ninety-odd resolutions, but the purpose of this session in Convention is to give the delegates their say, to give, you know, the membership of the party some say in what we talk about this weekend.


Kate: Don Ray also found the ranking of the rent control resolution to be discouraging. He says he wrote the resolution to be interpreted flexibly on purpose, for the benefit of the government, and was frustrated when the lack of specificity was used as a reason to keep it off the Convention floor and closed off from debate.


Don: Certainly I would say, when you’re ranked number 84, it shows one of two things. Maybe both. But certainly it shows a lack of understanding of the situation of renters in Alberta and what needs to be done. And so I think I would be critical of that. We were told that the resolution wasn’t specific enough, and that more study was needed. So, to address those questions, I would say, in fact, the time for studying is over. All types of studies have been done nationally, provincially. If you look at the Canadian Housing Index, now, studies everywhere are pretty clear about what has to be done. They mistook us trying to be general, flexible, offering the government a number of areas in which they could have moved, and that was turned against us to slam the resolution way, way back. And that certainly wasn’t encouraging.


Kate: As you heard earlier, the resolution to move rent control up the order of resolutions wa defeated handily. Patrick told me why he thought delegates were so hostile to the idea of reordering resolutions.


Patrick: You know, one of the factors may just be that this is the biggest Convention we’ve ever had. It’s something that I’ve heard in the hallways quite a lot is that, for a lot of people, this is their first Convention. Understanding what all the parts of a Convention are for is just something you have to experience a few times and kind of learn. But I also do suspect that the order of resolutions was, you know, put in place to serve messaging priorities of the party as well. They want to highlight the good work that they’ve done; they don’t want to, necessarily, have issues that are potentially controversial, or that potentially cause PR issues for them, to be highly discussed and to make it into the media.  That’s also, possibly, a consideration.


Kate: Not only was the rent control resolution kept in spot 84, but the half-hour of time allotted to re-ordering resolutions was actually cut short by a vote of the general assembly after about twenty minutes of debate.


Speaker 3: As much as I appreciate that everybody who’s standing at the mic wants to move forward a resolution – I have been at the mic in the past doing that exact thing – we have a committee that established the order of resolutions –


Speaker 4: Please, Maria –


Speaker 3: – it’s just three minutes, every person, and that’s time we could be debating the resolutions.


Speaker 4: And we will be – [applause]


Speaker 4: So, at this point, I’m going to test the floor to see if the floor is still interested in continuing with the appeals or if you would like to move on in the agenda.


Crowd: Move on! Move on!


Speaker 4: So we do need to vote on it, right?

Patrick: Perhaps the most stunning moment, a moment ago, was when the extremely short half-hour period for prioritizing resolutions was just cut off short by the general assembly, which is a real head-scratcher for me. It’s just a sign that folks just don’t quite understand the importance of that particular moment in the Convention. Because this sets the agenda for what we’re going to for the rest of the weekend – it’s actually the most important thirty minutes of the weekend.

Kate: Next, I spoke to Marco Luciano, who is the staff director of Migrante, an organization that works to address the immediate issues facing migrants, primarily Filipino. He spoke to me on Saturday about an emergency that he was working on to help undocumented workers have access to reproductive care in Canada.


Marco Luciano: My name is Marco, Marco Luciano. I’m from Edmonton Central, and I’m here at the NDP Convention, just trying to see what’s going on. It’s the first time I’m here at the Convention. Migrante is involved with organizing migrants, but also, there are more and more undocumented migrants here in Alberta, and this is due to, really, the immigration policy created by the Conservative government. And now, these migrants fell into cracks, and they become undocumented. And so a lot of undocumented are here, and trying to make a living and contribute to the Alberta economy. But also among them are women – women who, you know, have reproductive rights, and now, a couple of women who are pregnant and about to give birth have no access to healthcare. So, you know, along with some of the friends and some of the people in the sanctuary city campaign that we’re a part of, we’re putting together a resolution – the ADLC is putting together a resolution – to support the undocumented migrants, as they are Albertans and they’re part of Alberta, and they contribute to Alberta, and hopefully our government will acknowledge that and will provide the adequate service. Particularly moms, you know, who are about to give birth.


Kate: Emergency resolutions were debated on Sunday. The one that Marco describes here did not make it to the floor for a vote. Marco also spoke to me about electoral politics in the Filipino community in Alberta.


Marco: Personally – I mean, Migrante is a non-partisan organization; however, many members of Migrante want people to get engaged in the community, particularly getting out to vote. Because we have been growing in Canada and Alberta – there’s about 170 000 Filipinos in Alberta, so it’s the fastest-growing community, but also we are under-represented in terms of, you know, services, in terms of having a cultural center. So it is about time for us to be really present in electoral politics.


Kate: Shay Lewis was a member of the Race Equity Working Group, which became the Race Equity Caucus through a floor vote at the 2018 NDP Convention. They spoke to me about the importance of this move for racialized party members.


Shay Lewis: My name’s Shay Lewis. I’m at Convention just because I’m working with the former Race Equity Working Group, now the Race Equity Caucus. I’ve been doing a lot of work to formalize that group – so glad to see the motion just passed. A lot of my work has been in and around grassroots advocacy, just trying to shift the party’s direction a little. So that move’s really important because it gives us a formalized structure to start doing work in the party and outside the party. So this comes to doing advocacy, of course, to include and involve and empower racialized individuals across Alberta, but also engage with reasons why they’re not already in the party – the number of systemic issues, policy issues outreach, representation – all of those things that come down to, not active or intentional racism, but that still function in that way and prevent people from engaging. There’s a variety of issues that we’re aware of that we want to actualize on when it comes to things like carding, when it comes to things such as engaging with different groups within Alberta, how we represent and involve those groups – a variety of things that particularly impact particular racialized groups, such as housing, such as welfare, childcare, etc. All those things that people don’t think of when they think of racism because they want to think directly of race-related issues, but issues that don’t get focused on because they don’t impact, particularly, middle upper class white folks as much.


Kate: Carding is a police policy where the police can stop, document, and question individuals even when no particular offense is being investigated. Many civil liberties associations submit that carding is a systematic violation of people’s charter rights, human rights, and privacy rights, and a Toronto Start investigation revealed that, in Toronto, carding primarily targets young black and brown men. I asked Shay why they thought the provincial government had not moved to end the unconstitutional and racist practice of carding in Alberta.


Shay: The general non-racialized folks group see carding as a function, where they see carding as a proactive way to do police work, where they see carding as just engaging with the high-risk individuals, despite the fact that those individuals are considered high-risk for a variety of racism-based reasons such as racial profiling, such as the fact that a focus on ghettoization has caused individuals to be, if they’re from certain racial groups, focused into low-income areas, tend to have a higher risk of being unemployed, a higher risk of being homeless, which leads to them, yeah, committing crime because they’re forced into unfortunate social situations where that’s the survival technique, right? And because of that, people want to say, “Well, these higher rates of crime justify these literal racist policies that we’re designing to fight these high rates of crime.” So it becomes complicated to explain it to folks who don’t see it from an empathetic point of view. They see it from, “I want to stop crime.”


Kate: One of the resolutions that was moved from its original position was a resolution on opposing Right to Work legislation. Union member and NDP delegate Tom Hesse spoke to us about why opposing Right to Work is so important for the labour movement.


Tom Hesse: I’m Tom Hessie, and I’m a union member and a member of the New Democratic Party, and that’s why I’m at the Convention. Right to Work: it sounds like a fancy phrase – it gives people rights! – but it deprives people of rights. What Right to Work does is essentially eliminate the right of unions to exist, and unions give working people a voice. They fight for higher wages, they fight for occupational health and safety protections, workers’ compensation protections. Unions give us weekends off. And they do it for all people because unions set the working standard for all people, right? This so-called phenomenon, Right to Work, is an American, Donald Trump-generated phenomenon. It’s been revitalized in the United States by the extreme right, and it is a way to end up with a society with a gap between rich and poor that is completely intolerable to any real citizen. When workers organize together into unions, it offers them a very meaningful vehicle to have a voice, and the connection between labour and organized labour in unions in the party gives them yet another conduit to get stuff done.


Kate: Richard Roach is also an NDP delegate and a union member. He was critical of the party burying of UFCW Local 401 resolution that called for the use of union labour in the construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline expansion, which has also been widely criticised and protested for violating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and increasing the production of bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. Licensing for the construction of TMX was nullified in late August after a federal court ruled that the government had not adequately consulted with Indigenous Peoples.


Richard Roach: So my name’s Richard Roach. I’m a delegate, officially, for the Federal Constituency of Edmonton West; however, I’m also here for UFCW 401. One of the biggest problems that I think we would have with the TMX, from that standpoint, is it’s not going to be building trades, pipe-fitters, boiler-makers, anyone like that – steelworkers. It’s going to be CLAC, which is the Christian Labour Association in Canada. They’re a fake union; I’m going to be blunt. They don’t represent their members. They are a management union. And why we’d want to bring this to the top, to the forefront, to talk about, is to say, “No, having people like that working on these things is also something that erodes unionization and erodes labour movement around here. We should be having good union jobs to go towards this.”


Kate: Richard was also disappointed that the NDP government had not moved on anti-scab legislation, a key demand of the labour movement. He was also critical of the government for not making any moves to end double-breasting, a practice where companies avoid the obligations of the their collective bargaining agreements by offering spin-off non-union, or alternative union, companies. Parent companies can then put pressure on unions by starving the unionized shops of resources, labour, and capital goods.


Richard: Anti-scab labour just wasn’t in the works because they were fearful of a court challenge and didn’t want to be the first ones, which I don’t personally buy. I can see why they wouldn’t gone with that route, but I also just – if you’re not willing to be the first one to do something, what happens if the first one never comes, right? Honestly, I was expecting more. And especially given the double-breasting – I do come from Safeway, where we’re bargaining with our new overlords, Sobeys, who are double-breasting us. They’re taking a lot more resources out of their unionized Safeway stores, and when you  go into a Sobeys, it’s completely the opposite. Their shelves are stocked, they have lots of employees going around, and anything that they can starve us out of – resources like hours, labour, genuine respect on a day-to-day basis, is just not there in a Safeway store. And it’s purely because ours are unionized, whereas theirs are not.


Kate: One of the prioritized resolutions at the NDP Convention was a big one. Number one on the agenda was a resolution that encouraged the provincial government to work with the federal and other provincial governments to support the expansion of Canada’s public Medicare umbrella to include a national, comprehensive, single-payer pharmacare program, and to support expanding Canada’s public Medicare umbrella to ensure that all Canadians have access to dental and optic care. All of these things are currently not included in Canada’s public Medicare system. Tracy Mathison spoke in favour of the resolution of the Convention floor. We spoke with her later to ask why expanded Medicare was so important to her.


Tracy Mathison: My name is Tracy Mathison. I currently live in Lethbridge, Alberta; my riding is Lethbridge East. Well, they were talking about expanding the umbrella of Medicare, and expanding the umbrella of Medicare is going to affect every single Albertan, and if we could just get the entirety of Canada involved, that would be even better. No one should ever have to go without their medication. No one should ever have to choose between food and their medication, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had to make that decision. All Canadians should be concerned about all the other Canadians and their medications and their health. I was waiting a long time to speak on that resolution, and I went up there maybe forty-five minutes beforehand not knowing I was going to be up there so long. And I would’ve stood there all day, all week, all month, just to have a voice, just to express that, because I’ve waited a long time for this to happen. I didn’t even know if Pharmacare would ever happen, or if anyone would ever say the word “Pharmacare” and put it down in a resolution in a real – anyway, it’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I mean, that’s sad, right? Little girls dream of being a princess. I dreamt of medication being affordable. Because, you know, I’m caught in the middle. If you’re on welfare, I’m happy to pay taxes to support anyone who can’t work, but if you’re really poor, there are programs, and there’s ways that you can get your medicine, and if you’re rich, well, you’re going to get it. But there are people caught in the middle. Sixty percent of part-time workers and precarious workers are women, so this affects women. So that’s your mother, that’s your sister. I mean, women need to be lifting each other up. So I think this isn’t just a Canadian issue or a human issue, I think it’s a  women’s issue. Let’s not forget – if we do have real, actual Pharmacare in Canada, we’ll be able to bargain more with Big Pharma and bring the prices down, right? I mean, everybody’s going to win.


Kate: Dana Brampston argued that expanded Medicare was not only a human right, it also makes economic sense.


Dana Brampston: Hi! My name’s Dana Brampston. I am with Calgary Bow, but I also am a member of UFCW Local 401. My thoughts on Medicare and health in general is if workers who are people, everyday people, could afford medication, they would be healthier. Healthy people make healthy employees. Healthy employees come to work. When employees go to work, our economy grows. And when they’re at work, they spend money, which goes back into the economy. So it just is a no-freakin-brainer that the health of our nation, or health of our province, or health of our neighbours, makes economic sense.


Kate: Many delegates I spoke to explicitly told me they were at Convention because they were looking to move the party to the left. Kirk McKenzie (sp?) is a member of Courage, an independent Left movement that bridges the gap between electoral and movement politics, particularly within the NDP. While Courage is primarily active at the federal level and had no organized presence at the 2018 Convention,  Kirk was present at this Convention to push for left-leaning policy on progressive taxation and rent control, among other topics.


Kirk McKenzie: Kirk. I’m at Convention here. This is my first provincial convention. I was at the National Convention earlier – sort of got talked into that by working with Courage, actually. The provincial one here – I’m part of a policy committee for a constituency association, so I came here sort of to support some of the things that we were bringing forward – progressive taxation, stuff like that – but also to try to drag some of the NDP a little bit more left, honestly. One of the things that I really would have liked to see debated that did not make it was rent control. That one was – I think it’s a shame that got buried so far down the priority list. We had a measure for progressive taxation that, I think, originally, was number 18 or something, so that one should still make it to Convention. I’m happy about that. We need a better revenue basis. It’s literally tabled “Getting Off the Oil Revenue Roller-coaster” because there’s a significant problem in Alberta’s past with, the only way we balance budgets is because of, you know, royalties. And, also, we passed some awfully strong motions in support of the ban on conversion therapy. That was an obvious problem, something that I was shocked wasn’t already in the books, honestly. So I think those have been the real highlights so far.


Kate: Unfortunately, the resolution on progressive taxation did not make it to the floor of Convention, largely because of an extended series of insubstantive debates carried out by staffers and elected officials. Kirk also participated in the Environmental Caucus, where the Alberta NDP – who have, from their leadership down, been aggressive in pursuing the Trans-Mountain Pipeline Expansion, as well as refusing to raise royalty rates on companies operating in the oils sands – faced more pushback than you might expect.


Kirk: The two people that did succeed in the end in that were – one of them was specifically someone who said we have to stop demonizing environmentalists, which I was an awfully big fan of. They specifically mentioned the horses and unicorns, that just because people are looking for environmental sustainability and change doesn’t mean they’re thinking about magic or something like that. I think that was a very important part there, as well, and that trying to slowly change that perception – I think there’s been a significant effort from certain people in the party in order to make it look as if everyone is all towing the party line on this. I think there’s a lot more people involved in the party that aren’t toeing the line on this, but that feel that they can’t actually say anything. So I think the results sort of speak to that, that both the people who are elected as the co-chairs of the caucus, they had fairly aggressive statements to make as to if there was enough of this going on.


Kate: In 2014, both now-premier Rachel Notley and now-education minister David Eggen stated that they supported the use of public dollars in public education. Yet their government has made no moves to defund the elite private schools that continue to receive public funding from the government. Steven Merridew (sp?) believes that this government has strengthened the curriculum requirements that accompany these public dollars.


Steven Merridew: Steven Merridew, Red Deer South. The private school and charter school movement in Alberta is a real mishmash right now, right? There are definitely some of them that are filling a niche need in certain areas, right? There are some of them, though, that are completely closed off to the general public. They refuse to accept certain students, they screen students, they charge exorbitant amounts of tuition, some of them have had trouble following the Alberta curriculum – which, as a teacher, is troubling. Well, they’ve definitely strengthened the requirements that, as teachers and as educational institutions, you have to follow the curriculum, and the curriculum is very, you know, prescriptive, but, in the same way, you have some freedom to move in there and run our classrooms in a professionally-autonomous manner. But you’ve gotta follow the curriculum if you’re accepting public dollars. And they’ve moved quite strongly on some schools that have not followed the curriculum, and especially ensuring students’ safety and things like that, in terms of LGBTQ issues and GSAs, and those are basic human rights issues that just have to be followed. While some of those schools have kicked up a bit of a fuss, right, and you look at some of the homeschooling issues that have occured – the board that I worked for took in a lot of those homeschoolers that were left in the lurch after it was found that their homeschool association was exorbitantly using funds in a nefarious manner, shall we say, and it was found to be wrong. So that put our system at a bit of a disadvantage, because we had to absorb those students, right? But that’s what publicly-funded education should always be. It should always be there for all students if they’re in need, and you should never turn away any student that’s in need of a quality education. And that’s the beauty of a publicly-funded system that we have right now. The teacher’s association, we want an open, equitably-accessible education system for all students.


Kate: Steven noted that there weren’t many education issues, with the exception of continued government support for gay-straight alliances in schools, that actually topped the resolution list at Convention.


Steven: There’s always room for more, but I also understand that we have to share Convention floor space with all the other needs of all the other people in the province. And, you know, I’m always happy to see any educational issue move forward. We know that in the next election, right now, education is unfortunately not really a top-of-mind issue. When you really peel back the polling data, Albertans aren’t really looking at education as a top-of-mind issue right now. But there’s a number of issues that do need to be brought forward, and we’re just happy anytime there’s positive movement forward on any education file. And I think there certainly was at this Convention.


Kate: So there you have it. There are a lot of really incredible people in the NDP pushing for some really incredible things. From expanding Medicare to include vision, dental, and pharmacare to fighting for rent control, from ending the racist and unconstitutional practice of carding to ensuring that undocumented women have access to reproductive care, there’s some pretty amazing stuff, and some really important debates, going on within the provincial NDP. Unfortunately, a lot of the excitement that I genuinely felt at seeing and meeting and talking to all of these incredible people fighting for excellent politics was incredibly undercut by how stage-managed this whole Convention was, and how performative it was. While there was some incredibly good policy passed, particularly around expanded access to Medicare, a lot of the policy that folks chatted with me about simply never made it to the Convention floor. Instead, delegates would line up behind the pro mic to debate things that the government had already done, and delegates would be scolded for trying to call the question and move the debate along to things that were actually new and contentious. And that was really, really disappointing to see, because the things people talked to me about in this episode are so important and so crucial to Alberta and, particularly, to a social-democratic party in Alberta. I mean, reproductive healthcare for undocumented women and other folks that can get pregnant was axed by whatever mechanism determines emergency resolutions; rent control was buried in the resolution list by the policy committee, as was free tuition, anti-scab legislation, and taking on the companies that use double-breasting to skirt their collective bargaining agreements never came up. The NDP has been in power since 2015, and they still allow the police to continue with the racist practice of carding that violates people’s civil liberties. Elite private schools in Alberta are still subsidized with public dollars, and there was no moves to change that anytime soon. To everyone who spoke with us this weekend, thank you for chatting with us and keep fighting the good fight. To our regular and our new listeners, we hope this episode has helped you understand the strange beast that is Alberta’s social-democratic party a little bit better. I’d also like to say a huge thank-you to everyone who has supported this show on Patreon. This is our first time trying to put together an episode like this, and it absolutely would not have been possible without support from listeners like you. Thanks to the kind folks who support us, we were able to purchase equipment that allows us to record outside of our normal studio space, and that’s what let us interview people on the Convention floor this past weekend. If you’d like to see us try our hand at more capital-S Serious capital-J Journalism, or if you just like our regular episodes where we get worked up about wheat or whatever, you can visit us at We also send out fun swag to our patrons, like patches and stickers, so you won’t want to miss out. Thanks are in order, of course, to everyone who has supported us so far, and to everyone who listens to this podcast. We couldn’t do it without you, so thanks for listening.


[outro music begins]


Kate: Hey, folks! Did you know that The Alberta Advantage is part of a loose affiliation of Left podcasts hosted at the bilingual public interest journalism media collective Ricochet? Check them out at


[outro music ends]






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *