Lack of Debates Derail Democracy

School Board Elections Undermined by Decision to Cancel Forums 

EDMONTON – As the municipal campaign enters its final days, the President of CUPE Alberta observes that the decision by both the Edmonton Public and Catholic School Board Administrations to not hold candidate forums has undermined the trustee election process.

“I have been watching the campaign unfold and there has been a distinct lack of attention to school issues,” says CUPE Alberta President Dennis Mol. “Other than the burning issue of school closure, there has been no debate over the future of our school system.” 

Mol observes that in previous campaigns there were a number of issues that sparked trustee election campaigns, such as provincial funding, class sizes, school maintenance and repairs and school safety. “Not this year, and I think the reason is that there have been no candidate forums. There has been no place for voters to go to learn more about issues and to express their opinion about their school system.” 

In recent elections, both the Catholic and Public School Boards sponsored forums where candidates would be accountable to voters for their platforms. This year, the administration of each Board decided to scrap the forums, replacing them with short videos available on their websites. 

“A web-based video is no replacement for the back-and-forth of a political debate. It is insufficient to draw voters’ attention to the election,” says Mol. 

Mol was hoping that crucial issues facing the education system would be debated, so voters understood where their potential trustees stood. “It is a crucial time for education – budget cutbacks are looming and major decisions need to be made about infrastructure, resources and staffing. This is the worst possible time to have a lackluster campaign.” 

Mol recognizes the campaign is nearing its end, but argues there is still time to organize some events. “It is not ideal, clearly, but any kind of debate is better than nothing.” 

Contact: Dennis Mol

CUPE Alberta President



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