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Contenders for Brooks-Medicine Hat legislature seat, including Premier Danielle Smith, debate education


The five candidates looking to represent the provincial riding of Brooks-Medicine Hat squared-off for the first time Tuesday night.

The debate on education was held in Brooks, Alta., with Premier Danielle Smith hoping to earn a seat in the legislature.

Most of the talk was about funding and what each party would do to try and support teachers after a difficult three years.

Tuesday night marked the first time that Smith, who became premier just weeks ago, faced questions alongside the candidates running in the Brooks-Medicine Hat by-election.

“I think it's no secret we've had a bit of a bumpy relationship with our government and teachers over the last few years … I think what we must begin with is a position of mutual respect.” Smith said.

The other four people running for the seat say that respect hasn't been there, and it's meant a lack of education funding and challenges for teachers in the classroom.

“The government has not been paying attention to teachers themselves … We need to trust professionals to do their job and we need to seek out their wisdom when it comes to classroom management,” said Barry Morishita, a former Brooks mayor and current Alberta Party leader.

The NDP's Gwendoline Dirk, a teacher for more than two decades, hammered Smith on the United Conservative Party’s plan and rollout of a new curriculum.

“Forcing a curriculum … teachers to teach a curriculum that is backwards, that is 1950s, that they know is wrong, it is damaging for children. That hurts teachers,” she said.

Bob Blayone of the Independence Party of Alberta and Jeevan Mangat of the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta both touted choice and freedoms.

“We believe in parent's choice. We believe (in) homeschooling, charter schools, private schools and public education because choice will provide competition, competition will provide efficiency,” Mangat said.

“Let's never again mask our children, let's never again shut down our schools and let's have a conversation, please, about shutting down the COVID-19 vaccination program,” Blayone said.

Dirk and Morishita both pledged to increase funding and reduce class sizes.

The premier agreed more help is needed, but stopped short of promising more money.

“I am actively looking at ways we can provide more educational supports to our kids so we can bring them up to speed on the learning loss over the last two years,” Smith said.

Tuesday was the first debate or forum and advance voting in the riding has already started.

There's another debate Wednesday in Brooks and a third will happen in Medicine Hat on Thursday.

This by-election was only called three weeks ago.

By-election day is Nov. 8. Top Stories

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