ATA News

Political analyst urges vigilance and engagement

Grey haired man stands at a podium in front of an audience.

Don’t dismiss David Parker’s influence on Alberta education policy. 

That was the message delivered by political commentator Graham Thomson to attendees of the Political Engagement Seminar held in Edmonton on March 2. 

Thomson began by acknowledging the importance of teachers' roles in light of his experiences observing education systems in other countries. He then delved into the web of political relationships and their impact on education policy in Alberta.

Central to Thomson's address was the role of David Parker, whom Thomson described as a significant player within the hierarchy of the United Conservative Party (UCP). Parker is the founder of Take Back Alberta which, according to the organization’s website, is a "grassroots movement built to advance freedom and transfer power from the ruling elite to the people of our province.”

Thomson emphasized Parker's influence on party decisions, particularly regarding education policy. Despite attempts by UCP officials to downplay Parker's significance, Thomson stressed that Parker has played an instrumental role in shaping party direction.

“He’s friends with [Premier Danielle] Smith. They do talk,” Thomson said. “It’s not the case that he’s just an outsider. She listens to him.”

Thomson touched upon recent controversies surrounding gender policy and parental rights, illustrating how Parker's involvement has shaped the party's stance on these issues. He highlighted Parker's adeptness at leveraging both traditional and digital media platforms to advance his agenda, despite occasional rebukes from party leadership.

“He is a big deal. He does influence what is actually happening. They don’t want to admit that though, of course, publicly,” Thomson said.

Moreover, Thomson outlined Parker's strategic efforts to mobilize grassroots support and influence party decisions, including plans to influence upcoming leadership reviews within the UCP. He provided insights into Parker's background and political affiliations, shedding light on Parker’s organizational skills and effectiveness as a campaigner.

“He’s not just someone who came out of the woodwork. He’s got a decade under his belt. He worked for Harper, he worked for Kenney. He helped Kenney become leader of the UCP, he helped get Kenney elected.”

Thomson emphasized the significance of upcoming political events, such as the November UCP leadership review and potential challenges to party leadership. He also discussed broader political dynamics, including shifts within the NDP leadership race and emerging counter-movements within Alberta's political landscape.

Thomson stressed the importance of understanding these political dynamics for educators and stakeholders within the education system. He urged vigilance and engagement in the face of ongoing political changes, emphasizing the potential impact on education policy and outcomes in Alberta.

Thomson ended his presentation by playing an audio clip of Parker speaking about Smith’s proposed gender identity policy and parental rights.

”I’ve not done as much as I could to show my gratitude to the premier for standing up against this insane woke ideology,” Parker says. ❚

Screen shots of Tweets
Social media posts by David Parker of Take Back Alberta.  
The ATA’s annual Political Engagement Seminar provided a diverse array of presentations and discussions, including a panel of school board trustees, a presentation on the legislative process by Alberta legislature speaker Nathan Cooper and a keynote address on the importance of member engagement by Mike Lumb of Queen’s University.
More than 100 teachers attended this year’s event.