Teachers put sardines on the menu for Alberta election campaign

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is putting sardines on the menu during this election campaign.

The professional organization representing teachers in the province is rolling out a campaign to distribute 400,000 cards with a picture of a can of sardines on the front and the text: “Classroom sized sardines. Packed in for savings.”

Peel up one layer of paper and, inside, a picture of kids — packed in tight — highlights the issue of class sizes, which will be a priority for the ATA during the election.

Class size is consistently the No. 1 issue for teachers, said ATA president Greg Jeffery. That’s why the association chose the sardine metaphor.

“You need to build relationships with students and the more students in the class, the harder that is and the longer it takes,” Jeffery said.

“Students, from time to time, require individual attention. The larger the class size, the less time there is for each student in the class.”

This image is part of an effort by the Alberta Teachers’ Association to make class sizes an issue in the provincial election campaign. (Alberta Teachers’ Association/Facebook)

The sardine cards, which are being distributed by teachers, direct parents and other voters to an issues-focused ATA website called vote4kids.ca.

The cards are the first step in a co-ordinated campaign from the ATA in its first year as a registered third-party advertiser. 

To get its message out, the ATA plans to spend $270,000 on third-party advertising, according to documents filed by the association with Elections Alberta.

A third-party advertiser is permitted to spend $150,000 in advance of the election and another $150,000 during the campaign period, according to rules in the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act.

Jeffery said Albertans will see and hear more ads roll out in the coming days, including billboards, radio ads, social media ads and videos.

“We are hoping to hear strong support for public education,” he said. “There is not enough talk about it right now, but we plan to change that.”

The election advertising is in step with ongoing lobby efforts by the teachers’ association. Documents show that in 2018, the organization lobbied Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, Alberta Education, Alberta Infrastructure, the premier’s office and the Alberta Legislative Assembly.

It lobbied on multiple topics including the budget, curriculum development, collective bargaining and labour, grants for physical fitness, grants to support gay-straight alliance clubs and pensions.

Education Minister David Eggen said voters talk to him about education when he’s door-knocking as the NDP candidate for Edmonton-North West.

“Class size definitely matters, especially in the younger grades,” said Eggen, a former teacher. “To have that extra attention when kids are starting to read and do math, it makes a big difference.”

The NDP government, elected in 2015, pledged to reduce class sizes. However, an auditor general report in 2018 found that government spending to reduce class sizes in the last 13 years had been mostly ineffective.

“We look forward to accepting all of the recommendations of the auditor general in regards to focusing class size money on actually reducing class sizes,” Eggen said.

Mark Smith, education critic for the United Conservative Party, is campaigning for re-election in Drayton Valley-Devon. Smith declined to be interviewed but has said publicly that new funding for education may have to wait until the economy is in better shape.

Parents for Choice also watching campaign

Another advocacy group that will be watching any education debate closely during this election is Parents for Choice in Education.

In the past, the group has fought the NDP government on gay-straight alliances in schools. It also believes that students should get public funding if their parents decide to send them outside the public system, such as private religious schools or home schooling.

Donna Trimble, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, said her organization will encourage voters to contact their local candidates and ask about education policies. It will also post election platforms on its website.

“Other people may be thinking of the pipeline, or the carbon tax, or any other hot-button issues, but for the people who follow Parents for Choice in Education, education is the platform upon which they will be voting,” Trimble said.

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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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