Friday, September 16, 2011

PC Leadership: first ballot predictions

I pride myself on having made some pretty accurate predictions in the 2006 Progressive Conservative Party leadership contest and so on this, the eve of the first ballot of the 2011 edition I feel it is necessary to register my thoughts.

Environics has provided a little bit of help for prognosticators, but I don't put a ton of weight into their polling results. Nearly 100,000 people voted in the first ballot in 2006 and the Environics poll was based on a membership list of 22,000 members. The origins of the list is under investigation, but I suspect it came from one of the campaigns. This is important because it may mean that campaigns that turned in their lists prior to the poll being conducted would be overrepresented while campaigns that didn't want to release their lists to the other candidates would be underrepresented. Similarly, a large number of voters will be registered at the polls.

With that in mind, I think the two front-runners have been clear and consistent all the way along and they are Gary Mar and Ted Morton. Similarly, both Rick Orman and Doug Griffiths faced uphill battles and will be a long way off from making the cut of top three for the second ballot. The only real questions remaining for me are who will be number three and how far ahead will Gary Mar be?

This is where I will take guidance from Environics. Alison Redford's support in that poll is well ahead of where I thought she would be. She is also perceived as a bit of a game changer and has been pretty much at the center of any of the big news-worthy controversial issues in the campaign. She also has a cracking campaign manager in Stephen Carter. Doug Horner has run a strong campaign, but in a contest that was initiated on desire for change, I worry he will be perceived too strongly as the status quo candidate.

So here is my predicted order of candidate placements on the first ballot. And heck, just for fun, I will put some numbers in for possible results.

1. Gary Mar (30-35%)
2. Ted Morton (25-30%)
3. Alison Redford (15-20%)
4. Doug Horner (10-15%)
5. Doug Griffiths (around 5%)
6. Rick Orman (around 5%)

Of course, endorsements should be interesting and will have a big impact on how the second ballot turns out - as will, the ability of any of the campaigns to sell memberships and get votes out on October 1.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Hamilton Oilers? I highly doubt it!

The biggest thing that irks me about the Edmonton arena debate is how the Katz group is using Oiler fandom to separate reasonable consideration from the debate over public funding. Typically, the arguments are based on one big fallacy – that the Oilers will leave Edmonton if public funds are not spent on a new downtown arena.

The fallacy was created when Katz delivered a veiled threat by stating that the Oilers would not play in the Northlands Coliseum (a name I will use for Rexall Place in order to separate the building from the Rexall brand of companies, which owns the naming rights) after 2014. I wrote twice earlier on this issue. Ultimately the argument is based on the misconception that professional hockey in Edmonton is not viable in the long term.

First, I find it hard to believe that the Oilers franchise is not profitable year-over-year. They currently have a sweetheart $1 per year lease on the Coliseum. All of the rinkboard and ice advertising is consistently sold out. All luxury boxes and season ticket seats are sold out with waiting lists for any vacancies. Nearly all of the individual seats for every home game is sold by game time. The team also owns a WHL team and an NAL baseball team, used to help market the Oilers brand. Merchandise sales are strong and lucrative broadcast deals are in place. Furthermore, the much desired salary cap is in place and the Oilers are operating well underneath it. If NHL is not profitable in Oil Country then I do not know where it would be profitable.

But, we won’t know much about the profitability of the Oilers because the Katz group is not willing to share their financial information – even though they want taxpayer money to subsidize the future operation. And really, profitability doesn’t matter so much. Just ask the Edmonton Investors Group. The EIG owned the Oilers from 1998 – 2008 and while the team consistently lost money over the years, it didn’t bother the members of the EIG too much. You see, they bought the team for $70 million in 1998 and sold it to Katz for $200 million in 2008. What matters more than profitability for businesspeople is Return on Investment (ROI). The ROI for EIG's investment was 285% for a very generous growth of 11% per year – a number that would make every Dragon in the den sign on.

The final piece of the moneymaking puzzle for Katz comes back to his intricate understanding of how to leverage sports fandom and loyalty to make money. The business case for the Rexall group of companies is very strong. Tie the brand to the Edmonton Oilers and to hockey in every way possible, including using Blue and Orange as your brand colours, ensure that the brand owner is reinforced consistently as a true Edmontonian and watch as the brand overtakes market share in Northern Alberta. There is nothing wrong with this strategy, by the way, but it needs to be reiterated that building the Oilers brand also creates revenue for the Rexall companies, which I’m sure are much larger and more profitable then the Oilers brand.

Now, add together these three models of moneymaking for the Katz group and ask yourself the following questions. Why would Darryl Katz even consider moving the Oilers out of Edmonton? Why should any money that rightfully belongs to all taxpayers be going to subsidize the lucrative business operations of a billionaire? Should taxpayer money be more appropriately spent to hire more police officers, paramedics, doctors, nurses or teachers? And, is there a better way to spend $225 million of taxpayer money to revitalize downtown?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Federal Election Prediction

With the 41st Canadian General Election Day arriving tomorrow, it seems that it is time for me to get my election prediction on the record.

I am predicting a Conservative minority government with the New Democratic Party holding the balance of power. At this point, those two predictions are not ground breakers, so I want to add that I see the NDP and Liberals being placed in a position where their combined seats will challenge the number of seats that the Conservatives hold - meaning that a coalition government formed by those parties would not necessarily require the formal support of the Bloc Quebecois. I am also going to predict that Elizabeth May will win her seat for the Green Parties.

Here are my predictions, by the numbers:

Bloc Conservative Green Liberal NDP
Total Seats 3014014196
Popular Vote6%36%6%19%32%
Regional breakdowns


A special thanks to this page for supplying such a great summary of the poll numbers.

Monday, April 25, 2011

BKACPP - Marijuana Party

Party Name: Marijuana Party

Leader (Location):
  • Blair T. Longley (Hochelaga, PQ)

Date of Registration:
  • November 6, 2000

2008 election:
  • 8 candidates
  • 2,298 total votes
  • 13th of 19 parties

Notable History:
  • Between 2000 and 2004, 90% of contributions to the marijuana party were made under a legal scheme known as "Longley's Loophole." Under the scheme, the contributor could define how the contributions were to be used, even in a way that was of direct benefit to the contributor.
Biggest Issues:
  • Two policy statements are written on the website: Legalize marijuana. Legalize revolution.

Intriguing statement on website:
  • "People who are Members of the Party, or people who are Officers or Agents of this Party, have NO obligations to endorse nor vote for its Candidates. They have an independent right to vote, and to vote strategically, as they decide. Candidates are not obliged to agree with other Candidates or the Leader. We make no efforts to collectivize. We operate in decentralized ways."

Extraordinary statements on website:
It is interesting to note that the Marijuana Party website can be edited by any candidate, official agent or ‘regular marijuana party activist.’
  • The world is controlled by huge lies, backed up with lots of violence, and that is automatically getting worse! It is a runaway fascist plutocracy juggernaut ... Since the world is controlled by the people who are the "best" at dishonesty, backed up with violence, we actually are living in a Bizarro Mirror World!

Monday, April 11, 2011

BKACPP - Libertarian Party of Canada

Party Name: Libertarian Party of Canada

Leader (Location):
  • Dennis Young (Sudbury, ON)

Date of Registration:
  • July 7, 1973

2008 election:
  • 26 candidates
  • 7,300 total votes
  • 8th of 19 parties

Notable History:
  • "The party described itself as Canada's "fourth party" in the 1980s, but it has since been displaced by new parties such as the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party of Canada. The party declined to join the Reform Party of Canada when it was formed in 1987, attracting many libertarians who saw it as a better vehicle to put forward their philosophy." - Wikipedia

Biggest Issues:
  • Small government, property rights, personal liberty.

Intriguing statement on website:
  • We believe that no measure should have the force of law unless adopted by a duly elected Parliament, or by initiative; therefore, we are opposed to government by Order-in-Council.

Extraordinary statements on website:
  • Government interference in current social concerns such as pollution, consumer protection, health care delivery, and poverty exceeds the level required for the protection of individual rights. In addition, problems in these areas have not been solved, but primarily caused by government.
  • We support the repeal of compulsory education laws, and the elimination of government operation, regulation, and subsidy of educational institutions.
  • We propose the elimination of all government involvement in welfare and relief programs. Any aid to the poor should be conducted on a voluntary basis.
  • Doctors and other health care professionals should be free to work without licensing from the government.
  • We advocate an end to defense based on "insanity" or "diminished capacity," which absolve the guilty of their responsibility

Friday, April 08, 2011

BKACPP - Communist Party of Canada

Party Name: Communist Party of Canada

Tag Line:
  • For peace, jobs, sovereignty and democracy

Leader (Location):
  • Miguel Figueroa (Davenport, ON)

Date of Founding:
  • May 1921

2008 election:
  • 24 candidates
  • 3,572 total votes
  • 10th of 19 parties

Notable History:
  • "Figueroa v. Attorney-General of Canada resulted in the courts declaring several sections of the Elections Act unconstitutional, including a precedent-setting judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in June 2003 which struck down the 50-candidate rule as the threshold for federal party registration in Canada."

Biggest Issues:
  • "Our goal is a socialist Canada, in which resources and economic wealth are socially owned and democratically controlled by the working people, not private capitalists."

Intriguing statement on website:
  • "Scrap the Drug Patent Act (which guarantees mega-profits for the big drug companies, and high costs for health care), and build a publicly-owned pharmaceutical sector. Expand Medicare to include eye, dental, pharmacare and long-term care. Stop the “war on drugs”; treat addiction as a medical problem, not a criminal act."

Extraordinary statement on website:
  • "the Conservative party ‑ the preferred party of monopoly capital ‑ is the most dangerous threat to peace, democracy, and workers’ rights. They must go… now!"

Monday, April 04, 2011

BKACPP - Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Party Name: Christian Heritage Party of Canada

Tag Line:
  • Better Solutions for Canada

Leader (Location):
  • James (Jim) Hnatiuk (Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley, NS)

Date of Registration:
  • June 17, 1986

2008 election:
  • 59 candidates
  • 26,475 total votes
  • 6th of 19 parties

Notable History:
  • "During its 25 years history, the CHP has contested every federal election with candidates from across Canada who have been true to this vision. (Although in 2000 CHP candidates ran as independents because the CHP fell one candidate short of the minimum 50 candidates required at that time.)"

Biggest Issues:
  • Abortion and Immigration seem to be the most prevalent issues, but the CHP has a broad comprehensive policy. This party would be the extremist brother of America's Tea Party. Their childcare strategy would give $1,000 per month to two parent families who have one parent stay at home – they argue this policy would be cost neutral because of savings in EI and Welfare.

Intriguing statement on website:
  • "The CHP proposes that student loans be interest-free and repayment-free for ten years after graduation, to allow grads to get well-established in their chosen career fields before they begin repaying their share of their tuition."

Extraordinary statements on website (there are tons of them!):
  • "The CHP rejects cultural relativism, and asserts that not all cultures are equal or equally good."
  • "Canada is currently at war with an enemy that espouses a particularly dangerous and pernicious ideology, radical Islam, which seeks the subjugation of the entire world to its ideology."
  • "Recognize that immigration is being used as a form of jihad designed to undermine Canada’s Judeo-Christian culture and law to replace it with Sharia law; CHP Canada would immediately implement a moratorium on immigration from any Muslim nation."
  • "Abortion is now the most common surgical procedure in Canada, but rather than curing any illness, it creates new health problems: the newest research confirms that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, and recent studies in the UK show that in the two years after a pregnancy, the death rate from all causes is twice as high for abortive women as for those who carry their pregnancy to term, and the suicide rate is six times as high."
  • "HIV/AIDS is essentially a behavioural disease, and control requires (a) behavioural change; and (b) normal public health measures (contact tracing; quarantine the infected to protect the uninfected; education). The AIDS Establishment’s focus on medication, if not accompanied by behavioural change, increases the rate of infection by enabling infected persons to live longer (which is good) and to continue to be sexually promiscuous (which is bad)"

Friday, April 01, 2011

BKACPP - Canadian Action Party

Party Name:
  • Christopher Porter

Date of Founding:
  • 1997 05 13

2008 election:
  • 20 candidates
  • 3 455 votes
  • 11th place of 19 parties

Notable History:
  • Party was formed in 1997 after the collapse of the National Party of Canada by former Minister of Defense and current member of Privy Council Paul Hellyer.

Biggest Issues:
  • Securing Canadian sovereignty through monetary reform. Five key pillars: Monetary Reform, Sovereignty, Civil and Human Rights, Parliamentary Reform and Environment.

Intriguing statement on website:
  • The Canadian Action Party is, above all, a pro-Canadian party dedicated to the principle that Canada can best serve its citizens and the world by re-claiming and maintaining its political and economic sovereignty as an independent country. It is opposed to the ascendancy of "corporate rule" and those aspects of unrestricted global investment that promote colonization of the world's smaller powers and in Canada's case its absorption by the United States of America.

Extraordinary statement on website:
  • There is a massive body of research suggesting that an intentional program of spreading diseases and health problems has been underway for many years in Canada, as elsewhere in the world; and further, that many pharmaceuticals being promoted have not been adequately researched, nor their effectiveness properly followed up. Serious health risks appear to be associated with chemtrail spraying, inoculations, the fluoridation of drinking water, the use of aspartame and other additives, and the introduction of irradiated and genetically modified foods, and a range of pharmaceuticals. The government appears to consistently support the corporate agenda while putting the health of Canadians at risk.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

BKACPP - Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada

Elizabeth May is quite concerned that the Green Party will not be included in the televised debates. And while I like the Green Party and believe that their contribution to the general political discourse is valuable, I believe that it is important to have a reasonable and consistent principle on which to judge the parties that will take place in the debates. I understand that the test being used is whether a party held seats in the last parliament. The fact is the line has to be drawn somewhere, as there are 19 registered political parties in Canada and all of them cannot be included in a single meaningful debate.

This of course got me thinking, what are the other parties that exist in Canada?

With that in mind, I am pleased to present part 1 of my 19 part series, Better Know A Canadian Political Party. This edition, the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada... the fighting Barkers!

Party Name:

Tag Line:
  • North America's first environmental and animal protection political party

Leader (Location):
  • Liz White (Toronto)

Date of Founding:
  • 2005

2008 election:
  • 4 candidates
  • 527 total votes
  • 16th of 19 parties

Notable History:
  • Predecessor group challenged 2000 law limiting the role of third parties in electoral politics.

Biggest Issues:
  • Animal rights and prevention of cruelty to animals.

Intriguing statement on website:
  • "For politicians working in a democracy, re-election often becomes the biggest concern when deciding public policy; it can overwhelm all other considerations."

Extraordinary statement on website:
  • "Contact your MP and ask where he / she stands on topics including ending Canada's commercial seal hunt - the largest, cruellest marine mammal slaughter in the world, curtailing or shutting down the Alberta Tar Sands - the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, and banning the importation of horses from the United States - where it is illegal to slaughter them for human consumption"

Stay tuned for more episodes in this series!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A tale of two schools

I want to tell you about two schools:
I won't pretend that the linked reports are unbiased comprehensive depictions of either school, but they paint an interesting picture of the type of education that occurs in each school. Please ensure you take a few moments to read each article.

Now, you might be surprised to hear that some have deemed Mormon Hills school to be the best school in BC, while claiming Athabasca Delta Community School is one of the worst schools in Alberta.

This little tale of two schools is indicative of the Fraser Institute's view on the function of education.

Without knowing too much about either school, it is reasonable to expect that the level of critical thinking being developed at Mormon Hills School would be low. After all, you would not want the 14-year old students/brides to be questioning authority or their pre-defined future careers in "cooking, cleaning and child-minding." But, who needs high levels of critical thinking skills in order to fill in the bubbles on multiple-choice tests?

On the other end, you have the high needs children of Athabasca Delta Community School, where students are starting out well behind in academic achievement and are further hindered by "numerous socioeconomic issues beyond their control and comprehension." The small miracles of the school are accomplished when the students can read the exams, let alone answer the questions.

On one hand we have a school that is doing everything it can to help students achieve to their fullest potential in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and on the other hand we have a school that is seemingly focused on ensuring that their students are best positioned to be subservient cogs in an oppressive regime.

And the Fraser Institute is saying that the one form of education has little value while the other one is commendable.

But, as I've written about at least twice before, this fits the world-view of neo-conservatives like the Fraser Institute. Their world-view is based on a father-knows-best morality and their vision of education is based on a system that develops good little worker cogs.

The alternative is a system based on nurturing talents and encouraging students to think critically and creatively over multiple domains, prepared to be confident open-minded citizens.

I know which education system I prefer.

This post was inspired by this article.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Your once-in-a-century chance is now!

In 2008, for Alberta's last election, only 40% of eligible voters decided to cast a ballot. Many people  cite cynicism, apathy or a lack of likable candidates as reasons to not vote. All of those reasons will disappear for the next election.

If you care about whether there will be an ambulance available when you need one, how long you have to wait for medical attention or the number of students that will be in your child's classroom then you should care about Alberta politics. If you care about the environment, the cost of college tuition, the price of gas, the state of highways, how our seniors are cared for, what our parks look like, whether we have clean water to drink, where electrical lines will run, what happens to children in abusive homes, whether we are selling our oil at a reasonable rate, what might happen with your job or how much taxes you pay then Alberta politics affects you. Heck, if you are concerned about having your streets plowed there is even an element of provincial governance affecting that.

So many of the decisions that affect your everyday life are determined by the Alberta legislature, and now you have a chance to affect those decisions unlike any other Albertan that came before in the province's 106 year history.

Currently, there are five provincial parties represented in the legislature and three of them are going through a competition to determine who their next leader will be. These parties represent a wide diverse set of values and there is no doubt that at least one of them would be reflective of your values.

At the ends of the political spectrum are the two parties with leaders in place, the Alberta New Democratic Party and the Wildrose Alliance Party. Check out their websites, if you like their policies you will like their leaders. Both Brian Mason and Danielle Smith are likable, effective advocates for their party members.

If you decide that those two parties are not for you, then I encourage you to look into the Alberta Party, the Alberta Liberal Party, or the Progressive Conservative Party. These three parties sit somewhere in between the NDP and the WAP. And they are all engaging in a leadership campaign over the next 9 months or so. There is likely going to be over a dozen people committed and courageous enough to put their names forward to become one of this province's next premiers.

With this range of choice and opportunity to influence, no-one should be left without a voice.

Take a look at the party policies and see which ones support your vision for Alberta.  At this point, you don't even have to commit to one party! The state of things today is very fluid and in any party there will be some policies you like and some you don't. Different leadership candidates will emphasize different priorities and members coming and leaving will have influence over the policies. Memberships cost between $5 and $10 for the year and will keep you up-to-date and provide you with a chance to select the leader.

Next, find out about the potential leadership candidates and get behind your favourite(s). The leader will have a lot of influence on the actual decisions of the party and which policy pieces will be prioritized. You can support your favourite candidate by voting for him or her, talking about him with your neighbours, volunteering for her campaign or making a donation.

As the leaders are selected and the state of flux starts to thicken we will be headed right into a general election where you can reassess which leader-party-candidate combination works best for you in your riding, then you can get involved in that campaign or simply vote.

With this state of affairs, cynicism is not an excuse, lack of candidates is not a reality and apathy will not be accepted. Get off the sidelines and get in the game - it is your responsibility as a citizen.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

How identity and leadership will factor on the future of Alberta politics

The two biggest factors that will determine the political future, coming out of this incredible state of flux, will be identity and leadership.

I have often said that Alberta politics is all about identity. More specifically, the common piece of identity related to being a conservative (or a Conservative). For many Albertans (in particular, those over 50), being Albertan meant being conservative. This has a lot to do with the political rhetoric coming out of the 70s and 80s where divisive politics pitted the Lougheed Conservatives in Alberta against the Trudeau Liberals federally on a number of issues, including the Charter, the NEP and multiculturalism. The story went that Liberals were infringing on provincial issues and that their policies were killing Alberta prosperity and the Alberta way of life. The Progressive Conservatives in Alberta were seen as the ones who would stand up for Alberta and protect our interests. Coming out of that era, Albertans have been inextricably identified as conservatives and that label has passed on to many younger people who hadn't even been born when the construct was created.

This identity has lead to the relative constant state of the Progressive Conservative party. The brand has been absolutely invulnerable and the party has been the destination for anyone who is seriously interested in participating in governing the province. Needless to say, the party includes a large number of people with significantly diverse political viewpoints who from time to time struggle over control of the party that controls the province. We saw it in 1992, we saw it in 2006 and we are seeing it now.

The interesting thing about identity is how hard it is to shake off. For many Albertans, they have identified as Progressive Conservative and won't turn their backs on the brand. The 2006 leadership campaign drove a deep wedge into the concept of PC brand identity. The camp became significantly divided between Morton supporters and Dinning supporters and eventually Stelmach was chosen in an effort to conserve the brand (identity).

PC supporters have been so entrenched that they had difficulty dropping their identity, even if they disagreed with some of the policies or some of the leaders. But, Stelmach has been unable to heal the rifts and a global recession pushed the divisive issues to the forefront. Danielle Smith, as leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party, has subsequently been effective enough to get people to reconsider their identity. Similarly, moves by the PC party to prevent leakage on the right has caused some on the left to reconsider their identity.

Much has been said that the label of "Liberal" is a political liability in Alberta. This concept has largely contributed to the rise of the Alberta Party. Many 'progressives' shy away from the Alberta Liberals because of the liability and where they once would have had a home in the PC party, they are now cautious of the increasing power of the right wing of that caucus.

So here's where we are at: the extremes of the political spectrum, represented by the NDP and WAP are solid on both identity and leadership factors. Most supporters of each camp are content and ready to fight the next election. The vast middle however features three parties that are all dealing with leadership questions, while the Albertans who support them are dealing with identity questions.

How strong is the PC identity today? Is it strong enough to keep the followers even if their choice for leader is not selected? Will those who identify as Liberals move to the Alberta or PC Party if the right leader is selected? Will they move if the wrong leader is selected - for either their party or the PC party? Will the Alberta Party be able to identify with progressives from both the PC party and the Liberal party? Will they be able to create an identity that is more than the new Liberal party? Which leader will help them to create that identity?

The Alberta political landscape is like an electric football table, where the ground is shaking and bodies are shifting around. Each person came in wearing a uniform, but that uniform may not determine which pile they will end up in. People in all three parties will watch and participate in the leadership votes, then determine whether the selected leaders will have enough impact to change their political identities.

We are in unprecedented times - the most volatile political environment Alberta has ever seen.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Being a Teacher, or Why Merit Pay Stinks.

I'm taking a course on organizational theory right now and the readings have caused me to reflect on an issue that is getting a fair deal of play in education right now - merit pay for teachers. There are many specific arguments that can be made as to why merit pay is a bad idea and doesn't work, but I am a fan of looking at things from first principles. My readings on organizational theory have helped me to consider the first principles that are at play for the people who argue in favour of merit pay.

Those who tend to argue merit pay also argue for school choice, competition, rankings and the implementation of all sorts of market reforms in the education system. Ultimately these arguments are based on a fundamental vision of education that is drastically different from mine and that of most people close to schools. The market reformers view education in terms of a factory, where the inputs are young students with little knowledge and the outputs are graduates with a vast array of knowledge. Somewhere in between there is a transformation process where teachers install knowledge into pupils. The vision is of little boys and girls sitting on an assembly line, moving forward from teacher to teacher as the workers open flap A, insert knowledge component X and apply a diagnostic scanner to ensure the component is working properly. Next station!

Scientific Management guides this style of production and requires managers to "develop precise, standard procedures for doing each job; select workers with appropriate abilities; train workers in the standard procedures; carefully plan work; and provide wage incentives to increase output" (Daft and Armstrong, 2009, p. 24). The approach was pioneered by Frederick Winslow Taylor and worked well when implemented in the Bethlehem Steel Plant in 1898 to ensure that more employees unloaded more iron and loaded more steel onto rail cars.

Forgive me for being condescending, but students are not chunks of iron and plates of steel. Nor are they intricately wired and extensively engineered automobiles being pieced together on an assembly line.

(Interestingly, the Hawthorne Studies of the late 1920s and early 30s showed that performance incentives actually had a demotivating effect, even for factory work, and that improvements to productivity were actually made through the positive treatment of employees and by listening to employees concerns and ideas. But I digress.)

My argument is this, students are not products moving along an assembly line and teachers are not factory installers. The work of education and of teachers is complex, variable and highly skilled. As was once described to me by a speaker whose name I forget, pilots fly a finite number of models of planes and if they don't know something about the plane there is a manual they can pull out to find the answer - students don't come with manuals. Students do however come with an infinite number of contextual variables: family, prior education, economic status, emotional aptitudes, intellectual variables, medical conditions, behaviour disorders, talents, passions, fears, hopes and dreams.

The important work of teachers, done well, requires sorting through those variables to assess the needs of individual students, designing educational plans that meet those needs, implementing the plans and adapting as required, while observing multiple data sources to determine whether the outcomes are being met and what further steps need to be taken.

This type of work can not be boiled down into standard procedures and cannot be appropriately measured using standardized tests. Increasing teacher effectiveness is achieved not by tying a carrot to the end of a stick, but by providing teachers with the time, resources and professional freedom that is required to get the work done well. Those people who are looking for accountability should look to professional models like those in place for doctors and lawyers where the professionals are required to maintain ongoing professional development (prescribed by the individual practitioners) and the profession is given the authority to police the competency of its peers and determine whether they are fit to practice. (Interestingly, in Alberta, we are almost there.)

The best thing that can be done for education and our students is to provide the conditions necessary to allow teachers to do their important work.


Daft R. L., & Armstrong A. (2009). Organization theory and design. Toronto, ON: Nelson Education.