Battershill: Anti-oil statements deserve failing grade from ATA

If you care about kids, you probably have an interest in following the Alberta Teachers’ Association. After all, the group represents more than 43,000 members, including teachers and teacher administrators in all schools in Alberta’s public, separate and francophone school divisions.

So, by definition, it seems the ATA matters — a lot. And let’s face it: representing all teachers and teacher administrators in virtually every school in the province comes with a heavy responsibility, especially given the significant public funds involved.

When I saw the title of one of the group’s conferences, set for October in Edmonton, I was intrigued: “Grounded in Truth, Soaring With Knowledge, 12th Annual Conference 2018.” Curious about how the ATA planned to advance such lofty concepts, I dug a little deeper.

Then I just shook my head and started planning a petition.

With its mission of advancing public education, safeguarding standards of professional practice and advocating for its members, who does the ATA propose to hire for its October conference keynote? Not an expert in inner-city educational programming, not an authority on truth and reconciliation, not a speaker on the importance of early childhood education.

No, the ATA proposes hiring Tzeporah Berman. Career activist Berman, who for nearly three decades has opposed the sustainable use of Canada’s natural resources from forests to mining to oil and gas, is not the ATA’s best example of a truth-teller.

Let’s remember what she told Californians only a couple of weeks ago about Alberta energy in a new campaign from her activist group Stand. Earth:

“Everyone agrees — tarsands (her words) is by far the dirtiest type of oil. It has an outsized climate impact, is terrible for air quality, and when it spills it’s significantly harder to clean up than conventional crude oil.”

‘Everyone agrees?!’ Each of her claims has been proven wrong time and time again. The “dirtiest oil in North America” comes from Placerita, just outside L.A., and at least six other countries export even dirtier product. Nigeria produces the world’s dirtiest.

Berman likely also knows Canada supplied only 3.5 per cent of California’s oil imports last year, while much of its imports originated in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Ecuador and Mexico. Moreover, there’s no outsized climate impact associated with our product, and it’s no harder to clean up in the unlikely event of a spill.

Is Berman’s statement supposed to be an example of what the ATA calls “grounded in truth” and “soaring with knowledge?” I sure hope not. If it were a high school homework assignment, her work would earn a solid ‘F’ from any reasonable education professional.

As Berman advances her campaigns to shrink our collective prosperity, the irony can’t be lost on the ATA that its members, supported through the public purse, will eventually suffer as a diminishing tax-base forces tougher and tougher bargaining concessions on a membership that would be far better off representing a balance of views.

Berman’s actions also have a negative impact on our global environment and human rights because those actions help our less progressive competitors. And she ignores the many First Nations who continue to support pipelines and seek economic opportunity through partnerships with industry.

Berman knows full well that credible studies have compared Alberta to other oil and gas jurisdictions around the world on environmental laws, government processes, stringency, transparency and compliance — and that Alberta was a consistent leader in comparison.

It’s an open question as to whether the ATA or its members know that. But they sure won’t hear it from Berman.

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Cody Battershill is a founder/spokesperson for, a volunteer organization that supports Canadian energy development.