Genia Leskiw, MLA for Bonnyville – Cold Lake, was named chair of Premier Alison Redford's new Cabinet Policy Committee on Education.
The position will see her working closely with newly-appointed Minister of Education Thomas Lukaszuk and new Minister of Advanced Education and Technology Greg Weadick to review matters pertaining to education before they are brought before caucus.
Excited about her new position, Leskiw said, “It's fabulous. I can finally do something … It's great that they felt I would be a positive influence, it's great that I have great support from both of my ministers, who I work very well with. I think we'll make a fabulous trio … We have an excellent group of people on the committee that really care about education. I really feel we can make a big difference.
“Here's a chance for me as a teacher of 36 years and passionate about education to work on that.”
Now that she will be involved in education policy making in the legislature, Leskiw is already sorting out her priorities, including continuing to encourage the government to eliminate Grade 3 PAT exams. She initially brought the issue forward two years ago with Motion 503, and she also said Redford has recently promised to consider the idea.
Leskiw added, “I really, strongly believe that when you build a new school, you build a playground with it. At least, you build a basic playground that is considered an outdoor classroom part of the school. I've always believed that. Anything beyond a basic playground, if you want to fundraise and do that, that's different, but every school built should come with a playground.”
Aboriginal education is also a priority for Leskiw.
“I definitely would like to do something about education for First Nations and Métis,” she said. “That's also dear to my heart. I'd also like to see an improvement on the type of education that my aboriginal communities are obtaining.”
Leskiw is planning to take consultations with the three school boards in her constituency into consideration, as well as parents and teachers.
“I know Northern Lights has already contacted me and said they would love to talk ideas with me on things for positive change that could be looked at, so I am open to that,” she explained. “I'm hoping to get together with Lakeland Catholic and the Francophones and teachers and the ATAs (Alberta Teachers' Associations) to see what they feel needs to be done and then bounce those ideas with the committee.”
Leskiw's appointment came on Oct. 12, the same day Redford announced her cabinet, and Leskiw is confident in both Redford's ability to lead the party and the province, and her choices in cabinet ministers.
“I think she did a hell of a good choice picking,” said Leskiw. “It wasn't easy for her. How do you pick 20 people out of 68 people? Like one minister who got dropped said, ‘there are never any guarantees in government.' You don't know if you're going to get elected, you don't know what position you're going to get, you don't know if you're going to keep it. But we're a team, we're a family, and we're as successful as the unit put together.”
Part of Redford's cabinet announcement placed fellow Progressive Conservative (PC) leadership hopeful Doug Horner in the position of deputy premier, as well as president of the treasury board and enterprise. Horner was deputy premier under former premier Ed Stelmach as well.
Leskiw vocally supported Horner's campaign for leadership, and though he did not win, she is satisfied and confident that Horner and Redford will work well together.
“I think it's a great combination,” she said. “I think she did a smart move, putting Doug Horner there. They were great colleagues, they supported one another, they come from similar backgrounds in the way they think. He is an honourable man. He was a great deputy premier under Premier Stelmach, and he's going to do a fabulous job in his portfolio as treasury board and deputy.”
As for Leskiw, though she is aware of the large workload ahead, she is looking forward to tackling the task.
“I am now moving into a cabinet policy office in the legislature building,” she said. “I get an office, I get my own assistant. They tell me I'm going to be very, very busy. I can't wait to get my feet wet.”