Misstep not worth resignation

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Prince Edward Island’s Official Opposition wants the president of the P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation to resign.

Monday the head of the PEITF announced his plans to seek the Liberal nomination for the federal riding of Egmont. The move prompted Opposition education critic James Aylward to call for his resignation. Gilles Arsenault has been the PEITF president since 2011.

Aylward raised the issue during an education and innovation committee meeting Tuesday, where he said in recent years the federation has been quiet about education cuts. Whether that is 100 per cent accurate or not we cannot say; that is an issue for PEITF membership.

Egmont Liberals will likely choose in November between Arsenault and one of the other candidates expected to come forward Friday at a meeting in Summerside.

The Tories, however, do raise some interesting questions, such as an amendment in May to the PEIFA bylaws that once prohibited such a move by its president now being taken off the books. Interesting? Yes. Worthy of a resignation? No.

In P.E.I. people have jobs, sometimes influential jobs, and they also have political views. In a democracy it is important to have public participation in governing, and finding someone without a job, or any prospect of a job, to run for political office is not realistic. It only stands to reason that sometimes situations like this will arise.

The Opposition is correct to raise the issue, but would be better off looking at what it means going forward, rather than questioning what cannot be changed.

Arsenault said he plans to leave his position as president if he wins the nomination. That is reasonable enough. Until he has the nomination, what point would it serve for him to leave the post?

There are plenty of Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and others that have influential jobs in this province that hopefully go about their work with the best interests of their employer coming ahead of their own political ambitions.

If that is not the case, it is up to those groups to deal with it, not a committee of the legislature.

If teachers, some of whom presumably vote Conservative, are now questioning their own leadership, good for them. They ought to. But until Arsenault becomes a Liberal candidate neither he, nor anyone from any other political party in a similar situation, ought to be punished for wanting to be part of the process.

In hindsight, perhaps Arsenault might have considered a short leave of absence, but he did not and the membership of the PEITF seems OK with that.

Organizations: PEITF

Geographic location: Egmont, Summerside, P.E.I.

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