Advocacy is hard work. It takes time and often it seems like nothing will ever change. In my president’s address at our first ever virtual Annual Representative Assembly I noted that, after we learned that the government would be hijacking our pension fund, we witnessed one of the largest political engagement activities undertaken by active and retired teachers. Since October, hundreds of letters, phone calls and visits to MLAs across the province, combined with tens of thousands of emails, have tried to persuade the government to reverse its decision, a decision that was made without any consultation with the Alberta Teachers’ Association or the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund.
The government heard your voices, but they didn’t listen, which tells me more about their ethics than your advocacy. On July 6, I attended the Standing Committee on Private Members Bills to watch the deliberations of MLAs on Bill 203, a private members bill that would have MLAs actually debate Bill 22 (the one that legislated the change in teachers’ pension investment managers). This standing committee meeting occurred almost nine months after the pension fund news emerged. Nine months is a long time when you consider that most news stories cycle in and out of people’s perceptions in a week or so.
The fact that teachers were able to keep the pressure on MLAs for such a long stretch is quite simply impressive and is a testament to your advocacy. One of the hardest parts of advocacy is that you don’t always get what you want; that can be defeating and discouraging. But when you’re advocating for something you value, you keep pushing forward. As comedian Candy Palmater said, “You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be persistent.” ❚
I welcome your comments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.