David Eggen waves to supporters in the crowd just before he is sworn in as a member of Rachel Notley's cabinet on Sunday, May 24.
Former teacher also takes on culture and tourism
Former teacher David Eggen is Alberta’s new education minister.
The Edmontonian is a three-term MLA for the NDP and the party’s former education critic.
“I’m just very proud to be chosen to serve, to be the education minister,” Eggen told the ATA News after being sworn in at the Alberta legislature on Sunday, May 24. “It’s like a dream come true for me and I can only hope to serve to build a stronger education system for all of Albertans.”
Asked about his top priority as education minister, Eggen responded, “We’ve got to make sure that we restore funding and [that] we ensure that everyone is getting the access to education that they deserve and require.”
Eggen is one of seven ministers assigned more than one portfolio in Premier Rachel Notley’s 12-member cabinet. He is also minister of culture and tourism.
Alberta Teachers’ Association President Mark Ramsankar said he looks forward to working with Eggen in his new role.
“We already have a strong working relationship that began during our time together as Edmonton public teachers and continued while he was education critic for the NDP opposition. As a teacher, he understands clearly the challenges that teachers face in trying to meet the needs of all students,” Ramsankar said.
He added that Eggen has proven himself to be a strong advocate for issues that matter to teachers, like class size, support for students with special needs, appropriate resourcing of the system and reasonable workloads for teachers.
Eggen spent 18 years teaching social studies and English at a number of Edmonton public junior high and high schools. He was first elected in Edmonton-Calder in 2004. He lost his seat in 2008 but won it back in 2012. He served as the executive director of Friends of Medicare from 2008 to 2012.
Teachers at the table
Two other teachers are part of the Notley cabinet. Deron Bilous, who was re-elected for his second term in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, is the new minister of municipal affairs and Service Alberta. Marg McCuaig-Boyd, a retired teacher elected in Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, takes on the energy portfolio.
Along with former NDP leader Brian Mason and current leader Rachel Notley, Bilous and Eggen are the only NDP MLAs with previous legislature experience. Both teachers were among the highest vote getters in the province in the historic May 5 election, which saw the NDP topple the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty.
Former Edmonton public school trustee Sarah Hoffman, who addressed delegates of the Association’s Annual Representative Assembly on May 16, also landed two portfolios: health and seniors.
Premier Rachel Notley, in an address delivered moments after she was sworn in, described her cabinet as efficient and lean.
“This team will work every day to listen to Albertans, to earn public trust and to deliver on our commitments,” she said.
“Every step of the way our strong and stable government will listen to Albertans because we work for you. We work for all of you.”
Hundreds gathered at the front steps of the legislature building on a sunny and hot Sunday afternoon for the official swearing-in ceremony. Afterward, the newly-minted cabinet members waded into the crowd, which was comprised of VIPs, family members, media and the general public. This approach was a direct contrast to the segregation that was the norm when the PCs were in power.
Notley and her cabinet are scheduled to have their first meeting in Calgary May 27 and 28. All remaining MLAs will be sworn in on June 1.
Other teachers and retired teachers elected to the NDP caucus include Robyn Luff (Calgary-East), Denise Woollard (Edmonton-Mill Creek) and Bruce Hinkley (Wetaskiwin-Camrose).
On the opposition side, high school social studies teacher Mark Smith, who was elected in Drayton Valley-Devon, is the Wildrose Party’s education critic. ❚