Alberta’s Speaker brings passion for politics to local classrooms

A self-proclaimed “political nerd,” Nathan Cooper is taking his love for his job beyond the legislature dome.

Alberta’s Speaker of the Legislative Assembly embarked on a three-day tour of central Alberta classrooms this week to encourage students to further participate in the parliamentary process. He was in Innisfail and Sylvan Lake on Thursday.

Cooper says the role of the Speaker is a very important part of the democratic process.

“Often, members of the Legislative Assembly sort of view the Speaker’s role as the last place you go before you retire,” laughs Cooper. “I think that the Speaker has a wonderful opportunity and responsibility in many respects, to defend, maintain and build trust in our democracy and our public institutions. So I’ve taken the opportunity to try to educate folks about what happens in Edmonton and underneath the Legislative Dome.”

Cooper feels the more people know about the parliamentary process, the more engaged they are likely to be.

“I often joke that there’s tens and tens of people that care about these things, and my goal is to turn that into dozens and dozens of people,” says Cooper. “I love being the Speaker. I love the opportunities it affords me.”

After visiting six schools over three days, in addition to multiple community events, Cooper says he wants to make the most of his opportunity.

“I’m the 14th Speaker in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and so I take that job seriously,” he exclaims. “It’s a huge honour to be that. But I also want to make the most of it and help people learn our democracy as much as possible.”

Cooper brought with him on his tour Alberta’s Mace, which has only left the Legislative Assembly on five previous occasions.

“To have the Mace out on the road is just an incredible way to open conversation and also share some pretty neat stories about the role of the Speaker,” he explains.

“I tell the story about how the Speaker’s role began in 1377 and it largely was reporting to Parliament, the Monarch’s wishes. And no less than nine Speakers have been executed by Monarchs when they were upset with the Speaker’s job, or with the resolutions that Parliament passed.”

Cooper says sharing those types of stories and allowing young people to connect with things that are interesting and quirky, makes democracy come alive for them.

“One of my other passions is to connect new Canadians to their democracy,” admits Cooper. “Last night (Wednesday) I was in Olds. It had a good group of new Canadians, predominantly of the Filipino community and a number of business leaders, Chamber of Commerce folks, service club members of the community, come together around this sort of common goal or interest of our democracy, and the Mace brings them out.”

His tour is just one of several things Cooper is doing to educate the public on the Legislative Assembly.

“We have introduced a small video series where we peel-back the curtain on some of the quirky or more interesting, or frankly controversial subjects of our parliamentary democracy,” adds Cooper. “People can check those out on my social media feeds or in fact on the Legislative Assembly website, now has a link called The Speaker’s Corner and all those videos can be found there.”

“We are going to be launching a series where we’ll be inviting people to come and have discussions about democracy, our freedom and strength of our institutions. And not in a partisan, kind-of left versus right way, but in more of a non-partisan, how do we pull together to do these sort-of-things kind-of way.”

Cooper concludes it’s all about the Assembly, parliamentary procedure and traditions.

“I just really firmly believe that the more people know, the more likely they are to be engaged,” says Cooper. “So I’m happy to share with any of my colleagues across the country, some of the things that are working well here, and frankly, some of the things that we’ve tried that haven’t been as effective.”

Anyone with questions about the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, is encouraged to contact Nathan Cooper’s office, at 780-427-2464, or through email at OldsDidsbury.ThreeHills@assembly.ab.ca.