Q: Were you born and raised in the Dunvegan area?
A: No, I was not. I was born in Calgary. My dad worked for AGT, and when I was 12 we moved up to Grande Prairie where I lived for about 5 and a half years. And I had also come to Fairview, when I belonged to a 4-H sewing club to attend a 4-H camp held at the older college. So, I knew where Fairview was, and when it came time to look for a teaching job, I was kinda looking in Grande Prairie or Fairview area. So, my first teacher job ended up being in Fairview. I guess I must have been hooked at a young age. Having said that, I’ve lived in the Peace Region more of my life than not now.
Did you choose politics or did politics choose you?
Probably a little of both. Growing up, our family was always one that discussed the news and that at night, but when I first moved to Fairview as a young teacher, another friend of mine from Edmonton got a job – I was at the separate school and he was at the public school – and he invited me to a meeting one night because his mom was a big NDP member in Edmonton, and he said, “you have to meet this guy, Grant Notley.” So, I went and I was quite intrigued by Grant. He did his speech and one thing that always rang for me was he said, “People matter more than things.” It struck me; being a teacher is a “helping others” profession, and I got sucked into helping in my first campaign.
You start small and I remember this friend of mine, Cam, he had done politics in Edmonton, so he sort of got me started there and so I helped Grant with a couple campaigns – never a big role, but you phone people and put some signs out – but I was quite taken by the man. He was a really good politician and that got me interested in being in politics. Then, Rachel (Notley) had asked me a couple times in the 2012 election, but it just wasn’t the right time for me, but for this last election, I was close to being retired and I thought “you know, I’m that close to being retired and I do actually have the time.”
I’d always say to our children, and when I was a teacher, “You know, if you want to make a difference, then be part of the change. Don’t just sit around and complain about it.” And I thought I need to listen to my own advice. So, I would say Rachel kinda found me and so, in a way, politics found me as well. It was a lower key interest in politics and I taught about it in Social Studies, so I’ve always been a bit of a news junky towards politics and the world.
What was your teaching career prior to becoming an MLA consist of?
I was a teacher for my long career – mostly Fairview in the public and separate schools, but I was also principal in Berwyn and Worsley. Berwyn was just to cover someone on leave, but Worsley was my last school. I then did five years at the college campus, in Fairview. When they went from N.A.I.T. to (Grande Prairie Regional College), I was part of the transition team and then I administered the campus. So, I’ve worked in public education and post-secondary.
Then, when I was down at the college, I had a small consulting business that I was starting to build where I was working with small and medium sized businesses. A lot of small businesses can’t afford a full-time (human resource) person, so I was sometimes hiring people, for example. Another time, I helped do a policy manual for a company. I also helped a company to evaluate employees because employees were wanting a raise, but they didn’t know how to justify it.
I even worked with someone to get an artist, so that they could get a logo made – just little things like that. It was just starting to develop and then my biggest contract was with Careers: The Next Generation. That involved going into schools and talking to kids about considering careers and trades.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I like to golf, and I haven’t downhill skied much since I started this job. But when I have time I like to ski and curl.
Is there a time in your life that you remember most fondly?
One of them is coming to Fairview for the 4-H camp. It was probably the first real small-town rural experience for me and my first swim meet was also in Fairview. There must have been something about Fairview and the Peace County because of all the places I’ve lived, living in the Peace Country was my most memorable growing up. It’s sort of a general memory, but certainly were some of my most happy times in my life.
What’s the most important thing you’d like people to know about you?
I’m pretty approachable, but I’d like to think they already know that. I think the most important thing is that I’m a ‘what you see is what you get’ type person. I like to be the same person no matter where you meet me or what the circumstances may be. I am fairly down-to-earth and I absolutely like being around people. That’s my happy zone.
What are some of your defining moments?
Well, in this ministry, we got the Royalty Review done and, while you can’t do anything where everybody is going to be happy, people generally were happy about it and felt that it was well done. So, I was happy because that was a big risk for our government, as well as myself to do this, especially as the downturn in oil was happening, but on the other hand it turned out to be the best time to look at the industry in a new light and how can we move the energy industry forward for Alberta.
Also, the Climate Leadership Plan; it all kind of fits together and that’s going to help our industry be more competitive in the world. So, doing that, we were able to get the approval for the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Being able, as a team and our government, to push the Federal government to get this pipeline built has been a good story. We still need to get it built, but I’m highly confident that it’s going to go through, and it’s good for us. Given that our only customer is to the south, we need to diversify a lot and I think some of the moves that (US President) Trump has been making lately shows us that we need to have better control over our resources and have other markets besides the US.
However, above all else, my most defining moment and greatest achievement is being a parent and watching my kids grow up into nice people.