By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
With just two weeks left before the United Conservative Party (UCP) leadership election, candidate Brian Jean squeezed in a short stop in Strathmore to visit with a handful of people and said the magic words many Albertans were eager to hear – the promise of a reversal of the carbon tax and the abolishment of Bill 6.
A few Strathmore residents – all UCP members – gathered at the Strathmore Station on Oct. 5 for a meet-and-greet with the former leader of the opposition. While the visit only lasted a half hour, Jean was able to discuss his platform and the Alberta needs his campaign identified over the past two years.
Jean was adamant about his intentions regarding the infamous Bill 6, the carbon tax, tackling Alberta’s debt accumulation, focusing on the justice system, healthcare, the economy and education.
“Let me be clear, Bill 6 will be gone if I get the privilege of running the government … and [we’re] getting rid of the carbon tax within 30 days,” said Jean, who added that he will challenge the Canadian Prime Minister if an attempt is made to impose the tax federally.
“Strathmore-Brooks is very much like Fort McMurray. It’s a rural area where it has been avoided and ignored by many federal and provincial politicians for years. This is no different than any other area of Alberta. People want a good family, life, they want to feel safe, they want a good economy. They want the same thing across the province and be left alone by the province.”
Jean said he’s seen numbers that suggest the province will accrue $92 billion in debit by 2020, and as a lawyer, he is concerned about the growing crime rate in rural areas, believing a major overhaul of the justice system is necessary.
Having travelled with the Brian Jean campaign full time during the leadership race, his wife Kimberly has also been privy to numerous concerns province-wide.
“It’s enlightening because every region has slightly different interests and issues and you’re talking about thousands of people, so you need the input from as many people as possible,” she said.
“I’m very impressed with how engaged Albertans are and how knowledgeable they are about the issues.”
The somewhat impromptu visit was organized by Todd Beasley and Dave Rowley in hopes of providing residents with a chance to meet various candidates, ask questions and make an informed decision. According to the organizers, there is talk about organizing an upcoming town hall meeting with both Brian Jean and Jason Kenney.
“We’re trying to organize these forums for all candidates to come in and people can come and meet with them close up and get a good gut feeling of what they’re about,” said Rowley. “One of these gentlemen is likely to be the next premier and it’s a great opportunity for people in Strathmore to come see them and talk to them. It’s not a party event. We’re not getting behind any one candidate officially. We just want people to come out and be a part of the democratic process and meet people.”
The UCP leadership election takes place on Oct. 28.