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Alberta’s absence
from a role in Canada:
Brian Jean at the ready

TORONTO – Some of the fact sheets posted on the Alberta government website make for fascinating reading. They also make the average Canadian wonder why a potential global energy superpower is so silent on Canada’s National stage.

In terms of known oil reserves, only Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran have more. How much? Enough for an estimated 165.4 billion barrels. Even at the level of production of 2.8 million barrels per day (2018) there is enough oil to last at least another 160 years.

At 2018 prices, that generated $ 23.7 billions in sectoral investment, which, according to Statistics Canada (2017) created 140, 300 jobs in Alberta alone.

Pan Canadian political-economic interests cannot ignore these facts, despite the obvious presence of other issues, including demographic ones. As an aside, for our readers in the Italian Diaspora, there are thriving Italian Canadian communities numbering in the tens of thousands in major cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer.

The turbulent political waters in the province are about to become stormier in the next month as two former federal Conservative Party MPs, Jason Kenny (currently the Premier) and Brian Jean (former leader of the Wild Rose party), may face off for the future leadership of the province.

I served with them both in the House of Commons. Brian Jean and I served on a transportation Committee on opposite sides of the table. He was always prepared, focused and aggressive in advancing his government’s position. It was a style I had become accustomed to seeing him direct towards me when I was Minister: direct, deferential and purposeful.

He has not mellowed. Family and Alberta first, he used to say to me, “that’s who I am as a Canadian”. Still does. I called him to talk about his re-entry into the political fray and why.

What follows is a summary of a wide ranging interview.

Mr. Jean, you have endured several personal setbacks and tragedies while in public life. Still, you persevere. Some of those “losses” must have taken a toll…
I prefer to count my blessings: I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful little daughter and a thriving business and employees and friends with whom I share similar civic sense of responsibility and engagement. That allows me to look forward, always.

You have emerged as Jason Kenny’ most vocal critic, yet you are members of the same Party – one you helped found. What will distinguish you from him?
I have business and management experience and expertise. As a decision-maker, I listen, plan and implement. As you know, in politics, when in opposition, you build the distinguishing elements of your program to reflect the ambitions of your public. In government, you lay out and implementation program. I do not think Jason Kenny has done that and the United Conservative Party (UCP) run the risk of running aground.

How so? Kenny seems ever-present, speaking about issues at every turn.
That is right. He speaks well. The problem is that he is always in campaign mode. His time is spent almost completely on bashing the opposition, very little energy dedicated to “doing”. Alberta is left out of National considerations and the UCP as a team, such as it is, has not been allowed to gel. I have proposed a four-point program (it is posted on his FB page for all to see and read) for the restoration of confidence in the UCP and Alberta.

But you are not yet in the Legislature (the by-election is expected to be called today, with the election slated in 28 days), the campaign would have the appearance of being dedicated to the replacement of the current leader.
I am straightforward and open about this. A vote for me is a vote for replacing Kenny, for revitalizing the UCP and for ensuring that Alberta assume its rightful leadership role at the table promoting Canada’s interests. The Federal Conservatives have just replaced their leader. The democratic process is all about renewal and regeneration of ideas, styles, personalities and focusing the material interests of its citizens.

(end of interview)

This much I can say of Brian Jean: he is not devious. As an Adversary of mine in the House of Commons he won my respect. As a man, he won the heart of an Italian woman, Kim, from Etobicoke. As the father of their child, he stayed away from the last provincial election, despite entreaties to the contrary, so that he could stay at home in Fort McMurray to share child-rearing duties. As the saying goes: “what’s not to like?”

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