ALBERTA

Alberta's 4 New Liberal MPs, And What The Party's Majority Could Mean For The Province

10/21/2015 09:03 EDT | Updated 10/22/2015 12:59 EDT
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The 2015 federal election was a historic one for Alberta, as the Liberals managed to carve out four seats in the traditionally Conservative province.

All four were won in the province's urban centres. Out of the other 34 ridings, one went to the NDP and the other 29 stayed Conservative.

Monday marked the first time a Liberal had captured a seat in Calgary since Patrick Mahoney won in Calgary South in 1968, as part of the wave of (Pierre) Trudeaumania that swept the country. As for Edmonton, no Liberals had won a seat in the city since Anne McLellan and David Kilgour in 2004.

So, who are the Liberals that managed to win their ridings and what could the party's majority win mean for the province?

Amarjeet Sohi, Edmonton Mill Woods

Amarjeet Sohi is already an established politician in Edmonton, where he has served as a city councillor for the past eight years.

Sohi, 51, was born in India. When his family moved to Edmonton in the 1980s, he became involved in social activism and speaking out against human rights abuses as part of a theatre group, reports the Edmonton Journal.

When he returned to India at age 24 to study with a playwright, he decided to help local villagers organize a protest against their abusive landowners — and was promptly arrested on charges of extremism and terrorism. He remained in an Indian prison for two years, despite pressure from the Canadian government, before he was released due to lack of evidence.

The experience inspired Sohi to stick to his views, and become a champion of cultural communities in Edmonton. Sohi has lead city council's Immigration, Multiculturalism and Racism-Free Edmonton initiatives, according to his website bio, and has received awards for that work.

In his acceptance speech Monday, Sohi echoed those values.

"This is about inclusion. This is about accepting our diversity. Canada should be about accepting who we are, and we're going to live up to those expectations," Sohi said, according to CBC News.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said city council will miss him, but they'll be happy to have his representation on the federal level.


Randy Boissonnault, Edmonton Centre

Randy Boissonnault first got into politics by serving as president of the University of Alberta Students' Union. Boissonnault was born in Morinville to a working class family, and was studying political science at the university when he decided to join the campus' Liberal club in the early '90s.

After a turn as student president, he took a break from politics and become a bit of a renaissance man — he studied as a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford, started his own business, founded an non-governmental organization (Literacy Without Borders), and finished Canada's Ironman Triathlon — before getting pulled back into politics during the Liberal leadership race, when he moderated the leader's debate in Vancouver.

Boissonnault, 45, is one of six LGBT MPs headed to Parliament, and the first openly gay MP from Alberta. He competed in the first two World Out Games and marched in Edmonton's Pride parade with Justin Trudeau — but his sexual orientation barely came up in his campaign, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Boissonault is sure to be a strong voice for LGBT Albertans on the federal stage. In a 2014 blog post urging Albertans to push for gay-straight alliances, Boissonnault wrote:

From the moment I came out in my late twenties, I have always been supported by my family, my friends, and my colleagues. Over time, our community built our own informal gay straight alliance, for which I am extremely grateful. Who you love and who loves you shouldn’t matter. And in Canada, it doesn’t make you any less deserving of your rights and freedoms.

Darshan Kang, Calgary Skyview

Darshan Kang spent the past seven years as a Liberal MLA, before making the leap to federal politics.

Kang, 64, was born in India, and immigrated to Canada after earning a pre-medical degree at the University of Indore. Kang worked as a welder, and then a real estate agent before joining the Alberta Liberals.

Kang is a huge advocate of communities — he's served on the community associations for Saddle Ridge, Martindale, Castleridge-Falconridge and Skyview — and hosts a yearly Stampede breakfast that is apparently a "can't miss" event.


Kang campaigned hard to ensure he wouldn't appear to be riding on Trudeau's coattails — he told the Calgary Herald he has been handing out business cards with his personal cell number to constituents.

“I think Canadians made it clear they wanted change. We fought for change, and we will go to Ottawa to fight for Calgary and Alberta,” Kang told the Calgary Sun. “We are fighting for average Canadians and fighting for the middle class and for seniors.”

Kent Hehr, Calgary Centre

Kent Hehr has faced a difficult path to politics.

Hehr, 45, was born and raised in Calgary by two educators — his mom, a principal, and his father, the president of the Alberta Teachers' Association. Hehr was always focused on sports, and had planned on becoming a phys-ed teacher as an adult.

At 21, Hehr was shot in a drive-by that left him paralyzed. The injury didn't slow him down as he returning to school just months after the accident. He graduated with two degrees from the University of Calgary, and became a lawyer and community activist.

He ran for mayor in 2010, before conceding to Naheed Nenshi. Hehr served as a Liberal MLA for two consecutive terms, before running in the federal election.

Hehr has been a tireless advocate for marginalized communities in the city, working with disabled, homeless and LGBT groups.

On the day before the election, Maclean's reported that Hehr had spent hours chatting with voters in supermarkets around his community.


What do the MP-elects have planned for Alberta?

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has promised not to alienate Western Canada like his father did with the National Energy Program in the '80s. "This place is important to me… this place matters, deeply," Trudeau said in Edmonton and Calgary on the day before the election.

The biggest pledge the Liberals have made to Alberta is to heavily invest in urban infrastructure, including flood mitigation and transit expansions.

Sohi has been an outspoken transit advocate on Edmonton's city council, and will be continuing that commitment in parliament.

Boissonnault has promised to focus on growing Alberta's oil economy, telling Alberta Venture that he will push for the Energy East pipeline.

“(The Liberals) will have robust and dynamic discussions that face Calgarians and their needs,” Hehr told Metro Calgary, while Kang added that “(Kent Hehr) and myself worked together before as MLAs. I’m sure we are not going to be left behind.”

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