By Kristy Koehler, October 8 2019—
The Gauntlet interviewed the Calgary Confederation candidates. In the interest of fairness, all candidates were asked the same set of questions. No follow-up questions were asked and the inquiries were open-ended, allowing the candidate to speak freely on the issues and address the question as they saw fit. The intention is for those in Calgary Confederation to get to know the candidates in their riding.
Get to know Jordan Stein, running for the Liberal Party of Canada.
The Gauntlet: What qualifies you to represent the constituents of Calgary Confederation?
Jordan Stein: I am from Calgary so I grew up here. I feel like that gives me a sense of Calgary-ness — when you go to Ottawa it’s really important that you’re able to talk authentically. I’ve seen lots of booms and busts. I’ve worked in the oil and gas industry. I went to the U of C for a semester so lots of things give me that Calgary voice.
I worked as a labour advocate for flight attendants at WestJet for a while and then as an employee engagement consultant at Air North so doing so I got the opportunity to engage in what is really similar to what politics is about, which is talking to a broad and richly varied group of people, trying to understand what could be improved or made better and then taking their ideas and communicating with a board of directors — or a government. I’ve had experience in doing that, and quite successfully. I really enjoy doing that.
I’m also a small business owner. A lot of people talk about the economy as being really front of mind and I started my own businesses — and I think that’s very much a Calgary story, is the entrepreneurial one. A lot of Calgarians see this as an innovative city, an entrepreneurial city, and I really appreciate what it takes to start a business and to have that get-up-and-go and face the challenges that our city is facing.
I was recruited to run, by a friend of mine, for the NDP in the provincial election and got to know a lot more about politics — How do elections work? How does representation work? What kind of differences can you make in people’s lives? — and that’s really what drove me to run again.
I saw that there was a real need for Calgarians to have a more progressive voice because I think the Conservative government has held power in this province for so long at a provincial level that they sort of feel like they have a monopoly on the identity of Calgary and that’s obviously not the case. Calgary is very diverse, there’s a lot of progressive people and it just seemed like there was a real need for a young, progressive voice and I was really honoured that I was able to fill that.
All those experiences position me as a strong candidate.
G: What attracted you to the Liberal Party?
JS: Given where we’re at as a province right now, I think it’s really important that we have progressive voices in Ottawa. Part of it is strategic in the sense that this gives me an opportunity — in the last election the Liberal candidate lost by only one per cent. In this riding, progressive voices outnumber conservative voices by a lot. But, the NDP, the Green Party and the Liberal party are split, even though they have much more in common with each other than they do the Conservatives. We outnumber Conservatives but we end up having no voice, so part of it is a strategic choice.
Looking at the leaders and looking at the positions that they’ve taken on things that really impact Alberta, Trudeau at the end of the day bought the pipeline and is using the funds to invest in clean technology. I hear from so many people that their number one issue is the environment or their number one issue is the economy, or vice versa. Or, they say both and can’t decide which one is more important. That indicates to me that we do, in Calgary, want to see meaningful action on climate and a lot of the CEOs in the oil patch are even echoing that. But we need to do so in a way that doesn’t cripple the economy here in Calgary. There needs to be a real defense of Calgary and how we proceed in a way that works for the city and makes sure that everyone has an opportunity to innovate and move forward. The country can’t take action on climate without Alberta.
G: With the Liberal Party being known as a left-leaning party, what would attract voters from the opposite end of the political spectrum?
JS: One thing that I’ve noticed — and I say this a lot — Calgary has been through the worst economic downturn of my lifetime in the last four years and there’s a lot of Conservative MPs that have won just because it’s Alberta and they have a real stronghold on the media in this province and cling on the identity of this province. There’s this sort of entitled ability to just go to Ottawa and sit on the back bench and not really fight for the city and there’s this sense of western alienation that’s coming out of that.
When I talk to Conservative voters I say ‘What has your MP done for you? How have they stood up and really fought and defended you?’ A lot of people don’t feel like they’re fighting for their vote.
I also ask them, ‘Is the war room going to win favourability across canada for Alberta oil?’ and the answer is pretty obviously no. I often say two out of 10 Canadians were supportive of pipelines in 2015 and now it’s almost seven out of 10. That didn’t happen with a war room. That happened with incredible diplomacy on behalf of Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau making a stand firmly for the pipeline being in the best interest of Canada. It’s not a war room that got that huge change in Canadians’ opinion and I just don’t see that kind of animosity getting Albertans what they want.
In Confederation most people are quite well educated — they work in the sector, they’re having these conversations in their own companies and they see that split. At the end of the day it comes down to what do they think is better? Animosity and a war room? Or starting a conversation and building trust with Canada?
G: What are your plans to make education more affordable?
JS: When I meet with students I want to hear “What’s important for you? What would make a meaningful impact for you?” The Liberal government has invested a lot into clean technology and innovation and a ton into research and a lot of that has gone to the U of C.
As a person whose still paying off student loans, I appreciate also that the repayment assistance was strengthened and that they made it possible that if you’re going through a hard time and not able to find work that you don’t have to make your student loan payments that month and that you’re not accumulating interest in that time. I think that is a really important thing to give students — the opportunity to have meaningful work before they start paying off their loans.
I also appreciate that the federal government increased the amount of non-repayable grants that are available for students. But, I think that we can do even more. I know that the tuition credit that Stephen Harper’s government had put in place wasn’t really having an impact and that the non-repayable grants give students freedom. We can even do more in terms of non-repayable grants.
I’d like to see students not have to make the choice after school between taking internship opportunities that would be really great experience or having to pass those up because they have to pay their loans. Having more streamlining from the federal government in providing work opportunities that are more relevant to the things that they’re actually studying.
G: What is your plan for job creation?
JS: One of the things that I’m excited about is when I ran for the provincial government, I learned a lot about the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan. It was creating a real ecosystem of innovators and entrepreneurs, essentially start-up businesses that are creating inventions or technology that are doing things to address climate change — a lot of that is coming out of Calgary. Many of those companies — and I know this from being in a start-up position myself — require help and investment from the government and seeing that Kenney has cut the Climate Leadership Plan and we’re going to see job losses in that sector in Alberta — there’s a real opportunity to really help those entrepreneurs. There’s 250 solar panel companies in Alberta now that didn’t exist four years ago. That’s really exciting and we need to be sure that we’re putting in place the funds, the stimulus, the subsidies that are going to help them, the job creators of the future.
A.I., technology, attracting new investment, these are things that we can do for our city to address climate change and position us to be a resilient city and create jobs for the future.
G: What are your thoughts on Alberta’s oil and gas industry?
JS: I worked for Nexen as a summer student and I know lots of people that work in the oil and gas industry. It seems right now that there’s two camps in the oil and gas sector — there’s the narrative which is really pushing a war room to defend Alberta oil from what they perceive as a real threat from Ottawa and climate activism. And then there’s the much more nuanced approach, which is the one that I really appreciate and am trying to echo. The CEOs of Cenovus and CNRL issued an open letter to Canadians a couple months ago — there’s a lot more nuance to that and really what they’re saying is that this needs to be a conversation. We need to take action on climate, we know that’s the case. We know that Wall Street is demanding it. We know that the world is demanding it. We know that the window of time to take meaningful action is closing. They want to be innovative.
Albertans per capita have the highest GHG footprint so any action that we take is going to have really the most dramatic impact, and so it’s even more important that we move forward. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s at odds with our economy. The oil and gas companies that are innovating and moving forward, it does a disservice to them not to put regulations in place to make sure that everybody’s keeping up. That needs to be a conversation that we have across Canada. It’s really important that we are defending Alberta oil, that we are making sure that we are producing the best barrel, that we are building pipelines in a way that’s meaningfully engaging in conversation with stakeholders, that is taking action on climate. But, we need to be defending it and also proving our leadership at the same time.
G: What are your thoughts on the climate crisis?
JS: It’s an emergency. Alberta has a huge role to play in addressing this. I hear from voters constantly that this is the ballot box issue for them and I’m thrilled. It’s actually the reason I’m running. Calgary has to be in a position to be able to take action on this and the action that we do take will have the biggest impact. It’s important that we’re climate leaders, that we’re helping Albertans position themselves to be that way. The window of time in which we can take meaningful action is getting smaller and smaller and at the end of the day, it’s going to cost us way more if we don’t take the action that we need to take now. Part of why I’m running, and part of why I’m running for the Liberals is I actually want to win. I want to be at the table with the government saying ‘Hey, I’m from Calgary. We take this very very seriously. How do we help my city move forward?’
G: Do we have a freedom of speech problem in Canada?
JS: No. I think it’s a dog-whistle issue to get people angry and upset. At the end of the day, when you introduce yourself and you say ‘Hey, my name is this,’ for example, you’re not infringing on the person’s speech to ask them to address you by your name. It’s a dog-whistle issue to be saying that these things are against freedom of speech and I think a lot of Canadians understand that making accommodations out of courtesy and to make space for people that haven’t really had a voice in the dominant narrative of our culture is part of what makes Canada a country worth living in. To say that we’re infringing on free speech by not allowing hate speech is just an issue that’s really distracting for people. I hear it occasionally but not very much and I think it’s just a dog-whistle issue to get people upset and angry. At the end of the day, Canada is a country that’s welcoming to people and being welcoming sometimes means shutting down when something is hateful or hurtful to a community. You can’t have meaningful dialogue, you can’t have meaningful conversation in a hostile environment.
G: What are your plans for affordable housing in your riding?
JS: This is a really big issue in our riding because the National Housing Strategy that the Liberal government has put in place, I think is a fantastic first step. It’s really important that housing is part of the mandate of the government. We’re seeing 12 projects in Calgary as part of the National Housing Strategy and three of them are actually in Confederation which is very exciting.
When you look at the need in Calgary there’s way more than what we’re getting, but this is a really incredibly first step. We’re seeing 600 units of affordable housing come up in Calgary in the next couple of years and that’s great, but there needs to be even more. At the end of the day, life is becoming more unaffordable for a lot of people and I think housing is the most obvious way in which we can empower people to make sure that they have their basic needs covered. I’d like to see more and more come into Calgary. As someone who would be fighting for Calgary, I’d be making sure that there are more co-operatives, that they’re well-maintained, that people have a place to hang their hat. That’s the backbone of a well-functioning society.
G: Where do you stand on issues of national defence?
JS: I stand with where the Liberal government stands on this currently. I know the work in the military and the navy and air force is really meaningful work. I don’t have anything at odds with where the Liberal government stands on it right now.
G: Why should students vote for you?
JS: One, I’m still paying off my student loans so I can relate to what happens when you come out of university and you’re looking for a job — I really get that. Having grown up in this city and come back here — part of my studies I did in Nova Scotia — I came back here because I really love this city and I really believe that it can be a city that positions itself as resilient for the future. I think that’s what students want to see. They want to know that, when they come out of school, they have opportunities — ones that are exciting that will keep them here. They want to know that they’ll be able to pay back their student loans and be in a position where they are not falling behind when they are trying to get ahead. That’s super important.
At the end of the day, by virtue of being younger, I hope that I bring a fresh perspective on government. Something I’d really like to do is to make government seem more accessible, so people see how government can play a really wonderful, meaningful and helpful role in their lives. Things like being on Instagram, being on Facebook and engaging — we’re doing stories all the time and we’re trying really hard to engage with people in the ways that my generation really naturally is already doing. We’re meeting people where they’re at and making sure that they have a representative that relates to their issues and is fighting for the things that they care about, that is accessible, someone that has an office with an open door. I respond to emails. I’m there because I’m really in it and I want to listen and know what really matters to them and fight for it in Ottawa.
Editors Note: Libertarian candidate Tim Moen and NDP candidate Gurcharan Singh Sidhu have yet to respond to an interview request.