By Fabian Mayer, October 6 2015 —
Throughout the federal election, the Gauntlet interviewed candidates running in Calgary Confederation. This newly-created riding includes the University of Calgary and many surrounding communities. Interviews with the Liberal, NDP and Green candidates for the riding can be found at www.thegauntlet.ca.
U of C alumnus Len Webber was a PC MLA for 11 years before leaving the party to protest Allison Redford’s leadership. He is the Conservative Party candidate for Calgary Confederation. We spoke with him about student issues and Stephen Harper’s record.
The Gauntlet: Why should Calgary Confederation residents vote Conservative?
Len Webber: I honestly feel that the Conservative Party of Canada is the party that will move us forward with opportunities, especially with young students in regard to jobs and low taxes. Our opposition is the opposite of that. Stephen Harper will continue to keep our taxes low, balance the budget and [provide] more opportunities for students when they graduate.
G: Why would you personally make a good representative?
LW: I’ve had 11 years experience in the Alberta legislature. My opposition counterparts are new at this so I feel that I’ve got that on top of them with regard to experience. I’ve got the passion and I’ve got certain particular personal issues that I’d like to bring to Ottawa in the form of human organ and tissue donation.
G: Could you go into some more detail on organ donation?
LW: When I was an MLA I passed a bill in the Alberta legislature that was passed unanimously by all three parties. It was a bill on human organ and tissue donation and it entailed developing and starting up an agency here in Alberta. I’m very proud of this bill and now I want to take it to the national scale. I’d like to see a national human organ and tissue donation agency to unite all the provinces and territories together.
G: What would the Conservatives do for students and young people?
LW: I really feel strongly about students and their futures and I believe the Conservative government is the government that is looking after the futures of these students with regard to keeping our taxes low and balancing the budget. Our opposition are proposing spending tens of billions of dollars and putting us into incredible debt and young students will wind up having to carry that cost. The Conservative government has vowed to keep taxes low with fiscally conservative spending. It will be young people that will have that tax burden.
G: It was recently discovered that the Conservative government is more aggressively collecting student loan debt. Is that something you’re in favour of?
LW: Under this Conservative government we’ve actually made it a lot easier for students to be eligible for student loans. And also to be able to work at a part-time job while studying and without the money that you make being taken out of the loan you were originally accepted for. There are a number of areas where the Conservative party has made it much easier for students to achieve their goals of graduating or even attending post-secondary education through the loans and grants program.
G: The Conservative Party is the only party that supports the status quo on marijuana laws. Why is that?
LW: I was a member of the Alberta alcohol and drug abuse commission before I became an MLA. I was on the commission for a number of years and I got to travel around the entire province and go into facilities where individuals were fighting alcohol and drug addictions. I also met with many addiction counsellors and many experts on addictions and every one of them, every scientist, every doctor told me that marijuana is a gateway to harsher drugs. I personally don’t want to see marijuana legalized in any way. The trafficking of marijuana is a serious crime and it should continue to be.
G: Have you ever consumed marijuana?
LW: No I have not, but I’ve been around people who have and I’m sure I was affected by secondhand smoke.
G: Given how contentious Stephen Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister has been, do you disagree with any of his policies or legislation?
LW: I would not be running as a Conservative candidate in this riding if I did not agree with the direction the Conservative government and Stephen Harper are taking the country. Harper has done a fantastic job, especially in these very troubling global fiscal issues, not just in this country but throughout the world. We’ve faired [well] through this terrible storm thanks to the guidance and leadership of Harper. I completely agree with Harper, his economic philosophy and where he wants to take us in the future.
How we’re dealing with ISIS and our alliance with our UN allies is most important. Our opposition wants to pull us out of the airstrikes in Syria. I certainly believe that is not the way to go. We need to attack the root of the problem and that is to attack the targets in Syria where the ISIS camps are. I believe also that these poor refugees are now occurring because of ISIS. By attacking the root of ISIS and eliminating ISIS, these refugees will be able to go back to their countries and go on with their lives. The Harper government has accepted many of these refugees, but they need to be screened. We need to ensure that there are no ISIS-type individuals amongst these groups and we will be able to determine that through screening. It may take some time, but I think Canadians’ safety is a priority.
G: So you don’t disagree with any Conservative Party policies?
LW: I cannot think of any. I’m a true and blue Conservative.
G: You were a long-time PC member here in the province. Do you support the PCs or the Wildrose provincially?
LW: I’ve always been a federal Conservative. We’ve got two provincial conservative parties here now. I am affiliated with both. I’m a supporter of whoever believes in the same values as the Conservative national party.
G: Would you like to see those two provincial parties unite?
LW: I would. The reason for that is we have an NDP government right now in Alberta and I think that the true NDP will come out after the election when Premier Notley will pass her budget and we’ll see the implications from that. I believe it will not be positive. Albertans will see it, we’ve got three long years with an NDP government and if we unite on the right I believe there would be more of a chance of defeating the NDP in the next provincial election.
G: Calgary has traditionally been a Conservative stronghold. You and Liberal candidate Matt Grant are virtually tied according to a recent poll. We’re you expecting this close of a fight in the riding?
LW: I’ve known that every urban riding, especially inner-city ridings, throughout the country are very close campaigns. I knew that going into this. That was one of the reasons I decided to run in Confederation — not only because I live in the riding and I’ve lived in the riding all my life, but because it is an inner-city riding. [There is] the threat of a Liberal or NDP representative being elected here. I felt I was the strongest in order to defeat one or the other.
Edited for clarity and brevity