Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean made a stop at the Fat Unicorn restaurant in Lac La Biche last Friday afternoon for a locally-organized meet and greet with business owners and residents. The visit comes less than a week before the votes of 60,000 UCP members will determine if Jean will be selected as the province’s next Premier.
The newly-elected MLA who won the constituency’s byelection just over a month ago, spoke with two dozen of his constituents at the local event. Topics ranged from the economic effects of the pandemic to his bid to oust current Premier Jason Kenney, to infrastructure and road needs in the community. Jean told Lakeland This Week that he appreciates hearing the grassroots concerns ... and compliments.
“All politics is local and I’ve heard a lot of issues from local citizens concerned about some of the pressures they’re feeling right now, in particular some of the stresses that people are feeling from COVID and the after-effects from COVID…to some of the more pertinent needs of infrastructure.”
The meet and greet was part of an awareness campaign for local economic development hosted by regional groups.
Highlighting the importance of rural economic development, Jean says the driving force of any rural community are the residents.
“No politician can do their job without talking to the people that matter and those, of course, are the people that live in your constituency. When you stop serving them well you usually lose out.”
“Don’t get disillusioned. Don’t get discouraged. This is the opportunity for you to show everybody, including the Premier, that democracy works and to get a hold of it.”
Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA and Alberta leadership candidate Brian Jean on the UCP leadership vote
Jean says the effects of inflation, the pandemic and overall challenges to quality of life has not only affected local business owners, but residents all around the province. Also a candidate in the provincial leadership race to be Alberta’s next Premier, Jean says he is committed to learning about the local issues and finding solutions to help.
“There was a lot of suffering with COVID and a lot of death and a lot of mental stress,” he says.
Working towards opportunities and staying focused is going to help provide better outcomes during the financial crisis today, he explained.
“Inflation is a real issue, and many of the issues that are happening in Alberta and around the world are real, and we need to go to work every day and stay focused.
Jean says he is sharpening that focus by visiting residents, building on relationships with local government, and simply “being present” for residents. It’s the most important part of the elected officials job, he said.
“I have a really good relationship with the Mayor and council,” he said, adding that he enjoys being a conduit for the local level of government to link with other municipal leaders and provincial and federal officials.
“I try to connect people because with connections you can usually get better outcomes. Politicians in Alberta should work together to make sure we get the best outcomes for the people we serve.”
Premier vote results Wednesday
On a provincial level, Jean is confident that residents will also find the best outcome when the leadership race results are announced on Wednesday. The UCP party has been going through a leadership race that officially kicked off on April 9. Over 60,000 registered members have voted through mail-in ballots to either keep Premier Jason Kenney or select a new leader. Jean was seen as a front runner in the race, garnering support for more than 18 months, from being nominated as the constituency’s UCP candidate when former MLA Laila Goodridge left provincial politics, to being elected in a landslide as the area’s MLA in the March byelection. He has spent much of that time countering the decisions of Kenney’s leadership and calling for all Albertans to seek a more grass-roots approach to provincial politics.
“The members are going to have their say and they’re going to have the decision ultimately. I’m confident that their decision will be what’s best for Albertans,” he says, even though he continues to feel that the structure of the mail-in vote — like the current leadership — has frustrated many Albertans.
“There is a lot of people on social media that are disillusioned and discouraged from being a member of the UCP and I say, ‘Don’t get disillusioned. Don’t get discouraged. This is the opportunity for you to show everybody, including the Premier, that democracy works and to get a hold of it.’”
Moving forward, whether he becomes Premier or not, Jean said at the end of the day, representing and supporting his rural constituents and celebrating their accomplishments is the goal.
“It’s a pleasure to be a part of a community and a province that cares so much about people because that’s what politics is all about; people.”
The counting of the ballots on Wednesday is being live-streamed by the province's UCP party.
* With Files from ROB MCKINLEY