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'Unite the right' far from done deal as Brian Jean looks ahead to 2017

The leader of the official opposition in Alberta says he’s focused on building a big tent party of conservative values, but for specifics he says Albertans will have to wait and see.

'I don’t work with Jason Kenney ... my focus has to be on creating jobs and keeping the NDP to account'

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean announced Thursday that he would step down to support the creation of a united conservative party in Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The leader of the official opposition in Alberta says he's focused on building a big tent party of conservative values. but for specifics he says Albertans will have to wait and see.

"There is nothing more important than consolidating conservatives, getting as many conservatives together under one umbrella to take on the NDP," Wildrose Leader Brian Jean told The Homestretch this week in a year-end interview.

"Rachel Notley would like Wildrose to be distracted by what is happening with the PCs, but that is not going to happen."

The following is a condensed version of the interview.

Q: Is uniting the right still at the top of your priority list for 2017? What does that look like?

You will have to wait and see more in the new year, especially as the race with the PCs unfolds. The job I continue to be focused on right now is holding the NDP accountable and building Wildrose to be a strong force ready to defeat the NDP in 2019.

Q: What is your relationship with Jason Kenney?

I don't work with Jason Kenney. Jason Kenney is running to be the leader of the PC Party along with Richard Starke and Mr. [Stephen] Khan and other individuals. These people are focused on winning the leadership battle and my focus has to be on creating jobs and keeping the NDP to account. I think that is the most important thing I can do.

Q: Once the party picks a leader, then what?

We are always here with our dancing shoes on, but the important thing to remember is that any good leader is open to options that are in the best interest of their membership, as long as the membership approves that agreement. I don't think there is anything wrong with presenting options to them.

I am a leader that knows the members are ultimately in charge and I am hoping to give as many of them an opportunity to participate in the decision making of where Wildrose goes as possible. Until they give me marching orders to go in a different direction though, I am going to continue to hold the NDP to account and to recognize and help people continue to understand that Wildrose is the true home for conservative values and principals.

Q: What are you hearing about the carbon tax, which goes into effect Jan. 1?

Albertans don't want this tax wherever I go and see them, whether it is in Hanna or Grande Cache, Fort McMurray, Calgary, the streets of downtown Calgary. People are worried. They are seriously concerned because there are serious consequences that are happening to them, their friends and their family. They are losing their jobs, as a result of that they are losing the opportunity to have the great quality of life we have in Alberta.

That is why Albertans don't support the NDP and the carbon tax and why they want it, at the very least, to be halted, stopped and to let the provincial government, if they are permitted by law, to bring in their carbon tax just a short period away.

Q: You lost your home in the Fort McMurray wildfire. What's your current situation?

I am in a very small apartment in Fort McMurray, when I get the opportunity to be home, it's great. I have applied for a development permit for my home and it is right now being advertised and going through that process, so I will see if I get to break ground here this spring. That would be my hope, then I will rebuild my house. I can't replace all those items that I lost, but then neither can the 2,400 other families that lost their homes.

Q: How has the rebuild been going in general?

I don't think [the various levels of government] came out of the gate very well. At the very start, there were a lot of delays. I was not permitted to even know whether or not I was going to be able to rebuild my home in the same place for five months. This is a situation where people have been victimized and are continuing to be victimized.

There are a lot of families, young families, that right now are deciding whether they want to stay in Fort McMurray or leave Fort McMurray because of the situation with the municipal government holding up some of it for a long period of time. They have done a better job, or at least moved finally to make, in my opinion, some good decisions. 

Some of the decisions they have made continue to hurt the residents of Fort McMurray and I just wish the bureaucracy would get out of the way and let people rebuild what they had before and remove all of those obstacles that are not just creating a toll on their financing and their plans for the future but are also creating emotional stress for these families.

Whether it is Alberta Health, or Alberta Environment or the municipality on the permitting process, I think a lot of times people will have to put other things first before all of this bureaucratic red tape that really doesn't help the families and that is the ultimate purpose of government.

Q: What is your time priority for 2017?

To keep the NDP to account, that is my primary job as it is for the other 21 Wildrose MLAs. To be a true force to be reckoned with and ready to defeat the NDP in 2019.

Albertans have a lot to be worried about and I am going to continue to try to slow down the NDP's ideological pursuit of their policies and try to divert them into to making better decisions ultimately in the best interest of Albertans.

Q: What are you most proud of in 2016?

We have slowed down the NDP and diverted their course on a lot of things. I was most proud that I was able to stand with the citizens of Alberta and Fort McMurray during the time of devastation, personal devastation, loss in Fort McMurray. I have heard time and time again that Albertans have appreciated the open and transparent communication that I made with them with media and the fact that I was on the ground giving first-hand accounts. The support that people have said that provided is what makes me most proud.


With files from The Homestretch

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