Doug Schweitzer: From Prentice campaign manager to MLA
UCP candidate defeats incumbent Greg Clark in Calgary-Elbow
Doug Schweitzer was elected as the next MLA for Calgary-Elbow on Tuesday as part of a blue wave of United Conservatives who won in ridings across Alberta.
Schweitzer spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: When could you tell things were starting to go your way?
A: When 8,000 people voted in the advance polls [in Elbow], we could see a trend of Albertans showing up in big numbers and we could tell that our supporters were really, really motivated. We've been at this for over a year locally here in Calgary-Elbow, and our team literally knocked on every single door five times. We've been up and down the streets talking to people, so we could tell that our people were excited and they were just anxious to vote.
Q: Let's talk about your background here for a little bit. I remember you working with [former premier] Jim Prentice.
A: Jim and I knew each other quite well and I ran his leadership campaign.
Q: Why did you want this gig?
A: I'm a restructuring lawyer, which means I help companies that are in financial difficulty. I help people in financial difficulty — and for the last four years, Albertans have just been completely devastated across this province.
My family went through the same thing in the early 1980s. My parents had a small business, and they lost it. We lost our home, and my family really struggled for five, 10 years to recover. I've seen it firsthand how many Albertans today are struggling. A lot of this is self-inflicted, through bad policy, and we have to start turning this around and getting people back to work.
Q: Your party has made a lot of promises over the last few weeks. We certainly heard Mr. Kenney last night make more, promising tens of thousands of not only jobs but good jobs in Alberta. You understand the expectations that are on you this morning?
A: You know, it's humbling when Albertans put their trust in you. We came out with one of most detailed platforms in Alberta history. One of the centerpieces of that is our job creation tax cut, which should create 55,000 jobs here in Alberta, as well as repealing the carbon tax, which should create another 6,000 jobs. That is critical to us, and we heard that literally every single day at the doors in this campaign as Albertans are looking for competitiveness. They want to get back to work.
Q: There are people in this province who are concerned about the UCP. They don't know really where you stand on social issues. We heard your leader saying all of us are just fearmongering. What's your sense of personal responsibility as it stands around social issues?
A: The biggest thing we have to make sure of is that we govern for all Albertans. We want to make sure that people that didn't necessarily vote for us in this campaign — we want them to know that we're going to be there for everyone, regardless of where you come from, politically-speaking.
Q: You strike me as someone who's on more the progressive side of the spectrum. You'll meet other UCP MLAs who come from a different side of the political spectrum. What do you think your role is going to be in all of this?
A: I've met so many people in our party that we've come together because of the economy, because so many people are struggling in this province. That's the glue that's brought it all together.
I've met some folks that are very traditional conservatives. I've met other people, they're very progressive. And they've all come together to help bring this big tent together, because they knew it was critical to be able to win this last election campaign and earn Albertans' trust.
Q: You defeated the only member the Alberta Party had in the legislature, Greg Clark. He was the one voice in the legislature for the Alberta Party for so long. Any words about him and the campaign he ran?
A: I have an immense amount of respect for Greg Clark. His local team ran an excellent campaign. You know what? The voters have decided what path they want, to go forward. But I think he's got a bright future ahead of him.
Q: Were you that guy in high school that people would have voted most likely to do this?
A: I doubt it. I played college baseball, so I was put on a baseball track, then ended up hurting my shoulder. Luckily, I did well enough in university to go into law school. But I don't think they necessarily would have pegged me as a future politician.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener