By Pat Stier, MLA
With just over a year having passed since our new caucus was elected in 2015, I have finally had a moment to pause at the end of the spring 2016 session and reflect on what a significant amount of change has occurred since I last composed a statement regarding Wildrose Caucus and the Leader of our Party.
In fact, that last statement was done in late December, 2014 on the day when I wrote about my decision to not take part in the floor crossing strategy that many of my former 2012 Wildrose Caucus mates along with our former Leader had agreed to. It was an unforgettable day. What followed for me was an unbelievable chain of events for five months where our Wildrose Caucus was reduced from 17 to 5, our staff was cut to bare bones and our Interim Leader Heather Forsyth, did a fabulous job of guiding us through one of the most difficult times ever experienced by any party in Alberta politics.
Then one day in February 2015, I received a call from a guy named Brian Jean who introduced himself as a potential leadership candidate. He told me a bit about his background which seemed to include a very interesting and frankly intriguing set of experiences. A business man with years of experience as a lawyer, and one who served in the federal government as a Member of Parliament from Fort McMurray for 10 years.
Since becoming our Leader at the end of March 2015, Brian has brought about significant improvements to our party and caucus operations. There is no question in my mind that his training, skills, and years of experience in the vastly more complex system in Ottawa, have been the key to our success in eventually electing 22 MLAs and guiding us to becoming once again the best official opposition Albertans have ever seen.
Consider for a moment the circumstances Jean found himself in when he came to Wildrose. The party was in shambles. Brian’s youngest son was in the hospital with a serious illness which led unfortunately to his death just two weeks before Brian became Leader. And then, within ten days of Brian becoming leader, Premier Prentice called a snap election.
Yet, with only 10 days to plan and less than one quarter of the spending budget Wildrose had in 2012, Jean and the current Wildrose team were able to win four more seats than Wildrose had ever had and broke into parts of the province where we had never won before. Brian again showed leadership in the Calgary–Foothills byelection, where Prasad Panda won a seat in a city where Wildrose was once told it could never elect an MLA.
Most recently, Brian has demonstrated his ability to lead in difficult times, with the horrible wildfire event in Fort McMurray. His dedication to his community and to his constituents has been without any question, impeccable. And despite facing significant personal loss when his own family home was destroyed, Brian soldiered on. His determination and compassion during this terrible tragedy has been exemplary.
Afterwards, not to be defeated by those extremely difficult circumstances, Brian returned to the legislature once again with renewed vigour to assist with the debate and opposition to the NDP government’s new carbon tax bill. While Wildrose was not successful in getting amendments passed, Brian’s determination was a key factor in the teamwork that was so energized to do more by the example Brian had so well demonstrated. In the end, only Wildrose had every one of its MLAs present in the assembly to vote against the carbon tax.
In politics the position of Leader is the most difficult. It sometimes involves hard decisions regarding discipline which must be addressed in a clear decisive manner. It sometimes means apologizing for mistakes, even if they are not your own mistakes. To do all that well requires constant consultation with the elected caucus and a demonstration of strong leadership qualities.
Politics is the most hazardous of professions, yet it is still the noblest career any man can choose. I am impressed with the professional, grassroots, and diplomatic approach that Brian has brought to the Wildrose Party and Caucus.
It is my pleasure and my honour to serve with Brian Jean, the next Premier of our great province.
Pat Stier is the MLA for Livingstone–Macleod and is one of the longest serving members of the Wildrose caucus.