The Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) has a familiar face as their candidate for the riding of Lacombe-Ponoka.
Doug Hart will make his fifth attempt at representing those in the riding after being selected as the NDP nominee last Thursday. After doubling the NDP vote in 2012, then tripling that vote in 2015 to come in just 1,021 votes behind then-Wildrose and now UCP MLA Ron Orr, he believes the time is right for him to finally be elected.
“I’m running to win,” he said. “My conviction runs deep and my values I publicly affirm – what you see is what you get.”
He describes himself as a long-standing progressive social activist who’s very “proud of my roots,” which are steeped in social democracy.
His great uncle, Roy Atkinson, was a founder of the National Farmers Union in the 60’s and 70’s when they fought for the wheat board. His grandmother, Elsie Hart, received an honourary degree from the University of Saskatchewan for the work she did with Tommy Douglas, the NDP’s first federal leader, on the Medical Insurance System which became the basis for Canada’s medicare system. He’s also a descendent of the Harts from New England who were part of the Underground Railroad.
He wants to continue his family’s legacy of standing up for social rights, and as such as been politically engaged for most of his life, including chairing the NDP Rural Caucus.
“It runs in my blood,” he said. “I’m not a fair-weather friend. I’m a long-standing social democrat,” he said. “We have to do what’s in the most interest of the most people, not what’s in the most interest of the wealthy and let the benefits trickle down.”
Despite the collapse of oil prices and the province going through what he calls the “most difficult four years in Alberta’s history,” save perhaps the Great Depression, he says Rachel Notley’s NDP have been doing just that.
“We’re back on track. Our deficit is $1.8 billion less than what was predicted this year,” he said. “We’ve added hospitals, $25 a day daycare, we’ve enshrined human rights like LGBTQ rights and women’s reproductive rights in legislation. We got the money out of politics with Bill 1. Big corporations can’t buy political parties. Those are important steps in a democracy….and Rachel’s not done yet and she’s not going to stop until every person is included in the (economic) recovery.”
It is that particular area where he says there’s a significant difference between the NDP and the UCP.
While the NDP’s plans, he says, include investment into hospitals, such as the announced expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital, further infrastructure, daycare, long term care and affordable housing, the UCP’s will focus on cuts, and privatization.
The other key difference will be the social issue aspect, and it is there he believes that the UCP will lose votes to the NDP.
“They have included the right-wing Wildrose and the moderate Progressive Conservatives and moved to the right. The NDP had moved from the far left to the centre and there are a whole lot of centrists who have compassion for their fellow man, who do not reduce people to human capital…and I think we’re going to get a lot of votes from progressive conservatives who don’t have a home anymore, who don’t feel like part of the big tent,” he said.
The Alberta Party is also billing themselves as being that new home for many conservatives disillusioned by the UCP, however, Hart doesn’t see them as being a factor in the upcoming election.
“The two horses in the race are going to be the UCP and the NDP. I don’t think the Alberta Party, not to discredit them, are well enough established to be in the same race,” he said. “I know they’re counting on the progressive conservative vote, but so am I.”
One of the major issues of the upcoming election will be the NDP’s introduction of a carbon tax.
Given the carbon tax was “intended to be revenue neutral” and that 65 per cent of Albertans, Hart says, get some of the carbon tax returned and the monies that don’t go towards innovation into other sources, he says it’s something he stands behind.
“I support any innovation in alternative green energy, including solar, wind and geothermal electricity,” he said. “The thing we’re promoting in our Climate Leadership Plan is moving away slowly – slowly – from our reliance our oil and gas products and have a 20 year plan to diversify our economy and we’ve started that already.”
Rural crime, which he says has seen drops every month since the implementation of the NDP’s Crime Reduction Plan, and rural viability – providing social infrastructure to attract and keep people in the smaller communities to stop the “urban drift” – are other issues he sees as being important in the upcoming election on top of the diversification of the economy.
Overall, however, he sees the pending campaign as being one based largely on trust, and he believes there’s just one party that offers that.
“Who are you going to trust?” he said, noting nomination contest controversy, ballot stuffing and fake membership scandals as items that will hamper the UCP.
“I think people are going to trust Rachel Notley and the NDP more than they are the UCP.”
Doug Hart can be reached on Facebook through the Lacombe-Ponoka NDP Campaign to elect Doug Hart page, Twitter @doughartndp, as well as by phone at (403)963-5116. A website is supposed to be up and running in the near future at www.doughart.albertandp.ca, and unlike in past elections, he says there will be a campaign office opened once the election formally gets underway.
Incumbent MLA Ron Orr, who was elected under the Wildrose banner, will be running for the UCP in the riding. Myles Chykerda, who was the first candidate to register for the 2019 election, will represent the Alberta Party. At the time of press, no candidates for the Alberta Liberal or Green parties had stepped forward.