Meet A Calgary Grit: Stephen Randall

When Stephen Randall was nominated as the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre-North in January, the assumption was he’d be fighting a by election this spring. Now, he’s going head to head with Tory Michelle Rempel, the NDP’s Paul Vargis, and the Green Party’s Heather MacIntosh.

I had a chance to interview Randall a few weeks ago. Here’s a recap of our chat:

1. You’ve chosen to enter politics at a later stage in life than a lot of candidates. Has this been a long time ambition, or did something happen recently to push you in this direction?

Randall says running is something he’s thought about before, but his career took him in other directions. However, his dissatisfaction with the current government pushed him to take the plunge.

He sees his late entry to the political arena as an asset rather than a liability: “I’ll be blunt – I don’t like career politicians. I think it’s important for candidates to bring their national and international experience to the table. I bring something to the table that someone like our Prime Minister who has never had a job outside of politics doesn’t.”

2. What’s your 15 second pitch to voters? What’s this election about?

“It’s about sustainable employment – striking the right balance between the environment and growth. Calgarian families are thinking about their children and the future – the future of health care, pensions, and employment opportunities.”

3. The Liberals haven’t won a seat in Calgary since 1968. Why do you think that is, and how do you overcome it?

Randall recognizes there’s “lingering hostility” between Calgary and the federal Liberals that goes back to the NEP, and was re-ignited with the Sponsorship Scandal – “There are people who think the Liberals are crooks, including my immediate neighbour” says Randall. However, he doesn’t feel these historical issues are as top of mind on the doorsteps now as they were in 2006 or 2008.

Despite the challenge, Randall is optimistic: “We have two very good provincial Liberal MLAs who overlap my riding, David Swann and Harry Chase. There’s therefore a solid Liberal base in the riding to build off. In the past, there hasn’t always been cross-over or co-operation between the parties, but this time both MLAs are supporting me. David Swann has been a friend of mine for 10 years and was at my launch last week.”

Many constituents and Conservative Party members are dissatisfied with the Conservative candidate. They feel there was no competition for the nomination, and prominent Conservatives are supporting my campaign.”

4. You mentioned your international experience earlier. What’s the most memorable experience from your work overseas – what really impacted you?

I was in Cambodia in 1993 under the UN authority, to help run their election. It was the first time Cambodia had a democratic election. It left a huge emotional impact on me, seeing a people hungry for change. I saw elderly men and women walk 10 or 20 kilometers to polling stations to vote for the first time. It honestly brought a tear to my eye.”

5. A few years ago, the CBC ran a contest asking Canadians to vote for The Greatest Canadian. Everyone from John A. MacDonald to David Suzuki to Don Cherry got votes. Who would you vote for?

My answer might change if I had more time to think about it, but I’d have to put Lester Pearson high on the list. Just from the combination of the work he did on the Suez Crisis, and the vision and passion he brought to small-l liberalism in the 20th Century.”

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