Locke set to create political diversity
The Liberal Party is looking to bounce back from a dismal performance in last year's federal election and, according to local candidate Harvey Locke, that resurgence starts with a win in the newly vacant seat of Calgary-Centre.
A well-known figure in the Bow Valley through his environmental efforts as well as having resided in Banff for numerous years, Locke secured the nod to represent the Liberals to contend for the seat left open by Lee Richardson, who is now the principal secretary for Premier Alison Redford.
Running on a campaign that emphasizes redefining what a 21st century Liberal is, the newly-chosen candidate is confident his party's values are what the majority of Albertans want to see within their government.
"I really have the feeling that there's something going on in the political culture of Alberta where people are open to thinking about a bit more diversity in political representation," Locke said in an interview with the Outlook.
"I work from a set of clear values and those are that Liberals are fiscally prudent, socially progressive, environmentally responsible and they want the country to be like that at home and abroad," he added.
"That set of values distinguishes us from the other parties."
Born in Calgary to parents from Banff, Locke is from one of the oldest families in the Bow Valley and as such has made it a priority to ensure that some of the issues pertaining to the Rocky Mountains and both provincial and national parks are addressed.
"The fundamental challenge we have now isn't to only protect little vignettes of nature, it's to figure out how nature thrives in the 21st century in the face of all the things that are going on," he said.
"We need to have an integrated conversation about how we do that instead of treating the environment as a side issue," he continued. "I think where we have done that in places like the Canadian Rockies, we see that the results are that animals are still there, with the exception of bison that we need to reintroduce."
Locke's previous achievements concerning the environment include working alongside the federal party's newest candidate for leadership, Justin Trudeau, in helping expand Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories.
The son of the former prime minister has garnered attention with his announcement and created a buzz of excitement, said Locke.
"The exciting thing is there is going to be several leadership candidates for the Liberal Party and I think it's part of the renewal of the Liberals," he said. "Trudeau's presence in Alberta demonstrates how much the Liberals think of Alberta as really an important place and not an afterthought.
"In the 21st century, Alberta should have a seat at the head table of defining what a Liberal is for Canada," he added.
Regarding the Conservatives, Locke believes the government is currently adopting a 19th century view of the world by maximizing exploitation and showing little care for compromising monetary issues for the future.
"I view the debt the federal Conservatives round up and the environment problems they're running up as the same thinking," he explained. "They're cashing in now at the expense of future generations and I think it's very inter-generationally unfair.
"I think we have a responsibility to be fiscally prudent now and we need to be environmentally prudent," he continued. "We need to be socially thoughtful about the kind of country we want to live in."
Despite losing 43 seats and official opposition status to the NDP in the 2011 election, the Liberals are already seeing a turnaround, according to a recent poll from Nanos National Tracking.
The nationwide poll released last month states support for the Liberals is at 30.1 per cent, which is ahead of the NDP at 27.9 per cent, but still behind the Conservatives at 33.3 per cent.
"I think we're getting a lot of attention," he said. "If you look at that poll we're nearly tied with the Tories. I fully intend to win the byelection and be competing to be the next government in 2015.
"The Calgary, Banff and Canmore area is a very special part of our country and I think we're ready to participate in national affairs with a bit more dynamism and diversity than just being monolithically conservative," he added.
The prime minister has recently set the election date for the Calgary-Centre riding for Nov. 26. Both the Conservatives and the Green Party have selected candidates while the NDP annoucned last week Dan Meades will represent the party for this riding.
"I know that many Albertans are uncomfortable with the direction the country is taking under these Conservatives and that's why I think there's an opening now for people to say 'let's have a bit more political diversity'."