Aidan Blum has spent roughly half his life involved and interested in politics.
The 24-year-old is now running as the Green Party candidate in the Banff-Airdrie riding when Canadians vote in the federal election on Sept. 20.
While relatively new to the region, the long-time Albertan has been learning about the diverse and geographically large riding since coming forth as a candidate.
Despite the Bow Valley being largely left-leaning compared to the most conservative voting areas of Cochrane and Airdrie, Blum said he’s learning there are similarities.
“There’s many different issues and different communities in the riding, but I find there’s a lot of similar ground between the areas and I think learning that has been a process,” he said. “It’s been a lot of driving and a lot of learning.”
Blum was born in Grande Prairie, but has lived in Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Spruce Grove as well as attended the University of Ottawa.
He moved to Canmore with his fiancé, who herself was a long-term resident of the community, and jumped at the opportunity to represent the Green Party in the Banff-Airdrie riding.
Though a traditionally conservative riding, Blum said the Green Party will focus on issues faced by constituents, including the housing crisis, protection for renters, affordability concerns, environment and climate change, and building a strong economy.
Blum noted a strength of the Green Party has been its willingness to work beyond party lines and push for the needs of both those in their riding and across the country.
“The Green Party has always been a vessel advocating to change the political arena to be healthier and to be more democratic, and not be afraid to work across party lines,” he said. “When faced with disaster, when faced with crises or hardships as a riding, province or a country, I think being able to collaborate and cooperate is what drives economics and solutions.”
Blum first became interested in politics when he was 12 years old, but became more involved following the 2011 federal election when Jack Layton and the NDP were voted the official opposition in what’s commonly referred to as the “orange crush.”
He said he’s been an active member in the Alberta Green Party and has been thinking of running as a candidate for the last six months.
While more conservative areas see the Green Party as a threat to Alberta's economy with a heavy reliance on the oil and gas sector, Blum said it’s vital to shift away from the sector, and the workforce is key in attaining that move.
“I believe Alberta has the best skilled labour force on the continent and that’s a huge opportunity for us to transition our economy and society away from fossil fuels. I think we’re going to have to completely transform society and the skilled labour we have in Alberta is going to be instrumental in that," he said.
“I tell people at the door, I want to be that voice who comes to oil and gas workers, to nurses, to teachers with a solution-based approach where I’m planning on a future for them and a future for their work that’s reliable and decades of work instead of Band-Aids, which I believe most other parties are having a hard time avoiding.
"It’s important to be straight with voters and I’ve been giving them an honest answer. I’m not coming after the oil and gas jobs, I’m coming after the industry itself so they pay their fair share, they pay any damages they’ve caused and we transition working people and re-train them into the new jobs of the future. They’re right here for us to grab, we just need the leadership to get there.”
The Banff-Airdrie riding – one of the Conservative Party’s strongholds – now has nine candidates running. Incumbent Blake Richards is aiming for a fifth-term, while David Gamble is representing the Liberal Party and Sarah Zagoda is with the NDP.
Cochranite Nadine Wellwood is for the People’s Party of Canada, Tariq Elnaga is with the Maverick Party and Derek Sloan, Caroline O’Driscoll and Ron Voss are independents.
Blum said he’s had help from Austin Mullins, who ran for the Green Party in the riding in 2019, and valley local Jack Paulsen, in better understanding the needs of constituents.
“I’m here to stay and build a name over time and build trust," he said. "It will take a lot of work, but the Green Party is a legitimate choice when it comes to job creation and transforming society to a more sustainable one.”