Ponoka’s Doug Hart is in the provincial election race under the NDP banner in the Lacombe-Ponoka district.
This will be Hart’s fifth run at the MLA job as a New Democrat. For anyone who knows Hart, he’s always stood by his convictions when it comes to politics.
“Social democracy is in my blood. My grandparents grew up in Saskatchewan. My great uncle was the president of the National Farmer’s Union,” explained Hart.
Even when asked to run as a Liberal some years ago, Hart declined because he didn’t feel it was right to his principles.
“That’s my conviction. That’s my values. You publicly affirm what you believe or you’re a hypocrite,” said Hart.
While some may feel his work is futile, Hart’s reputation turned heads in the 2015 election. Lacombe-Ponoka saw then Wildrose candidate Ron Orr win with 6,502 votes, with Hart coming in second at 5,481 votes. Compared to the 2012 election results of 1,482 votes (Wildrose’s Rod Fox won with 6,573 votes) that was a major jump.
“I think we have a good platform and I think we have a great leader,” said Hart of this year’s upcoming election.
“And I think there’s more to governance than low taxes and privatization.”
He clarified he is in favour of low taxes and reducing regulations but suggests the goal of running for office only to defeat the current NDP government is not enough.
“You need to have a long term economic plan. You need to have a long term economic diversification plan,” explained Hart.
One thing he’d like to see is a plan to diversify Alberta’s economy rather than rely only on resources. He pointed out that former Premier Peter Lougheed advocated that same idea.
After oil and gas, agriculture is the second largest export for the province, followed by forestry; Hart wants to create other opportunities to expand those exports to other markets.
“When you hitch your economy to one industry, and the international oil prices — over which (Premier) Rachel Notley has no control — go into the tank, you can understand why there’s going to be high unemployment and a recession ensues,” stated Hart.
He wants to clarify misconceptions between low oil prices due to supply prices and that of the NDP being in power.
When asked about Alberta’s carbon levy, which is expected to be big talking point in this election, Hart pointed out that Alberta doesn’t have a sales tax and suggested that the levy is designed to bring in new industries.
“It was designed as revenue neutral. About 65 per cent of households get rebates on their carbon tax and the rest goes to innovating and green energy,” said Hart.
He suggests there are new projects and industries in Alberta such as agri-business, tourism and micro-breweries due in large part to the levy. Alberta’s economy is something he spoke on.
“If we had a sales tax of about five per cent, we add about $11 billion to our revenue every year and our deficit would be gone,” said Hart.
One issue Hart wanted to clarify was the question of debt. While Alberta’s debt has risen in recent years, it’s debt to GDP ratio remains the lowest in the country. “We can afford to take on a little debt and invest in the province when our oil prices drop to $28 a barrel.”
“That’s good business. Economists support that.”
“Our debt to GDP is the envy of every province and territory in the country,” he stated. “People can’t just look at the debt.”
He added that Alberta is the lowest taxed province in Canada.
As for his constituents if elected, Hart says he will continue to advocate for sustaining rural communities like Lacombe and Ponoka. “Rural communities are the economic engine of the province.”
Alberta exports all come from rural communities, said Hart, adding that he wants to see educational and employment opportunities in rural towns.
“We have to do things to keep a social infrastructure to make people stay in small town Alberta,” he said.
On top of that, Hart would like to see some rejuvenation of the family farm and to see reduced interest rates from the likes of the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. He hopes this will also entice younger people to get into the agriculture industry.
Looking at the upcoming election, Hart is also concerned with what he calls an increase in acrimony and vitriol but says he’ll be focussed on finding ways to ensure the oil and gas industry is supported. “We need to get a pipeline. We need to get our product to market.”
The 69-year-old NDP candidate is not one to hold back his feelings on contentious issues, something he feels will be a benefit to the district. Hart says he makes his decisions based on research and being informed.
“As an academic, my mission was the pursuit of truth,” says Hart.
“I try to talk to people. I try to know the local issues.”
“I know the arguments about minimum wage but I also know the merits of the minimum wage,” he explained.
Looking at this next election with the former Wildrose and PC parties joining forces, Hart is not convinced their members are united in the now UCP goals. He suggests the UCP has started to veer more to the right of the political spectrum while the NDP has moved more to the centre.
“We’re not left wing nuts. We’re centrists and we have made a good start of rejuvenating our economy, cleaning our environment, supporting our oil industry. But our work’s not done,” said Hart, adding that the goal is not to leave anyone behind.
While the election hasn’t been called, Hart says he will be campaigning to win and is in the process of getting a campaign office and ordering campaign supplies.