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Local Green Party veteran says MLA campaign plan is premature, for now

Veteran Green Party candidate Brian Deheer waits for Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche election call
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Brian Deheer, 59, the current vice-president of the Green Party of Alberta is watching with his party for the by-election call. File Photo

LAC LA BICHE - Will it be Green Brian’s turn?

Lac La Biche’s Brian Deheer has been the Green Party’s local candidate in every municipal, provincial and federal election over the last dozen years. But he hasn't officially entered the anticipated provincial by-election in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche constituency... yet. 

Deheer says until an official date for the by-election has been issued by the Premier, it would be a little early to stand up as the region's Green Party candidate.

"I feel it would be premature for me to comment until the election date has been set, and until it is clearer whether I'd be the candidate," he recently told Lakeland This Week, adding that he would be interested in running — or supporting any candidate the party nominated.

"The Party is certainly interested in fielding a candidate, although there is no foregone conclusion that it would be me," he said. "For my part ... I'm fine with running again, but also fine with another candidate, if there's someone else who is interested and could do a better job."

Good timing

When, and if, he runs, Deheer said the timing for the Green Party is right. With continuing controversies over the current UCP government’s leadership, the handling of the COVID pandemic, and economic issues, voters might be ready for a good, old fashioned environmental focus, he said.

"I think now is a good time for the Green Party of Alberta to be in the by-election, given the polarization we see between the two major parties and in the electorate," he said.  "We have also seen climate change and the other environmental crisis receiving more attention in the media and in the electorate, as they rightly should."

Running on an environmental platform — as he has three times provincially, four times federally and three times municipally over the last 15 years, without an election win — in an area where the oil and gas industry is front and centre, Deheer is also pragmatic.

"The political reality is still true: this riding is the home of the oilsands industry, and most of the voting population is in Fort McMurray.  Any hopes of gains in this by-election must be considered in light of that reality," he said, but adding quickly that it won't stop him from once again getting the Green Party message out there, if he is called upon.

Not a politician

Likely one of the most experienced political candidates in the province over the last decade and a half, Deheer not only shakes off the negative optics of losing each election bid, but gladly shakes off the perception that he is trying to be a politician.

"I don't see myself as a politician, and that's not really my goal," he said, explaining it all as an effective tool the party can use to get their message to the public. "I see the (Green Party of Alberta) as having lots of good principles and policies to offer, and I want to help bring these to voters and to our government.  I try to do this however I can, including the various groups that I volunteer with ... Letting my name stand for political office is just one more option available."

Deheer is currently the vice-president of the Green Party of Alberta after a time as the acting interim president. He has discussed the expected by-election with party's provincial executive, and is looking forward to hearing the election call.

The by-election in the Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche riding was needed following the sudden departure of former area MLA Laila Goodridge who left provincial politics in August to join the federal Conservative Party as the area’s Member of Parliament.

While no official word on the exact date of the by-election has been given by the Premier's office, according to provisions in provincial regulations, the by-election must be announced before February 15, with a four-week window before the vote.

"I will certainly be watching for the by-election announcement, and so will the GPA," Deheer said.

Former area MLA and MP Brian Jean has already been voted in as the UCP candidate for the riding. Fort McMurray teacher Ariana Mancini has been appointed as the NDP candidate. Earlier this month, Wildrose Independent Party leader Paul Hinman announced he was also in the running.