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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Interview with Livingstone-Macleod Wildrose candidate Pat Stier

Pat Stier in Pincher Creek
T. Lucas photo
Chris Davis

Background:*

Incumbent Pat Stier was elected as the Member of Alberta's Legislative Assembly for Livingstone-Macleod on April 23, 2012, replacing then incumbent Evan Berger.  Stier has  lived in Alberta’s Foothills region his entire life. He attended school in Okotoks and raised Angus cattle, Arabian horses and various crops with his family for more than 30 years on their ranch near De Winton.  Throughout his working career Mr. Stier was employed primarily in the seismic data segment of the oil and gas industry in Calgary. He is President of River Canyon Enterprises Inc, a rural land planning consulting company.  Stier has many years of community experience as President of the Dunbow Road Area Residents Association from 1988 to 1999, plus in Municipal Government including service on planning, subdivision, development, and assessment boards prior to his election as a Municipal Councillor from 2004 to 2007 with the Municipal District of Foothills. With a farm background of over 30 years, 25 years in the Oil and Gas Industry, along with 15 years’ of community service with Municipal Government, Stier believes he is very well suited to represent the interests of the residents of Livingstone-MacLeod.

Interview:

The following interview with Pat Stier was conducted in our office last week.


The first question I posed to Stier was about the unexpected rise in the polls for the NDP.  Stier said "What the polls are saying; what a horrendous, horrendous twist. I've got 22 communities or more, and we've been trying to be in touch with every one of them, it's taken a long time to get to every one of them."

Stier emphasized the size of the Livingstone-Macleod riding as a factor in both governing it and campaigning in it.  He said he had to explain the size of the riding to a reporter in Calgary. "He had no concept. I told him we could fit 23 City of Calgary's in this riding, he couldn't believe that, and there is only one MLA."

I next asked Stier if the notorious floor crossing of a total of 11 Wildrose MLAs to the Progressive Conservatives have posed a challenge to the Wildrose party during this election.  "We have been challenged for sure," he replied. "We had a lot of difficulty there at that time, We have been rebuilding since, of course. "
"There were five of us left, two of our members were not going to run again, and we knew that at that time as well."
"It was hard to see how things were going to work out." 

Stier said the Wildrose originally planned to have a lengthy process to elect a new leader to replace defector Danielle Smith, but "We found out as things were going along, the government team was looking at pulling a snap election on us, and we had to see if there wasn't a way we could speed things up a bit, and get a leader in place."
"We have got that guy now (Brian Jean), and what a tragedy he had within the first week of his mandate as the new leader, losing his son."
"We have rebuilt, we are back, we are strong, as I sensed we would be. It has not been without its challenges, as I have said, but boy we are doing really great."

After the major floor crossing event of December, the prospects were bleak for the Wildrose, but Stier stuck with the party, despite telling me at the time that position was likely political suicide.  During our most recent interview he said he has been grateful for the amount of support he has since received.  "During the period of time after my decision to remain and stick to my principles etc, etc, so many people were coming forward not only in the constituency but across Alberta, and outside of Alberta that wanted to give us a hand."

"They thought we'd done good, and so now, we have rebuilt. A lot of the people we had to layoff and say an early goodbye to because of what had happened have been volunteering with us and are back on our team. We are so lucky to have that in place."

Stier said deciding to stick with the party was an easy choice for him.  "Any man worth his salt knows he shouldn't be out there doing things that would tarnish his reputation. That's just a basic principle I have always had, and when you go out and say to people "I will do that for you, I will do that for you', how can you turn around and do the opposite later on and say 'It's good'? You can't."

"As far as the ethics go, I think we pointed out in three years that the ethics of the governing party were in question, and a problem. Month by month we pointed out so many things that were discovered, and that is part of our job as the opposition, to point out things that sometimes even the government doesn't want to have uncovered."

"We are seeing the same kinds of things coming up. A lot of promises are being made by our former opponents, still the same opponent, where they are going out and making promises on seniors lodges, and facilities, and schools, and so on and so forth etc, etc, and we don't think they are going to live up to those, again. They didn't live up to them during the time that we were the official opposition."

"Two and a half weeks ago, the new Minister of Seniors Affairs came down with others, and my opponent in the election was there (Evan Berger), and they made an announcement for the 7.5 million dollar new seniors lodge in Fort Macleod that was never applied for. People from the Willow Creek Foundation Board actually phoned me, and were so concerned. They said 'We were so upset that you weren't involved in this, but secondly, we can't believe what they're doing here, this is obviously, blatantly something to do with the election, because we didn't even ask for this'." There are no plans, charts or tenders for this project, according to Stier. "They said they were happy, and I said I'm happy for you too." "Let's be clear, I am very happy that there is going to be a great new project in the area to help seniors. Certainly that's wonderful. But the optics are not good."

Stier contrasted that promise with the Police College fiasco in Fort Macleod.  "They had a sod turning for the police college, (and) two months after the election happened in 2012, they cancelled the project."

"You talk about ethics? We can be here for days with examples of things that makes one question why that party (PC) operates the way they do, in my opinion." The PC disqualification of Chestermere- Rocky View candidate Jamie Lall, who is now running as a conservative independent, is one of the issued Stier cited as questionable. "If you look at that story, and you look at some of the other shenanigans that seem to be going on... It looks like the party operates in a unique way to do business. They just phone up and say 'Hey, you're no longer qualified, get out of there'."  He also questioned the Jonathan Denis texts that were released following that situation, in which Denis (then the Justice minister) told Lall he was being set up by the PCs. "One's got to wonder why he would have done that." "In the past eight months since the new leader came in, there have been so many resignations on the PC side, so many decisions by other members there besides ultimately big names, fully just resigned to people saying they are not going to run again. There's been 18 to 19 members, I've lost track."

"It looks like they are having some sort of internal strife and they don't know which way is up, they're not sure how they should move forward, and now it's showing in the polls."

I asked Stier what might happen if Alberta ends up with a minority government after this election, and what compromises might be made to govern, including possibly an alliance between the Wildrose and the PCs, or the Wildrose and the NDP.  "I think everyone will be probably shocked with what a difference it'll make to Alberta, if we have the scenario that you just hypothetically posed. It would be a very difficult time. It's going to be hard to get things done, I think it would be an extremely fragile environment, and I think it would be a temporary one. I think we would be going to the polls fairly soon, if that sort of situation came up."

"I can't speculate on what we'll run into, it's hard to even imagine at this time. We've had 40 years of a PC governing situation. It's true that we are both conservative parties, without question."

"Sometimes we do tend to stand up for the same kinds of things, on occasion. This scenario we're looking at now, a minority with alliances, it is hard to imagine how it would even work."

As for polls: "I don't put any stock in polls."

Challenges facing Livingstone-Macleod?  "In the next few years this constituency, being the size that it is, has a number of variations that come into play all the time.  To the north we have huge growth. Northern areas by Priddis, Bragg Creek area, all the way down through to virtually Longview, and all the way across over to High River along the #2 Highway is a huge growth corridor. We are having a lot of challenges there between the grind of the city of Calgary, the two towns, the MD of Foothills, Rockyview, etc. There is a regional plan issue that happens in that area because not only do they have the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan in play, but we also have the sub-regional plan that they are trying to launch which is the Calgary-Metropolitan Plan that further controls growth there, and it's a huge issue."

"It's controversial, and the Mayor of Calgary has been trying to manipulate that for the past few years. It's a huge issue up there."

"They have tried over the years to control their growth but they continue to want to annex land.  They want to control land, therefore, ahead of time for a 20 or 30 year need. So they try to influence what is going on outside into rural areas, and try to sterilize areas so that there's is not a lot of growth there in the area so they can come in and develop easier. That gets people like the Municipality of Foothills and Rockyview County really, really agitated."

"There is going to be in the next few years a lot of growth in the north, and a lot of concerns about how to grow, and how that's going to work between the different factions that are involved."
"Of course farming and ranching and agriculture are vitally important, it's the second largest industry in the province. We have to ensure that we have in the rules and regulations that we work with, which includes our property rights.   We have to ensure that we have legislation to adjust and amend it, so that is going to have some predictability for people that are investing in that kind of business. It's not only just an investment business, it's their lifestyle. So they need to know that when they are getting a permit for intensive livestock operation - feedlot if you will, other kinds of endeavors, dairy, etc, etc, that the rug isn't going to be pulled. There has been some stuff that has already happened, so we need to ensure for agriculture we have that in place, but not only that we have to work with our federal people and with the provincial government in their agricultural department to ensure that the rights and objectives and hopes and dreams of people investing in that huge industry again have easy access to markets, international markets, all that kind of stuff."

"Those are the kinds of things that I see coming up in the agricultural side for this area, as far as the constituency goes."

"I am very sensitive and recognize the value of the environment and the eastern slopes, the view-shed, all of these kind of things, logging issues that come up from time to time. All of these have to be taken into account. Although the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan was supposed to address those kinds of things, not everybody necessarily agrees with the SSRP and the goals and the policies that are in there. We have to ensure that document gets amended with our input and try to make sure it is the right way to go into the future."

"I see there is going to be a lot of stuff to look for in the next few years.

Transmission line development continues to be an issue in the area, according to Stier.  "We are getting all kinds of complaints about that, and I have been in the papers saying we have got to have checks and balances on this kind of thing. It is a resource, certainly, but how do we look forward to that? Is there going to be a saturation point? When is enough enough?    I think when the Municipality of the Crowsnest Pass wrote the letter to the energy minister and to the government about that I think they were right."

"Tourism is important, even through this area tourism is extremely important. So do we have people coming from all over the world seeing some sort of massive industrial build up versus the beautiful mountains of the Rockies with the foothills in the foreground? I don't know but we need to be clear about that."

"Those guys passed a bill called Bill 50 in '09, '10 roughly, when I was first getting involved heavily in this, and it said that we suddenly needed a 16 billion dollar build up on transmission power lines and services and sub-stations, and so on. They also outlawed at that time a needs assessment to be done by the Alberta Utility Commission (rescinded circa 2013)".   Are we still, now in need of all these thing that they have been doing? Are they going to stop because they realize there may not be all that need that they anticipated? Are we still going to build all this, unnecessarily?  On the way in from High River this same morning I saw these huge, huge big towers going in right at the High River Overpass. Holy Dinah, there's no new plants going into the High River area, so what is the need for that? And we're paying that, you and I, the taxpayers."

"Is the NDP a credible threat in Livingstone-Macleod?" I asked.  "I have no way to measure that. I really can't tell you that. You see the orange signs here and there, but they weren't a factor the last time to any amount, whatsoever."

"Albertans realize that they need a good credible government that has good ideas, that has a way to keep the checks and balances in. I think that people realize that you can't take a minimum wage from $10.20 to $15.00 as they are proposing and still have small businesses exist. I think people realize that you have to keep corporate taxes at a reasonable rate or you're going to drive business away. We have seen in other provinces where exactly the opposite happened because of a NDP style of government."

"My main objective is to be elected to form the new government to replace the PCs, who have proven to be a little bit out of touch with Albertans, and they have some ethical problems, some accountability problems, and some transparency problems, and I don't think they (citizens) can trust them."

"I am proud to have been part of the opposition party that actually in the past three years have brought more things to light about how they have been operating so badly, how all the different forms and methods you could operate under have been avoided, and they've been trying to do an awful lot of things that most people would say are wrong. So I'm proud to help point that out, and I think we have been effective and made some change."

"The fact is, that I am one of the best qualified guys to seek this position again, because of my background; whether in municipal work, business and professional work, oil and gas downtown, and being a farmer for 30 years where I live, which is only 5 or 6 miles off of the eastern boundary of this massive riding. I happen to live up towards the north side of it, admittedly, but it's only a few miles off of the boundary. Most of the towns that I have been involved with since I got elected are basically some of my hometowns anyway. I used to play hockey in Nanton now and again, and I have been in Turner Valley/Black Diamond a lot in my life, and my boundary goes up to High River. I used to play hockey and work in the town of High River for many years while I was on Council."

If Stier gets elected he vows to remain Wildrose. "I would never cross the floor, under any circumstance, period."

"I am one of the 'Surviving Five'. I put my hand over my chest when I say that."

"It's been a pleasure to serve. It's been my chance to do the best I could, under some unique circumstances to say the least, and it has been a challenge."

"There are days when I wonder if it's sometimes not too much, but it's been a pleasure to be reasonably successful with such a huge area, with 22 communities, meeting wonderful people and still being able to be well respected and received as I have been in the last few months since all this other stuff has happened. It's been great."

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