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Calgary Confederation Liberal candidate talks youth jobs and partisan politics

By Fabian Mayer, September 17 2015 —

Throughout the federal election, the Gauntlet will interview candidates running in Calgary Confederation. This newly-created riding includes the University of Calgary and many surrounding communities.

Lawyer, community organizer and U of C alumnus Matt Grant is the Liberal candidate for the riding. He and his team have been campaigning in the riding for two years. We sat down with him for a conversation on student and national issues.

Gauntlet: Why should residents of Calgary Confederation vote Liberal?

Matt Grant: I’m really excited about the Liberal plan because we’re dealing with a number of very important issues for people in Calgary Confederation. The economy is in trouble right now and we have a plan for growth and jobs. The people in this riding are looking for change and the Liberals are in the best position to give them that change.

G: Why should people choose you personally to represent them?

MG: I’ve lived in Renfrew, Bridgeland and now West Hillhurst. I went to law school at the U of C where I was also on student government at one point. The reality is I’ve spent a long time volunteering and serving and I’ve heard that the people of Calgary Confederation are searching. In some cases they’re searching for jobs, they’re searching for economic stability, they’re searching for affordable tuition and places to live. I’ve heard those messages. I’m ready to lead, to learn and to work with different groups to make sure we get the change the people in this riding want.

G: Why should young people vote Liberal when their concerns have been ignored so far in the federal campaign?

MG: I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but one thing to point out is our tax break that we tout as being for the middle class is going to be for incomes between $45,000–90,000. A lot of students who graduate from the U of C, their first jobs are going to be at or around that level. One of the exciting things about our plan — even though it might seem like two, three, four years away — is that when you graduate under a Liberal government you’re going to be paying less taxes.

The other component we’re talking about is job creation, but I’m very focused on youth job creation. One of the unfortunate effects of what’s happened since 2008 is that there are 200,000 fewer jobs for young Canadians now than there were in 2008 and the Liberals are talking very seriously about job creation and about economic growth.

G: An issue that impacts young people more so than other Canadians is marijuana policy. Is the Liberal Party still planning on legalizing marijuana if elected?

MG: It is. The current status quo simply doesn’t work. Our concern is that the only people benefiting from it are organized crime. We want to tax it, we want to regulate it, we want to make sure the social costs that are associated with marijuana use are covered by some taxes and we want to make sure it’s safe. It’s not a major issue for us but we’ve been consistent on that particular issue and we remain so.

G: Have you ever personally consumed marijuana?

MG: I find that issue tends to be used as a way to keep young people out of the debate. It’s a little bit of a gotcha tactic from time to time. I’ll say it this way: I was a tree planter at 21 in a small liberal arts school. I think you can make a deduction from there.

G: When you accepted the nomination you talked about the need for less “blind partisanship.” Do you still think that’s possible when Canadian politics seem to be going in the opposite direction?

MG: I do. It’s going to be a matter of the politicians we end up electing. If we keep electing politicians that make simplistic arguments, only using talking points, only tearing each other down, then we can’t expect better for when they’re elected. They’ve already signalled what kind of representative they’re going to be.

You’re going to hear in this interview that I don’t focus on attacking the Conservatives, I don’t focus on attacking the NDP. I want to talk about what I propose to do, what Justin Trudeau proposes to do.

We need to raise the level of discourse significantly. What I often say to progressive people is we have such a unique opportunity in history. We’re about to be in a situation where we have a progressive municipal government, a progressive provincial government and I hope on Oct. 19 a progressive Liberal federal government. It’s up to us to cut through all the bickering and get to work.

G:  Given that you advocate less blind partisanship, are there any Liberal policies you disagree with?

MG: There are some things I would put more emphasis on. My role as a Calgary Liberal will be to fight very hard for what it is that makes me unique as a Calgary Liberal. This city has a unique position in terms of being an entrepreneurial superpower. We have a lot of businesses here in the energy sector, in the tech sector, in a number of different industries.

I’d like to kind of redefine what it means to be a Liberal in Alberta. I want to make sure that I’m a strong voice for Calgary in a Justin Trudeau caucus, which means I’m going to be talking about slightly different things with a slightly different perspective than a Liberal MP from Vancouver or from Ottawa or Toronto. I’m going to be talking about energy and oil and gas much more because that’s a skill-set, a set of connections and relationships I can bring to the table that’s unique. That’s going to be part of building a party that has members of parliament from all different sections of the country.

G: The federal Liberals haven’t won  a Calgary seat since 1968. Why do you think it can be different this time?

MG: I don’t just think — I know it can be different. We’ve knocked on over 60,000 doors at this stage. We’ve been very active. All our metrics, everything we’ve seen, suggests it can happen. If you look at strategic voting sites, they’ve long identified us as the one that can win this particular riding. It’s because we’ve put in the hard work, because people want to see progressive representation. They want to see the change be local and rooted in the community associations, rooted in the university and that’s the kind of candidacy I’m bringing to the table.

I’m sick of watching victory parties on TV come federal election night. There’s going to be a victory party in Calgary Confederation, every progressive is going to be invited and it’s going to be at the Liberal headquarters.

Edited for clarity and brevity

The Gauntlet also interviewed Conservative candidate Len Webber, NDP Candidate Kirk Heuser and Green candidate Natalie Odd

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