By Kristy Koehler, October 9 2019—
The Gauntlet interviewed the Calgary Confederation candidates. In the interest of fairness, all candidates were asked the same set of questions. No follow-up questions were asked and the inquiries were open-ended, allowing the candidate to speak freely on the issues and address the question as they saw fit. The intention is for those in Calgary Confederation to get to know the candidates in their riding.
Get to know Len Webber, incumbent candidate from the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Gauntlet: What qualifies you to represent the constituents of Calgary Confederation?
Len Webber: I’m an experienced individual who has worked in a lot of different aspects in life. I started my career as a tradesperson — I’m an electrician — I couldn’t afford to go to university so I got myself a trade and ran my own business for quite a few years. I was able to then afford to go back to university and get my commerce degree at the University of Calgary. My experience running my own business certainly helped me out with regard to finishing my degree. After that, working in areas like school administration — I’m affiliated with the Webber Academy, the non-profit private school in town.
I have life experience. I’ve raised three daughters — one was the president of the University of Calgary Students’ Union. I’ve got lots of experience raising a family and the difficulties of trying to support a family with one income — my wife was very sick and she passed away from cancer at a young age.
I also have political experience. I was an MLA and a Cabinet Minister in the Alberta Government. For 11 years I was in government representing Calgary Foothills. And, these last four years, I’ve been in federal politics representing Calgary Confederation in Ottawa. I think I’m probably the most qualified of all the candidates in Calgary Confederation to represent the people here.
G: What attracted you to the Conservative Party of Canada?
LW: I’m a very progressive Conservative — a very fiscal Conservative but socially progressive. What impresses me most about the Conservative Party is the way they deal with the fiscal aspects of ensuring that Canada does not get into debt to the point where our future generations will be left with high debt and high taxes. What I like about the Conservative Party is their plan to get our economy going in the future – particularly our oil industry here in Alberta, which we completely support and have always supported from day one. That’s why I’m a Conservative and a proud Conservative.
G: With the Conservative Party being known as a right-wing party, what would attract voters from the opposite end of the political spectrum?
LW: The Conservative Party is a very large tent party. We’ve got members that fit into a large spectrum from center to right. Myself, I’m a very strong progressive Conservative — I very much support the LGBTQS+ community and all the social issues that are perhaps important to a person leaning more to the left spectrum of the political scale I would appeal to them particularly because of my support in the last four years as an MP for the LGBTQS+ community. I serve on a health committee in Ottawa and I brought forward a motion to study the issue of gay men and the blood ban. I wanted to bring forward a study to see if this was targeting a particular group with no scientific evidence. I’m proud that I brought that forward. The ban still exists — which to me is unacceptable, but is down from where it was. I do appeal to the left because of my progressive leanings. I’m a very fiscal Conservative however.
G: What are your plans to make education more affordable?
LW: I know the issue with education with having three daughters and having to raise them with a single income. It was a challenge to say the least. There was a time when students could not get student loans because of their parents’ level of income and that has changed to where I feel it is much easier to get student loans and grants. I think that grants are certainly something I would love to see more of.
If we had a strong and vibrant economy — especially with our oil industry — where we could basically build the government coffers from the royalties that we receive from our oil industry, those monies would be going towards so many social programs — not only bringing the cost of education down but also health care and our homelessness issues that we have throughout the country. A vibrant and strong economy would go a long way in funding all the other aspects of Canadian life, in particular, the costs of education.
G: What is your plan for job creation?
LW: We believe that it’s Canada’s small businesses that are the primary job creators. We need to support them in ensuring that they continue to thrive and continue to employ Canadians, in particular, Canadian youth. We have seen, these last four years with Trudeau, they’re a government that targets small businesses, with all their taxes and red tape and they’re certainly not helping, I don’t believe. We, as Conservatives, have a strong record of supporting small businesses. We will be a government that will help business growth. We want to open up trade opportunities throughout the world, supporting research, development and innovation. The best way to encourage investment and job creation is not through handouts, but through lowering small business taxes and getting government out of the way.
G: What are your thoughts on Alberta’s oil and gas industry?
LW: First of all, we need to provide the industry with the confidence that the government is there to ensure that they are in a good business environment for them to want to invest. Under the Trudeau government, oil companies are staying away — they know the Trudeau liberal plan is a plan where there is no incentive to do any type of work in the oil industry here. It’s up to us as Conservatives to ensure that the industry is confident that they’re not going to be tax-burdened to death, that the red tape will not be what has been implemented by Trudeau which requires years of applications and permits to do any type of work in this province. We need to limit the red tape to get businesses confident to invest here so we can get our oil industry up and running again and getting people back to work.
G: What are your thoughts on the climate crisis?
LW: The Conservatives recognize that climate change is real. Evidence from around the world clearly shows a global warming trend. We are certainly not deniers as some people may think because of the false advertising we get from other parties. We do have a proud legacy when it comes to managing our natural environment and improving it. Conservatives created the National Parks System, we negotiated the Canada–U.S. Acid Rain Treaty back in the day with Mulroney. We brought in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and much more. Andrew Scheer has a real plan to protect our environment. I certainly encourage everyone to read our environmental plan. Green technology, not taxes is the best way to lower our emissions and to share that green technology around the world with countries like China and India. I would rather see our money put toward research and development. We’ll be working with farmers, hunters, anglers and Indigenous peoples to promote a cleaner and greener national environment, protecting our land and our air and our water and encouraging Canadians to do better when it comes to keeping our land clean.
I have three daughters, and hopefully grandkids too one day. I want the future generations to have the same beautiful world that I grew up in. I’m very committed to the environment.
G: Do we have a freedom of speech problem in Canada?
LW: I have spoken about this several times in the House of Commons. Of course I support freedom of speech, but I also believe that we need to be very vigilant against those who seek to abuse those freedoms to perpetuate hate and intolerance. I am quite concerned about the rise of hate and intolerance that we have seen in recent years. We owe it to the tens of thousands of Canadians who fought against hate, the Canadians that fought in our World Wars and gave their lives to re-shape our existence without hate. We owe it to them to honour their memory by fighting that hate as well. Yes, we have the freedom to speak out mind in Canada but that freedom was found in the fight against hate and we cannot forget that.
G: What are your plans for affordable housing in your riding?
LW: I’ve sat on the board of the Calgary Homeless Foundation and been involved with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission. Both addictions and homelessness go hand in hand. Affordable housing in Calgary is lacking. We need more of it to support first-time home buyers. We don’t have enough affordable housing for first-time home-buyers or for people of lower incomes. Federal funding for affordable housing I completely support and would support any further investment of federal dollars into the provinces to support affordable housing units. We need to incent home builders to build more affordable housing. I know the demands and the issues involved and I would say that I would do everything in my power to support further federal funding.
G: Where do you stand on issues of national defence?
LW: I think that it’s important that we contribute with allied nations to ensure that we have a proper contribution to keeping the world safe. Working alongside our allies, what we have to do is be equal participants, to be a part of a team.
G: Why should students vote for you?
LW: I know the issues facing students. I’ve consistently met with student associations in all my years of being a member of the legislative assembly and as an MP and I will always sit down and meet with student organizations and students about the issues that are of concern to them. I’ve spoken in favour of, and supported, the student population both in the legislature and in the House of Commons. We need to do whatever we can to educate our youth and to make it easy and affordable for our students to be educated. That is what builds a strong economy — an educated workforce. I am so in favour of doing what we can to provide opportunities for students to learn without breaking their bank.
It’s my experience and the concern that I have for the environment. I would encourage U of C students to make an educated vote — don’t rely solely on what you’re reading on social media. Read the platforms of each party, determining what issues matter and vote accordingly.
I’ve been door-knocking and I’ve talked to a lot of young people — they are concerned about the debt and how they’re going to be able to handle it in the future. I’m there to fight to bring down that debt and I believe that the other parties are going to bring that debt up higher. I’m concerned about the taxes that the students are going to have to pay in the future and will fight for lower taxes to build our economy. It’s about ensuring that we have a strong economy in order to bring down debt. Who is going to pay that debt off? The next generation. And I certainly don’t want to pass on any of the debt to our future generations. It is our responsibility to keep our debt down, if not completely paid off, so that future generations have a bright future. I feel passionate about that, in particular, being a fiscal conservative. We need to grab the bull by the horns and tackle the problem of spending and debt accumulation and promote our economy — that’s what will pay for our future.
Editors Note: Libertarian candidate Tim Moen and NDP candidate Gurcharan Singh Sidhu have yet to respond to an interview request.