Alberta Politics
Janis Irwin at a community event with Brian Mason in 2017 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Respected community advocate and educator Janis Irwin to seek NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

Posted on August 02, 2018, 1:50 am
5 mins

Former high school teacher, vice-principal, university lecturer and education curriculum specialist Janis Irwin announced to a packed auditorium of supporters last night she will seek the NDP nomination in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood riding.

Ms. Irwin will have to forgive me for introducing her this way. Her news release acknowledged her background as an educator, but emphasized her work as a community advocate in the lead. I’m just a blogger, and I think that sold her much-needed experience and expertise short.

Part of the crowd at Janis Irwin’s announcement she will seek the NDP nomination in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood Riding (Photo: Dave Cournoyer, Twitter).

Whatever you want to emphasize, Ms. Irwin is a hard-working candidate, a thoughtful person, and would make a worthy successor to Transportation Minister and former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason, who has represented the riding since 2004 and announced last month he won’t seek re-election in the provincial election expected next year.

When an opportunity like this comes along, if readers will forgive me for telling them what to think, parties should nominate their best people for their safest ridings. Thanks to the hard work of Mr. Mason and previous Alberta NDP leaders Pam Barrett and Ray Martin, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood is one of the safer ridings for the NDP in Alberta.

More than 200 people who live in the riding now represented by Mr. Mason turned up for the announcement, according to my blogging colleague Dave Cournoyer, who lives in the constituency and went to the meeting. It’s said here, this is a sign of both the respect and fondness Ms. Irwin is accorded by her neighbours.

Edmonton Griesbach MP Kerry Diotte (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

She told them she got involved in politics “because I believe that each member of our community deserves basic rights. No one should go without food, shelter, and the chance to live a dignified life.”

In the 2015 federal election, Ms. Irwin was defeated by Conservative Kerry Diotte when the Liberal candidate in the Edmonton Griesbach Riding got enough votes from the Trudeau Bump to split Ms. Irwin’s vote. This was one of the greatest lost opportunities of Canadian political history, if you ask me, all the more so because former Sun Media journalist Mr. Diotte is now busy angrily late-night Tweeting his way to the title of Canada’s Worst MP.

Well, a positive person like Ms. Irwin moves on, and so she has. “I want to be chosen to be a part of Rachel Notley’s team of candidates so that I can work to ensure that we can continue making investments in our communities, in our health care system, in our education system, in child care, and in the everyday services that reduce inequality and matter to all of us living here in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood,” she said in her press release last night.

She also noted there are neighbourhoods in the riding with some of the highest levels of child poverty in Canada.

This is quite true. Research published in June by Campaign 2000, which aims to eliminate child and family poverty in Canada, showed Edmonton Griesbach, which occupies some of the same territory as the provincial riding, has the highest child poverty rates in Alberta and was No. 17 on the list of all 338 Canadian ridings.

But on the topic of child poverty in his federal electoral district, the only chirps heard from Mr. Diotte are the kind made by crickets! So Ms. Irwin’s voice would be welcome on that file as well.

Ms. Irwin has also served as a director and manager in the Alberta Education Ministry – in her campaign materials she emphasizes the importance of electing a government “that will continue to invest in education and ensure that students are safe and supported” – and now works as stakeholder-relations director in Premier Notley’s office.

2 Comments to: Respected community advocate and educator Janis Irwin to seek NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

  1. Jerrymacgp

    August 2nd, 2018

    I wish Ms Irwin the best of luck in her bid. I don’t know her, but it sounds like, from what has been reported, she would be a worthy successor to Brian in EHN. However, I fear she will win her seat, but find herself on the Opposition side of the House. I don’t think the next election is the foregone conclusion that the UCP and their media cheering section would like us to believe, but I wouldn’t bet the cost of an overpriced Starbucks coffee on the NDP getting re-elected; I might be brave enough to wager a Timmy’s though.

    I picked up a fascinating book last week while vacationing in rural Nova Scotia’s beautiful Annapolis Valley. It’s called What I Learned About Politics, and it was written by Hon. Graham Steele, who was Minister of Finance in Darrell Dexter’s ill-fated one-term NDP government. While Alberta and Nova Scotia politics are quite different, there are clear parallels between the Dexter and Notley governments: the NDP won a majority mandate for the first time ever, after years of being the third-place party, and brought in a crop of rookie MLAs from which to try and assemble a Cabinet. The new government also faced an entrenched political and bureaucratic culture that was highly resistant to change, and it failed to live up to the high expectations it had set out for itself during the campaign as well as during the years leading up to the win.

    I think it a book well worth reading for anyone interested in provincial politics in Canada.

    • Beck

      August 3rd, 2018

      Jerrymacgp- I agree Steele’s account is an eye-opening look behind the scenes, not just in NS but provincial politics in general. A divergence, though, that I see between Dexter and Notley, is that Dexter deliberately sidelined the more experienced MLAs (Steele inc) in order to downplay the progressive/labour-activist elements of the party. He very much wanted to emulate the SK and MN NDP, but was more akin to Tony Blair’s New Labour. Hence the dashed expectations among the party base. Funding cuts to hospitals and education didn’t help their cause much, either. In that aspect, at the very least, Notley’s gov’t has been more successful than the NDP governments in other provinces.


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