This month, Calgary-Centre Conservatives will meet to pick a successor to longtime MP Lee Richardson, who resigned in order to take a position as Principal Secretary to Premier Alison Redford. Among the candidates for the nomination is an interesting long shot bid.
Joseph Soares, a former Quebec advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper has positioned himself on the right and promises a more combative style if he is chosen as candidate. Though a native Quebecker who lacks the Calgary experience of his main opponents, Soares believes that his background can be an asset as it will allow him to more credibly defend Alberta's oil sands against attacks from NDP leader Thomas Mulcair while selling the benefits of the industry to Central Canadians. The Prince Arthur Herald sat down for an interview with Soares on his views and plans for the riding.
The Prince Arthur Herald: Well I think we’ll begin with the most obvious question. Why have you decided to run for the Conservative nomination in Calgary-Centre?
Joseph Soares: Well, I'm running because think it's important to expose the hypocrisy and duplicity of Thomas Mulcair and the NDP on the oil sands. My campaign message is "Joe declares non merci to Mr. Mulcair; hands off Alberta's oil sands." As someone who knows Quebec well, I think it’s important to be able to demonstrate to Quebeckers that Alberta is a net contributor to the federation and that people forget that it is a net contributor to Quebec through transfer payments. My background as a Quebecker will help me make that case. If Mr. Mulcair came to Calgary-Centre, went door to door and spoke to the people about the real issues that affect them, he would hear that they don't want him to touch the oil sands and that the biggest issue so far is gold plated MP pensions.
TPAH: How do you see the race shaping up so far?
JS: Well, it's been great campaigning so far and I think it's up to the people to decide. One thing that I’ve found going door to door is that Calgary-Centre is a wonderful riding and really representative of Canada. I've met people from every corner of the country here. It's a real Canadian mosaic.
TPAH: Your biography suggests that you've spent most of your career in Ottawa and Québec, most notably as one of Prime Minister Harper's Québec advisors; what ties do you have to Calgary-Centre?
JS: Well, my tie to Calgary-Centre is really to be able to stand up to the critique of the oil sands made by Mr. Mulcair and his socialist wrecking crew. I think I'm well positioned to defend the interests of the citizens in Calgary-Centre because I'm from Québec and know the people there, so I can do a better job of defending our industry to Quebeckers and take on the lies and attacks being put out by the NDP.
TPAH: What is your experience in Québec politics and the PMO?
JS: I was an Issues Manager dealing with issues related to the province of Québec. My role was to inform the Prime Minister of emerging issues in Quebec politics and the media act as a liaison to the Québec caucus to insure that their ideas and opinions were known. I also served as a policy advisor to the Honorable Lawrence Cannon when he was Minister of Transport.
TPAH: The retiring Conservative MP for Calgary-Centre, Lee Richardson, was seen as being on the moderate wing of the Conservative Party, a Red Tory representing a more moderate urban riding. What do you think of Lee Richardson's legacy, and how might your approach as Conservative MP be similar or different?
JS: Well, I think Mr. Richardson served the riding to the best of his ability and is still serving as Principal Secretary to the Premier. I'm the son of an immigrant family. We came to Canada in 1969, and understand the value of hard work. But I think you need to listen the people and their issues, whether it’s seniors issues, or gold plated MP pensions or the CBC or ending the double tax on gas.
TPAH: An issue that has come out in the mainstream media’s coverage of the nomination race is the split between the Alberta PC Party, which Lee Richardson obviously supports, and the Wildrose Alliance. On which side would you come down on?
JS: I like to say that we’re all federal conservatives.
TPAH: Would you be prepared to come out in favour of either Wildrose or the PCs?
JS: Absolutely not. I have friends in both parties and I think we need to work together at the federal level.
TPAH: You mentioned that you were opposed to the current “gold plated” structure for MP pensions. If you are elected, would you be willing to follow the example of previous Reform MPs and choose not to participate in the current MP pension plan?
JS: Absolutely. I can’t be any clearer than that. I think we need to lead by example. I think it was a fantastic idea when it was put in the Reform Party platform in 1993 and I’m sure you’ll remember who wrote that platform [then Reform policy advisor Stephen Harper]. MP pensions need to be reformed and if we as MPs are going to be asking Canadians to make sacrifices we need to be willing to make some sacrifices of our own.
TPAH: You had also mentioned the CBC. Would you be in favour of privatizing it?
JS: Well, I don't believe that it should be receiving taxpayer funds. The state should not be replacing the private sector. In the US you have a model of public broadcasting with PBS, which is privately funded, and that’s what I think we need to look at in Canada.
TPAH: What are your views on BC Premier Christy Clark's recent suggestion that BC should be given an additional share of the revenue from the Northern Gateway pipeline?
JS: You know, I’ve been attacked for saying this, but it's really clear to me. I ask this simply; can we really call it anything other than blackmail and economic terrorism? It contravenes the principles of our federation and our economic union. Can you imagine if there was a tax on products being shipped into the country or between provinces? (we received the following note from Joseph Soares subsequent to the interview with respect to the answer above: " What I said was; can you imagine if we taxed every log out of BC going east, or every container coming out of the Port of Vancouver? It's nonsense.").
TPAH: What role should the federal government be playing on this issue and should it be intervening in favour of Alberta’s position?
JS: The federal government should play its appropriate role within its jurisdiction and under the rules of engagement.
TPAH: Do you think the Harper government should at least be speaking out against Premier Clark’s position on this?
JS: No, I don’t think it would be constructive. It's normal for the federal government to be involved in the process, but we have to insure that there is an open dialogue and we have to make sure that the process will be fair for Alberta and fair for Canada.
TPAH: You've described your opponents for the nomination as offering "bland moderate" policies that will not be enough to get the job done. Could you explain in what respect your opponent’s views are bland and moderate and how your policy approach differs on specific issues?
JS: Well I’d like to see specifics; I would like to see my colleagues take specific positions on the issues that matters to the people of Calgary-Centre; Thomas Mulcair and the NDP attacking the oil sands, gold plated MP pensions, the CBC, double tax on gas at the pump. Let’s talk about those issues.
TPAH: What do you think of your opponents? You would have to concede that Joan Crockatt and Jon Lord, in particular, have been present and very active on the Calgary political scene over the last several years.
JS: I just don’t think they can get the job done and represent the people as effectively on the issue of Thomas Mulcair’s NDP with its risky theories and dangerous economic experiments. I think I have a legitimacy in defending the oil industry to the rest of the country because I grew up in Quebec and I know the people there.
TPAH: We've talked about national issues, but we'd like to get some sense of how you would approach things locally; I'm thinking in particular of the demographic growth in Calgary over the past few years and the needs it has created in terms of infrastructure as well as funding for research and post-secondary education at the University of Calgary.
JS: My greatest preoccupation is to insure that the interests of Calgarians are properly defended, particularly on the issue of Thomas Mulcair and the oil sands. But I think you also have to listen to the people and see what issues matter to them.