MEDICINE HAT, AB — Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner can still remember how he was feeling on May 5, 2015.
The former public services commissioner with the city, who joined the race with three weeks before the vote, was elected as MLA, the first-ever NDP candidate to win in Medicine Hat.
“It really was a historic event,” he said on Tuesday. “I think that event, not only in Medicine Hat, but in the rest of the province, was a major historic shift, one that I think will be a part of public policy and political life in this province for a long, long time.
“It was surreal, every time, not just that night, but six weeks later, I find myself the Speaker of the Legislature. Every day I look into that chamber, it’s a surreal experience, but a privilege and honour to do that.”
Wanner, who has been Speaker of the Legislature throughout his term, announced Monday night he will not be seeking a second-term in the provincial legislature. During the announcement, he noted his time in office could be “quite taxing, intense, and stressful on personal and family life.”
Wanner says there are several things he is proud of during his time in office.
“I really tried to, and I think with some success, create an opportunity for our businesses, our communities to create a relationship with government,” he said. We had a record number of ministerial visits that came here, along with consul generals and ambassadors.”
Wanner adds he’s also proud of recent business announcements in Medicine Hat and southeastern Alberta.
“Southeastern Alberta has an opportunity to be energy central,” he said. “We need leaders and business people and community leaders that see that opportunity take advantage of it. There’s millions, billions of dollars being invested. There’s still going to be oil and gas drilling. It’s the strategic opportunity that we have that integrates oil and gas with wind, sun and maybe even geo-thermal.”
The decision on who will run as the NDP candidate in the next election is now in the hands of the local party association.
Rick Moore, president of the constituency association with both Brooks-Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat, says there has been interest from potential candidates in both ridings and notes the vetting process is underway. The final nominees will likely be known by February.
Wanner says he believes the 2019 election will be a close race.
“I believe that this government has an outstanding record in terms of the things that have been accomplished here,” he said. “I also believe the next candidates, whoever they are, there is a great public record to be proud of. I think this is going to be a very close race in this community.
“People have choices they make about which individual party they’re going to (vote for), but I think we have an excellent opportunity, if we want to create something like energy central, we need to have that vision and commitment to making it as such.”
Once his term ends in the spring, Wanner says he will be spending time with his family, and adds he intends to remain involved in public service.
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