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INTERVIEW - In our Community

David Khan, Alberta Liberal party leadership candidate

Political by Evan Kayne (From GayCalgary® Magazine, March 2017, page 21)
David Khan
David Khan
INTERVIEW - In our Community: David Khan, Alberta Liberal party leadership candidate
INTERVIEW - In our Community: David Khan, Alberta Liberal party leadership candidate

The last four elections have not been kind to the Alberta Liberal Party, with their seats dropping from a high of 16 in 2004 to just 1 in the 2015 election. David Khan is hoping to reverse that as he campaigns to be the next leader of the party. If David wins, he will be the first openly gay leader of a political party in Alberta.

Discussing his sexuality was kind of an odd moment – we are seeing a lot more members of our community represented in careers that as little as 20 years ago would be closed to them. However, it's still a gray area with politicians; there are those who are openly gay, there are those who are closeted, and there are those who change the subject or say that part of their life is private. While David's sexuality is part of his life and he doesn't hide it, David thinks we are at a point in society where a person's sexuality should be a non-issue regardless of their political affiliation.

Now, if the name David Khan seems familiar to some, he was the Alberta Liberal Party candidate in the 2014 Calgary-West by-election and in the 2015 Calgary-Buffalo provincial general election. Until recently he was the Executive Vice-President of the Alberta Liberal Party. He's a native Calgarian and a lawyer who's practiced indigenous law at all levels of courts in numerous Canadian jurisdictions.

David is aiming to "provide a real choice to the majority of Albertans who are neither far left nor socially conservative on the right." More detailed policies are to come, but some of the general objectives he did discuss were jobs and environmental sustainability, fairness for future generations, investing in infrastructure but tackling government suspending.

"Politics has been very volatile in recent years, mirroring the challenges we've all faced with the collapse of oil prices and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the oil patch and related industries." What we've heard before, ever since the fall of the Progressive Conservative (PC) dynasty, is we are in a new era...definitely a new era of possibilities for provincial politics. Like many of the other parties, David talks about guiding us towards a better Alberta. For the Liberal party itself here in Alberta, he's promising a new vision, better communication, strong leadership, a stronger, rebuilt party infrastructure, and reaching out and building connections with business and community leaders.

As to the top issues facing Alberta, of course the main one was the collapse of the Oil industry in Alberta. "Following up on that we have to recognize we can't depend on $80 or $100/barrel oil in the future. We have got to diversify and we have to look at spending." He did reassure me he was "vehemently against the gutting of social services, but we need to look at reigning in our costs, and we're not doing it now." In the past, the PCs may have thrown money at a problem in a careless manner just to make it go away and we can't do that anymore.

Speaking of conservative parties, David does think the confusion and infighting on the right could mean opportunities for his party. "If they do manage to unite, it's going to be a socially conservative far right party that's not going to appeal to the general public." To the left, while he recognizes the progressive strides and policies the NDP has put in place, he thinks they are isolated in "Fortress Edmonton" and separated from the real problems the average Albertan faces. In a province which has not been strong supporters of NDP in the past it could cost them any goodwill and support. "A lot of people voted NDP because they wanted change." The next election people may examine their votes a lot closer, as David feels a large chunk of those votes aren't traditional NDP voters.

David did take the time to dismiss talk of accommodation with the Alberta party, as some people think they have similar platforms (progressive but fiscally responsible). He stated his focus was on rebuilding the Liberal party. He did hint at one of the issues any non-conservative political movements in Alberta had in the last few decades – talent and ideas were poached by the ruling party: "I think politics in Alberta has been dysfunctional over the last few decades because we had such a huge PC party that tried to monopolize the discourse and monopolize all the politicians and the people in this province."

He believes now we've broken that choke-hold of one party rule there are opportunities to be had. While some argue with an NDP juggernaut and two conservative parties there's no room for a centrist party, David did again counter that the last election was a wild-card election with the possibility many of the votes for the NDP were protest votes, votes which were seen as the only way to finally oust the PC dynasty. As things progress towards the next election he feels there will be real discourse and real choices for Albertans.

This open discourse and reworking of ideas has been recently demonstrated with the confusion both right-wing parties have demonstrated towards Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in schools. The problem as David sees it is both leaders are having to "throw red meat" at their social conservative wing, which is the base of their support. Unfortunately for those parties, the feeling the majority of Albertans have had for a while is opposition to GSAs is regressive – a step backwards. This makes both Progressive Conservatives and Wild Rose in a bind - they have to appease their base, but they also have to attract the majority of Albertans.

Given the majority of Albertans support GSAs (or at least don't care), David promised to fight to protect GSAs: "We're not going back to the 1950s or 1980s and neither are Albertans" so if a right-wing party got in power and tried to chip away at this legislation through various means it may be a losing fight. GSAs were enshrined into law because of the Liberals, with former MLAs Kent Hehr and Laurie Blakeman putting forward motions and legislation, so this is something near and dear to the hearts of Alberta Liberals.

However, we have seen (in the United States) how populist movements or leaders can hijack the direction of government. Even if the right-wing parties manage to make some kind of accommodation by the next election, David suspects the majority of voters will not be swayed by demagoguery and a populist leader. "I have faith in Albertans in their sense of fairness, fair play, their level of education, their concern for their neighbors, and their concern for their direction of our province."

David Khan will be running against Kerry Cundal for the leadership of the Alberta Liberals. The party plans to announce the new leader on June 4.

Related Articles

Contributor Evan Kayne |

Locale Calgary |

Person David Khan |

Topic Politics |Alberta Liberals |


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