If you were in Alberta several weeks ago, you may seen some news articles about Jason Nixon unseating Wildrose Candidate Joe Anglin for the riding’s nomination. For those who don’t follow Alberta politics, the Wildrose Party is widely viewed as the party most likely to be able to take power from the Alberta PC’s, which have been in power continuously for over 40 years now.
Jason Nixon also happens to be the current president of AUSU, and I was lucky enough to be able to get our schedules to synch up for this brief interview about what his new role in the Wild Rose Party means.
Which came first, AUSU or the Wildrose?
Well, I was a member of the Wildrose party before I was ever an AU student, and I’ve been volunteering with them for some time now.
You were working for the party as the constituency association’s president, and, because of an earlier disqualification, Mr. Anglin was running unopposed for the nomination. What made you decide to run for the nomination yourself?
I’d been involved for years as a volunteer with the Wildrose constituency association for the riding, and there had been a lot of frustration in the community with Mr. Anglin, neighbours had been suggesting I run for the nomination for the past couple of years. This time, they came forward with 400 signatures out of the 800 constituency members supporting my nomination. Given that large show of support for change I felt that it must be something I should do.
Mr. Anglin claims in the paper that he was surprised by the nomination, but party officials said you had support of about half the constituency to run, and when the vote was held, you captured almost two thirds of it. The statements seem to be at odds with one another.
I don’t think there’s any way he was as surprised as it was made out in the press, as there were many conversations that were had in general with Mr. Anglin, both with his board members, the community, and myself, who had spoken with him at various times in regards to the frustration and concerns.
So what effects do you think being the current nominee for the Wildrose candidate in your riding has on your work for AUSU?
No effects at all. The nomination’s over, and I’m not a public candidate yet as any election is probably a couple years out. I just won the election in what is essentially a private club. I compare it to a local mayor winning a nomination. My job and my priorities right now are serving the AUSU membership and that is where my focus is.
I’m not concerned about a conflict of interest between the two as AUSU has very strict policies in place that we would follow if any conflict were to arise. Essentially, if there was a vote that might be a conflict for me and my position in Wildrose, I’d recuse myself from it, and the rest of Council would decide. We are not aware of any such conflict now, but are ready if one were to arise.
Shifting gears a bit, I noticed that the Wildrose Party has no platform plank about post-secondary education, and no mention of it in their constitution, where even Alberta Heritage gets a brief nod. I think It’s safe to say that post-secondary education isn’t a priority issue for the party. Do you think it needs to be, or would that be spreading the party’s efforts too thin to be effective?
Post-secondary education needs to be a priority issue as far as I’m concerned. It’s very important in my life and something I value very much. Specifically my passion is adult and rural post-secondary education, and I think those need to be made an issue along with all post-secondary education.
So You’re aware of the Statistics Canada report that showed the greatest determinant of whether a person undertakes a college or university degree is how close they live to one? More than parental schooling or even family income?
Yes, and That’s exactly why I think rural post-secondary education needs to be an issue, and where AU can fit into the mix.
Wildrose’s next election platform and policies are being developed, and I think it’d be a benefit both to the party and to AU students if I can participate in the development of those polices. Any platform definitely needs to say something about post-secondary education.
I did notice that in Wildrose’s member passed policies, there is a section for post-secondary, but the very first policy there, about funding being prioritized for Alberta students, seems to go directly against AUSU’s very first position policy, which states that AUSU “strongly opposes the exemption of any aspects of distanced education from the Province of Alberta’s Tuition Free Regulation”, or in other words, from being eligible for public funding. Do you agree more with either one? How do you balance between these two policies? Or is it something You’re going to have to deal with as it comes?
When it comes to funding non-Alberta students, nobody has properly educated elected officials and political parties on why this is important and how it benefits Albertans. And it does benefit Albertans if you think about it.
Three of the main benefits are that, first, out of province students are investing in Alberta by bringing their money in to Alberta and into an Alberta PSE institution; second, out of province students, by increasing income and student numbers, provide a way for Alberta universities to provide more content and course and improved content and course to Albertans through Alberta PSE institutions, and third, that by providing a world-class high quality education to out of provinces students we are able to help with recruiting skilled people to fill labour shortages in our province.
So my views are the same as AUSU on this issue, and my balance is all on that side. When I get the chance, I try to educate my colleagues on it. But the problem is that I don’t think any of us here have done a very good job of making these benefits known, and we need to start doing that.