David Eggen is the MLA for Edmonton-Calder. Photo provided by David Eggen.
David Eggan is a year and a half into his new job representing the residents of Edmonton-Calder over at the legislature and has settled in quite nicely thank you very much. In fact, from talking to him I would say that David was made for this businesses. I mean, how many other politicians are still out there doorknocking in the middle of the term?
You’ve had about a year and a half to settle into the job now. What is the best part of being an MLA for you?
I think it is the problem solving. I really enjoy looking for practical solutions to problems that occur in my community and across the province. You know, being able to focus on a specific issue and see some movement on it is tremendously satisfying. A lot of people think that if you are in opposition you are out there in the nether regions somehow but I consider myself to be a critic – but a constructive critic – to government policy. So I have gone out of my way to try and work with the various ministers of which I am a critic to try and move things along the way they should be done. That is very satisfying and we have had a couple of successes and that’s a good deal.
You sit in a caucus of four. How do you get your party to the next level and what is that next level as far as you are concerned?
For the New Democrats, as a party, our goal, of course, is to form the government at some point. We doubled our caucus last time and we were the only party to increase our actual votes last time. The other main two parties went down so I am very fortunate. By doubling our caucus we achieved official party status which gives us a lot more ability to be effective. I work with what is generally acknowledged to be some of the most effective politicians in the province with Ray Martin, Raj Pannu and Brian Mason. All of them are veterans with lots of experience. It’s just an honour to learn from these guys. It makes my job much easier.
In terms of the next level, well, last time we doubled our seats and increased our votes and I know there is an important role for a social democratic voice in this province and that is what we are. People acknowledge that and when politics change in this province they change quite big so we are expecting some significant success next time around. We’ve got some excellent candidates lined up and we expect to see significant growth.
You told me last year that the environment, energy and economic development were the core questions for you in this term. Is this still your focus?
Yeah. Those are my main critic areas that I deal with so, absolutely. What we choose to do with our energy future here in Alberta will determine so much more what this province will look like down the road. My big concern is, number one, that Albertans are getting a fair share of the oil revenue that is here and number two, that Albertans pay a reasonable and affordable rate for the energy that they consume here domestically.
These are two big issues that I have seen some movement on. The energy minister has agreed to review the royalty rates that we charge here in this province. And that is to try and capture more reasonable market rates for the energy that we export from this province. And then we have to try and ensure that we have a reasonable energy consumption rate for people who live here in this province.
You know, for a lot of people their energy bill – between electricity, natural gas and gasoline – eats up quite a significant part of a person’s budget. So I am fighting hard to make sure that that comes down to a reasonable rate somehow.
And my big concern with economic development is diversification of our economy. Alberta’s economy is red hot right now but as it continues on its boom cycle we are narrowing our focus as to where we get our revenues from and where our industrial development is coming from. Because there is that one energy sector that produces so much it is like a gold rush and the focus is just on that one thing. Ironically, we are losing our diversification of this province’s economy while we are in this boom cycle so I am trying to push very hard to keep this government’s focus on diversification which is where our future is going to be since we are basically living off of non-renewable resources right now.
What would you do differently than the present government for the long term economic development of this province? Is there a specific sector that you would focus on?
Yes, absolutely. I really believe that the government has to do this too because no business is going to jump on this in a significant way but it is diversifying our energy sector away from hydro-carbons. While we have these tremendous hydro-carbon assets at our disposal we are going to use that but my proposal is to bank a significant amount of that money and invest in an Alberta energy company which would invest heavily in renewables. And not just here in the province but right across the country so that we use hydro-carbon wealth as a launching pad to build a sustainable energy future.
I think there is a tremendous economic potential there. I think you can make a lot of money off of this as well as buying some long-term energy security for the province or, really, the whole country. So I am talking about investments in renewables – solar, geothermal, wind as well as conservation. This is the element that is the most efficient way to ensure energy security – conservation. So, a big retro-fit for people’s homes to make people’s homes more energy efficient. There is a tremendous potential for a green energy corporation and that is what I would do.
A lot of people complain that they never see or hear from their MLA’s in between elections. How do you maintain contact with your constituents these days?
I identify my success in being elected in the first place from contact. I quite literally visited every home in the constituency. It took me about two years. There are 15,000 to 17,000 doors or something. And so I have been endeavouring to continue that. So when we are not in session I have a schedule for visiting neighbourhoods. I have probably been back to another third again and as soon as the Legislature shuts down again – probably this week – I will be back out there visiting people and finding out what concerns them.
It is extremely valuable information in governance to find out what is really bothering people and or where they would like to see things go and so I find it valuable. I don’t think too many people in Edmonton-Calder would say that they don’t see or hear from their MLA because I am out there a lot. I have a lot of volunteers and we just keep pumping out information and doorknocking.
Apparently this is no desk job after all.