Mark Smith was elected in the 2015 Alberta general election, and represents the United Conservative Party in the electoral district of Drayton Valley-Devon. We asked him what he thought of 2017, a year in which Smith went from representing the now defunct Wildrose Party to the UCP and his appointment to education critic in the legislature.
If you could use one word to describe 2017, what would you use and why?
Very, very busy. When you stop to think that we've gone through a unite the right, a leadership campaign, a byelection and two sessions in the legislature along with all of the work that you do in your constituency, it's been a very busy year.
What were some of the issues that came up in the legislature that weighed heaviest on you?
I think if we took a look at the Bill 24, Bill 28 those were of importance because as shadow critic for education those were bills that I had to oversee but passing 210, my private members bill, was huge. That was really an amazing experience.
What were some of the best moments in your constituency, and what were some of the hardest to deal with?
You know I think one of the best moments and one of the hardest moments was when we had to try and help and deal with the problems with tent city. That was a hard thing to have to do and to work with Alberta Health Services, but at the same time we've worked to try and make sure that there can be some place for the homeless to be able to live and for them to do that, we had to make sure they had all their identifications. Without it they couldn't access government programs, so my office has worked very hard and we've managed to get five or six of the people with government ID and now into the system and now they've got a place to live that's not in tent city. That was a hard thing, but it was also very rewarding.
How did the past year in public office shape you, what did it teach you?
I think one of the things that this year has taught me is that democracy works. When I look at the road that as progressive conservatives have had to go through, we've had to talk through the issues of whether we are going to unite, we've had to vote on that, unite two caucuses, go into the house and work together and present a new united conservative option for Albertans. It has not been an easy process but it has been a very worthwhile process.
What do you look forward to in 2018 in accomplishing in your constituency?
One of the things is the whole industrial hemp. I am very excited at the fact that it looks like we will be having a decortication facility being built in the constituency, probably in Drayton Valley. It's going to be one of those extra steps that we need in order to develop the entire hemp supply chain. That's going to be critical, because once we get that facility built sometime in the next year and a half, that will create the secondary industries and the demand will grow. We could be talking 300 jobs over the next two years through the decorticator and some of the secondary industries that will be spilling out of that.
Is there any particular issue you will be keeping your eye on in 2018, any upcoming policies or initiatives the UCP is proposing when session starts back up?
The most immediate one is getting our leader, Jason Kenney, into the house. That's going to be very important. We've got one of the most experienced politicians in the whole country as the leader of the United Conservative Party and bringing him into the house, these next 16 months is going to be about a vision. Albertans are going to have the opportunity sometime in the next few months to make a decision as to which direction they want to go. I think you're going to see the parties not only highlight their differences but probably more importantly start to highlight their vision for where we want to take the province.
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