“Because I am an immigrant, I am an Albertan by choice”
“Our family hoped for a new life in Canada”
The family lived in Sydney, Nova Scotia where I attended school and began to learn English. I attribute much of my later success to the teachers at this local school. In math, art, and gym I was just like every other student, while in English and social studies I struggled because of the language barrier. This experience gave me a lifelong respect for talented, compassionate teachers, and an appreciation of the challenges faced by non-English-speaking immigrants.
“Our family recognized that Alberta is the land of opportunity”
Looking for better opportunities, the family packed everything we owned into a car and drove across the country to Alberta. I was raised in north Edmonton, and went to St. Joseph’s High School. My father did not stay in Alberta, and my mother raised the family alone. We got by on her hard work, and occasionally with some help from the province’s welfare program.
“You appreciate money when you haven’t had a lot of it”
I earned my way through university by waiting tables with a major hotel chain, and learned that success depended on service and a great attitude. When extra shifts were available, I squeezed oranges for the fresh juice in crystal glasses, and cracked thousands of eggs for the breakfasts of busy business travellers. I also worked as a Polish interpreter at the courthouse, and learned about legal processes and documents. I went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Alberta. After graduation, I became a junior high social studies teacher with the Edmonton Catholic School District.
“I know how hard small business people have to work to keep the lights on”
I started Injured Workers Advocates Inc. (IWA), a small business which helped injured workers with compensation claims. As an advocate, I learned how to navigate the decision making process in ways that ensured people did not get overlooked by the systems which were supposed to help them. As a small business owner, I learned the pressures of paying bills on time, making payroll, meeting commitments to clients, and knowing when you had to spend money to make money.
“In government, I focus on practical results for people”
I have been the MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs since 2001. Since 2010 I have also been the Minister of Employment and Immigration, the Minister of Education, the Deputy Premier, the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education, and most recently the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour. These portfolios have been in areas where government programs have a practical role in Albertans’ lives – on their finances, in their schools, and on their worksites.
The Blood Samples Act, the first legislation I introduced, allows emergency workers (police, fire, and health workers) to go to the courts and compel a blood sample from someone they believe has given them a communicable disease.
Changes to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program which I introduced mean that some temporary foreign workers can apply to stay and become a permanent part of our workforce and our province. This one adjustment has changed the destiny of about 1000 Alberta families.
As an MLA who led the review of Low-Income Programs, and later as Minister of Employment and Immigration, I supported a number of changes to social programs and services. Tax refunds were no longer clawed back from welfare recipients. Employers were encouraged to set up hiring fairs in welfare offices. Twitter accounts and Facebook pages were set up to promote job openings to young people.
“I’ve never been afraid to ruffle a few feathers”
When the Auditor General pointed out serious problems with the occupational health and safety system, I introduced more than a dozen improvements — launching blitz inspections, posting employers’ safety records online, hiring additional officers, and more.
When parents in Morinville could not get a traditional “public” education for their children, I introduced legislation to ensure the same options enjoyed by other Albertans were available there.
When Thomas Mulcair was saying that the oil sands were ruining Canada, I was on hand to remind him about the jobs and opportunities created for workers right across the country.
When the provincial government was looking at municipal funding formulas, I spoke out against the plan – and sided with Edmonton’s mayor – to press for funding which reflected that Edmonton’s needs were different from Calgary’s.
When the federal government restricted the Temporary Foreign Worker program and compromised Canadians’ jobs and businesses, I called for fair rules and strict enforcement.
And when the government faced criticism for spending levels, I was the only Cabinet minister to say that government needed to earn back Albertans’ trust.
“There are countless ways to help people”
I enjoy travelling, reading and participating in activities with my children. I coached soccer through the Edmonton Northwood Community League, have been a Scout and Scout leader, and am a strong supporter of Camp fYrefly and ABC Headstart. I am a past president of the Youth Friendship Society and a Knight of Columbus. As an active member of the Castle Downs Recreational Society, I have dismantled playgrounds in Alberta, restored them, and rebuilt them in Vietnam and the Philippines.
I am married to Stacey Brotzel. I have two daughters.
“I’ll always be a dad”