June 16th, 2024

Kevin Van Tighem nominated NDP candidate for Livingstone-Macleod

By Cal Braid - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 3, 2022.

Kevin Van Tighem has been nominated as the NDP candidate for the Livingstone-Macleod electoral district.

His public service career in the national parks included seven years in Waterton, eight years in Jasper, and four years as the park superintendent in Banff. In 2011, he retired and went into what he called “the volunteer phase of my career.”

He’s the author of 14 books, five since retiring which are still in print. He said he wrote periodically throughout his career but, “I had to take some time off when I was in management, you can’t have your own voice when you’re in management,” he said in joking-but-semi-serious way.

Since retirement, he said, “I’ve worked on the board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and then also the Livingstone Landowners Group, which basically is centered on the Oldman watershed. Those two things, working on books, and then some advocacy work the last couple of years. I was very involved with the issue around coal strip mines in our river headwaters.”

Asked if it was the coal mining issue in particular that spurred his move into politics, he said, “I think it was a number of issues coming together. Certainly the coal issue brought it to a head. The sense that we weren’t being well served by a government that just didn’t seem to pay attention to the constituents here. Once they got elected, it became really obvious with the coal issue; hundreds and hundreds of people in this constituency ganged up to say ‘We never signed on to have strip mines in our headwaters.’ The local MLA would not represent that point of view to his government. In fact he sort of went missing, he vanished. So there was just a sense that, ‘we’ve got to do better for the province -for the lands, the waters, and the people.’ I was thinking that there’s a lot of good people who could stand up and don’t because they’re in the middle of raising families or they’ve got a business to run. I’ve got time and a lot of experience in public service, and I’m passionate about this, so why wouldn’t I?”

He said the issue of coal strip mines is “currently at a low simmer,” but it’s the issue that really got people concerned in the region. Coal mining is a physical disturbance of the landscape that also destroys parts of the ground water system in the headwaters region. He emphasized the fact, saying, “Water is so critical to everybody in southern Alberta, and all of our water comes from the foothills and the mountains where the coal is.”

He admitted that it’s a multilayered issue that requires looking at people’s livelihoods as well as their water security, but believes the government did not engage with the constituents in a meaningful way.

“It seems like there was a reluctance on the part of the government (to consult) with people and to respect the experts. Just an ideological approach, saying ‘This is the way, you voted for us, now get out of our way.'”

He said that southern Alberta has two-thirds of Canada’s irrigated agriculture, and the rivers that deliver water to those lands start in Livingstone-Macleod.

“So it matters kind of profoundly what happens up here.”

Van Tighem said that his alliance with the NDP came from witnessing a Rachel Notley government that he grew to respect.

“I watched the NDP while they were in government for four years, and I saw a fiscally responsible approach to things. We were in the middle of a recession caused by Saudi Arabia flooding the market with oil, so money was tight. There were a lot of things that were needed in the province, and the NDP delivered on them responsibly. I thought that was very important. The NDP had a fairly ambitious agenda and then kept its promises, (even) the ones that were the most challenging to implement. I had a lot of respect for what I saw there, and the leadership from Rachel Notley during the Fort McMurray fires and other issues that blew up on her watch. I volunteered with Cam Gardner who was the candidate in Livingstone-Macleod in the last election, and again I was really impressed by the quality of the people who were stepping up. Every time I look around at the NDP, I see my fellow Albertans. I don’t see people in executive office suits, I see everybody.” He said those factors have made him deeply committed to being a part of the next NDP government.

His message to people who may be on the fence or disillusioned with the current state of government is one of clarity, rather than conditioned thinking.

“I think it’s really critical that people look at things with clear eyes. I’m sensing that’s what’s happening when I’m knocking on people’s doors. There’s an awful lot of people who are looking at the UCP and saying ‘Good grief, we never left our party, but our party has left us.’ If you look at the record of the NDP versus the rhetoric, they’ve delivered on their promises, and they are focused on the things that matter to Albertans: the cost of living, having reliable healthcare, and giving our kids the kind of education they deserve. They’re not out on the fringe. In Alberta they’re probably the party that’s closest to the center. They are motivated by concern for ordinary people, not by serving vested interests. So if you’re looking for a place to park your boat, that is the place to do it.”

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Southern Albertan

Kevin Van Tighem, a worthy candidate, indeed! He will get our votes in the Livingstone-Macleod riding!

John P Nightingale

If I lived there, he would receive mine too.