Edmonton-Riverview MLA Kevin Taft considers life after politics

By Tejay Gardiner

EDMONTON — As election bells ring, Kevin Taft’s exit date is nearing. The Edmonton-Riverview MLA will close his political chapter and move forward embracing uncertainty.

“My plan is to not have a plan,” Taft said of his future after politics. “Eventually I will find some work, but I don’t know what that will be.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA, Kevin Taft, takes time to sign his new book, Follow the Money at the book release event held at the Metro Garneau Theatre on Wednesday January 18, 2012. Photograph by Tejay Gardiner.

Edmonton-Riverview MLA, Kevin Taft, takes time to sign his new book, Follow the Money, at the book release event held at the Metro Cinema on Wednesday, January 18, 2012. Photograph by Tejay Gardiner.

“Career opportunities for opposition critics are not that juicy,” he continued.

Surely there will be plenty to look forward to for Taft. He released his fourth book, Follow the Money, on Jan. 18 at the Metro Cinema’s Garneau Theatre. Despite the frigid temperatures, hundreds filled the venue and were treated to free admission for braving the cold.

The event featured a short video produced by award-winning documentary filmmaker Tom Radford. Working with University of Alberta economist Mel McMillan and PhD student Junaid Jahangir, Taft produces an argument to counter the idea that the provincial government is overspending on public services.

It’s a timely political message, but Taft isn’t collecting votes with his book. He decided not to run again in the anticipated spring election.

“I never planned on being a career politician,” Taft said. “I believe in political renewal.”

Taft was first elected as the MLA for Edmonton-Riverview in 2001 and has had many thrilling moments, but the one that stands out for him is the 2004 election, his first as Liberal leader. Taft helped the Liberals to boost their seats from seven to 16 in the 2004 election, an unusual accomplishment in a province that has seen only three changes in government in its 106 year history said Taft.

“Political change comes slow here.”

After the high of 2004 came the low of 2008 where seven seats were lost, leaving the Liberals with nine in total. Taft resigned as Liberal leader later that year.

Taft continued to flex his political muscles in the Legislature and fought hard to create change as opposition critic for health and Aboriginal relations.

“He is a tenacious politician,” said Chaldeans Mensah, chair of Grant MacEwan University’s political studies department. “He’s always based decisions on sound research.”

His role as opposition critic is what Taft said he would miss most about the MLA post.

“It is a very rare privilege that an opposition MLA gets,” Taft said, “to stand up in legislature and give pointed questions to the premier and the cabinet ministers.”

Taft will continue to critique from the outer ring. He is already a bestselling author with his previous releases: Shredding the Public Interest, Clear Answers and Democracy Derailed. Follow the Money may prove to be just as influential.

“The book is selling by the hundreds,” said Taft.

In his book, Taft lays out his money trail, examining first the usual suspects that can drain government budgets such as health care and education. Taft, McMillan and Jahangir find that Alberta has instead faced significant cutbacks in public spending in these areas over the past 20 some years, at times by nearly 50 per cent, adjusting for inflation and a growing population.

The trio determines that when it comes to Alberta’s finances, it is not a question of spending but lost revenue. Corporate profits in Alberta are nearly 23 per cent of the provincial GDP, as compared to the 12 per cent Canadian average.

“It’s time for a new debate,” Taft said in the video.

Taft’s role in provincial politics may be coming to an end, but he plans to remain active in the Riverview community, the same community he lived in since he was young. He said he will continue to be involved with the community league and other volunteer commitments.

“I’ve lived here since I was a boy,” Taft said. “I have very deep roots here.”

Businessman Arif Khan is the new Liberal candidate for Edmonton-Riverview.



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