Picture: The MLAs supporting Gary Mar in the provincial Progressive Conservative leadership race include Fred Horne, Edmonton Rutherford; George Rogers, Leduc; Ray Prins, Ponoka; Verlyn Olson, Wetaskiwin-Camrose; and Mel Knight, Grande Prairie; seen here with Gary Mar at Wetaskiwin.


Gary Mar was very impressive when he spent an evening at Wetaskiwin seeking support in his bid to be the next leader of the provincial PCs and the next premier of Alberta.  Yes, he is easy to meet and talk to.  Yes, he listens to people and seeks out their ideas.  Yes, he communicates very well.  But those are not the aspects of Gary Mar which made the biggest impression on me.
 Gary Mar, without a note in sight, spoke very knowledgeably on a wide range of topics, including the big three Alberta industries, energy, food, and forestry, and a little about his work and relations promoting them as Alberta's representative to Washington for the past three years.  Looking at Britain as the world's greatest power in 1898 and how the two World Wars increased its debt load so much that it could not borrow to defend the Suez and so lost its leading status, Mar noted the present position of the U.S.A. and said, “The world's greatest power cannot be the world's greatest borrower at the same time.”   He clearly has the intelligence needed to do the job really well.  At the same time, he showed evidence of having good common sense.  His ability to understand both the big picture and the details and his common sense approach to change is remarkable. 
 He gave an excellent example of his way of thinking in relation to making funding to both municipalities and education more sustainable and predictable while reducing administrative costs at the same time.  He noted that the amount of property tax collected by the municipalities for education, and the amount of money distributed back to the municipalities in the form of a variety of grants is approximately equal.  Therefore, it makes sense to fund education out of general revenues, and let the municipalities keep what they would otherwise have collected as education taxes.  Municipalities would no longer have the expenses associated with collecting and forwarding the education taxes, or with filling out grant proposals and reports.  The government would continue administering the distribution of funds to the school system, but there would be no administration of grants to the municipalities, a process that involves defining the parameters of the grant and sending out the information and application information, then sifting through the applications and selecting the fortunate recipients, then monitoring the reports indicating the grants were used as intended in a timely fashion.  Both education and the municipalities would have sustainable, predictable funding at approximately current levels, but with administrative costs greatly reduced.  That's intelligence and common sense in action!
 Mar also spoke of ways to meet the pressures of having 700,000 seniors in the province in 10 years, 900,000 in 20 years, and the kinds of programs needed to help them stay in their homes, help family care for them with supports such as job protection and elder day care and respite, long term care expanded so as not to unnecessarily tie up active care hospital beds.  As he said, these programs are expensive, but not as expensive as the alternatives.
 I have not gotten out to meet all the candidates for the PC leadership, but I have the impression that they are all possibilities and capable of making a good impression.  I doubt if any would be better than Gary Mar.
 Our MLA, Verlyn Olson, does know all of the candidates, and is very actively supporting Gary Mar.  He explains his support in this way.
 “I strongly believe that Gary has the right combination of social responsibility and fiscal discipline to ensure our province heads in the right direction.
 “He is the right choice to bridge the gap between north and south, rural and urban—Gary will proudly represent all of Alberta.  Gary knows how our government works, inside and out, as a former MLA, Minister and, most recently, as our province's representative in Washington.  He will make the changes necessary as Premier to provide the best possible future for the next generation.
 “He has developed an extensive policy platform by listening to fellow Albertans, a style of leadership that I can easily appreciate.”
 If you want a say as to who will be the next premier of Alberta, you must do two things.  You must buy a $5 PC party membership (available where and when you vote) and you must cast a ballot.  In Wetaskiwin, voting will be at the Senior Citizens' Centre, 5218 - 54th Street, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 17th.

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