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Respected community advocate Janis Irwin seeks NDP nomination in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood

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Janis Irwin with Brian Mason in 2017 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Former high school teacher, vice-principal, university lecturer, and education curriculum specialist Janis Irwin announced to a packed auditorium of supporters last night she will seek the NDP nomination in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood riding.

Irwin will have to forgive me for introducing her this way. Her news release acknowledged her background as an educator, but emphasized her work as a community advocate in the lead. I'm just a blogger, and I think that sold her much-needed experience and expertise short.

Whatever you want to emphasize, Irwin is a hard-working candidate, a thoughtful person, and would make a worthy successor to Transportation Minister and former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason, who has represented the riding since 2004 and announced last month he won't seek re-election in the provincial election expected next year.

When an opportunity like this comes along, if readers will forgive me for telling them what to think, parties should nominate their best people for their safest ridings. Thanks to the hard work of Mason and previous Alberta NDP leaders Pam Barrett and Ray Martin, Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood is one of the safer ridings for the NDP in Alberta.

More than 200 people who live in the riding now represented by Mason turned up for the announcement, according to my blogging colleague Dave Cournoyer, who lives in the constituency and went to the meeting. It's said here, this is a sign of both the respect and fondness Ms. Irwin is accorded by her neighbours.

She told them she got involved in politics "because I believe that each member of our community deserves basic rights. No one should go without food, shelter, and the chance to live a dignified life."

In the 2015 federal election, Irwin was defeated by Conservative Kerry Diotte when the Liberal candidate in the Edmonton Griesbach Riding got enough votes from the Trudeau Bump to split Irwin's vote. This was one of the greatest lost opportunities of Canadian political history, if you ask me, all the more so because former Sun Media journalist Diotte is now busy angrily late-night Tweeting his way to the title of Canada's Worst MP.

Well, a positive person like Irwin moves on, and so she has. "I want to be chosen to be a part of Rachel Notley's team of candidates so that I can work to ensure that we can continue making investments in our communities, in our health care system, in our education system, in child care, and in the everyday services that reduce inequality and matter to all of us living here in Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood," she said in her press release last night.

She also noted there are neighbourhoods in the riding with some of the highest levels of child poverty in Canada.

This is quite true. Research published in June by Campaign 2000, which aims to eliminate child and family poverty in Canada, showed Edmonton Griesbach, which occupies some of the same territory as the provincial riding, has the highest child poverty rates in Alberta and was No. 17 on the list of all 338 Canadian ridings.

But on the topic of child poverty in his federal electoral district, the only chirps heard from Diotte are the kind made by crickets! So Irwin's voice would be welcome on that file as well.

Irwin has also served as a director and manager in the Alberta Education Ministry -- in her campaign materials she emphasizes the importance of electing a government "that will continue to invest in education and ensure that students are safe and supported" -- and now works as stakeholder-relations director in Premier Notley's office.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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