Posted on Jul 11, 2016

Hon. Sarah Hoffman's Maiden Speech

"Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I rise in this House to speak in support of the Speech from the Throne, and I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about the constituency I represent, my personal journey, why I'm so proud to be a part of this government caucus, and how our policies are going to help those who elected me.

I'd like to begin by recognizing the visitors that I introduced earlier and their stamina in still being here at this point to hear this speech. It means a great deal to me, so thank you. They certainly have played an important role in inspiring me to enter partisan politics and supporting me personally when I decided to do so, whether it be through contributions, door-knocking, helping put up hundreds of signs, all of the above. And, of course, they are Ray Martin, Raj Pannu, Alex McEachern, and Reg Basken. All of these men are my godfathers in the NDP as well as many others that I will mention down the road. I also had asked Starr Curry to be here. Starr is the president of our women's caucus and has made it her primary volunteer duty to make sure that we get women to run for the NDP and has had that task as a key charge of hers since the early 1980s. Certainly, I really appreciate her support of myself and other women candidates in our party and making that a priority going forward.

I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the people of Edmonton-Glenora, who elected me last May. Edmonton-Glenora is a dynamic and diverse constituency which includes the neighbourhoods of Westmount, Inglewood – my home neighbourhood – Prince Charles, Sherbrooke, Dovercourt, Woodcroft, North Glenora, Glenora, Grovenor, McQueen, High Park, Canora, Britannia Youngstown, and Mayfield. We are home to people who rent and who own, those who are indigenous and multi-generational Canadians as well as many newcomers who have recently arrived as part of the Syrian refugee initiative.

We are employers and employees, students and teachers, pregnant and parenting teen moms who live in the Brentwood homes, who are supported by the Terra Centre, seniors who live in lodges like McQueen Place, operated by the Greater Edmonton Foundation, working families who are proud to send their children to well-supported schools. We also have three business revitalization zones – 124th Street, Inglewood, and Stony Plain Road – as individuals who are concerned about how the low price of oil is impacting our economy, their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of each other. We also have many dynamic businesses and cultural and service centres, including the Telus World of Science; small businesses like the Remedy Cafe, Studio Bloom, and the Duchess Bake Shop; big businesses like Safeway and Home Depot; the Woodcroft public library; Jasper Place Health and Wellness; Government House; the Woodcroft public health centre; the Peter Hemingway Fitness and Leisure Centre; the amazing art gallery district along 124th Street; and many top-notch schools that work to help children reach their full potential each and every day. I was overcome with gratitude by the support that Edmonton-Glenora showed me in May, and I am devoted to serving them to the absolute best of my ability. They told us in May that love is better than fear and that a welcoming and inclusive world is one that they want to continue to build. They told us to support jobs, to support families, to be a government that operates with the public and the citizens of Alberta always top of mind.

I'm proud of my Alberta roots, growing up in the rural communities of Altario, Castor, and Kinuso. My parents were faithful public servants, a teacher and a principal. They instilled a sense of service, a love of learning, and a pride of public education. You won't be surprised to hear that my father did not encourage me to follow his career pathway. As a principal during the deep cuts of the Klein era my dad had to make tough decisions that resulted in staff members being laid off, class sizes increasing, less one-on-one support for students who were falling behind, and he even went so far as to take every other light bulb out of our school. So when I asked my dad for career advice, he discouraged me from entering teaching because both he and my mom felt incredibly disrespected by that government of the day, and their reward for making very tough decisions, as I just mentioned, was a 5 per cent pay cut to both of them. He told me that if we lived in another province, he might suggest teaching, but Alberta needed macro change before it would be a profession that he would want his daughter to work in. It may not surprise the hon. members in this Assembly that I'm stubborn, however, and that I did follow my own heart and chose to pursue education and a teaching career. I'm so proud that I chose to do so, having an undergraduate and a graduate degree, both from the University of Alberta.

While I was completing my M.Ed., I had the pleasure of getting to know the hon. Raj Pannu. My parents had always told me to work hard and ask people that I respect for advice, so I did just that. As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Pannu recommended that I get involved in politics as soon as possible. I took that as an endorsement for applying for a job and a reference. So I heeded his advice, and I applied for a researcher position at the NDP caucus. Madam Speaker, this was the beginning of my beginning. I had the honour of working for Raj Pannu, Ray Martin, the current Education minister, and our Government House Leader as well as our Premier. Every one of them has made a significant contribution to the people of Alberta through their public service and has supported me personally along my political path, and I am forever grateful. I am in awe of the opportunity that the constituents of Edmonton-Glenora have provided by allowing me to participate in this Assembly as their representative in creating macro change, that my parents spoke of Alberta needing. Today I'm part of a team that is committed to making tomorrow better than yesterday.   We know that it is not an easy goal in a province that is very dependent on one industry. We are so fortunate to have a strong oil and gas base, but with price volatility and today's low oil prices, it has never been more important to diversify our economy and to stabilize our public sector so that families can count on the public health care system, that we are so proud of as Albertans, to be there when we need it, to count on our schools, to fund growth, to ensure that children get the very best start in life, to ensure that everyone here pays their fair share to support our province, our home, as we weather this economic downturn. Albertans are resilient, determined, and we have each other's backs. I have no illusions about how tough things are right now in Alberta. Alberta families know the challenges that lie ahead for themselves and for our government. But while the choices government makes might be easy in the boom times, the choices government makes when Albertans are hurting are even more important. While government strives to diversify and strengthen our economy to ensure that future Albertans are less vulnerable to drops in the price of oil, while our government invests in job creation and protecting Albertans from exploitative payday lenders, while our government invests in cleaner and stronger energy futures, while our government improves public oversight and stewardship of services and encourages democratic renewal, there is one message that needs to be delivered to Albertans today. Know that I am here to work for you, that our government is here to work for you.

I will be working for you because I will be working for my friends: friends in Kinuso, who are working hard on the farm; friends that I worked with at the university, who continue to serve their students and are so relieved that we haven't seen drastic cuts in a volatile budget cycle like they've lived through so many times before; my friends on the school board like Ray Martin, who is here today, who have many times heard commitments to stable, predictable funding, but we haven't realized them yet. Well, not until last May, Madam Speaker.

Last May the people of Alberta spoke loudly. They had a choice. They had a choice between reliving the life that we lived two decades ago, the one that caused my family so much anxiety and so many other families in Alberta so much anxiety, the reality that we've continued to allow for deferred maintenance to increase throughout the province. We heard that from both sides of the House, how devastating it is that we've got buildings that aren't in the best condition, that our children deserve better, that our hospitals deserve better, and it's true. The only way to get through this is to continue to invest in each other and support each other. So I'll be working for the kids, working for the teachers that they learn from every day, working for the nurses and doctors their moms and dads depend on to keep their families healthy. I'll be working for my mom, who first taught me what a privilege and responsibility it is to serve the public, a lesson I take to heart every day in this province, and for my dad's memory, who I think would be very proud of me today.

I want to say thank you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me to share my story today and so much gratitude to the people of Edmonton-Glenora for allowing me the honour to serve as their MLA. Thank you."