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Meet the Candidates: Alex McPhee for Cypress-Hills Grasslands

"Life on the prairies is harsh and unpredictable, and building true rural sustainability is difficult. But without hope and action, we have nothing." - Alex McPhee
Alex McPhee is the NDP candidate for the Cypress-Hills Grasslands riding. staff reached out to the candidates in all of Saskatchewan's ridings with a universal questionnaire.
We will be publishing these results in order they were received.

Name: Alex McPhee

Age: 23

Running for: MP for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Profession: Cartographer.

Currently residing in (city or neighbourhood): Val Marie.

Previous political experience:
I have contracted as an election results analyst and political data scientist. Not a lot of candidates can also do their own behind-the-scenes technical work!

Who is your political hero?
I expect every NDP candidate will say Tommy Douglas, so I’ll go with Clarence Fines, who was provincial treasurer under the CCF. Tommy was a left-wing dreamer, Clarence was an accountant. It was a terrifying partnership. Together, they showed Saskatchewan that a co-operative economy wasn’t just morally right: it also made a lot of business sense.

What inspired you to enter the election race?
I’m young - I’m going to be spending the next 50 years in rural Saskatchewan. What are those years going to look like? Will we plan ahead now, or will we ignore our biggest problems until it’s too late? The way we’re currently going, I’m not sure if any small farms will still exist by the end of my life. Life on the prairies is harsh and unpredictable, and building true rural sustainability is difficult. But without hope and action, we have nothing.

What topics are most important to you in this federal election?
Besides long-term rural development, I’ve personally been disturbed by our current MP’s stand on gay conversion therapy, which is a dangerous and unscientific procedure that every party opposes. So every party leader voted to ban it in Parliament this year - but Jeremy Patzer, our local MP, voted against. Well, I’ve met young gay people who say that this makes them feel less safe here. What a terrible decision for the future of a constituency that already has a problem
with so many of its youth moving away.

Are you concerned about the short campaign time line for this election?
Not here in Cypress Hills—Grasslands, because we have the best group of volunteers in the province. Out of all the NDP campaigns in the province, we were actually the first to get our candidate paperwork finalized - ahead of Saskatoon and Regina! We punch well above our weight in this riding. It’s been an honour to work with so many of our lifetime members and veteran organizers.

What supports, if any, do you feel are needed to help businesses and residents with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians still aren’t back in the workforce - either their kids aren’t safe at school, they’re caring for family members, or they’re struggling with long-term healtheffects from deferred treatments or COVID  infection. The NDP is committed to maintaining wage and rent subsidies for small businesses, and keeping pandemic supports for regular people as they are. With rising case counts, increasing hospitalizations, and school outbreaks, this was a
terrible time for the Liberals to hold an election.

What, if any, agricultural federal programs and initiatives do you feel are necessary to help support farmers and ranchers in this year's conditions?
The last time the Conservatives were in power, they gutted AgriStability. That was a huge mistake, and we need to fix it. I also think that the federal government should have a role in limiting the extreme transportation costs we’re seeing this year - constituents have been telling me that small producers can’t compete for limited freight space. We’ve subsidized our two big railways for 100 years, this would be a good year to ask them to return a favour.

Is there an issue that people are focusing too much?
I am upset to see our local Conservatives be so afraid of offending members of the anti-vaccination movement. If you want to hear a classic politician’s response to a question, try asking a Conservative MP about vaccination. I’m not afraid to stand up for what the overwhelming majority of our province believes: COVID vaccines work, they’re the only way to end the lockdowns, and I received one at the earliest opportunity.

Is there an issue that doesn’t get enough attention?
Heritage and tourism are a big part of my home village’s economy, and one of the worst affected by the pandemic. Saskatchewan has an amazing inventory of heritage buildings, but more of them are left abandoned every year. Frankly, it gives the impression that we don’t care much about our future, either. As an active member of the Val Marie Elevator Committee, I’d like to see a serious heritage strategy that offers better incentives for rural tourism and hospitality.

Why did you choose to run for your particular party?
I read a lot of Canadian history, and I think more people should join me. Do you feel like we have no industrial capacity, bad public infrastructure, a primary-sector economy that’s far too vulnerable to world price shocks, and a very distant federal government that doesn’t care about any of that? The NDP would agree with you! These are all the same issues that our party was built to address. For the last 80 years, we haven’t changed our line: compassion and co-operation are the only real solution for the prairies.

What is the biggest issue facing your party’s chance at success?
Trudeau is terrified of the NDP, because he knows we have a record of actually delivering on our promises in government. If the federal election was just between the Conservatives and the NDP, then Canadians would have a real choice, and Trudeau would be out of a job. So the Liberals will do anything during a campaign to sound like they care about regular people.

How will you engage and encourage young voters to participate in this election?
As a youth candidate, some things have come naturally. We have the best Twitter engagement out of any campaign in Saskatchewan, period. And we started a collectible button program that’s been an overwhelming success, raising more than a thousand dollars in small donations online. I’ve been really happy about the number of first-time donors and first-time volunteers we’ve reached this year.

What is your party’s leader’s biggest flaw?
I mean, as a political analyst, I have to say that Jagmeet has really turned around what looked like a shaky early performance as party leader. That shows up in public opinion polling, and the way that local people talk. He has become much better-spoken, and really matured in the role. But now he needs to help us get more than zero NDP members elected in Saskatchewan!

Once elected, your job is to represent your entire riding. How do you plan on representing individuals who didn’t vote for you?
I’m a rural NDP candidate - I can promise that I’ve talked to a lot of them. I find that no matter how much we disagree on policy, we still have a shared past, and a common interest in our region’s future. That’s two-thirds, which is not a bad place to start.

What informs your political stance? What books, publications, relationships or experiences?
I inherited an Economist subscription from my great-uncle, a longtime NDP man and civil servant. Without an informed worldwide view, we’ll struggle to figure out what’s right for Canada. I’ve also been affected by unexpected windfalls in my business life - as well as unexpected deaths, when losing my dad young took me off dental insurance. It’s very hard for me to believe that people get rewarded exactly in proportion to how hard they work. If we don’t co-operate to blunt life’s ups and downs, we’ll squander the good years and be ruined in the bad ones.

What local project or service would you advocate for more federal spending?
Saskatchewan’s native prairie has tremendous ecological value - in fact, it stores more carbon than the province’s boreal forest does. (1 square meter of prairie has 500 miles of roots.) A serious environmental program for Canada needs to put a dollar value on this local treasure, paying producers for the restoration and drought resilience work that many of them are already covering out-of-pocket. Combined with the research already being done at Grasslands National Park, we can create a world-class carbon capture program that rewards landowners with direct cash payouts.

What is something people don’t know about you?
Have you noticed that I like historical trivia? It’s because I was a Reach for the Top national finalist in high school!