Ian Urquhart has a problem with partisan politics.
The University of Alberta political science professor says he’s fed up with the federal government’s failing environmental stewardship and escalating partisanship — and he’s sick of feeling powerless about these problems.
That’s why he’s running as an independent nominee for the Senate, in the first senate election since 2004.
If elected, Urquhart is poised to become Canada’s third independent senator, and only the fourth independent member in Parliament — an exception among the 413 seats combined between the Senate and the House of Commons.
But with nine other candidates in the running, and only three spots available in the elections, Urquhart faces an uphill struggle to win a possible seat. As a scholar who deals with politics on a daily basis, however, Urquhart is hardly blind to the challenge — in fact, he relishes it.
“I joke that I’m a bad political scientist, because one thing political scientists know is how important party organizations are for elections,” he says.
“At the same time, I’m really comfortable with (running as an independent), because I can listen to your idea and not reject it simply because you’re a conservative or a liberal, as we do too often.”
Urquhart, in fact, has taken the joke to his website, blogging that he would fail to get Stephen Colbert’s vote after the television personality recently condemned party-less politics.
On his blog, Urquhart notes the importance of looking beyond party lines, and stresses the need to maintain non-partisanship in the Senate, where he hopes to represent Albertans on issues such as the environment and educational reform.
Alberta holds elections for Albertan seats on the Senate, and passes the results as a recommendation to the federal government. However, the final decision lies with the Prime Minister, who is individually responsible for appointing nominees to the Senate.
But Urquhart’s personal blog so far touches on his conversation with Lisa, a middle-aged Calgarian who has never voted in her life.
At the end of the encounter — which Urquhart terms the most important of his campaign so far — she agreed to participate in the upcoming elections.
“I was just about this much off the ground after that woman told me that,” says Urquhart.
Whatever the outcome, Urquhart says he’ll still value his work at the U of A — where he won an undergraduate teaching award in 2007 — for the opportunity to continue making an impact on students.
“At the end of the day, that’s the stuff I’m going to take away from this,” Urquhart says.
“Even if you just affect a couple of people, even if you just get a few people to think, that’ll be rewarding enough.
“As a political scientist, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
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