New kids on the block: Alberta’s NDP government a diverse bunch

WATCH ABOVE: Shallima Maharaj speaks to the youngest new MLA, Edmonton-Southwest’s Thomas Dang.

EDMONTON – Several post-secondary students, a former school principal, a nurse and a yoga teacher.

Alberta’s new NDP government caucus is a mixed bag of professions and ages. Almost half are women and three are believed to be the first openly gay members of the Alberta legislature.

Ricardo Miranda, 38, immigrated to Canada from Nicaragua as a child with his family. He took a leave from his job as a flight attendant with Air Canada to work as a researcher with the Canadian Union of Public Employees before taking the plunge into politics.

While battling Calgary’s former police chief Rick Hanson in the riding of Calgary Cross, Miranda said being gay didn’t come up as a campaign issue. And he never thought winning his seat Tuesday night would make it monumental.

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“It never even crossed my mind that it could be a first. Because now, from what I understand, there are three,” Miranda said Wednesday.

READ MORE: Alberta Election 2015 by the numbers

Kris Wells, with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said he thinks the three are the first openly LGBTQ members of the legislature, and that’s “good news.”

During her first news conference, premier-designate Rachel Notley told reporters that many of her 53 caucus members may be new to politics, but they all have skills she will draw on when she forms her first cabinet. She said what’s historic to her is the number of women.

READ MORE: A closer look at the history of women in Alberta politics 

“I’m so proud that they reflect the diversity of the province … We have people from all walks of life.

“Albertans will look at our government and see themselves.”

READ MORE: Premier-elect Notley to reassure business leaders, industry ‘things are A-OK’

At 20 years old, Thomas Dang is the youngest new MLA in Alberta. Dang, a computing sciences student at the University of Alberta, won the seat for the NDP in Edmonton-Southwest, beating Tory incumbent Matt Jeneroux.

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“We’re seeing this wide range of experiences, right? So everybody has a different background, everybody has a different life experience and they’re taking a different route,” Dang said Wednesday. “I think Albertans elected a very diverse range of MLAs. I think we elected some younger people and some older people, and I think that’s going to be very good because it’s going to bring in these unique perspectives to politics.”

A campaign biography for Deborah Drever, the winner in Calgary Bow, says she is a sociology student at Mount Royal University who lives with her grandmother. Debbie Jabbour in Peace River is a grandmother and psychologist.

Bruce Hinkley, the new representative for Wetaskiwin-Camrose, is a former school principal.

Danielle Larivee, a public health nurse, will be done with giving needles and visiting new moms at home after winning her seat in Lesser Slave Lake. The 40-year-old concedes that many new NDP politicians have a “steep learning curve” ahead but will do their very best.

Shaye Anderson in Leduc-Beaumont is a Telus technician and union steward who plays rugby. He also has a long, bushy “Duck Dynasty” style beard that has been getting some plucky tugs on Twitter.

READ MORE: Orange crush: NDP stomps out 44-year PC dynasty, Jim Prentice resigns

Brandy Payne said it’s funny how her job showing people how to do downward dog became a focus of her campaign in Calgary Acadia. The 36-year-old mother said she’s “much more than just a bendy yoga teacher.”

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She studied journalism and was an active student political organizer.

“We do have a lot of fresh faces in the government,” Payne said.

“We’re all aware we’re new as MLAs. And everyone’s prepared to get into Edmonton and work really hard to prove to the folks of Alberta that they made the right choice.”

With files from Global News. 

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