As an MLA for Calgary-North West and single mother, Sandra Jansen works hard to set a good example for women and young people — like her daughter. This motivation pushed Jansen to put her bid in for leadership of the PC Party, but after she was threatened online as well as during a leadership forum in Red Deer, Jansen left the party and crossed the floor to the opposing NDP — a party she had previously criticized during her leadership campaign.
Jansen joined the Alberta PC Party in 1985 when she was hired by Ron Ghitter during his run for the provinces’ PC Party leadership. She was Ghitter’s assistant press liaison while he was running against Don Getty — which she said allowed her to gain a great deal of experience in politics.
“I really loved the job, I got to travel around the province at press conferences and that sort of thing. I really enjoyed the whole political process,” Jansen said. Once the campaign ended, Jansen began her career in broadcasting. With more than 10 years covering national news in Toronto, she would gain a new perspective on the political process. She also interviewed politicians while working for City TV in both Toronto and Calgary.
After years of broadcasting, Jansen volunteered to join another leadership campaign for the Alberta PC Party. She became the communications manager when PC Alison Redford won said leadership campaign.
Jansen was a part of the party for years before finally being asked to run as an MLA for Calgary-North West in 2012 where she won.
As MLA, there are many accomplishments Jansen takes pride in. She was the first minister in the province who voiced support for the LGBTQ community, women’s issues and combatting sexual violence by helping organize the first two round tables in the province alongside Sheldon Kennedy on sexual violence and services. As well, Jansen has worked hard to attract young people, members of the LGBTQ community and women into the political process.
“We have a whole generation of young leaders that we need to bring to the table. I want to bring more women to the table to have a conversation and especially more women voters. That’s important to me.”
As a single mother, these types of issues are important to Jansen. One of the reasons she made a bid for party leadership is to set an example for other women and young people.
“Well there certainly tends to be an unpleasant narrative on social media at times that can drop to the level of harassment. I think we have an opportunity to say that we are going to take the high road on this. I don’t think Alberta is that kind of place.” -Sandra Jansen
But Jansen’s PC leadership bid was short-lived. She’s been targeted for her stance on certain issues that some PC party supporters do not agree with, such as abortion, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. She was harassed, ridiculed and even threatened online. The Huffington Post reported Jansen was called “dead meat” and a “dumb broad,” among other explicit names. Threats like these have been constant on the politician’s social media.
Nonetheless, Jansen said she believes Alberta is not a place where this behaviour should be happening.
“Well there certainly tends to be an unpleasant narrative on social media at times that can drop to the level of harassment. I think we have an opportunity to say that we are going to take the high road on this. I don’t think Alberta is that kind of place. I think we have to make sure we don’t encourage this kind of behaviour,” said Jansen.
But at a leadership forum in Red Deer the harassment reached a new level. It was reported by The Toronto Star Jansen had been chased down hallways and was called names on many occasions throughout the forum. This type of behaviour led her to drop out of the PC Party after more than 30 years of involvement.
Jansen had criticisms for the NDP, which included her worry for the party’s ignorance of Alberta’s business sector. This is something Jansen feels is one of the most important aspects in the province. She believes the NDP hasn’t been involving everyone before making decisions by not giving certain people the chance to come to the table.
“To name one area, the business community in Calgary who feels that they’re not getting an opportunity to collaborate. Their voices are not heard and they’re making phone calls that go unanswered. They’re not finding a sense of collaboration. And so, there is a frustration in that.”
Particularly, Jansen is not impressed with how the party is handling their carbon tax.
“When it comes to our government in power right now, there’s a lot of frustration out there. They seem to be cramming things through. What I think that we have to do is to have a conversation about the effects of the carbon taxes that they are putting into place.”
Global News reports Jansen’s switch as marking the first time in Alberta’s history an MLA has crossed the floor to join the NDP. It has been speculated Jansen was only elected because she was a member of the PC Party, while others defend that Jansen was elected because she is a qualified individual.
This argument seems to be a recurring theme throughout Alberta’s recent history of politicians crossing the floor.
Jansen said, “I think we always look at issues that we have to deal with in the province through the lenses of our experience. Those are my experiences and that’s what I have to bring to the table. That’s a good thing about the system of MLA representation is that we all come from a very different place with a very different perspective.”