Senate Candidate Survey Responses

Elizabeth Johannson – EverGreen Party
Len Bracko – Independent

Perry Chahal – Independent
William Exelby – Independent
David Fletcher – Independent
Paul Frank – Independent
Ian Urquhart – Independent
Doug Black – Progressive Conservative Party
Mike Shaikh – Progressive Conservative Party
Scott Tannas – Progressive Conservative Party
Rob Gregory – Wildrose Party
Raymond Germain – Wildrose Party
Vitor Marciano – Wildrose Party

Elizabeth Johannson – EverGreen Party

1. What has been your favourite experience with the arts in Alberta?

I have a B.A. Honours in Theatre and Drama so the arts are very dear to my heart. I have been active in the Edmonton theatre community, frequently directing or acting in plays at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, and directing and performing with several community theatre groups.

My favourite experience with the arts in Alberta is the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. I love being on the festival grounds, meeting performers from across Alberta and around the world. I love trying to catch as many plays as I can. The festival really showcases that Alberta artists put on international quality performances.

As my children grow up (they are now ages 7 and 9), I am also getting the opportunity to go with them to children’s theatre. There is a really high quality of children’s theatre available to see in the province. One good example would be at the St. Albert Children’s Festival.

2. How is the role of Senator relevant to arts and culture in Alberta?

The Senate is a national body and as such should be concerned about encouraging arts and culture across the country. Senators from Alberta have a special responsibility to support arts and culture in this province. Federal funding for arts and culture is very important. We need to ensure that federal funding for arts and culture does not fall victim to short-sighted budget cuts.

3. If appointed to the Senate, how will you advance Alberta arts and culture?

If appointed to the Senate I would be extremely supportive of any bills coming forward increasing funding for arts and culture and would speak up to ensure that Alberta received its fair share of federal arts and culture funding. I would also lobby other Senators to join me in supporting funding for arts and culture.

I would take an active role in supporting the many festivals across the province and do my best to help promote them. Alberta’s many festivals really showcase our strong traditions and the many talented artists who call this province home.

4. Any other comments?

Our arts communities and cultural diversity are what make Alberta a vibrant and exciting place to live. That needs to be nourished and cherished to ensure that all Albertans have access to these things which improve our quality of life.

Stable funding for the arts ensures that they are universally accessible to all Albertans.

Len Bracko – Independent

1. What has been your favourite experience with the arts in Alberta?

A recent experience that was very special for me was the opportunity to participate in the romantic comedy “I Think I Do” that was filmed in Edmonton in January, 2012.  I was asked to play the part of “Father of the Groom” which was a fantastic experience.  The movie stars Mia Kirshner, Sara Canning and James Thomas and is to be released this summer.

Len and Barb with Mia Kirshner in Comedy 'I Think I Do'Len on set in the romantic film ‘I Think I Do’

I’ve also been involved in numerous ways in supporting the Arts in St. Albert.  I volunteer and support the International Children’s Festival held annually in St. Albert.

I’ve enjoyed having an opportunity to try my hand as a potter.  Attached is a picture of me creating a bowl under the supervision of a skilled potter.

Len creates pottery with the help of excellent instruction

As a Councillor in St. Albert I have brought forward or supported many motions to advance the Arts including:

  • the creation of a Cultural Master Plan for St. Albert,
  • funding for the St. Albert Arts and Heritage Foundation,
  • passing a policy where 1% of the cost of new buildings goes to art,
  • the purchase of aboriginal art sculptures,

Len supported the acquisition of the Steinhauer sculptures to beautify St. Albert and recognize our Aboriginal Culture – sculpture name: Mother Bear

  • establishing the Hemingway Centre for the Arts in St. Albert,

City Council is working to make Hemingway Centre the Centre of Arts in St. Albert

  • hosting the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards in St. Albert in 2011,
  • hosting annual St. Albert’s Arts Awards,
  • supporting the creation of murals and art in public places in St. Albert,
  • establishing the Michif Institute,
  • supporting the Children’s Theatre in St. Albert
  • the creation of a statue as a tribute to the Honorable Lois Hole, Lt. Governor.

Len served on the Lois Hole Tribute Committee to honour Lt. Governor Lois Hole through the creation of this statue that will be placed at the entrance to Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park.

  • supporting the branding of St. Albert as the Botanical Arts City

Cultivate the artist in you!

Cultivate the poet in you!

Cultivate the writer in you!

Cultivate the actor in you!

Cultivate the potter in you!

Cultivate the ballerina in you!

Cultivate the musician in you!

Cultivate the singer in you!

Art and culture are the heartbeat of our community.

2. How is the role of Senator relevant to arts and culture in Alberta?

Members of all orders of government have a role in enhancing arts and culture within Alberta and throughout Canada.  The arts are what gives a city, province and country a unique feel and creates a sense of pride and attachment to a community.  Increasingly we need to recognize that the arts play an important role in our economy.  The arts create jobs and promote tourism.  The arts are also an important way to foster learning, creativity and healing which is increasingly being recognized by countries that have experienced incredible hardships.  It is critically important that we foster arts and culture in order to celebrate our rich heritage.

3. If appointed to the Senate, how will you advance Alberta arts and culture?

I will continue to strongly support arts and culture in Alberta and Canada.

I see that the movie industry in Alberta is just ready to boom and I would like to see incentives created such as tax credits that would facilitate growth.

I would like to see a vision and long term plan for the arts and culture for Alberta with studies to show the benefits to Albertans.

4. Any other comments?

Additional information re: my involvement in the arts is posted on my website in the photo gallery at

David Fletcher – Independent

1. What has been your favourite experience with the arts in Alberta?

I believe the Arts and involvement in the arts helps to stimulate and encourage our children to think and to grow to be a more responsible person. The arts enrich our lives, and the help define who we are as a society, and to be more appreciative of ourselves. As we look at the Civilizations that have come before us, we look back on them not for the wars they fought, but for the art, culture and civilization they left behind. My favourite experience with the arts in Alberta is the Fringe Theatre Festival and while not traditional Heritage festival is a place I quite enjoy. 2 of my grand kids are in dance. I believe arts and culture are important to the quality of life of all Canadians not just Albertans and that they define and reflect who we are. At thee heritage festival in Edmonton you can enjoy the diversity of the many people who make up are county. What I find most interesting is not the differences but the similarity’s we all share.

2. How is the role of Senator relevant to arts and culture in Alberta?

Federal funding for arts and culture is very important The arts are what gives a city, province and country a unique feel and creates a sense of pride and attachment to a community. I would support shared federal funding for Arts in Alberta.

3. If appointed to the Senate, how will you advance Alberta arts and culture?

I would do my best to promote the many festivals across the province

4. Any other comments?

As a Senator in waiting candidate and one of the original supporters of the Canadian Committee for a Triple E senate, my primary purpose in running in this election is to work and lobby to change the Senate from an appointed to an elected body.

Once we have the necessary democratic reform it will allow citizens to lobby and support candidates who share their values and priority’s which are not always the same as the Prime Minister of the Day who currently appoints Senators.

Paul Frank – Independent

1. What has been your favourite experience with the arts in Alberta?

On a personal level, I have one teenaged stepson taking piano lessons and another teenaged stepson who takes art classes in school.  I expect these types of art enrichments to broaden their horizons and help them develop as young Albertans.

My family and I have had many experiences with arts in Alberta, including local arts and crafts shows, many theatre productions, such as the family favourite ATP’s production of A Christmas Carol, the CPO’s POPS series, the Alberta Ballet, Arts Central, and many more.  Three annual shows or events that stand out in my mind are the Eddies, which showcases Alberta spirit and creativity through different media, the annual ACAD Grad Show and the semi-annual Calyx Art Exhibition and Sale.

The reason that shows and events such as the ACAD Grad Show and Calyx stand out for me is that it gives us the opportunity to talk to Alberta artists and to learn about their passion and inspirations for their local works of art.

A lot of Albertans do not know about Calgary’s vibrant arts community and this needs to change.

2. How is the role of Senator relevant to arts and culture in Alberta?

The role of a Senator from Alberta is to represent All Albertans.  This means being not only a supporter, but also a promoter of the arts in Alberta to Alberta, Canada and the world.  Alberta is blessed with economic advantage, social and cultural diversity, a real creative and entrepreneurial spirit and a magnificent landscape to inspire us all.  We need to celebrate these truly unique Alberta qualities with others, wherever they are.

3. If appointed to the Senate, how will you advance Alberta arts and culture?

I spent a year studying law in the National Law Program in Ottawa.  One of the major reasons that I took the opportunity to live and study in Ottawa is because of the national institutions that all Canadians should be proud of.  During my year, I was able to study in the National Gallery of Canada and visit numerous times the Museum of Civilization.

What was missing in Ottawa was the real presence of art and media reflective of the Alberta landscape and culture.  As a Senator from Alberta it would be my responsibility to support and promote Alberta arts and culture in our national institutions.  One of the ways I would do this is by creating opportunities for Alberta artists, cultural icons and arts advocates to promote themselves on a provincial, national and international level.

4. Any other comments?

I come from the belief that arts are the reflection, representation and fabric of our society and that the arts can transcend barriers, move and inspire us in ways that legislation and government policies cannot.

To learn more about my platform and my story, please visit

Ian Urquhart – Independent

1. What has been your favourite experience with the arts in Alberta?

Two favourites come immediately to mind. One great moment was being in the presence of two forces of nature – watching k. d. lang close the Edmonton Folk Festival as lightning lit up the western horizon. An ongoing great experience is connected with editing Wild Lands Advocate, the magazine published by Alberta Wilderness Association. Each issue features the work of an Alberta artist who, in one medium or another, explores Alberta’s wild spaces and those who call them home. Featuring Alberta artists in our magazine has been very rewarding.

2. How is the role of Senator relevant to arts and culture in Alberta?

The legislative powers of the Senate are, with one exception, the equal of the House of Commons (the Senate cannot introduce so-called money bills  – a money bill is “any bill appropriating any part of the public revenue or imposing a tax or duty.”) So Senators, either during debate in the Senate (Red) Chamber or in committee work (such as in the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee) have very important legislative and investigatory roles to play. The Senate also is able to carry out special studies that would be relevant to arts and cultural issues in Alberta and the rest of Canada (we shouldn’t forget that Alberta’s arts/culture issues may be shared with Canadians in other provinces).

3. If appointed to the Senate, how will you advance Alberta arts and culture?

First, I would advance the arts and culture by listening to Alberta’s artists about the challenges they face. What are those challenges? What issues do they want to see government pursue? I would do this by encouraging committees to include representatives of Alberta associations among the witnesses Senate committees hear from. I also would do this by encouraging Senate committees to travel to Alberta to meet with Alberta’s artists.

Second, as I said in a similar survey posed by the Allied Arts Council of Lethbridge, I would encourage members of both the Senate and the House of Commons to realize that federal funding of the arts is insufficient. I think the federal Liberals were on the right track when they said during the last federal election campaign that they would double the funding received by the Canada Council. In the Senate I would also encourage the government to explore other funding options – perhaps we should consider reforming the tax system to try to offer more encouragement for Canadians to  donate money to support the arts.

4. Any other comments

I believe history shows that thriving artistic communities are essential to the greatness of societies. It’s time the Canadian government recognized this in its arts and culture policies.

Doug Black – Progressive Conservative Party

1. What has been your favourite experience with the arts in Alberta?

I take tremendous pride in my role as co-chair of the Campaign for the Banff Centre, a campaign in which we raised $140 million in support of Banff Centre Revitalization capital projects, programming, and scholarship endowments.  It is very rewarding to have helped to transform the campus and programs of this great institution. I am still involved with the Banff Centre today as Governor Emeritus, and my wife Linda serves currently as vice-chair of the Board.

I have had and continue to have rich experiences in my role as Chair of the Michaelle Jean Foundation and in my former role as chair of the group which endeavoured to establish the National Portrait Gallery in Calgary.

But one of the real highlights for our family was hosting competitors for The Honens International Piano Competition in 1996 and 2003. For each competition, a competitor lived with us, practised in our home, and shared with us the intensity and passion of the competition.  It was an incredible experience.

2. How is the role of Senator relevant to arts and culture in Alberta?

Alberta’s voice is often stifled on the national stage, and we need a voice that speaks up for our communities.  The right Senator can take on this role, through the support of federal infrastructure and arts and culture investment, and through federal policies that encourage a vibrant Canadian and Alberta arts and culture scene.

3. If appointed to the Senate, how will you advance Alberta arts and culture?

The Arts are one of the cornerstones of a caring and productive community.

I will lead federal initiatives that assist Alberta’s strong and growing arts and culture, and I plan to take the initiative in bringing national institutions to Alberta.  The future of Alberta lies in our creativity, and in our determination to make our own luck, and our arts and culture policies are an integral component of this.

If appointed Senator, I pledge to enable better two-way communication between Albertans and our Senators through public forums and enhanced awareness of activities in the Senate and the federal government.

4. Any other comments?

As a founding advisory member of ArtsVote, I know  the importance of our arts and culture communities rallying to advance the arts community through the democratic process.  Involvement matters. Engagement makes a difference. Elected officials can develop policies that foster creativity, assist artists and create venues.

Society will not benefit from the power of the arts unless we in the arts community take leadership and elect people who are strong advocates for the arts.

Mike Shaikh – Progressive Conservative Party

1. My Favourite Experience with the Arts in Alberta.

I have been happily married to an artist for 38 years.  My wife Linda Shaikh and I have a deep appreciation for the role of the arts in nurturing a strong healthy and vibrant community.  When we travel around Alberta, we always make time to visit local cultural and artistic venues like the new Alberta Art Gallery in Edmonton and of course the EPCOR Centre and its many cultural attractions in Calgary.  We believe arts and culture are important to the quality of life of all Albertans and that they define and reflect who we are as Albertans.

2. How is the Role of Senator Relevant to Arts and Culture in Alberta?

Culture is an essential part of the success of any nation.  Alberta has tremendous artistic talents that need to be showcased to the rest of Canada and the world.  Once more Senators become elected, following Alberta’s lead, the power and influence of the Senate will grow.  As an elected and effective Senator for Alberta, I will work to make sure we have policies and programs in place to encourage and develop Alberta’s artistic and cultural talents.  The Senate can help raise the profile of arts and culture in Alberta, and by doing so we can increase the level of investment in our arts and cultural sector.

3. What I Would Do if I am Elected as a Senator for Alberta:

As an elected Senator, I will help showcase Alberta’s talented musicians, playwrights, performers and visual artists to the rest of the country.  Alberta’s artistic wealth and talent is not widely known, but we have much to promote and celebrate here, from the facilities such as the Galt Museum in Lethbridge to the Oil Sands Discovery Centre in Fort McMurray and groups such as One Yellow Rabbit in Calgary to the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers in Edmonton. There is no doubt we need to look at new and creative ways to participate in and support arts and culture, and I would certainly work with Alberta’s arts community in the development of such initiatives.

4. Other Comments:

The contributions that Alberta artists and cultural supporters make to the success of our province cannot be underestimated.  Ancient civilizations have become known over the ages for their legacy of artistic achievements as much as any economic or social achievements they made.  As Alberta continues to prosper, I believe we need to continue to encourage and support our artists.  Artistic expressions by talented Albertans will make a long lasting impression about who we are and what we stand for as a people.