Tunde Obasan is a government audit manager who migrated to Canada in 2012 with his wife and four children. He is an audit manager with the provincial department of the Alberta Treasury Board and Finance and he is currently volunteering as the Head of Finance/Administration at the Redeemed Christian Church of God (Rhema Chapel). Obasan is a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) and project manager having worked in both the public and private sectors. JacanaBooks Edmonton had the pleasure of a sit down with the United Conservative Party candidate for Edmonton-South.
What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading God and Politics in Esther by Yoram Hazony. Queen Esther is one of the people in the Bible that interests me. I am trying to see what were the political trends and political situations we had in the Bible.
What was the last book you read?
The last book I read was Change Your Thinking Change Your Life. How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement.
I can tell you that I have almost 100 % support from my community. I am well known in the community. People who have known me, recognise my input. I am always engaging with them particularly because of my wide involvement in community and church activities.
Have you experienced antagonism by your own community?
I have had people talk about this. I feel it is an individual thing. People are looking for politicians they can trust and if you are that person they won’t have any reason to be against you. They know who you are. They take the time to get to know you even when you don’t know, people they are studying you, they are forming opinions about you. Generally, I have not experienced any antagonism of any kind within my community.
How difficult is it to sell your candidacy to people outside your community?
That is a good question. So far it has been super easy.
I have come to realise that Albertans look beyond your colour or your cultural background. Most Albertans focus on what you can bring to the table. They form an opinion based on their extensive research. The support is huge from the Caucasians, Chinese, Filipinos, Indians and people from other backgrounds. They are always supportive. They see the values they want in me.
What inspired your interest in politics?
I come from a family of politicians.
My dad is a highly rated politician. My wife’s mum is a political leader as well. In 2013/2014, I ran a campaign for my wife when she ran to be a Councillor at her local government in Nigeria. She occupied a political position from between four to five years, from 2004 -2008. Both my wife and I grew up in political families. It is something we cannot ignore and something we are used to.
We got motivated to jump into politics while coming here and we chose Alberta because our research indicated that everything was great in Alberta in terms of the good economy at the time and so on. We read that Alberta was the best province to be so we came. Things might continue to go in the wrong direction if people like me don’t jump into the helm of things to save Alberta for the future of our children.
What are the initial difficulties immigrants in Canada face?
When immigrants come to Alberta, they face the problem of settling down and getting a job. At the back of their minds, they know they need to get a job. They have bills to pay right from when they come in. People have limited funds and they need to do something. This is the most challenging situation immigrants face.
Is it that there are no jobs?
When I came in January 2012, there were jobs. I was able to get a job in 2012. There are fewer jobs now because of the policies of the Alberta NDP government. Most employers are looking for people with Canadian experience, where do people get that from? How can I get Canadian experience if I never worked in Canada? This creates untold hardships for immigrants.
What do you intend to do about this?
This is a tough question to ask but I will try to answer as it is a challenge I faced personally. We need to have consultations with people and employers. They need to understand that people coming from abroad are seasoned and have been verified by Immigration Canada. This confirms that they have valid work experience. We need to have this discussion with employers. Focusing on Canadian experience will contribute to high rates of unemployment which in turn puts pressure on the government resources. This is avoidable.
What changes did you want to see in Alberta?
I want to see people get back to work. Our oil sector is currently dying because the Federal Liberals and Alberta NDP are not fighting for us. We need a Conservative government that will stand up to PM Justin Trudeau led government. We want to see waiting times reduced at hospitals. We want to see people have access to services when they need it.
On your website, you say that “you see first hand how families are burdened by the many difficult policies of the current government?” What are these burdens placed on families by the government?
A lot of families have lost their jobs. This is very critical. When members of the family lose their jobs, they are unable to put food on their tables and they find it hard to pay their bills. When you don’t have money in your pocket, you are unhappy and then depression sets in. Depression is real. When you can’t take care of your family, that pressure is real. We want to bring back jobs.
The carbon tax imposed by the current government is a way to punish Albertans. If you have to pay additional taxes every time you put gas in your car, that is punishment. We are punished for heating our homes during winter seasons. These unnecessary burdens affect businesses causing them to lay off workers instead of retaining workers. Families suffer as they are unable to save their hard-earned dollars spending it on Carbon Tax.
You have watched how friends lose their jobs… what are you planning to do about unemployment in Alberta?
The key solution to unemployment is for the government to focus on what is most important to Albertans. A lot of effort should be placed on re-igniting the Alberta economy. The easiest way to start this is to scrap the job-killing carbon tax.
Until recently, prior to 2015, Alberta had the lowest top statutory combined provincial and Federal tax rates for individuals and corporations. I am talking about in the US and entire Canada. In 2015, the Alberta NDP government increased the tax rate from a single rate of 10% to 5 different levels of the tax rate, with the highest rate at 15%. When we had the lowest tax rate, we were very competitive and this attracted investments from all over North America. Now, this is not the case. Unemployment rate keeps rising because we have lost investments.
“Taking Alberta back” what does that mean?
I have heard some people misinterpret this phrase. We are actually taking Alberta forward. Our plan is to get Alberta to the position where people can have access to services when they need it, they don’t have to wait too long for services. They can find jobs when they need it. We want our economy to be re-ignited.
For those who don’t know, what is the Alberta Advantage? Why is it in trouble?
Alberta Advantage is all about an economy that provides access to low taxes and its free enterprise spirit. The economy becomes competitive in the whole of North America. Alberta had an advantage of low taxes, people can come here to invest their money and in the long run, when you have more corporations and individuals paying lower taxes resulting into higher revenue for the government than when you have fewer people and fewer corporations paying higher taxes. This is what we meant by the Alberta Advantage.
Do you envisage a lot of diverse people coming out to vote?
More than ever before, in this 2019 elections, we are going to witness a lot of diversity. A good number of the UCP official candidates are diverse. They are from different cultural backgrounds -Chinese, Filipinos, Africans, Caucasians etc. We want to have a provincial government that represents everybody. Our party is the definition of true diversity. We are expecting that people from these different communities will come out and vote. They want to see positive changes happen.
In a nutshell, why should people vote for you?
As a professional accountant and a project manager with almost twenty years of experience in both the private and public sectors, I have seen how the NDP government have spent uncontrollably, The deficit they have accumulated will jeopardize the future of our children if not corrected now. I will stand and fight for all Albertans to restore the Alberta Advantage and make Alberta Strong and Free
Thank you so much for doing this interview.