Brian Mason receiving a gift from Edmonton’s Chinese community in recognition of his long service to the community, at the Lunar New Year Celebration banquet on February 11. Supplied
Addressing a Health Care Rally at the Alberta Legislature in December of 2010. Supplied
Brian Mason with Wayne Gretzky, taken while Mason was still a City Councillor. Bottom: Supplied
Brian Mason, MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood, is retiring after a 30-year career in politics. He spent 11 years on the Edmonton City Council (1989–2000) and 19 years in the Alberta legislature (2000–2019). He sums up his remarkably long service record by saying, “I have appreciated being able to work alongside the community on all sorts of issues.”
When Mason first became a city councillor representing Ward 3 in northeast Edmonton, he found “a real lack of facilities that the rest of the city had. People felt left out. This area was the place where you found a landfill and three prisons. There was no recreation centre and the council was threatening to close the Montrose arena, Spruce Avenue library, and several schools.”
Mason worked towards preventing closures and getting new facilities built, including the new Highlands library, the Northeast Edmonton Health Centre, the Edmonton Soccer Centre – East, a police station, and an ambulance centre. He was a supporter of the LRT and takes some credit for improvements to the Belvedere and Clareview stations, as well as “getting the LRT moving again to the south side.” He also lists as an achievement the building of an overpass at 50 Street and Yellowhead “where the CN rail line was stopping traffic for as long as half an hour.”
Mason is currently Alberta’s Minister of Transportation and Government House Leader in Rachel Notley’s NDP government. This is a dramatic change from his earlier days in the provincial legislature, where he was a member of an opposition party that often included only two MLAs – or, for brief periods, four.
“Conservatives are part of the scenery, the ocean we swim in,” Mason says. At the University of Alberta where he studied political science, his frat-house roommate was Dave Hancock, destined to become a longtime Progressive Conservative MLA and the 15th premier of the province for a short time in 2014. “Mason and Hancock have had many interesting political debates both then and more recently,” says Brian Gibbon, Mason’s constituency manager.
In his recent years as a member of the government, Mason has had a much stronger voice in constituency matters. Two such matters have been moving forward the East Edmonton Health Centre, and ensuring that whatever happens regarding Northlands will be “positive for the community.” He has supported Arts on the Avenue and helped to bring back the Community Facility Enhancement Program.
Mason, who turns 65 this year, is looking forward to retirement. He and his wife Karin own a house in the Okanagan, and they plan to move there eventually.
As our interview concluded, I suggested getting a photo of him in front of his constituency office sign. The date was February 12, and the temperature was in the low minus-20s. “No,” Mason says, “I am cold and I’m not going outside. I can say no now that I am about to retire.”
Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who lives in Boyle Street.