A young woman from High River wants to be part of the renewal of the federal Conservative Party.
Melissa Mathieson, 24, will seek the Conservative nomination in the Macleod riding when the campaign begins to replace retired MP Ted Menzies.
“I really think youth is important,” Mathieson said. “I think especially now, the Conservative Party could use some renewal, some new people with fresh ideas who are willing to work day, night, weekends for their constituents and for the party.”
Mathieson wants to follow the lead of people such as MPs James Moore, Pierre Poilievre, Peter McKay and Stephen Harper, who were young men when they were elected.
Mathieson equates her young age with high energy, new ideas and an outlook on politics that is not jaded.
“I started looking at people I admired and it came to me these people were young people with lots of energy and new ideas and they started this Conservative Party and made sure it was successful,” Mathieson said. “We need more of that.”
A lifetime resident of High River, Mathieson in 2012 graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in political science, making the Dean’s List as a member of the Academic Achievers Program.
Mathieson worked for the U of C’s School of Public Policy as research association in the extractive resource development program and for Menzies as an issues manager.
Mathieson’s work with Menzies included planning trips, events and announcements, assisting in preparation of speeches, press releases and caucus packages, and briefing the minister for Question Period and news conferences.
She also assisted Menzies with meetings, briefings and events in Ottawa and the riding, and was responsible for communication and correspondence with constituents, government departments and MP offices.
“I’m very passionate about Macleod,” Mathieson said.
Mathieson also worked in issues management in the Prime Ministers Office, where she monitored the media and flagged issues, co-ordinated members’ statements and government questions each day for Question Period and assisted with Stephen Harper’s morning briefing.
That experience factored in Mathieson’s decision to seek the Conservative nomination now.
“I’ve just been in Ottawa, working for Macleod, working for the prime minister and the department of finance,” Mathieson said. “I know the system, I know the players. Four years from now, 10 years from now, I won’t be in that same position.”
Mathieson’s interest in politics was inspired by teacher Laurie Morales during a class discussion at Senator Riley school.
“Something just ignited,” Mathieson said.
At the age of 13 Mathieson went to work on the campaign of Highwood MLA Don Tannas, who became a mentor.
Mathieson was so taken with politics that where other young girls would have posters of movie and rock stars on their bedroom walls, she favoured former PC leader Ralph Klein, who along with Preston Manning is one of her idols.
“As a political junkie, you become passionate about specific leaders and what they stood for,” Mathieson said. “When you think about Alberta politicians and people you could aspire to, those are two names that come to mind pretty quickly.”
Mathieson subsequently worked on campaigns for Shawn Ottewell, George Groeneveld, Lisa Macleod, Marilissa Gosselin and Menzies.
Mathieson served on the board of the Macleod Electoral District Association from 2010-’12 and the Highwood Electoral District Association from 2010-’11. She was a member of the U of C Conservative Club Association from 2010-’11.
In the community, Mathieson volunteers with Operation Christmas Child in Okotoks for Samaritan’s Purse and at Ronald McDonald House in southern Alberta.
Mathieson has also volunteered with the African Yoga Project, Calgary Humane Society, High River Parent Link Centre and the Government of Canada Workplace Charity for the PMO.
Now Mathieson wants to put her youth, political connections and fresh ideas to work for the people of Macleod and Canada.
Mathieson would create a system that would keep her in touch with constituents, visiting the riding often to talk to people.
“I may not be a veteran business owner or the best farmer in Macleod, but I certainly know how to connect with those people,” Mathieson said. “It’s not me who’s making the decisions in Ottawa, it’s all about communicating with your constituents and reaching out to them to see what their priorities are.”
Mathieson has assembled a campaign team, using the contacts she made throughout the riding while on the board and working for Menzies.
Mathieson is hopeful that the presence of a young candidate will encourage more youths to get involved in the nomination process and future elections.
“Believe it or not, the system in Ottawa didn’t make me a jaded person, it just made me want more,” Mathieson said. “After so many years of working with Macleod issues, I’m very passionate that someone goes to Ottawa and is still a strong representative for the voice of Macleod.”