As the Alberta Election race enters the final hours, so too does the official time in office for one of the most honourable and compassionate souls I have ever met. Once the results are announced tonight, the retirement of Heather Forsyth officially begins, bringing an end to a highly successful political career.
I met Heather a few years ago when I was struggling to find help for a little girl, Aleena Sadownyk, who needed immediate access to life-saving treatment. Because this treatment is expensive (the fourth most expensive drug in the world), we were getting nowhere with the PC government, at that time led by Premier Alison Redford. Desperate for help, I contacted Heather to see if there was anything she could do in her capacity as the Official Opposition Health Critic.
The moment I spoke with Heather, I knew I had connected with someone that would do everything in her power to help this little girl. She listened to everything I had to tell her, keyed in on the most important facts of our case, and sprang to action immediately after our initial phone call was over. I was impressed, and had Hope again for helping little Aleena.
Now, a quick aside. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure (sometimes) of working with many politicians throughout the country. Oftentimes, these politicians offer their help during advocacy cases to further their own stature within political circles – helping with these advocacy cases usually translates into scoring political gain against the government of the day, and members of the Official Opposition jump at the chance to score such points. I’m not naive in the slightest – I understand that many politicians get involved in my advocacy pushes because of the prospect to score those sought after blows against the government. And I’ve never minded that fact – I’ll do anything to help our kids suffering from rare diseases, and if a politician wants to help out – for whatever reason – who am I to turn down the help offered, especially when we are talking life and death situations for our kids?
While I was impressed with the speed that Heather and her team sprang to action to save Aleena, I was more impressed that I felt she was doing it out of a love for helping people, and a passion for doing what’s right. Moreover, I truly felt she was working as hard as she did because of the heartache and heartbreak she felt for what Aleena and her family were dealing with. However, my close friends were skeptical – they have heard me speak often about the help I’ve received in the past and they were sure Heather took this case on for those same reasons. They were sure she was doing this for political gain and for personal ambitions within that political world. I vehemently disagreed – I consider myself a good judge of character, and I was sure that Heather was one of those rare people in the world of politics who were helping because they could, and because she felt that it was incumbent on her to make a difference in the life of this little girl if she were able.
And you know what? My first impression was right.
Shortly after Aleena had her treatment approved – solely due to the hard work of Heather and her team led by Matt Solberg – Heather shared with me that she would not be seeking re-election the next time the Province when to the polls. Win or lose, Heather didn’t have a political future she needed to worry about. Political gain didn’t play into the situation at all, though I felt that was the case all along.Aleena is doing incredibly well today – she had her life saved by one of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve ever met – ever – in the world of politics. When she looks back on a career filled with a long list of accomplishments – from serving in Cabinet to being the Leader of the Official Opposition – I know that Heather will be able to remember Aleena and the impact she had on her life as being one of the most satisfying and rewarding moments.
I’m sad to see Heather leave the world of politics. She’s one of a kind – one of the few that go into the office everyday to try and make the world a better place for those around them. She’s always been honest, truthful, kind, caring, and compassionate. And she saved the life of a little girl.
The Alberta Legislature is better for having Heather serve amongst its storied halls, and the people of Alberta are better for having her represent them for so very long. Personally, I’m a better person for knowing her, and I’m proud to call her Friend.
Godspeed, Heather Forsyth. Enjoy your retirement, it’s well deserved. Thank you for your service and your love for our kids battling rare diseases. We will be sure to send you updates on Aleena as she makes her way through school, as she gets her first job, as she walks down the aisle on her wedding day. Thank you for your kindness, for your love. We will forever be indebted to you for that, and more.