From shooting star and being named as just one of a few “compelling Calgarians,” to resigning a cabinet post in light of misconduct allegations, Kent Hehr is back in the public spotlight after deciding to run for mayor of Calgary.
Global News reported Sept. 6 that Hehr will be filing nomination papers to run for Calgary’s top job in the Oct 18 municipal elections.
It’s a heck of a career move for a man who Maclean’s classified in 2018 as having a “political career in tatters.”
The 52-year-old has had a colourful political path that started when he pursued post-secondary studies at the University of Calgary, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Canadian Studies and a Bachelor of Laws. Upon graduation he was named graduate of the decade and ranked among the top 40 graduates in 40 years.
The Calgary Herald listed him as one of “20 Compelling Calgarians” in 2008.
Hehr — who was left quadriplegic 30 years ago when he took a bullet during a drive-by shooting — worked as a disability activist and a lawyer and, in no small feat, was elected in 2015 as the Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Calgary Centre in the 2015 federal election, the first Liberal elected in Calgary since Pat Mahoney won a seat nearly 50 years ago in 1968.
Hehr was named Minister of Veterans Affairs in the federal Cabinet headed by Justin Trudeau, on November 4, 2015, and was shuffled to be Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in August 2017.
Hehr resigned from cabinet on January 25, 2018, amid two separate allegations of sexual harassment during his time in the Alberta legislature as MP for Calgary-Buffalo surfaced.
He lost his seat in the 2019 Canadian federal election.
In the summer of 2014, following speculation, Hehr announced he would seek the Liberal nomination in Calgary Centre for the 2015 federal election, and was later acclaimed as the Liberal candidate.
The Liberals were very optimistic about their chances in the riding. Conservative incumbent Joan Crockatt had only won a 2012 by-election with 37 percent of the vote, the worst showing for a Tory in Calgary in recent memory. Additionally, a redistribution made the riding slightly friendlier to the Liberals on paper.
At the October 19, 2015 election, Hehr defeated Crockatt by 750 votes. Alongside Calgary Skyview member of Parliament Darshan Kang, who was elected the same evening, Hehr
and Kang are only the fifth and sixth Liberals to represent Calgary ridings in the party’s entire history.
Hehr was appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence in Justin Trudeau’s first cabinet on Nov. 4, 2015.
In a cabinet shuffle in late 2017, Hehr became Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
In November 2017, it was reported the Ethics Commissioner was investigating Hehr following accusations he used Parliamentary Resources to help his father campaign for a seat on the Calgary Board of Education.
He was subsequently cleared in this investigation.
In late 2017, Hehr was accused of making insensitive remarks to a group of thalidomide survivors.
In a meeting early that year, some members of the group accused Hehr of inappropriate touching, saying: “Well you don’t have it so bad. Everyone in Canada has a sob story,” and in reference to their reduced life expectancy, “So you probably have about 10 years left then now, that’s good news for the Canadian government.”
He denied making the statement.
Shortly after, a wife of a veteran suffering post traumatic stress disorder came forward accusing him of poor treatment during a meeting in 2016. The woman said Hehr was “very condescending,” and gave her only two minutes of his time. When asked a question about the government denying maternity benefits he replied “Well, Ms. McCrea, that is the old question, like asking … ‘When did you stop beating your wife?'” When asked about support for her family he allegedly responded, “You married him, he’s your responsibility”.
Hehr resigned from cabinet on Jan. 25, 2018.
Yet another woman claimed he had made sexually suggestive remarks to her, while another claimed he’d touched her inappropriately. Hehr apologized for the first incident, saying while he did not remember meeting the woman, he realize he had made her uncomfortable. However, he maintained the second incident was the product of unintentional contact.
On June 6, 2018, after the investigation was finished, Trudeau declared that Hehr would not return to cabinet.
The once popular Calgarian lost his seat to Conservative Greg McLean in the 2019 federal election, losing over half of his vote from 2015.
Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.