Former anti-NDP businessman now standing side-by-side with Alberta government

An Edmonton businessman has changed his tune about Alberta’s NDP government.

Ashif Mawji was part of a group of business people who just days before the 2015 provincial election warned of consequences if an NDP government was elected.

READ MORE: Alberta government announces rep in Silicon Valley to help high-tech companies

On Thursday, Mawji was on stage with Trade Minister Deron Bilous for the announcement of a new representative on the ground in California intended to help Alberta companies gain a foothold in high-tech Silicon Valley.

“I see, especially with the minister here, some really good moves in terms of listening to all of us, whether or not we supported the party, that’s irrespective,” Mawji said.

“Politics aside, are we after the same thing? And to me it appears we are.”

READ MORE: Edmonton business leaders support PC government; NDP dismiss them as ‘PC donors’

Mawji was one of several local business leaders who in 2015 warned Albertans that the province’s economic stability would be shaken if the NDP formed the government.

Some Albertans were particularly outraged by a comment made by Mawji, in which he said, “If there is no bottom line … there’s no money that goes to charities.”

“We all make donations to charities, there is no more excellence at the Stollery, as an example, or great programs at the university. There’s all those things that business contribute to. So it’s an important ingredient and we can’t forget that,” he added.

The hashtag #PCAAHostageCrisis began trending across Canada in reaction to the comment.

Mawji said while his opinion has changed about the NDP government, he doesn’t regret expressing his opinions three years ago.

“You have to speak your mind. My interest is Alberta first. If I see that someone is not looking after Alberta, I will speak up because I am an Albertan,” he said.

“I came here from Kenya and this province, this country has done a lot for me, so it’s my way of giving back. If I stay silent, nothing changes.”

READ MORE: TD Bank says Alberta’s recovery ‘not heroic’ but economy is improving

On Thursday, Mawji, who is a venture partner at Rising Tide, a San Francisco-based venture capital company, called the province’s announcement of contracting a liaison in San Francisco as “great news.” He said it will provide unique employment opportunities for Albertans in fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“There’s a lot of grads that come out of the University of Alberta that want to stay here, but we need to give them the opportunities to stay here,” Mawji said.

“Now when we have the link to the valley … if you can imagine, the valley looks for talent like ours every day. They don’t have that talent there.

“So what can they do? They can work with us here. Let the talent stay here. It’s cheaper here. Even the net earnings for the talent. It’s better to stay here than to go there and pay the $10,000 rent for a one-bedroom apartment.”

The province is paying Joanne Fedeyko and Alberta investment firm JPC Corp. $900,000 over the next three years to provide the service, titled Connection Silicon Valley.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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