She hits the streets to help people where they need it most
Job Title: Member of the Legislative Assembly
When Janis Irwin was 21, she was in Bawlf, Alta., teaching high school students only a few years younger than herself — and loving it. “I remember walking the hallways, and they had all the photos of the teachers who’d retired there. And I remember thinking, Oh, cool — after I teach here for 30, 40 years, my photo is gonna be on this wall, too.”
Today, she walks the halls of the Alberta Legislature as a twice-elected MLA, but the transition from small-town teacher to high-profile MLA wasn’t that big of a stretch for this natural leader. At 26, a temporary position in the Alberta government’s Ministry of Education brought her to Edmonton for the first time since her university days. She then got a permanent position and eventually moved to the Highlands neighbourhood, which let her meet the people who lived there.
“I loved getting to know the people, which led me to volunteering with some community organizations, which led me to knocking on doors for the NDP, and eventually I ended up running.”
Irwin ran every day to and from work for Alberta Education, on a route that took her along the Stadium LRT line. “And that was the first time I got to see the housing crisis. I couldn’t believe that there were so many unhoused folks in a province as wealthy as ours.”
A decade later, since the last election, Irwin is now the opposition party’s housing critic, a role that tracks with her long history of supporting the downtrodden, especially her support of 2SLGBTQIA+ youth. She admits it’s a huge and growing problem, but she’ll tackle it the only way she knows how. “I’m still everyday interacting with unhoused folks in the neighbourhoods that I represent, knowing that we need to do better and doing all I can to push for better for these folks.”