In 2016, with the recession taking its toll, and Albertans forced to leave for work elsewhere; Jeff, his wife Sarah, and six kids moved to become Albertans – and fight for a comeback that would be important not only for Alberta, but for Canada.
On a mission to mobilize Albertans to fight for better government, Jeff was invited by long-time friend and former-colleague, Jason Kenney, to join his team as a senior provincial organizer, and help him secure the leadership of the PC Alberta Association, ratify a referendum to unite the PCAA and Wildrose Party, and secure the leadership of the newly-created United Conservative Party of Alberta.
Jeff launched Issachar Strategies to harness his nearly 12 years of parliamentary experience and senior leadership skills to these tasks. His clients have expanded to include, among others, independent schools and parent groups fighting the NDP for school choice and to preserve parental authority; and providing strategic advice to the Hon. Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Prior to life out west, Jeff was proud to serve with Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney. Elected in 2004 as Member of Parliament for Essex, Jeff defeated a Liberal Cabinet Minister – the daughter of a Trudeau Cabinet Minister – to become the first Conservative MP in that district since Diefenbaker was Prime Minister. He was reelected in 2006, 2008, and 2011.
As part of Team Harper, Jeff helped deliver important results for Canada and Alberta:
- cutting taxes 180 times, including the GST from 7% to 5%
- delivering income splitting for pensioners and married couples
- creating and enhancing Tax-Free Savings Accounts
- lowering taxes, cutting red tape for small businesses
- ending the wasteful, ineffective Liberal long gun registry
- forcing the rail duopoly to move western grain during the 2013-4 rail crisis
- signing new trade deals with Asia and the EU to open markets, create jobs
Most important, Jeff was part of a team that beat back several Liberal-NDP attempts to impose a carbon tax; while four pipelines were built to carry Alberta oil to market.
Jeff served on both the Environment and Transport Committees; and chaired the Government’s Auto Caucus. In 2013, Prime Minister Harper appointed Jeff the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, where he served until 2015. Among many accomplishments, Jeff catalyzed the creation of Canada’s first National Auto Action Plan, Canada’s first Priority Natural Area, the first Canada-US fish habitat; and secured budget measures to cut the Paul Martin tax for retired Canadians collecting US Social Security, as well as an expanded and enhanced Adoption Expenses Tax Credit.
Jeff’s impressive record of delivering results led one Windsor Star journalist to declare him “the most successful federal representative” that region had ever seen.
A former-assemly line worker at Chrysler before election to parliament, the Library of Parliament accorded Jeff the distinction of first autoworker elected to the House of Commons. In 2015 the Jewish National Fund Windsor named Jeff Watson its Negev Dinner honouree, in recognition of a career combating anti-Semitism and being a strong friend to Israel.
Proud Albertans, Jeff and his family make their home in Calgary.