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Stephen Khan: a roundabout politician

Courtesy of the 10,000 St. Albertans who marked his name, a big door opened for Steve Khan April 23, but for St. Albert's newly elected MLA it is not one he would have expected even a few years ago. A lifelong St.

Courtesy of the 10,000 St. Albertans who marked his name, a big door opened for Steve Khan April 23, but for St. Albert's newly elected MLA it is not one he would have expected even a few years ago.

A lifelong St. Albertan, Khan has an anthropology degree, worked in Alberta's burgeoning film industry and ran and then sold the family software firm, before his career in politics.

Looking back, Khan said his life has been a journey, but he has been pleased with every step he has taken.

“Life is about doors, some doors you knock on and you don't open, some doors you knock on and they open and you don't go through, and some doors you knock on, they open and you do go through.”

A student athlete at Paul Kane, Khan turned his volleyball skills into a University of Alberta scholarship, where, like many students, he ended up with an accidental major.

Owen Beatty, a professor at the school who discovered the wreckage of the Franklin expedition, was one of Khan's early professors and was an engaging instructor.

“I just started taking as many of his classes as I could and before I knew it I just sort of fell into anthropology.”

One of the basic tenets of anthropology is studying a culture without any pre-conceived notions or judgments.

“I think what that experience brought to me was not to rapidly bring judgment to any decision,” said Khan.

It would be at university that Khan's now wife Rae became his girlfriend, but he met her a long time before that.

“Like most dumb-ass Grade 8 guys when you liked a girl, I teased her and made fun of her and she hated me.”

Rae confirms that version of their early encounters. The rift healed however and they eventually became friends. Khan was a year ahead at university and he offered to help his future wife navigate the pre-Internet registration process.

“I took her around and registered in a bunch of classes and then made sure that I was enrolled in as many of those classes as possible.”

At the end of university his romantic life was laid out, but the anthropology degree did not lead to an open array of job prospects and Khan said he initially planned to do a masters in the field, but quit after one semester.

Determined not to work in the family software business, Khan instead went into Alberta's film industry.

“I did work on an ill-fated television pilot called Sylvan Lake Summer, that was supposed to be a Canadian 90210, but it never got off the ground.”

The job was always engaging for Khan.

“You work long days, but you got paid well and it was fun.”

Khan also worked on a number of film projects, some successful and some not, but he said when the provincial government pulled back on credits and funding for the industry, the industry moved away.

“My choice was literally moving to Vancouver and staying in the film industry or marrying my wonderful, long-suffering girlfriend who hated every moment I worked in the film industry.”

Rae will take some credit for making Khan's decision easy, but she said she never expected he would make a career in film.

“I am not sure the film industry is what he really wanted.”

The couple set out on an international vacation, culminating with a wedding in Florence, Italy in 1992. Unlike most grooms, Rae insists this one was heavily involved.

“He probably planned 90 per cent of it.”

The family software firm, which did administrative software for municipalities and school boards, expanded when Khan returned to the fold, taking on more educational components and gradually becoming a North American player with a lot of reach.

He said the company had grown and needed financing to grow, but in that process they found there were a lot of people interested in buying it entirely.

“It was the friendships and the relationships that were hard to give up,” he said.

With the software business closed up he had options and took some time to consider them, before ultimately deciding to run for the PC nomination.

Rae said her husband has always had a big imagination and this was just the latest thing he had grabbed on to.

“He is a bit of a dreamer and a lot of his dreams come true.”

Stephen Khan, Q&A

What's your favourite book?

“On The Road and Catcher in the Rye. Can I have two favourite books?”

What's your favourite movie?

“Apocalypse Now. Don't get out of the boat.”

What do you do when you are not working?

“Right now I do coaching, I have been lucky enough to spend as much time with my family. My little secret is that I am having more fun than the kids.”

At age eight, what did you want to be when you grew up?

“I wanted to play right wing for the Montreal Canadiens.”

Is there an artist or song that you are embarrassed to own?

“Now that I have a daughter that I share an iTunes account with, there are far too many to list.”

What would you like to see written on your tombstone?

“He was a good guy.”

What's your favourite curse word?

“I like all the curse words. I learned how to swear in the backseat when my mother drove. Actually I was in the front seat, no (child) car seats back then.”

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

“My marriage and my friendships that have sustained through elementary, junior and senior high.”

Can you tell us about your first kiss?

“She was getting braces the next week, so she made sure to make me think I asked her to go out and then she kissed me, because she wanted to kiss someone before she got braces. Then she got braces and she dumped me.”

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