The incumbent MLA in Peace River is NDP candidate Debbie Jabbour.
She moved to High Level 7 years ago to work as a psychologist before running for the NDP in 2015, and lives in Grimshaw whenever she is in the Peace River area.
Jabbour was elected over former MLA Frank Oberle by a tight margin of just under 300 votes in the last provincial election.
She fended off a nomination challenge from Justin Sharpe to again become the NDP candidate for the Peace River constituency.
“I’ve worked hard to advocate for the unique issues we face in the north, and to earn the support and respect of the constituents I serve across party lines,” Jabbour told the audience at the Grimshaw forum.
“I was part of finally getting the Peace River bridge under construction, and I should note that in 2017 the Peace River constituency received the most capital spending of the entire province on roads and infrastructure.”
Jabbour also lists bringing $25 a day childcare to Peace River and Manning as one of the NDP’s accomplishments, and notes the party plans to bring low cost childcare to all parts of the province.
Jabbour was the first female Deputy Speaker in Alberta.
With her experience as Deputy Speaker, and with former Speaker Robert Wanner having announced his retirement prior to this election, it’s a real possibility she may take on the role of Speaker if re-elected.
While MLA, Jabbour also chaired the Northern Alberta Development council (NADC), and chaired the ministerial panel on child intervention, during which time the panel undertook a comprehensive review of the child welfare system and made recommendations to improve the system.
“I advocated with the environment minister for responsible implementation of the federal species at risk caribou protection plan, and we were successful in having the process halted pending a thorough economic assessment and community and industry consultation, which is now underway,” Jabbour says.
Maintaining stable funding for healthcare and other critical public services despite difficult economic times is a priority for Jabbour.
Another key priority for Jabbour has been to develop healthy partnerships with Metis and First Nations communities.
Jabbour has suffered personal tragedy while in office. Her daughter, 33 year old Amaya Benavides, passed away on July 18, 2017 of an overdose.
Jabbour went public with her daughter’s story, speaking on the floor of the legislature about her daughter’s spiral into depression and eventually addiction, and working on bringing forward a private member’s bill to address some of the issues she feels contributed to her daughter’s death.
“Last year I developed a private members bill supporting accessible mental health services and key components of that bill have been incorporated into government legislation,” Jabbour says.
“Better access to mental health treatment in the north continues to be a top priority for me.”