Former SL mayor seeking Senate seat

Karina Pillay

Joe McWilliams
For South Peace News

Karina Pillay, who served several years as mayor of Slave Lake, is on the ballot for Alberta’s senatorial election this fall.
Pillay has been practicing medicine for the past three years in Calgary. After stepping down as mayor in 2012, she went to medical school at the University of Calgary. Following her graduation she did a couple of years of internship work in various locations around British Columbia.
“It was great training,” Pillay says, “but I always knew I’d come back to Alberta.”
And now, it seems, she is coming back to politics.
How exactly does a doctor and former mayor get the idea of becoming a Senator?
Pillay says the original notion actually arose on the day she stepped down as mayor of Slave Lake.
“A government official mentioned it to me,” she says, encouraging her to “think of the Senate.”
She didn’t think much about it, having her new venture into medicine to keep her occupied.
But recently, she says she’s been thinking about “gaps in health care,” access issues and such, and how they might be addressed “at a higher level.” The senatorial idea “popped up again.”
That was last year. Late in 2020 she applied for consideration for appointment as Senator. It’s the traditional way to get your names into the mix. A year later, she still doesn’t know if she’s on the short list.
Meanwhile, Alberta has its own senatorial selection process – one that the prime minister is free to accept or ignore.
“I have mixed feelings [about it],” Pillay admits.
“The election has no constitutional bearing.”
However, it’s a good opportunity, she thinks “to introduce myself to Albertans,” as someone who would like to represent them in the Senate.
Alberta has six Senate seats – although only five of them are filled at the moment, Doug Black is due to retire later this year. The most recent appointee is former Banff mayor Karen Sorensen.
As a former municipal leader herself, Pillay is encouraged by that. She figures her disaster management experience will also be an asset.
Pillay is one of 13 Albertans seeking to be an Alberta Senator-in-waiting. Each has to come up with the signatures of 500 supporters, plus $4,000 [refundable]. As for campaigning, should be online by now. One thing she says will be on there is a list of recommended charities to donate to in lieu of giving cash to the Pillay campaign.
“I’ve never accepted donations for election campaign,” she says. “At this level, people do, but I
don’t feel it’s appropriate.”
Pillay is running as an independent candidate – unaffiliated, in other words, with any political party. It’s important to be independent, she thinks.
If elected – and subsequently appointed to the Senate – Pillay would be the second Slave Laker to serve in Canada’s Upper House; Sawridge Chief Walter Twinn was appointed senator by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1990. He served for seven years.
Besides Black and Sorensen, Alberta’s other senators are Scott Tannas, Paula Simons and Patti Laboucane- Benson.

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