Editor’s note: Slave Lake Lakeside Leader editor Joe McWilliams profiles election candidates in the Monday, Sept. 20 election in the Peace River – Westlock riding.
Maverick candidate wants better deal for the West
You won’t find a Maverick Party candidate running in a western riding where vote-splitting on the right might allow a left-wing candidate to win.
That’s the Maverick strategy, as explained by Colin Krieger, the new party’s candidate.
In other words, a Conservative MP [i.e. Arnold Viersen] is better than nothing, but Krieger plans to do everything in his power to put the incumbent MP out of a job on Sept. 20.
“So voters can vote their conscience and don’t have to be strategic.”
Krieger is hoping their consciences will induce them to vote for the party that is a western version of the Bloc Quebecois. A strictly regional party, he says, can advocate for the interests of the West without having to worry about appeasing central Canada.
“We may not agree with them,” he says [of the Bloc], “but there’s no denying their success.”
So what would a Maverick Party bloc do for Western Canada, if elected in sufficient numbers?
At the top of the list is constitutional reform. Fix the equalization payments formula and promote an elected senate, for example.
There are lots more details, but the basics are plain enough: Western Canada in general and Alberta in particular will never get the respect they deserve, represented by a national ‘old-line’ party.
The Maverick Party would also support provincial [or regional] independence efforts, Krieger says.
Krieger is an oilfield operator, from the Valleyview area. He had his wife have three adult children, and recently became a grandparent.
“That’s why I’m doing this,” he says. “Unless we do something immediately, their opportunities aren’t going to be the same, and that really concerns me.”
Born in Fort McMurray, Krieger has lived in the Valleyview area since he was six months old, growing up on a farm near there.
“I’ve been interested in politics my whole life,” he says.
On the campaign side of things, Krieger says he’s been over much of the riding so far, and will continue to go as hard as he can up to voting day. He has talked to a lot of people and likes what he’s hearing so far.
“People have been overwhelmingly receptive,” he says.
“The message has been resonating. If I could talk to everyone in this riding [PR-Westlock] , I would win.”
Barrhead councillor in the race for MP a second time
People deserve a member of parliament who is actually in government.
That’s one of the points made by Leslie Penny, the Liberal Party candidate for Peace River-Westlock.
Penny has made the point before – this will be her second time running under the Liberal banner in her home riding. It didn’t work in 2019, but she’s back at it with high hopes in 2021.
“I think I can be a better representative than the current person,” Penny says. “I think there is a real need to have somebody who can be part of the government, who represents our riding in the federal government.”
Penny, of course, doesn’t know which party will form the next government, but she thinks a majority Liberal government is likely. She thinks the feds handling of the COVID crisis will be rewarded at the polls.
As far as experience goes, Penny is just completing eight years [two terms] on Barrhead town council, following a 43-year career in health care.
“It was good,” she says of her council experience. “You learn what it takes to get projects done and you can make a difference to impact people’s lives.”
She has also run twice provincially on the Liberal ticket.
Married, with two children and four grandchildren, Penny was born and raised in Edmonton. She has lived in Barrhead since 1972.
Asked to highlight a couple of Liberal Party policies she thinks are important, Penny starts with affordable daycare.
“I don’t think people realize how important that is,” she says.
Penny adds the Conservative daycare alternative, which is a tax credit, “assumes you can afford the daycare in the first place or that the spaces exist in the first place.”
Another policy Penny thinks is worth mentioning is a price on carbon.
“It’s not popular,” she admits, but she thinks polluters should pay, and she includes herself.
“I have a small diesel car. I’m willing to pay to help mitigate [the pollution.] We need to encourage people to use less carbon.”
As far as campaigning goes, Penny hopes to get around to as much of the riding as possible in what is a short few weeks before the Sept. 20 vote. She plans to attend as many candidates’ forums as she can.
Ladies and gentlemen, your NDP candidate
“I’m a social worker,” says Gail Ungstad, the NDP candidate for Peace River-Westlock.
“As such, I want to make life better for others.”
That’s her answer to the standard candidate profile interview question: “Why did you decide to run?”
And why the NDP?
Ungstad’s association with the party goes back to 1982, when she campaigned in Lesser Slave Lake for Gary Kennedy in the provincial election of that year. She’s been helping out ever since, up to and including as chief financial officer for Danielle Larivee’s successful run for Lesser Slave MLA in 2015.
As for the decision to run herself, Ungstad says the idea of doing it began to take shape back in 2014, when she was climbing a mountain near Lake Louise.
“I do some of my best thinking [while climbing],” she says.
Making life better for people, as noted, has been her work. Doing that on a larger scale is what she’d like to tackle as an elected representative.
Such as? The three things at the top of the list all begin with the letter ‘H.’ Health care, housing and help for Indigenous people.
“Expand pharma- care,” Ungstad says. “Dental, mental health. More support, easier access.”
The same goes for housing.
On that third one of the ‘Three H’s,’ Ungstad has first-hand experience. In her private counselling service, she says she specializes in “Indigenous trauma, residential school survivors and extended family.” What’s needed is a “true partnership” with Indigenous people,” she adds.
The NDP plan is not to add to the tax burden of the middle class, Ungstad says. Going after rich corporations that don’t pay their fair share is. Also taxing foreign owners of Canadian properties more appropriately.
Ungstad grew up on a farm near Ponoka, AB. She has several university degrees, from several different universities, including U of A, U of C. Her first job was in Slave Lake, and she’s lived most of the past 40 years there, her social work career taking her all over the northwest part of the province, including to pretty much every town of any size in the PR-Westlock riding. She’s been married to Dave since 1998.
Thanks to her “tiny budget,” don’t expect to see a forest of orange campaign signs around the riding. Ungstad, however, hopes to visit communities all over the riding, attending candidates’ forums as they are announced. She likes her chances.
Tough act to follow for Conservative Viersen
Incumbent Conservative MP for Peace River-Westlock Arnold Viersen might have a hard time matching his 80 per cent capture of the vote in the 2019 election.
But it’s winning the seat that’s important, and he hopes enough Conservatives manage that across the country this time to get out of opposition and into government.
“Last election we got the most votes of any party,” he says. “Hopefully we can translate that into the most seats this time.”
‘Securing Canada’s future,’ is the theme for the Conservative Party of Canada campaign this time. Jobs, accountability, mental health and balancing the budget are four of the main planks in the platform.
The fifth, called ‘securing the country,’ calls for “creating a strategic stockpile of essential products, ending our reliance on China and building pipelines to secure energy independence,” he says.
Viersen is all over that last item. He’s been hammering away at the need for pipelines for years. He was expecting to be doing it as an opposition member for a couple more years, but Trudeau decided to jump the gun on the election.
The timing is bad for him and his family, Viersen says, because his wife is expecting their fifth child.
“Due on Sept. 3,” he says.
Viersen says he’s pleased to have been able to advocate for lots of local issues on behalf of his constituents over the past six years or so. Those include local elected leaders, of which he says there are about 500 in the constituency. Getting to know many of them over the years has been “a rewarding part of the job,” he says, adding that what’s most important now is unseating the Trudeau government in Ottawa.
“We’re doing well in the polls,” Viersen points out.
Viersen grew up in Neerlandia, north of Barrhead. He was working as an auto mechanic when he first got elected to parliament, at the young age of 29. He also has a degree in business from University of the Fraser Valley.
On the campaign trail, Viersen plans to put on a lot of miles [childbirth duties excepted] and attend all the forums he can.