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Provincial Election: What Matters to Me

On April 16th, Alberta will be heading to the polls. And no matter their position or party of choice, most people to agree that this election is an important one.

I have had a number of people ask me who I will be voting for. The honest answer right now: “I don’t know.”

The election period matters to me. The policies parties emphasize now are likely to highlight their focus areas if in government. The way leaders carry themselves through the campaign says a lot about how they would govern. And how hard local candidates work now shows what their worth ethic might be like if elected. My observations over the next couple of weeks matter to me. Even when I’ve volunteered on campaigns, my vote has never been set until election day.

So my vote isn’t quite decided yet.

I also don’t intend to publicly endorse anyone. On a personal basis, I have great respect for and a friendship with most local candidates. On a professional basis, as a Councillor, I want to have a great working relationship with our next MLAs no matter what parties they belong to.

I won’t be sharing who I support online. That being said, I’m more than happy to share what considerations I’ll have in mind as I decide who to vote for…


Local Involvement

Our region is the economic hub of Alberta. It also has a number of unique challenges and needs. It should be top-of-mind in Edmonton. This means that how our community responds to the election matters. Communities which have high volunteer and donor participation are noticed by parties. More importantly, governments pay attention to which regions vote.

As I consider candidates, it is important to me that they are able to garner action from local people.

A local candidate’s ability to advocate for our region also matters to me. To earn my vote, I need to know that they will stand up for Grande Prairie in the Legislature. Just as importantly, I need to know that they will promote our region’s needs when caucus meets privately. In my mind, there are several ingredients that make effective local advocacy likely:

  • A local candidate who has broad involvement in our community. They need to understand the hopes, fears, gifts, and challenges of people in our region. They also need to understand the unique needs of our businesses and non-profits.

  • A local candidate who is bold and articulate enough to make Grande Prairie’s needs and its contributions to the province clear

  • A party leader who is willing to receive and act on input from all MLAs as caucus strategy is created


Leadership

Every government changes its policies when it comes into power. And this isn’t always a bad thing: I want a government that will change its mind as it gains new knowledge and experience. I expect party positions to change after the election.

I also know that having good policy isn’t everything. Good ideas do nothing for our province if they aren’t implemented well.

This means that leadership matters to me.

I’m not asking myself “which party and candidate is presenting the policies I think are best right now?”

Instead, I am asking myself “who do I trust to achieve the best policies in the future?”

The differences between these two questions are small but significant.

As I evaluate both party leaders and local candidates, here are some questions I ask:

  • What values do their policies highlight? Do the underlying principals underlying their ideas align with my principals?

  • Will they put our province and community ahead of their political career? Will they stand up for what they think is best instead of what they think will get them re-elected? Will they consider how ALL Albertans are effected by policies rather than only considering their base of support?

  • Are they experienced? Do they understand how government works? Just as important, do they understand how our business and non-profit sectors work? Do they have a broad base of community and professional experiences to bring to the table?

  • Will they keep an open mind? Will their agenda be changed by new circumstances, experiences, and knowledge? Will they work hard to learn more about the issues before them?

  • Will they work hard?

  • Will they work with other parties? If in government, will they adopt good ideas no matter where those ideas come from? If in opposition, will they deliver constructive criticism more than partisan attacks?

  • Will they conduct themselves honestly and transparently?

  • Will they be a leader I can be proud of? Will they treat all people (even those they vigorously oppose) with dignity? Will they approach their job with humility? Will they focus on critiquing ideas more than criticizing people? Will they speak intelligently on our behalf?

I do care about policies. But who is implementing them is also important to me.


Local and Municipal Concerns

I have a number of issues I am considering this election. Province wide, both the delivery of services and the strength of our economy matters to me. However, I also have some areas of concerns that are particularly relevant to Grande Prairie or municipalities. These particular concerns include:

  • Municipal Infrastructure Funding: Municipalities receive provincial infrastructure money from the province through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI). Amounts fluctuate, but this is worth ~$12,000,000/year for Grande Prairie. This program is set to expire in 2021. If we stop receiving this, Grande Prairie will be looking at a very large service reduction or tax increase. Replacement funding has been legislated for Calgary and Edmonton, but not for any other municipality. Our next government needs to provide stable and predictable funding to municipalities. My preference would be that future agreements provide funding on par with what we receive today. However, if the province decides to cut how much it sends to municipalities, it needs to re-open the funding legislation for Calgary and Edmonton to also cut their funding. I’m concerned that these two large cities may receive a disproportionate share of funding in the future.

  • Homelessness and Addiction Response: Like most communities in North America, Grande Prairie is facing an opioid crises. We are also struggling to house some of our most vulnerable residents- with recent provincially mandated changes at Rotary House, I am very concerned about next winter. Our next government needs to be a strong partner with the City and Grande Prairie organisations seeking to address homelessness and addictions.

  • Infrastructure Commitments: A number of of infrastructure projects have been made in Grande Prairie. These include twinning of HWY 40 south of the City, an overpass for HWY 43, and construction of the new Composite High School. Our next government should follow through with these commitments.

  • Police Act Review: The provincial Police Act is outdated. Over the last 6 months, I’ve participated in provincial consultations targeted at updating it. These conversations have included topics ranging from officer training to civilian oversight to information sharing. Our next government should take this consultation process seriously and move forward with updating the Police Act. The most important change in my mind: specialized municipalities and towns of under 5000 don’t pay for their own core policing. It is unjust that City property tax payers pay for their own RCMP while the province funds County and other municipalities’ police forces. This is especially nonsensical as the province seeks to increase resources for rural policing. Our next government should update the police funding framework to ensure that all municipalities contribute to policing.


Above are the considerations I have in mind as I decide on my vote. I’d love to hear from you: what are you looking for in candidates? And what topics are most important to you this election?

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you go put April 9 into your calendar. The Chamber of Commerce is hosting a 6:30pm All Candidates Forum at GPRC.

Thanks for reading!

-Dylan