Viersen seeks third term
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.”
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, however, is unseating the Trudeau Liberal 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 the University of the Fraser Valley.
On the campaign trail, Viersen plans to put on a lot of miles (childbirth duties permitting) and attend all the candidate forums he can. As of last Thursday he only knew of two of those for sure: Barrhead (online) and Donnelly.
NDP candidate is Gail Ungstad
“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. She’s been helping out since, 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.
Making life better for people, as noted, has been Ungstad’s 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, Alberta. She has several university degrees, from several different universities, including U of A and 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.
Ungstad hopes to visit communities all over the riding, attending candidates’ forums as they are announced. She likes her chances.
“Last time the NDP finished second,” she says.
She’s got her work cut out for her. The Conservative candidate got 80 per cent of the vote in 2019.
Maverick Party fighting for the west
South Peace News
The candidate for the new Maverick Party shared his vision in the High Prairie area seeking to get votes in the federal election Sept. 20.
Lesser Slave Lake candidate Colin Krieger, of Valleyview, spoke to about 12 local residents at Triangle Hall on Aug. 24.
“The Maverick party is a regional party running candidates in only Western Canada,” Krieger says.
He says the party will run candidates in all ridings in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba and a few in British Columbia.
“The Maverick Party’s platform is that the west has never had a strong reliable voice in Ottawa,” Krieger says.
“The main reason for that is that the main voting blocks are in the east.”
He says the party is similar to the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec.
“We’ve never gotten changes we need, even under a Conservative government,” Krieger says.
“Many federal governments support western Canada on issues only if it also benefits central and eastern Canada.
“We can be a strong voice without worrying about central and eastern Canada.”
He says the Maverick party is focusing on changes in the constitution and on western independence.
“We need a fair deal for the west and we need change in equalization payments to the provinces,” Krieger says.
“We will move toward western independence if we don’t get a fair deal.”
He and the party also want to remove provincial barriers for trade.
“We need a free-trade corridor across Canada so we can export our products, that makes it fair for everyone,” Krieger says.
The party to promote the west is not new to the political scene.
“We saw this before under the Reform Party,” Krieger says.
If and when elected, Maverick MPs would have the power to vote independently of the party.
“A Maverick MP would be able to vote according to our constituents’ concerns without toeing the party line,” Krieger says.
He says the time is running short in the current election to make great strides for the party in Peace River – Westlock.
“It’s up to us,” Krieger says. “Otherwise we have to wait another four years.”
Krieger says he would need 30,000 votes to become the new MP.
Second time lucky for Liberal Penny?
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. At press time, she was only aware of one of those; Sept. 7 in Barrhead.