By Stan Ashbee
Southern Alberta Newspapers – Coaldale
Little Bow Unofficial Poll Results
Wildrose — Dave Schneider 4,803 (35.37%)
PC — Ian Donovan 4,791 (35.28%)
NDP — Bev Muendel-Atherstone 3,359 (24.73%)
Liberal — Heather McMenamin 379 (2.79%)
Social Credit — Caleb Van Der Weide 249 (1.83%)
Despite the provincial NDPs becoming Alberta’s new majority government, in what was up until last night Tory territory, first-time-running Little Bow Wildrose MLA candidate David Schneider was victorious.
The Wildrose was also named the Alberta official opposition. It was a close race to the very end, as the Wildrose and PC candidates went neck to neck. The 2015 election saw Schneider up against PC incumbent Ian Donovan, Bev Muendel-Atherstone (NDP), Helen McMenamin (Liberal) and Social Credit Party candidate Caleb Van Der Weide.
“We had a pretty small team when we put this thing together and the reason I stood up and let my name stand is because there was no opposition to the PCs. Everything I heard everytime we went to a door was I can’t vote for that guy who crossed the floor. We knew we had some kind of support. I’m just tickled pink,” said Schneider, after winning by only a dozen or so votes unofficially.
According to the new Little Bow MLA, it’s fantastic the Wildrose is the province’s official opposition.
“Being the official opposition is much better than being tied up with a minority government but I’m not real excited about who the majority is,” he said.
Schneider is no stranger to southern Alberta, as he has been a farmer since the 1980s.
Even though Schneider has been involved in municipal politics for years, this was the MLA-elect’s first foray into the provincial political arena. Schneider served on Vulcan County council for six years and was reeve for three of those years.
According to Schneider, as he started researching who the Wildrose candidate was in his riding, he found there was no candidate.
“I got my name in and became the candidate,” he noted. Little did he know he would be elected on his first attempt.
Schneider said the Wildrose is really about standing up for Albertans.
“Standing up for patient-centred healthcare is one that is pretty big; healthcare in rural ridings is a tough one; and doctor recruitment and retention of doctors is a pretty big deal,” he said.
During forums held throughout Little Bow, Schneider was asked about the recent floor-crossing of many Wildrose MLAs to the PCs, including former Little Bow MLA Ian Donovan.
“Wildrose candidates have signed a contract that says they will cough up a year’s salary if they do cross the floor to another party. It’s a non-issue,” he explained.
Schneider, at recent forums, was asked by constituents a plethora of questions in regards to the issues facing local Albertans, which included the notion of a provincial sales tax, education, health care, and seniors care.
For months, the Prentice government, Schneider said, told Albertans how big and bloated the government is, and when it came down to present the budget, the government raised taxes and took on massive debt.
When asked by a Little Bow teacher at a recent forum about schools facing challenges in terms of increasing student population, an increase in teacher workloads, less inclusive education, and cuts to support staff, Schneider said, the Wildrose would cut the mandatory school fees.
Schneider noted the Wildrose would transfer the decision-making authority concerning the building of new schools away from the provincial government and place it directly in the hands of school boards and allow school boards to use their reserve funds for priorities determined to be important.
As for the immediate future of the new Little Bow MLA, Schneider said, he knows he has to be in Edmonton on May 12 and he believes Donovan will most likely call for a recount because of such a narrow margin win.
This election, more than 87,000 students under the voting age cast ballots in Student Vote Alberta — the largest Student Vote ever in the province.
Yesterday, by the end of the school day, 792 schools had reported their election results, representing all 87 electoral divisions in the province. In total, there were 82,474 valid votes, 2,526 rejected ballots and 2,123 declined ballots cast by student participants. In Little Bow, the PCs won with 35 per cent of the vote and the Wildrose came in at 33 per cent of the vote by students. Ian Donovan received 35.12 per cent of the vote with Wildrose candidate David Schneider coming in second place with 32.92 per cent of the vote.