The Vauxhall Advance has interviewed each of the candidates for the upcoming provincial election on April 16 to help give readers a more informed vote when they go to the polls. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order. Attempts to contact Liberal candidate Cathleen McFarland were unsuccessful.
With Cardston-Siksika voters now headed to the polls in less than a fortnight and the hustings heating up with withering fire from respective political camps, the 2019 Alberta election is proving to be anything but dull.
In 2015, Albertans saw the fall of a 44-year political dynasty with the ousting of Peter Lougheed’s once-mighty PCs in favour of an experiment with the democratic-socialist NDP of Rachel Notley, a party that had never formed government in the province’s history.
In the interim, Alberta’s two major Conservative movements — PC and Wildrose — hitched their wagons together to become the United Conservative Party, with the professed aim of eliminating a split among right-of-centre voters.
Today, citizens are involved in a referendum on the reputation, record and vision of the NDP versus the UCP’s promises to right the financial ship and get the province’s economy back on track.
More fringe organizations like the Alberta Party, Freedom Conservative Party, or even the Alberta Liberal Party no doubt intend to make inroads into this latter dynamic shaping up across the province’s political landscape, but in the view of almost every analyst, the UCP – NDP showdown will be where most voters will be hedging their bets.
In Cardston-Siksika, a huge, hourglass-shaped riding stretching north-south across southern Alberta that was carved from the remnants of three former provincial ridings, Livingstone-Macleod, Cardston-Taber-Warner, and Little Bow, voters on April 16 will have a choice between six diverse political candidates: Ian Donovan as an independent, Casey Douglass for the Alberta Party, Jerry Gautreau for the Freedom Conservative Party, Cathleen McFarland for the Alberta Liberal Party, Joseph Schow for the United Conservative Party, and Kirby Smith for the NDP.
Vauxhall’s All Candidates Forum will be hosted at the Vauxhall Legion Hall on Monday, April 8 at 7 p.m., and is being organized by the Vauxhall and District Chamber of Commerce.
Independent — Ian Donovan
By Greg Price
Ian Donovan is running as organic campaign as you can get.
The former Wildrose Little Bow MLA who crossed the floor to the PCs back in 2014 is running this time around for the newly-formed Cardston-Siksika riding as an Independent.
“I started on county council when I was 19 and my dad always said, if you don’t like something, don’t bitch about it, stand up and put your name forward,” said Donovan.
What Donovan wasn’t liking in his later political career was when he was being told how to vote a certain way by his party, hence why he shifted over from Wildrose to PC at the time back in 2014. Being a trust factor, Donovan crossed the floor and voted against two government bills because his constituents were very clear what they wanted voted on for those bills, and the PCs afforded him a free vote.
“Being told how to vote, I guess that’s what brings me to running as an independent because of really focusing on consensus government. Much like municipalities, towns, villages, the Yukon and Northwest Territories do it also. They don’t vote MLAs in as a party system, but just as an MLA,” said Donovan. “Then you don’t have this party partisan. It has become so hyper partisan with party politics and that’s sad. There’s a lot of wasted energy slinging mud at each other.”
Donovan is running a strictly business-card campaign where he’s not doing huge lavish blitzes. He has been telling those who are interested in seeing him in office to not donate to his campaign, but rather those in need.
“Donate to the food bank or the women’s shelter or to a charity of their choice. I truly feel we get way better value for your dollar donating to charity,” said Donovan. “Putting it in perspective, you give the Kinsmen Club $50,000 for a project, they’ll get $150,000 of value out of it stretching those pennies as far as they can go. In politics, you give a political party $50,000, they may get $20,000 to show for it in the end. I just feel in the economy we are in right now, there are a lot of people in need in this riding in all corners. Let’s take care of our own and the weak and vulnerable.”
Donovan has grain farmed his entire life, was on the County of Vulcan Ag Service Board for 16 years and was an ag critic for Wildrose for three years. He’s helped people with sugar beets and has been exposed to a 50,000 head feedlot right near his house.
With the new electoral boundaries set, Cardston-Siksika is one of the largest agricultural cash-receipt ridings in the province when you factor in the potatoes, beets, cow/calf operators, feedlot alley etc. in the area.
“From the UCP side they have one candidate in Nate Horner who ranches up in the Drumheller-Stettler riding, but other than that, they don’t really have any agricultural people. I’m getting a feeling, especially from people in this riding, they want an agricultural-based person who understands agriculture,” said Donovan who has had 20 years of elected experience at either municipal or provincial levels. “Someone who can be their voice for that in Edmonton.”
While having conservative leanings himself, he is not worried running as an Independent will split the conservative vote with Joseph Schow running under the UCP banner in the bid for leadership.
“This riding historically, NDP has never got more than 15 per cent. So give them 20 per cent and that’s still 80 per cent to split for two conservatives. I had two uncles in WWII and they fought for freedom and democracy. I tell people, I don’t care who you vote for, try and research the candidate and will they do the best they can for you?” said Donovan. “And with the party system, are they going to be able to stand up to the party leader and say ‘no, no, this is what my constituents want’, above what the party is telling you to do. Just get out and vote. There’s a lot of countries in this world that don’t have the freedom we do to vote.”
A supporter of the United Conservative movement since its inception, Donovan felt the party lost its way from its grassroots promise at inception and resigned from the Cardston-Siksika UCP board back in January. Running as an Independent, Donovan cited the success Enchant’s Ray Speaker enjoyed in his nearly 30 years in office in the area, a portion of which was as an independent for eight years.
“He served two terms not being in mainstream party and always served the people well because he did what the people wanted of the riding, not what a party was telling him what he had to do,” said Donovan. “Your job as an MLA is to serve your constituents. The problem with the party system is it has changed that value system so quickly because they are scared to vote against what the party tells them to do. Free votes should just be a standard. Your job is to represent your constituents.”
Alberta Party — Casey Douglass
By Cole Parkinson
The Cardston-Siksika riding has plenty of choice in the upcoming election but the Alberta Party’s Casey Douglass sees himself as the best fit for the MLA position moving forward.
The Vulcan-born Douglass studied agriculture, economics and rural sociology at the University of Alberta before taking over the family farm in 1980.
From there, Douglass and his wife Dorothy took off to Russia in 1990 to do missions full-time and in 1995 they welcomed a baby girl before returning back to Canada a few years later.
These family values were a major reason why Douglass stepped forward as the Cardston-Siksika candidate for the Alberta Party.
While one of the later candidates to put their name forward, Douglass sees the NDP’s spending over the prior four years as a major reason to run in the 2019 election.
“I don’t want to see that for my children and my grandchildren and for our future generations,” he explained of the debt Alberta currently faces.
While the Alberta Party may not be the biggest or most prominent in Alberta, Douglass sees it as a good choice for those who find themselves in the middle of the political spectrum.
With campaigning well underway, Douglass says he has been focusing on a variety of topics when speaking with constituents.
“I have been focusing on the bigger political issues,” he said. “One of the bigger focuses has been on First Nations people.”
The newly-minted Cardston-Siksika riding features two of the bigger reserves in Alberta in the Kainai and Siksika nations.
One of the Alberta Party’s focuses when looking at First Nations is to help them out much more than in the past. With conditions in many reserves less than ideal, Douglass hopes to bring better access to health care and more sustainability within.
“We want self-governance, we want them to be able to look after their own children and to provide health-care/elder care,” he said.
Douglass also touched on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which establishes minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous people across the world.
Douglass stated he and the Alberta Party would be working hard to collaborate with First Nations people to fulfill the intent laid out in the United Nations document.
On top of First Nations issues, Douglass is hoping to tackle a variety of other concerns as the polls draw nearer.
Corporate tax rates have been highlighted by the Alberta Party and they see the need to lower it back down which they say will create jobs in the province.
“It was at 10 per cent but because of the NDP’s spending, they have increased it to 12 per cent. We’re going to roll that back which is going to increase jobs,” said Douglass.
The Alberta Party is planning to drop the rate back down to 10 per cent which they project to expand the Alberta economy by $7 million.
Douglass also explained the party’s desire to double the Alberta Small Business Deduction from $500,000 to $1 million which will positively affect farms, ranches and a variety of other businesses.
Other issues being brought forward to the Alberta Party from constituents in the Cardston-Siksika riding includes schools and agriculture.
In terms of education, the Alberta Party is hoping to implement a handful of things to further schooling in Alberta.
“The Financial Literacy Program would be included in school curriculum,” said Douglass, who also talked about the party’s wish to double the number of educational assistants. “Twice as many education assistants into the educational system will assist teachers and students.”
The Alberta Party’s Children First Child Care Plan will also help parents with costs for schooling among other things.
“Our Children First Child Care Plan helps here and elsewhere as our ‘voucher’of up to 100 per cent subsidy of childcare costs allows for parents to pursue work or further education,” continued Douglass. “Our Health Care Program would cover dental care including annual checkups for children up to age 12.”
Farms and ranches will see a big benefit with the Alberta Party vowing to adjust the capital cost allowance to 100 per cent for all new investment.
“Agriculture and ranching is the backbone of the economy in this riding,” added Douglass.
Another major push from Douglass was around the fact the Alberta Party allows MLAs to vote as their constituents wish for all bills except the budget. With this, Douglass says it allows all of the MLAs to truly work for their constituents rather than conforming to their party wishes.
Freedom Conservative Party — Jerry Gautreau
By Trevor Busch
With a background in business and municipal government, Freedom Conservative Party candidate Jerry Gautreau feels he is the right fit for voters in Cardston-Siksika.
“I’ve been a small business owner for many, many years in this province, building small businesses and then selling them off. Currently I’m a sitting councillor for a municipality in Alberta. I’m a safety officer and development officer for the Wildrose Group of companies. I’ve been a part my community for well over 18 years, and I have a family.”
Gautreau currently serves as the Division 5 councillor for Rocky View County, elected in the fall of 2017, and favours industry investment and private business as a way to kick-start local economies.
“We struggle with that every day as municipalities, on how we’re going to develop our areas, our communities, servicing. It’s a huge, complex question, however industry brings development. Private industry, private people, will also bring development to the area, as long as you allow them to develop.”
Gautreau targeted issues like deficit and debt as key problems for the riding, but one area where he would like to see real, actual progress for the province is in the area of economic diversification.
“I think the biggest thing is of course our debt, getting people back to work, diversifying our economy. I’ve been hearing this for a long time — even from the previous government — we need to diversify Alberta, everybody’s talking about it but nobody’s doing anything about it.”
Citing an example he was involved in with an innovative program for luggage efficiencies at the Calgary International Airport, Gautreau feels diversification is a much more important issue for the Alberta economy than many others that make headlines at present.
“If we actually look at automation and robotics within our province, we can actually start diversifying. That’s just a small, tiny part of it — there’s a lot smarter people out there in the world than I am, but I can tell you if we actually start looking, and listening, and talking to people, we can start to diversify our economy, and not have this boom and bust. I was part of the bust in the ‘80s, and I had to leave Alberta because I couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a job here. And we’re back like that again in 2017-2018, probably 2019, maybe even into 2020. So we need to start looking at how to diversify our economy, get pipelines — get oil to tidewater — so this way we can have a steady movement of our product, and reduce the cost of our product. We’re taking such a hit on the oil, we’re not even getting market value for it.”
Reviewing the record of the present government, Gautreau doesn’t lay all of the blame for Alberta’s problems at the feet of the NDP.
“Did it all start with the NDP? Probably not. Some of the issues come back when you start looking even at the previous PC government. The Freedom Conservative Party is really about open voice, using your conscience to vote, there is no party whip, so we actually will be able to take the voice of Albertans to Edmonton, and then have those open and honest discussions.”
On the infrastructure front, Gautreau would like to see the creation of a priority list open to the access of all Albertans.
“What I believe is that all of Alberta needs infrastructure. Our infrastructure needs — the government hasn’t really even been looking at our infrastructure needs. We have aging infrastructure, we have infrastructure that needs to be built, highways that need to be redone, intersections that need to be redone, schools need to be built — a lot of the infrastructure comes down to political, so what can we get for the riding? What I would like to see for infrastructure is a priority list, that any Albertan can go to the website and look at where the important infrastructure is at.”
While out on the campaign trail, Gautreau is hearing primarily economic questions from residents.
“Cardston-Siksika is a massive area with diversified nationalities. We have two different reserves, two different nations that have different problems. What I hear from all the communities, they’re different, but once everything comes out, they’re saying how are we going to make Alberta great again? How are we going to put people back to work? How do I know that my children are going to have a future within this province?”
Elections should be less about party loyalty and more about individual integrity, argues Gautreau. “I’ve always tried to say this to everybody. Vote for the person that’s going to represent you the best in Edmonton, and not the party. We have a lot of people that vote just for the party, and it might not be the best representative to represent their views in Edmonton.”
United Conservative Party — Joseph Schow
By Greg Price
Joseph Schow has been hitting the provincial campaign trail as the UCP candidate for the Cardston-Siksika riding, and has been hearing some common themes in his door knocking.
“The campaign has been good so far. I’ve been across the consistency several times and what I’ve been hearing most is jobs and economy. People looking to get back to work, people looking to see their neigbours get back to work,” said Schow. “People want to see an Alberta that supports the energy sector and supports our agriculture sector and they want a balanced budget.”
Schow has been helping with campaigns since the last provincial election, and also helped with the federal election. Schow has done some time on Parliament Hill. Schow worked for Jason Kenney on his UCP leadership team for two years. Going to high school in Magrath, Schow is a fifth-generation Albertan, where he now resides in Cardston.
“I love the south and I got into politics because my ancestors helped build this province much like many other ancestors did. I wanted to do right by them and the legacy that they built and making a province you can be proud of,” said Schow.
If elected, Schow noted the UCP will repeal Bill 6: the Enhancement of Protection of Farm and Ranch Workers and replace it with something else that protects workers and farmers in a consultative matter.
“We are also pushing harder for pipelines and the current government has really sat on their hands for quite awhile. We have been clear that if we can’t get a fair shake on pipelines, we will hold a referendum on equalization,” said Schow. “We want businesses to feel like this is a great place to run their business or start a business. We have made the pledge to reduce the corporate tax to eight per cent from 12 and reduce red tape and expedite processing times so that Alberta really is open for business and spread that message across the country and the world.”
Rolling out numerous platforms, Schow hopes for a prosperous Alberta where he noted Albertans have lost faith under the current government.
“Hope is on the horizon and help is on the way. We want to stay humble and make sure the grassroots of this province be respected and they are consulted on the policy that we have laid out,” said Schow.
New Democratic Party — Kirby Smith
By Trevor Busch
Challenging for the right to represent the new Cardston-Siksika riding, NDP candidate Kirby Smith brings a wide variety of past experience as he seeks the vote of constituents on April 16.
“I bring to the table quite a wide range of experiences,” said Smith. “In the past, I’ve owned my own small business, I had an electrical company. As a young person, I apprenticed with an electrician for a couple of years and had a contracting business in our community, which employed a few of our local people in that. I’ve also run my own cattle operation.”
A resident of Fort Macleod, Smith has lived most of his life on the Piikani Nation and has close family and community affiliations with the Blood Tribe and Siksika Nation. Smith views access to services like education and health care as some of the key issues.
“There’s central issues around health and education. A lot of the people ask questions around that, and some the detailed issues around education and the administration of education in the province. The administration of health is another big concern. And even the energy sector, people are asking about the price of oil, they’re asking about refinery infrastructure, pipeline infrastructure. I’m quite impressed with the breadth of questions, concerns that folks have across the board, everything from disabilities issues to people asking detailed questions about a balanced budget in the province. So it’s quite a healthy narrative that’s unfolding, and I’m just really happy to be a part of it.”
Smith has a wide range of career experience that has helped shape his understanding of what matters to Albertans including working in Family and Children’s services, working in post-secondary as an Education Coordinator and as a liaison for a large utilities company.
“Agriculture, of course, is big business, and a major factor in the riding, but I think there’s a lot of issues with that,” said Smith. “At the moment we’ve got this issue going on with China and canola exports. I think those kinds of issues need to be front and centre, with how farmers and the agricultural sector as whole deal with impacts on folks in the region. To be able to approach that issue meaningfully, if possible, but also it’s something where issues and concerns need to be advocated, and need to be heard, and there’s an opportunity for them to participate in some of the business around building strategies.”
Committed to serving his community, Smith has worked as the economic development officer for the Piikani Nation and as the Managiazng Director for the Piikani Nation’s only for-profit corporation, Piikani Resource Development.
“With that, I developed a functional knowledge of issues around health, and education, and economic development,” said Smith. “Really looking at things from a broad spectrum, like tourism, renewable energy. Our community partnered, for example, with ATCO in a hydro-electric development on the Oldman River Dam. Of course the area in which we live is ripe for renewable energy projects like solar and wind. I have some participation in those sectors, and really just bringing that kind of experience. I worked for a utilities company in Calgary that oversaw a lot of the electrical, at every level, from generation, transmission, to distribution and retail. I think what I bring to the table is a wide array of experiences that lend themselves to understanding some the needs of some of the folks in our constituency, and hopefully being the voice of the people that I can bring to the legislature.”
While Smith hopes to raise the political profile of indigenous issues and concerns throughout Cardston-Siksika, he assured voters this doesn’t make him a single-issue candidate.
“The way the boundaries were redrawn the way they were last year I think also resonates around the idea that two of the largest indigenous communities in Alberta are in the riding as well. I think in some ways that speaks to the need for greater participation from folks in the province, and I think it’s an opportunity for us as indigenous people to have a voice. But certainly my scope isn’t limited to just that. I would want my focus to be reflective of the needs of all of the folks throughout the riding.”
Smith has given back to his community not just in his professional life, but also as an active foster parent and community volunteer. He has extensive volunteer experience in the arts and various youth sports, particularly minor hockey.