Though Alberta’s next provincial election is a year away, Hatter Gwendolyn Dirk has already announced her intention to seek nomination as the NDP’s MLA candidate for Brooks-Medicine Hat.
Dirk, who was born in rural Saskatchewan but has resided in Alberta for 30-plus years, says she never planned on becoming a political candidate. She says she felt the need to get involved now over concerns with the impact UCP policy has had on Albertans.
“I feel like I spent my entire career and life helping people seek opportunities to better themselves and helping them to build a better community,” Dirk told the News. “And I’m very concerned some of these opportunities (for betterment) are slowly eroding.”
Dirk believes access to high-quality public and post-secondary education has decreased since the UCP took office in 2019. She also feels the state of the province’s public education system has suffered, and will continue to do so as the government begins implementing its K-6 draft curriculum in September.
“I’m very concerned about this new curriculum,” Dirk said. “It is not designed to take us into the 21st Century. I don’t even know what they were thinking when they piecemealed it, and sometimes, plagiarized it.
“Another thing I’m very concerned about is the state of our health care. It’s in chaos right now and it’s eroding. More and more people cannot even find a family doctor and they’re having to use emergency services, which is more expensive in the long-run.
“(People) are dying and doctors are fleeing the province. One-hundred-and-forty doctors left the province in the last year. And moreover, a lot of our our young doctors in universities still do not want to do their internships in Alberta, because they are not seeing the future for themselves.”
Dirk says these are two of the many issues she wishes to address if she were to become the Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA.
Dirk chose to seek her candidacy nomination from the NDP, as she feels the party’s values align most closely with her own.
“I became an advocate for Rachel Notley and the NDP, in the last election when I was involved with Peter Mueller’s campaign,” she said. “I got to know the party, its principles and its policies more back then. More recently however, I became very involved with our local constituency association and have learned so much.
“I’m also finding so many people are engaged. We’re ready for a change. People are not liking the direction of this province.”
Dirk believes her experience as a lifelong educator has helped prepare her for the role, as has her involvement in Rotary Canada, Kiwanis Canada, World Vision, Amnesty International, the Medicine Hat Police Commission and Saamis Immigration.
She hopes by announcing her intention to run she will have more time to connect with voters and hear their concerns.
“People can contact me, they can express concerns,” Dirk said. “And I would love to just do my very best to help society help our community.”
Current Brooks-Medicine Hat MLA Michaela Frey says she’s not focused on the election at the moment, as her nomination hasn’t yet been called, but she wishes Dirk the best.
“At the end of the day, every person in Medicine Hat deserves a strong candidate and I’m sure she’s going to be a strong candidate for those who want to vote for her,” Frey told the News. “And I just think it’s very important our riding is recognized for the good things we do, and I’m glad to be able to do that.”
, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News