Shootin’ the Breeze chatted with each of the six federal candidates to discuss what they’re passionate about and what motivates them. They promised to make significant changes to economic and social policy, driven by a sense of frustration for the current government and empathy for universal pandemic problems.
In the past year, John Barlow has seen farming families collapse under the burden of summer drought and struggle economically after illegal rail blockades stopped shipments of agricultural goods.
He has watched as the pandemic caused huge financial losses and unemployment, leading to an increase in depression, anxiety and suicide, which in turn, added fuel to the national opioid crisis.
“In the first half of the pandemic, we saw suicides and opioid deaths, overdose deaths triple in Alberta,” he said.
He’s determined to do something about it.
Since he was elected as a Conservative MP, Barlow has committed himself to breaking the stigma around mental illness. He voted in favour of a motion to establish the 988 national suicide hotline, to ensure that callers in crisis receive help quickly. He co-chairs the Conservative Opioid Crisis Working Group, which aims to get drug dealers off the street, help addicts recover and identify gaps in existing addiction support.
If re-elected, he will oversee the creation of 1,000 new recovery beds and 50 local recovery centres, and will continue to consult with international and national health experts on mental health policy.
Thriving mind, body and spirit
Achieving ultimate well-being is as simple as exercising regularly, eating healthily and sleeping well, says Green party candidate Brett Rogers.
He’s authored six books on physical, spiritual and psychological health. The wellness techniques he supports range from mainstream practices like workout routines, supplementation, meditation and yoga to alternative practices like electromagnetic stimulation, detoxification and psychic development exercises.
He would like to see his lifestyle philosophies integrated into elementary school curriculum alongside classes on stress management and conflict resolution.
Michelle Traxel believes in supporting and rewarding intelligent business models.
She herself is the owner of a small business, an Okotoks restaurant called Little Fast + Fresh. During the pandemic, she experienced a host of issues, including labour shortages and drought, which reduced the amount of food products available and disrupted the supply chain system.
If it wasn’t for co-operative farming programs, she says, her restaurant would have been in deeper waters.
The NDP candidate is involved with the Glaimax Collective, a project based out of Nobleford, consisting of 40 to 70 farms that share resources, labour and food. The collective allows her restaurant to order products from all of the farms involved, increasing the amount of food she has access to.
If one farm has run out of a certain product, then other farms can supply it. Instead of having a seasonal product that is available only at certain times of the year, the collective ensures farmers can market their products in a more logical sequence, rotating their crops to ensure food is always being produced.
Traxel plans to support this business model, so it can be developed on a wider scale, but she also wants to expand it by helping farmers make more deals with local grocery stores. Not only would this promote sustainability and lower carbon emissions, she says, but also allow farmers to bypass the big fees corporations charge for product packaging.
Freedom of speech
Daniel Hunter was a lifelong Conservative voter, but joined the People’s Party of Canada after the government started enacting stricter pandemic regulations.
Mandatory vaccine passports, lockdowns and masking are a violation of Canadian rights and freedoms, he says, adding that people should have the choice of opting out.
“We have witnessed the most sustained and unprecedented series of attacks against our rights and freedoms,” he said at a federal candidate forum on Sept. 1. “Politicians and bureaucrats have treated our guaranteed rights as if they were merely privileges that can be taken away or used as leverage for good behaviour.”
His love for free speech extends beyond Covid, however. In a followup interview, Hunter said he is opposed to Bill C-10, a piece of legislation that seeks to protect media outlets from big corporations like Facebook and Twitter, that are eating into their share of profits. Hunter said the media should not be brought under the influence of the government in any way. He says the bill will allow the government to be a mouthpiece for news outlets, enabling it to control what journalists write in their articles.
Liberal party candidate Paula Shimp knows what it’s like to suffer from a disability. She has mitochondrial myopathy, a disease that causes muscular and neurological problems, and she has spent a significant portion of her life unemployed due to ill health.
Her condition causes chronic fatigue, presenting symptoms similar to what some Covid long-haulers face. Both illnesses, she says, decrease or inhibit mitochondrial function.
If elected, she would develop a comprehensive plan to support Covid long-haulers with recovery, as well as other individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
“When we come face to face with extraordinary challenges, we have the opportunity, collectively and individually, to draw upon and adapt existing strengths to move through and beyond our current troubles,” she wrote in a letter to Shootin’ the Breeze.
Shimp had fallen ill and was not able to conduct a phone interview.
Her plan includes installing more outreach services in rural areas, bolstering telehealth mental health services, promoting greater resource sharing between existing organizations, embedding social workers in local communities to provide referrals, and creating emergency response teams to help provide short term support like shopping, meal preparation, child-minding and transportation for ill individuals.
Access to natural resources
Josh Wylie has worked in the oil and gas industry since 2007, first as the vice-president for a publicly traded oil company and currently as a consultant for petroleum land management.
While he appreciates environmental concerns about the industry, he thinks many of them are misguided, the result of political policy biased toward voters in urban areas like Toronto and Vancouver.
The Maverick candidate promises to increase Alberta oil production and repeal regulations impacting the industry.
He says he doesn’t believe jobs should be compromised in southern Alberta over environmental initiatives, when Canada is responsible for only a little over one per cent of total global emissions. Environmentalists should target the world’s largest emitters, he says.
“All you’re doing is shifting that market share away from a highly regulated responsible jurisdiction like Alberta and that market share is going to go to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or Brazil, places that aren’t as environmentally conscious,” he says.
Meeting the candidates
Pincher Creek will not be hosting a federal candidates forum this year due to the unusually short election time frame.
Residents who wish to meet the candidates and ask questions can attend a candidate forum on Sept. 16 in Lethbridge at the Southern Alberta Ethnic Association, 421 Sixth Ave. S., from 5 to 7 p.m.
For more information, please visit the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce website.
Gillian Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze