Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

It’s difficult to keep track of all the announcements, platform positions, promises, and such that political parties are putting out during a campaign. Not to mention the shenanigans, insinuations and outright attacks. At The Leader we tend to leave that stuff to the big city media to cover.

For one thing, if you report on something one party said, you have to try to balance it with related things from all candidates. So we tend to ignore most of that, knowing that people interested in political platforms will be getting it daily (or even hourly) online, or on TV or on radio.

However….. let’s see if we can find out what the local candidates (in Lesser Slave Lake, that is) have been up to in the past week or so. The two major ones – NDP and United Conservative Party (UCP) – are telling quite different stories. These arise, we believe, from different notions of what good government is.

Last week, for example, NDP incumbent Danielle Larivee issued a news release on an NDP plan to cut drug costs for seniors. The same news release touted the Notley government’s adding of long-term care beds, increasing the seniors’ benefit and appointing a seniors’ advocate. The $25-per-day child care program is also presented a benefit to many, and is an obvious feather in the cap for the NDP. Making things easier for the most vulnerable members of society is front and centre for the NDP.

Pat Rehn, the UCP candidate has been hammering away consistently on the state of the economy. He took part in an announcement recently by the party offering a ‘jobs guarantee’ for the forest industry. He has been going door-to-door in Slave Lake (and probably other communities), vigorously denouncing the carbon levy and the NDP government’s increase in the business tax rate.

Rehn is also emphasizing a UCP promise to reduce red tape for business. It’s one of the ‘big four’ listed on his website, along with getting rid of the carbon tax, getting pipelines built and bringing back global investment.

Judging by the number of ‘Pat Rehn’ signs sprouting on front lawns in the southeast Slave Lake neighbourhood right after Rehn went through there knocking on doors last week, those issues are resonating quite strongly and a lot of people are liking what they hear.

Rehn put in appearances at a couple of hockey tournaments on the last weekend of March.

One was the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup in High Prairie, where he was the guest of Bigstone Cree Nation Chief Silas Yellowknee. He also stopped by the Pee Wee Tier 1 Provincials in Slave Lake. Larivee was also at the Treaty 8 First Nations Cup – she dropped the puck in the ceremonial face-off for the final game on March 31.

As for the other candidates – you’ve read the profiles for Vincent Rain of the Alberta Party and Suzette Powder of the Alberta Independence Party in these pages. Apart from the phone calls that resulted in those two articles we haven’t seen or heard much from these two. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t campaigning. Powder campaign signs did show up in Slave Lake a couple of weeks ago, as well as a few along Hwy. 2, indicating the presence of herself or a supporter or supporters in the area. Then Alberta Party signs showed up on April 4, with the name ‘Rain’ in bold letters.

Rain has been active on social media, where he has some interesting things to say. One of them is that he will be getting printed campaign material out. In another post, he speaks of getting a call of support from former Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen. He talks a lot about getting the Indigenous vote out.

Powder’s Facebook activity is (or was) pretty modest – limited to information about the Independence Party becoming an official party in Alberta. The name says it all – they want independence from Ottawa. And not ‘more’ independence or ‘partial’ independence. The whole thing.

“Sovereignty,” she confirmed, in an April 2 phone conversation. The only way to build a proper relationship with Canada is to break away and start from scratch.

Powder says people she’s talked to so far in the area have been quite receptive to the idea. And positive generally.

“Even the ‘nos’ are very polite!” she says.

Oh, and all those Powder signs that showed up?

“I put those out myself,” she says. “Somebody took one off the street and put it on their lawn!”

All four of the above should be at the April 8 candidates’ forum at The Gathering Place in Slave Lake. The fifth candidate – Robin Le Fevre of the Alberta Liberals – remained more of a rumour than a reality through last week.

The timing for the forum isn’t good for The Leader – this issue of the paper will have gone to press by then and the next one comes out the same day as the election. So there’s not much point in covering it.

However, the forum in High Prairie happened on April 3, so we checked in with a couple of people who attended it. One said Rehn stuck with the party line and wasn’t that impressive, but nevertheless got about “60 per cent of the applause.” Larivee was the only one with any grasp of local issues, said our correspondent, and he figures she got about a 40 per cent approval from the audience of 120 – 140.

Rain and Powder spoke well and made a good impression, he said, but got little response.

One hot topic at the High Prairie forum that might swing a few votes there was the issue of continued funding for a new college campus and a dialysis unit for the hospital. According to a story in this week’s High Prairie South Peace News, Larivee said the NDP were committed to seeing both projects through. Rehn wasn’t able to make the same commitment.