Alberta Premier Danielle Smith made a brief visit in High Prairie on April 27 just days before candidates hit the official campaign trail for the provincial election May 29.
Leader of the United Conservative Party, Smith welcomed new Lesser Slave Lake candidate Scott Sinclair at the reception at the Days Inn.
Smith says Sinclair has much to offer and is optimistic he will win.
“You’re going to add so much to our caucus,” says Smith, who became the premier Oct. 11, 2022 after she won the UCP leadership race announced Oct 6.
Sinclair is running in his first election in a bid to retain the seat held by the UCP.
“I plan to work hard for all people and put the constituency first,” says Sinclair, of Slave Lake.
“I would be a beacon of hope for everyone in the constituency.”
He also pledges to be an effective communicator.
“We need to get back to common sense of communications,” Sinclair says.
Current MLA Pat Rehn announced Jan. 14 he would not seek re-election after serving one term.
Smith thanked Rehn for his service and commitment during one term in office, first elected April 16, 2019.
The premier promoted her priorities to make rural and northern communities more sustainable, stronger and safer.
“I truly believe in rural Alberta,” Smith says.
“We have to be sure we invest in northern and rural Alberta.”
Improved healthcare services was first in her speech to an audience of about 80 people.
“You need more services closer to home,” Smith says.
“The next step is to move to local decision-making.”
Centralizing authority under a governing body of Alberta Health Services hasn’t been effective to meet the needs of rural and northern regions, she says.
“We’re in the north zone and we have to look at how we can provide more services regionally,” Smith says.
“You have to look at something like hospital boards.
“We have to make sure we have the right services.”
AHS was created in 2008 after many years of regional health zones that included community health councils, which involved local residents.
During a brief question period, two citizens expressed frustration about dealing with multiple government ministries or agencies on issues such as mental health and community safety.
One citizen mentioned that transient people are roaming streets in High Prairie, involved in crime, causing people to feel unsafe in their own home and community.
Smith says issues would be addressed more effectively with more local involvement and better communication.
“We want to get back to more local control,” Smith says.
“If you want to get things done, you have to break down barriers and communicate better.”
She says the UCP government is also working on locating recovery centres in communities such as Grande Prairie to help people overcome addictions.
“If we can have people get treated in their home communities, we can hopefully solve the problem,” Smith says.
She notes the UCP government is committed to help students with mental health challenges, especially after the struggles created by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that caused disruptions in their school year.
Peace River MLA and UCP incumbent candidate Dan Williams also attended the event.
He says the UCP is committed to support all industries even though some lobby groups are against some.
He notes forestry is a strong industry in the region and province.
“When some industries struggle, forestry is still there for communities like High Prairie,” Williams says.
First elected April 16, 2019, he says Sinclair will be good for the riding and wider region.
“Scott is a tremendous candidate,” Williams says.
“He wants to advocate for northern Alberta.”
Election information is available online at www.voterlink.ab.ca or phone the provincial contact centre at (1-877) 422-8683.
The centre is open weekdays from 8:15 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
May 3, 2023