Disgust may spark upset in PC support

Residents frustrated over higher taxes, budget cuts

ST. PAUL, Alta. — Apathy and cynicism would win if they were running in the riding of Lac La Biche–St Paul-Two Hills.

They are the two biggest challenges facing the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative candidates in the northeastern Alberta constituency.

Wildrose candidate Dave Hanson said he is hearing a lot of “unrest and dissatisfaction” from voters who believe a change of government is required in the province after 44 years.

“A lot of people, when I first approach the door, they say they are so disgusted they don’t want to vote at all,” said Hanson.

He said voters are upset with a $5 billion deficit in a province rich in oil resources, a recent budget that increased taxes and an overall sense of dissatisfaction. It has all left them wanting a change in government, he added.

“It’s not necessarily us, just any change. Even people who were strong PC supporters say we need a change,” said Hanson, who hopes to channel that unrest into Wildrose votes.

“I think we’re going to do very well here.”

The defection of 11 members of the Wildrose party to the PC government in December has also been raised.

“Every door I knock on asks me about the floor crossing. They say they are very disappointed and felt be-trayed.”

Shane Saskiw, the riding’s Wildrose MLA, was one of five members who didn’t cross the floor to join the government. However, he stepped down when the election was called.

PC candidate Darrell Younghans has been forced to defend the government’s budget and decisions at the doorstep.

“There are some people that are a little upset of the budget that was released,” said Younghans, a Heinzburg farmer. “The majority of time when you explain it to them and what it means to the average Albertan, I think they feel a little more assured.”

A recent call from premier Jim Prentice helped Younghans with questions about the budget.

“We talked bluntly about the budget. I felt very enlightened and a little more ready to go and defend some of the policies he is putting forward,” said Younghans, who fought a tough three-way race for the PC nomination.

Voters were apathetic during his nomination race, and Younghans is worried the apathy will carry through to the election, when few people bother to vote.

“People have had enough of politicians in general.”

The mixed grain and cattle farmer said few agriculture issues have been raised during the campaign. He hears from voters who don’t like the recent four cent a litre tax on fuel, and lingering grain transportation concerns have also been raised.

Both candidates said they hear concerns about the need to improve rural health care. The government released a report before the election on ways to improve rural health care, including returning autonomy to rural decision makers.

“That is how I am defending it,” said Younghans.

Tamara Grolmus of Lottie Lake, Alta., has problems with the recent budget, which increased taxes on fuel, cigarettes and alcohol. She said it has convinced her to change her vote from PC to Wildrose.

“Increased taxes makes it hard to provide for your family.…” Grolmus said during a break from her job in a St. Paul store.

“It doesn’t seem like the tax system is set up for the lower and middle class. I want the higher classes and corporate to pay their share.”

Rodney Godziuk of Myrnam is voting Wildrose once again. He’s still angry about former premier Alison Redford’s spending on trips to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral and taking her daughter on government airplanes.

“To use people’s money to take family on trips is not right.”

Godziuk believes Prentice made a mistake by not increasing corporate taxes in the last budget.

“Instead, the government is taxing the poor, and the corporations who make millions are left alone.”

Karen Stafford of Elk Point said she is a “diehard conservative,” as are most of the people in the area.

However, she worries that Prentice’s arrogance may harm the local candidate.

NDP candidate Catherine Harder, a University of Alberta music student from Camrose, is the only other candidate running in the riding.

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