Voters not pleased with fiscal crisis; Wildrose defection

People are asking why corporations aren’t paying their share of taxes, says NDP candidate

John Kolk is in an odd position during the 2015 Alberta provincial election.

In 2012, the Picture Butte farmer lost to Wildrose candidate Ian Donovan, a farmer from Mossleigh, Alta., while running for the Progressive Conservatives in the Little Bow riding.

However, Donovan crossed the floor to the PCs in November, a month before the mass defection of Wildrose candidates to the PCs.

Now Donovan is running for the spot Kolk had in his sights three years ago.

Kolk is circumspect in his comments about the situation.

“Politics is the art of the possible, and if you’re not inside of the room, its pretty hard to know … what drove people to decisions,” he said.

However, he is worried that the Wildrose floor crossing will affect voter turnout.

“I think politics is a lot about expectations. People voted with certain expectations in mind, and I think there was some disappointments that came out of that,” he said.

“I suspect that we’ll have a few more people that say, ‘well, I’m not going to vote because I’m disappointed with what happened last time.’ ”

Donovan has been knocking on doors in the riding, putting miles on his F150 4 X 4 pickup as he traverses a region twice the size of Prince Edward Island.

He said April 14 that people ask about his decision to switch parties, and his answer has the flavour of one often uttered.

“I started in a party that was willing to have free votes, to represent constituents, and we became a party that wasn’t. We became hypocrites,” Donovan said while walking between houses in Coaldale.

“(The Wildrose party) did everything they said they wouldn’t do … and when I started calling them out on it, it made it very uncomfortable to be one of the members in the caucus.”

Some PC candidates have reported cool receptions at the door in southern Alberta, but Donovan said that hadn’t been his experience.

“I’m not going to say everybody’s 100 percent happy, but I’ll say at the doors it’s 70, 75 percent of people can understand and once you actually explain to them, there’s probably another 10 percent,” he said.

“And there’s 15 percent that are never going to be happy that I crossed, and that’s understandable.”

David Schneider, a farmer from Kircaldy, Alta., has taken up the Wildrose banner for Little Bow. He and Donovan served together for years on Vulcan County council, and each has served as reeve.

Schneider did not provide an interview before press time, but his emailed profile said provincial revenues and expenditures are the most important issue.

He said the Wildrose plan for fiscal management promises smaller government, no tax increases and economic growth. Schneider was critical of the recent provincial budget, which increased fuel taxes and added a health-care levy while making no changes to corporate tax and royalties.

“If it’s true that we all contributed to the fiscal crisis situation we now face, shouldn’t we all pull our share in addressing it?” Schneider wrote.

“The average family that just wants to hook onto their trailer and go into the mountains for recreation for a weekend has been hit hard.”

Lack of tax increases for corporations also figures highly in NDP candidate Bev Muendel-Atherstone’s campaign. She said it is a frequent comment from residents.

“People are really mad, people are unhappy,” she said while door knocking in Coalhurst last week.

“When the premier (Jim Prentice) asked, ‘where would you like to see the taxes raised,’ and when Albertans said, ‘we’d like to see it raised from corporations,’ and then it’s not being from corporations but it’s being on the backs of the working people … they’re saying, ‘why can’t corporations pay their fair share?’ ”

Muendel-Atherstone, a former school psychologist, also ran for the NDP in 2012 and said she is hearing some of the same concerns over health care and education.

Little Bow has never elected an NDP MLA, but she thinks the tide is turning.

“This time there’s a real motivation for change. We’ve had the same government in power for 44 years, and I think people are finally seeing that you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect it to change.”

The PCs and the Wildrose are two sides of the same coin, said Muendel-Atherstone.

Neither she nor Donovan have heard concerns specific to agriculture, though both said high electrical rates have been mentioned, as well as water treatment and water supply issues.

Schneider wrote in his profile that Wildrose would entrench property rights for landowners and amend bills to further protect them.

Property rights issues were among the topics that gained traction for the Wildrose in 2012 and resulted in an electoral sweep of southern Alberta, with the exception of two Lethbridge ridings.

Little Bow Liberal candidate Helen McMenamin, a writer and researcher, said she is hearing concerns about lack of funding for rural infrastructure and seniors’ home-care, hospice and sub-acute care.

The Liberals are functioning under interim leader Dr. David Swann, while former leader Dr. Raj Sherman is also working on the campaign.

“Dr. Swann is well known and well respected,” said McMenamin, adding that Sherman’s continued involvement is like having two leaders.

The party has not fielded candidates in all ridings. McMenamin said it is focusing on candidates where there is already a strong Liberal base.

She ran in the 2012 election in the Cardston-Taber-Warner riding.

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