The price for mailing it in. Highwood is ready for change.

Highwood is one of the safest conservative seats in all of Alberta. The constituency resides just South of Calgary. It was formed in 1971 and the combined Social Credit/ Progressive Conservative vote was 93% in its first election.

Conservative support has softened in Highwood over the decades to the point where the combined Progressive Conservative/Wildrose Party vote in the 2015 election was a mere 74% (it was over 95% in 2012).

The real democratic race in Highwood will be for the UCP nomination rather than in the general election and this coming nomination race is ramping up to be a hot one.

Most parties will snap the nominations open and shut quickly in constituencies where they already have strong incumbent MLAs. The UCP is no exception.

Prasad Panda, Ric McIver and of course Jason Kenney have already had their nominations opened and closed.

Highwood is a different story. Not one but three strong candidates are contesting the UCP nomination right now.

Wayne Anderson is the incumbent MLA in Highwood. He was in the right place at the right time and was acclaimed for his initial nomination. The 2015 election was hard fought but the Wildrose still won Highwood constituency with narrow 8% margin. It should be noted that the combined conservative vote dropped in Highwood by 20% in that campaign. The winner got a grudging endorsement from the voters.

The relatively narrow win coupled with a drop in general conservative vote would have served as a warning to a canny incumbent. It is clear that the electorate in Highwood want to see an active MLA and want to feel that they are strongly represented. Alas, Mr. Anderson instead chose to mail it in with a lackluster backbench presence which is now catching up to him as electors organize to have him replaced. There will be no comfortable acclamation here.

One of the most pressing issues for residents of Highwood has been the ongoing and growing epidemic of rural crime. The issue came to a head when Highwood resident Eddie Maurice was charged and faces jail time for wounding a criminal as he defended his home and baby.

Highwood citizens along with Albertans in general were outraged at the charges being laid against Mr. Maurice. Hundreds rallied in support of Eddie Maurice at his first court appearance in Okotoks on a cold Friday morning. 

Notably absent from the rally was the local MLA Wayne Anderson. The legislature was not sitting and while Wayne never misses a mid-week fundraiser he somehow couldn’t find time to join hundreds of his constituents to express concern on an issue that impacts us all. Perhaps it was a little too chilly outside for him. That can have an effect on urban types such as Mr. Anderson.

On the following Monday Wayne Anderson had a chance to speak to this issue at the legislature.

As reported by Rick Bell:       “Then, lo and behold, Wayne Anderson, who represents Eddie Maurice in the legislature, stands up. This should be good, I’m thinking. Sadly, nothing on the criminals creating havoc in the countryside.”

Apparently Wayne didn’t think the issue was important enough to use his question on. Perhaps Wayne just didn’t want to wade into an issue as complex and potentially sticky as rural crime. Backbench warmers do have a tendency to vanish from any possibility of a controversial issue.

Eddie Maurice made five more court appearances since that first one. His issue is still ongoing. Sadly, his provincial representative has hidden from each and every one of those hearings.

While Wayne Anderson may be oblivious to the issues that are most important to his constituents, it is clear that residents of Highwood aren’t.

Daniel Smith learned the hard way what happens when you incur the wrath of the membership in Highwood. As an incumbent she lost her nomination to Carrie Fisher. That same Carrie Fisher is now running against Wayne Anderson for the nomination.

Along with Fisher, R.J. Sigurdson is running for the nod in Highwood. Sigurdson is a former constituency president of Highwood and is familiar with the members out there.

Local businessman Dean Leask was the first out of the gate in challenging Anderson for the nomination. Dean has some very strong credibility with his past involvement in both the PC party and the Wildrose Party at the provincial executive level. He knows how grassroots organizing works and isn’t hiding from the issues. 

Rather than perhaps looking inward to understand why he is being so strongly challenged for his nomination, Wayne Anderson has come out indignant and spitting. His first response was to attack Fisher and Sigurdson in an interview with the High River times. 

Wayne would be better served to consult with his constituents rather than attack the people who have put their names forward to better serve them.

Its in Anderson’s reaction to the challenge where we see the entrenchment of entitlement. One of the worst possible ailments of elected officials.

Will Anderson learn how to hit the ground to meet with constituents and sell memberships fast enough to head off these challengers in the coming weeks? Time will tell. He really should have started on this years ago.

Nominations are often overlooked by the public but they are a critical aspect of our system. When run properly, they keep our elected officials on our toes and they teach up and coming candidates how to consult and connect with their constituents.

The nomination process appears to be doing its job in Highwood.

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The sound of silence

 

Rural crime in Alberta has been spiking for years. While RCMP stats claim the increase is as low as 41% somehow, local stats just in my little area have vehicle thefts increasing as much as 300% and property crimes in general doubling in the last few years.  This trend is evident across the entire province.

Below is my local report for just the last two days. It just doesn’t stop.

Jason Kenney and the UCP requested an emergency debate on rural crime in the legislature last November. The request was unfortunately shut down by the Notley government.

It came as no surprise to rural citizens when a situation arose which led to somebody getting shot.

 

 
Fortunately, nobody was killed when the situation unfolded on Eddie Maurice’s property in the very early hours of February 25th. A man was shot in the arm however and now Eddie Maurice is facing some very serious charges for the crime of standing up to protect his family.

Frustrated, infuriated and sympathetic citizens came out en-masse to show support for Eddie Maurice and his family last Friday when Maurice made his initial court appearance.

It speaks volumes when 200 people make time early on a cool Friday morning to come and stand outside of a rural courthouse.

Rural citizens are tired of being robbed and terrorized. They fear for the safety of their families and their property. They understand that things are escalating and that any one of us could have found ourselves in Eddie Maurice’s shoes if put into the same situation.

We understand that if this explosion of rural crime is not addressed soon, it is inevitable that a situation is going to arise where a person gets killed. Warnings from the RCMP against us defending ourselves and our property will mean little when we find intruders threatening our homes after dark when we know that the average police response time for an emergency is 40 minutes. We will take things into our own hands and deal with the legal fallout later.

The Maurice incident appears to have finally awoken the Notley government on the issue as $10 million was just dedicated to fighting rural crime.

The funding will bring 39 new officers, 40 civilian staff and 10 Crown prosecutors focused on rural crime.

I fear that the increased officers and prosecutors will be used to crack down on crime victims who act to protect their own property but lets hope for the best. The government realizes that there is a serious problem and the addition of more officers is a good start.

Now that Notley and the NDP have awoken on the issue, where is Jason Kenney and the UCP? Where is Andrew Scheer and the CPC?

The issue of rural crime has been burning hotly throughout Alberta yet the silence from our elected conservative officials has been nothing less than deathly.

While I understand and appreciate that MLAs and MPs should not speak directly to specific cases before the courts, there is no reason nor excuse as to why they cant speak to the broader issue of rural crime as a whole.

While hundreds of citizens gathered in Okotoks last Friday, Pat Stier and Wayne Anderson of the UCP were nowhere to be seen. John Barlow of the CPC was absent as well. Neither the legislature nor the parliament were sitting on that day. If 200 people gathered and fearing for their safety is not an issue for an MP or MLA to attend to personally, what the hell is?

Now is not the time for political cowardice. This issue is too damned important.

Yes, there are some sticky aspects to this issue that makes many politicians want to cover their political testes and hide. Firearm use is touchy and polarizing. Addiction issues make many politicians squirm. While the Maurice issue appears to have no racial element involved in it (thank FSM), a huge amount of rural crime is directly tied to the socioeconomic catastrophe that we call the reserve system. Few things make politicians shudder more than native issues.

Well too damn bad! Suck it up guys! You campaigned to take on the tough jobs, now one is in front of you and I want to see you address it!

Where are the highway signs advertising town hall meetings on the issue? Where are the emails? Where is the press release? Where is the policy paper? Where is anything on this damn it?

At times, rural voters can be taken for granted by conservative parties in Alberta. The UCP and CPC know that they essentially have all of our rural seats in the bag and they are acting carefully to avoid possibly offending urban voters. Again, that’s just too damn bad. Urban voters would like to protect their safety and property at times too. Find a way to address it for all of us. Its your job.

While elected UCP MLAs are still hiding under the cone of silence, I see that some of those who are seeking nominations are speaking up at least.

Christine Moore is seeking a UCP nomination in Innisfail-Sylvan lake and as can be seen, she is not being subtle on the issue.

Perhaps some of our incumbent MLAs need some nomination challenges based on this issue in order to get them to speak up. Few things wake up a politician faster than the risk of losing their job.

This issue is a literal life and death one. The next incident may end up with a much higher price than a criminal just finding himself with a hole in his arm. A criminal is going to end up dead soon (maybe some are already buried on the back 40). A homeowner may very well end up killed soon too.

Our elected officials need to get on this bus with this one. If they can’t get involved in an issue this acute, what the hell good are they indeed?

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