Rural Albertans express frustration over election cold shoulder
NANTON, Alberta -- In rural Alberta, the province’s oil industry and agriculture sectors have emerged as key issues in the upcoming federal election, but so far Albertans have been left with an overwhelming sense of being ignored.
South of Calgary in Nanton, Alta., a good portion of the town’s 2,000 residents are struggling oil workers or farmers dealing with international trade strife. Despite these serious issues, not a single federal party leader has made more than a couple of stops in Wild Rose Country so far on the campaign.
Part of the reason is that little incentive remains to visit as all but five of the province’s 34 ridings went Conservative in 2015 and are expected to do the same this time around. That still hasn’t slowed the frustration among voters in the province, however.
“I think this one election more than any of them is going to decide the future of our country and right now Alberta could use better leadership,” Nanton resident Bob Logan told CTV News’ Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme.
Among some of the most frustrated are farmers who’ve been hit hard in the international markets. Most notably, China’s ban on Canadian beef and pork is estimated to cost the industry $100 million, while the Canola Council of Canada suggests losses from China’s canola seed ban could exceed $1 billion annually.
Still, farmers have noticed how few promises have been made concerning Canada’s agriculture sector.
“It's amazing to me that the second biggest industry in Alberta…and we don't hear a word about it,” Bob Lowe, a beef producer at Bear Trap Feeders, told LaFlamme. “The number one priority of the globe for the next 30 years is producing food, but we have not heard one word about agriculture -- at least, I haven’t -- in this election.”
Despite the rising unemployment rate in Alberta, Lowe also struggles to find workers for his 9,712-hectare farm as laid-off oil workers can’t afford the pay cut.
“We want more immigration,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the Thanksgiving service inside the Nanton Church of Christ, faith is playing a big factor in who the parishioners choose to lead Canada.
Marie Logan, a member of the congregation, is looking for one thing in a prime minister come Oct. 21.
“A man of God that looks out for his people and goes after what's best for them, ending a child's life is not best for the mum as well as the child,” she said.
At the local arena, several spectators are oil workers who are now struggling to make ends meet amid a stalled pipeline project.
“We want to see things sped up,” said Lee Williams. “There’s people losing their houses and defaulting on their mortgages and they can't wait any longer."
Williams hopes some of the other provinces realize how serious the issues Albertans face are and decide to offer some form of understanding.
“We're the same here as they are in Quebec and Ontario,” Williams said.
“We've got a lot of the same beliefs and values. You look at the hockey rink how they show up in Ontario or Quebec the same as we do anywhere else. That's where we've got to get together and that’s you know, where we can get along that way. There's a lot of common values that we have with the east. So i think we need to communicate with them more than anything.”
Two recent polls suggest a growing number of Albertans either don’t believe the federal government benefits them, or would welcome separatism -- a sentiment that some Albertans doubt a change in government would fix.
“I think it's going to take a lot to balance,” said Beth Wright. “(It) just seems like provinces are at war with each other, even coming down to craft beer. We're fighting with B.C.”
Still, others question whether leaving Confederation would be best for Albertans.
“I'm a nationalist. Well, maybe I'm an eternal optimist but I don't believe we'd be any better off separating,” said Lowe. “I think the way we work things out is nationally and we just have to pull together and do that.”