Morinville – Former labour leader Trudy Grebenstein has entered the Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock race as the NDP candidate. After a decade as President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3550, Grebenstein felt she still had much to offer and decided to enter provincial politics.
“I’m looking for other ways to use everything I’ve learned,” she said, adding she’s always believed in the NDP but decided to take things a step further in January of 2011. “I attended a meeting that sort of made me decide to step up. I’ve always worked on other people’s campaigns.”
That meeting, put on by the Alberta Federation of Labour, had Brian Mason and Rachel Notley in attendance. Although prior to the Jack Layton wave, Grebenstein said she was inspired by what she heard. “At that point in time I said I can’t just continue to sit here and support everyone; I think from what I’m hearing I have the knowledge and ability,” she said. “I know I have the ability and the energy to represent Alberta voters in the riding,”
Although an Edmonton resident Grebenstein said she has family and professional connections in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock, particularly in the Barrhead area where her husband’s family resides. “We are there as often as we are at property we own in the Athabasca constituency,” she said.
Plenty of issues ahead
Provincially, Grebenstein said there are many issues facing voters this election. “I think the big issue in the provincial election is utility costs [and] health,” the candidate said. “I think those are two key ones. I support the NDP platforms wholeheartedly, but I think those are two that voters can relate to every time they get a piece of mail or e-mail telling them what their latest bill is.”
Grebenstein believes an NDP government could solve both issues. “The NDP solution for the utilities is to have a thorough investigation as to why the costs are what they are,” she said. “They also believe with the resources that we have in this province that Albertans should be getting a break.”
Similarly, Grebenstein believes her party could solve many of the province’s healthcare woes. “The NDP position is that we can no longer wait for this broken system to continue on the way it is,” the candidate said. “We need to know a whole lot more about that investigation with regard to the doctors, and we need to diligently look at the system we have in place. It doesn’t necessarily mean more money. Perhaps it needs a real close look to see how the money is being spent.”
The candidate said she believes resources could be better spent in healthcare. “We have a lot of resources in Alberta. As we heard in the budget Allison Redford has now passed; now all of a sudden money is showing up,” Grebenstein said. “I’m an education worker. I’ve been an education worker for 35 years. I’m astounded at the money that’s just suddenly showing up. I went through the thick and the thin and the rollbacks and all that. And there was never enough money, never enough money. I think that’s kind of what’s been happening in healthcare as well.”
Grebenstein, who has a parent in senior care, said she believes doctors simply are not given enough time with each patient to be able to do their best work with them.
Local issues considered
Turning her attention to local issues, Grebenstein sees Champion Petfoods and the Morinville school issue as being of particular concern to locals.
“I know that in Morinville and Sturgeon [County] there is an issue with the impact of the Champion plant,” she said. “That periodically comes up.”
Grebenstein said she has been following the school issue in Morinville and is not sure if she agrees with what Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk is doing regarding it.
“I’ve got information that makes me think that perhaps his solution isn’t the best solution,” she said. “I’m wondering if the school boards there – now that he’s sort of stepped in and said what he thinks should happen – if those school boards there might come up with a better solution. I’d like to hear the people.”
Tough battle ahead
The candidate explained one thing she brings to the table is an ability to listen, something she would continue to do as MLA. “I’m a firm believer in listening to what people have opinions on,” she said. “I know a lot of people don’t vote because they say they don’t know the issues. I think people have an opinion about every single issue. It’s just that nobody is listening to them or they’ve got nobody to tell. I’m prepared to be there so they can tell someone exactly what their opinion is about some of this stuff going on.”
Grebenstein said she wants voters to know she does not consider herself a stranger to the constituency because of her family ties to the area. However, she realizes she has a tough fight in a constituency that traditionally votes for the PCs. She feels that fight would be tougher if Ken Kowalski were running again.
“Now that they’ve refreshed their incumbent, I think that there might be a few folks who will reconsider what they’ve been doing,” Grebenstein said. “Mr. Kowalski did a lot of good work in that constituency over the years he was there. I’m prepared to continue to do good work in this constituency. I believe that people want change and I hope that they will go out and vote for change and that they won’t sit at home. That’s always the issue in our Alberta elections. People have opinions but they don’t come out to vote for the person that stands for what they believe in. I think that people need to go out and vote for the person that stands for what they believe in.”