Barrhead – Health professional Leslie Penny is once again running for the Alberta Liberals in the general election. The long-time Barrhead resident is currently a Manager of Seniors Health with Alberta Health Services and just received a certificate from the Alberta College of Registered Nurses recognizing 40 years in the nursing profession.
The candidate has lived in Barrhead for just as long and been politically active for almost the same period of time. Penny said she has been involved in politics since the days when Nicholas Taylor was leader (1974-1988) of the provincial Liberal Party.
Penny ran for the Liberals in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock during the 2008 general election and came in second to PC Ken Kowalski with 15.25 per cent of the vote. She’s hoping to gain some further ground with the electorate this time around.
“I wanted to run again just because I still feel that I have some gifts that I could give to both the Alberta Liberal Party and to our government, so I’m hoping to have that opportunity,” Penny said.
Variety of issues ahead
The candidate sees healthcare, seniors’ issues and education among the topics voters will be sure to talk about during the election. Being four years from retirement herself, Penny said she wonders what the future will bring for her and others.
“I am seeing the things that are happening in the province, and some of them can be very positive around helping people to stay where they want to be, but I think that the issues around health that we sometimes forget is that health has as much to do with income, housing, schooling, job opportunity, workplace health and safety than it does about the actual healthcare system,” she said. “Because I’ve worked as a public health nurse, I know how important it is to help very young children to get the best possible start. And there are programs around that that need to be supported.”
Penny agrees with party leader Raj Sherman that access to kindergarten and preschool daycare is important. “There needs to be access to that if required,” she said, noting she believes choice is an important component as not everyone needs the services. “It’s a little bit like healthcare. None of us always necessary need to be there but it’s good to have those choices.”
As a resident of a rural community, Penny said she is also passionate about ensuring seniors and others have access to transportation. “We need to establish a way of providing public transportation in our smaller rural communities,” she said. “If you live in some of our communities, and you do not drive, you are totally dependent on friends or volunteers to help you to get where you need to go. Sometimes that’s very appropriate, and I don’t think that we want to discourage that, but if for whatever reason family isn’t available, if you need to get into Edmonton for a doctor’s appointment it can be an incredibly difficult thing to arrange.” The candidate said she feels that is something the province should make available to municipalities, and that money used to be identified specifically for transportation. “I think we need to help our municipalities to look at that,” she said. “It’s not just seniors that it impacts. Education is impacted that way. Our social services have struggled with transportation for people as well. It’s a multi sector concern. Nobody has the real responsibility for it.”
Local issues a concern
Turning her attention to Morinville, the candidate said she is concerned the community has the infrastructure to be prepared for continued growth.
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“I looked at the data that came out from the 2011 census and Morinville has grown 25 per cent since the last census,” Penny said, adding it always comes back to municipal funding. “Has Morinville got the resources to meet the needs of that rapidly expanding population?” Roads, sewers, adequate water supply, and other core infrastructure needs are something she said she is concerned the community has as it grows. “I know there has been a huge issue in Morinville around the provision of secular schools. That is something that Education is very concerned about, and rightly so. Whether the school is secular or, in Morinville’s case, in the Catholic program, how are the schools doing in coping with that huge increase in population?”
But just as Morinville is at a turning point in terms of its population, Penny believes interesting times are also ahead for the province as a whole.
“I believe that we are at a crucial turning point in our province,” she said. “I think that this is one of the most interesting and exciting elections that we have had in years. I’m first of all hoping that people will use the privilege that we have in this country to vote, but I hope that they will consider the Liberal Party as a party that has always been there for the people [and] who have had excellent policies around how we can (to quote our leader Raj Sherman) help people to achieve that potential that they have through education and health care and other supports.”