by Colin Smith
In the Alberta provincial election taking place April 16, Morinville residents will be voting for the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the electoral district of Morinville-St. Albert, created in 2017 following a recommendation by the Electoral Boundaries Commission. In addition to Morinville, it takes in Legal, Bon Accord, Gibbons, Redwater, CFB Edmonton and part of St. Albert.
Of Alberta’s 13 registered political parties five are running candidates in Morinville St. Albert: the Alberta Independence Party, the Alberta New Democrats, the Alberta Party, the Green Party and the United Conservative Party.
Here are profiles of the candidates based on interviews with each of them and their campaign biographies.
Natalie Birnie – Alberta New Democrats
With a background of 30–years of involvement in small business in the Edmonton and Parkland County areas, Natalie Birnie has been executive director of the Acheson Business Association since 2010.
While she had been a longtime Conservative supporter, in her role she found Conservative government unresponsive on local issues such as highway twinning and the need for an overpass. Birnie said that changed with the election of the NDP government in 2015. “Working with the NDP government was a fresh start. They do what they say they will do.”
Hearing Premier Rachel Notley speak about women going into politics led to Birnie deciding to become involved herself.
Door-knocking during the campaign, she has found that the future for schools and hospitals is a major concern for people.
Birnie backs the NDP’s recently announced commitment to fully fund school enrolment growth, which would put hundreds of new teachers and support staff in classrooms this fall
A single mother, she is also a strong supporter of the party’s plan to increase access to daycare and cap fees at $25 dollars per day.
Alberta needs to go forward not backward, Birnie declares. “The best way forward is to vote NDP.”
Neil Korotash – Alberta Party
Neil Korotash is no stranger to politics. In 2001 he was elected to St. Albert City Council and served two three-year terms. Afterwards he was involved at the constituency level with the Conservatives but found that it didn’t suit him.
“I didn’t like the way it was tending,” he said “I don’t like partisanship. I don’t like the negative attitudes. There’s always another side to an issue.”
Korotash sees himself first and foremost as fiscal conservative and finds the Alberta Party provides for that without the uncomfortable social value issues of “the other conservative party.”
In this campaign Korotash believes that the important issues are jobs and the economy, followed by health and education.
“Alberta needs to see pipelines built and our oil getting to market, along with more refineries being built in Alberta to process it here.”
A lifelong resident of St. Albert, and married with two children, for 14 years Korotash has taught high school science in Morinville.
The campaign is going very well, he says.
According to Korotash, if elected, constituents can expect the hard work, honesty and integrity that he showed while on St. Albert council.
“I’m looking forward to representing the people of Morinville-St.Albert.”
Mike van Zelzen – Alberta Independence Party
Mike van Zelzen stands strongly behind the policies of the Alberta Independence Party, which advocates the province breaking away from Canada.
According to the party’s policy platform, within a month of it being elected a referendum process would be initiated that would take Alberta out of Canada if it received 51 per cent of the vote.
This is the first time that van Zelzen has been involved in a political campaign.
Raised in South Edmonton, he has varied background, having studied business and criminology, operated a consumer electronics business, worked in the oil and gas industry and done design and marketing consultation for international garment firms. He is married, has three children and lives in Lily Lake, north of Gibbons.
“With the knowledge I have, interim party leader Dan Bjorkman thought I would be a really good fit as a candidate,” van Zelzen said.
Major problems that independence would address include carbon tax, income tax, equalization payments and threats to the agricultural sector.
“Albertans are not happy with the financial pressure brought against them,” says van Velzen. “I feel I need to bring some light and have hope to find solutions to what’s happening.
He added, “If Albertans want their financial stress released, financially this is the better way to go.”
Cass Romyn – Green Party of Alberta
During the last election there was no Green Party candidate on Cass Romyn’s ballot. She wanted to become involved and so she became the candidate herself in this one.
“I’m passionate about environmental issues, animal rights,” Romyn says. “To me the green party was the obvious choice.”
Romyn lives in Gibbons with her husband and two daughters and is a homemaker. Originally from Ontario, she attended university in Windsor and has done extensive volunteer work.
Building a green economy through new industry, such as bio-plastics and bio-fuels, is an important way for the province to move ahead, Romyn states.
“Alberta has technological advantages, but not enough is being invested in these.”
She feels eco-tourism is another huge untapped market for Alberta.
Other Green policies include a guaranteed annual income, and universal pharmacare and dental care programs.
On the local level, finances are a major concern, with Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding due to expire in a few years and nothing so far put in place for rural Alberta.
Her campaign is going well, Romyn says.
“I was surprised to see how good a response the Green Party is getting. People are starting to realize these are matters that should be taken seriously.”
Dale Nally – United Conservative Party
Dale Nally calculates that he has knocked on more than 9,000 doors so far in his bid to become the MLA for Morinville-St. Albert.
The top three issues that come up are jobs, the economy and pipelines.
Jobs are the real touchstone for Nally, once a single dad going through university who was able to get ahead because he had good jobs.
A St. Albert resident, he was a spokesman for Canada Post in the late 1990s, earned his Master of Distance Education degree from Athabasca University in the mid-2000s and is now Senior Director of Learning and Development at Loblaw Companies Ltd.
“Young people today don’t have the same opportunities,” asserts Nally.
The priority has to be to get people back to work, and the United Conservative Party’s business tax cut and initiatives to cut bureaucracy and red tape will do that, he believes.
Nally opposes what he sees as the NDP’s assault on private and faith-based schools.
“I believe that not only choice in education but educational freedom is best.”
The candidate says he chose to run in this constituency because his home is here and he is passionate about it.
“I will stand up and fight for all of Morinville-St.Albert,” said Nally.