Health issues, freedom and COVID are key issues for some candidates with less than one week until the federal election.
Dan Hunter of Okotoks, is the People's Party of Canada (PPC) candidate for the Foothills riding and said he is campaigning on one issue: COVID.
“My decision came down to really what was happening with the vaccine passports and lockdowns, and policies,” said Hunter. “The reaction to COVID by governments has been the most overriding issue for me.”
He said it’s time to push back, and the only party sounding the alarm over shutdowns and restrictions is the PPC. Leader Maxime Bernier was charged for holding a public gathering in Manitoba in June, which Hunter applauded.
“He’s spoken consistently against the lockdowns and the policies that are being pursued, so he’s my guy when it comes to that,” said Hunter.
There are many people who are tired of the regulations and restrictions, and he said the PPC brings them a choice to help fight against it.
While speaking to people in the riding, he said the common theme has been fear.
“People are very afraid, and the forced vaccinations are a big deal,” said Hunter. “All those factors are bringing voters over to the PPC that probably wouldn’t have been here before.”
He said the pandemic has made this election an emotional one for many voters who are struggling to vote with the same party they have always supported.
Hunter said he was a stalwart Conservative voter until he saw the direction Erin O’Toole was moving.
“At this time Erin O’Toole has taken the party very far left, and the wrong direction for a Conservative party,” he said. “I think we are going in a dangerous direction and I don’t want to see it continue.”
Liberal candidate Paula Shimp, who is running out of Raymond, is a firm believer in the COVID vaccine and passports, especially as someone who suffers from a congenital respiratory disorder.
She said the symptoms she has dealt with for 20 years are very similar to those experienced by COVID-19 “long-haulers,” those who continue to feel the effects of the virus for months or years after their infection.
“It’s the ones who could be ongoing for years that have me most concerned,” said Shimp. “We cannot afford this on a large scale.”
She wants to see more vaccines administered, and is a proponent of vaccine passports.
“With our freedoms come responsibilities,” said Shimp. “It’s not just responsibility to self, it’s responsibility to self and others.”
As Canada moves toward recovery from the pandemic, she said it will also be important to put mental health and wellness at the forefront.
A mental health transfer payment proposed by the Liberal government could help subsidize the cost of care as people seek help for their issues, she said.
“I am in favour of that,” said Shimp. “I don’t know if I’m in favour of it permanently, but I’m definitely in favour of it for the next four or five years, while we help people develop the type of mental toughness and resilience needed to get through this.”
In addition to encouraging vaccination, she is standing up to protect the health of residents and the environment in southern Alberta from coal mining in the headwaters of the Canadian Rockies.
Selenium, a naturally-occurring element found in soil, can be toxic in excess and contaminates rivers and waterways during coal mining activity, she said. Tolerance levels for selenium have been studied for humans and livestock, but not for honeybees, which Shimp said could impact agriculture and the economy.
She said selenium is toxic to honeybees, resulting in mortality, worker bees with lower weight and declining hive populations.
“Canada’s honeybee industry brings in a value-added $4.5-5 billion annually – 39 per cent of honeybee colonies are in Alberta, the vast majority in this riding, in the Granum and Fort Macleod area,” said Shimp. “The honeybee industry is not just around honey production and that economic benefit, it’s about the pollination of crops, specifically canola crops.”
The permitting and regulatory processes behind coal mining need to take agriculture into consideration, she said.
As far as the federal budget and claims the Trudeau Liberals have spent more than any government in history, she admitted the party would not be able to balance the budget in short order.
“I don’t think anybody can,” said Shimp.
Green Party candidate Brett Rogers was unavailable for comment.