The Alberta provincial election scheduled for May 29, 2023, will bring representation to the current vacant riding of Calgary-Elbow.

For almost eight months, Calgary-Elbow residents have been unrepresented since the resignation of former MLA Doug Schweitzer of the United Conservative Party. 

Typically in these circumstances, a by-election would be held within six months. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, however, decided not to hold a by-election with the provincial election already scheduled less than a year away.

Former MLA of Calgary-Elbow, Doug Schweitzer of the United Conservative Party, speaking at a news conference on October 7, 2021, approximately one year before his resignation in September 2023. PHOTO: ALBERTA NEWSROOM/FLICKR

With no by-election in Calgary-Elbow, residents were instructed to contact other local MLAs with their concerns until the provincial election.

It was debated whether it was the right decision not to call a by-election. Kathleen Ganley, NDP MLA of Calgary-Mountain View, took to Twitter to address representation and public duty concerns in Calgary-Elbow.    

To some, it may seem like eight months without an MLA is an insignificant amount of time. But the significance is shown by the number of voices left unrepresented for those eight months. According to the Primary Healthcare Community Profile of Calgary-Elbow from Open Alberta, there are approximately 41,162 residents in this constituency. The vacancy in Calgary-Elbow leaves roughly 41,162 voices unheard by a local representative who is fluent in the community’s concerns.  

The voices of Calgary-Elbow voted for their local representation during the last provincial election held on April 16, 2019. The graph below shows that the UCP won the 2019 election, with the previously elected Alberta Party following close behind. As well, support for the New Democratic Party has continually increased since its creation.

Kerry Cundal, representing the Alberta Party, states that her party plans to find “practical solutions” to healthcare concerns that include “listening and collaborating with healthcare professionals” and “incentivizing opportunities” to provide accessible healthcare. 

As the chart above shows, Calgary-Elbow has predominantly swung right in the past. But, with the lack of representation and current debates on the UCP’s ability to respond to the concerns of Albertans, there seems to be some uncertainty regarding the future outcome of the next election in Calgary-Elbow. 

The primary concerns of Calgary-Elbow residents are similar to those of many Albertans going into the near election. Issues within the healthcare system and its accessibility seem to be at the top of most Albertan’s concerns. There are three main parties running candidates in Calgary-Elbow, each with a diverse approach to answering the concerns of its constituents. 

This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.

The New Democratic Party, represented by Samir Kayande, claims that “healthcare for everyone” is a core value. He states that he is a “representative with concerns in mind,” focusing on the concerns of Calgary-Elbow residents. 

Chris Davis, representative for The United Conservative Party, was unable to comment. But according to his website, one of his main priorities is “supporting frontline healthcare.” He states that “achieving a ‘win-win’ wherever reasonably possible” is always his first objective.

Alberta Party candidate Cundal.
NDP candidate Samir Kayande.
UCP candidate Chris Davis.

Kayande claims the vacancy in Calgary-Elbow is “a big deal because representation is important.” He continues to explain that people want reassurance that “someone in the legislature is reflecting their concerns.” 

At the local level, constituents need a communication channel to voice their concerns, which is why Cundal states that “representative democracy matters.” She explains that “voting matters” because people deserve an MLA that listens to their needs and actively engages and supports the community. In regard to voter turnout, she says, “Apathy is worse than polarization.” By not voting, one loses the opportunity to participate actively in a representative democracy.

For more information on the upcoming election, visit Elections Alberta.

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Courtney Bullock is a student at MacEwan University in Edmonton.