Health care and affordability are the two biggest issues coming into the 2023 provincial election, and the Strathcona-Sherwood Park riding embraces them both.
There were just over 35,000 eligible voters in the riding for the 2019 provincial election. The current MLA is Nate Glubish of the UCP, who received 14,151 votes in the previous election.
Glubish beat Moira Váne of the NDP and Dave Quest of the Alberta Party, who came in second and third place, respectively. None of the other candidates were remotely close for votes.
The riding was represented by NDP candidate Estefania Cortes-Vargas in the 2015 provincial election before Nate Glubish of the UCP party was chosen to represent the riding in the 2019 provincial election.
Nate Glubish is running for re-election for the UCP. Glubish is the current Minister of Technology and Innovation for the UCP government.
As Minister of Technology and Innovation, Glubish has secured $780 million in funding to build out high-speed internet in rural areas by 2027.
Glubish is also working to bring more Government of Alberta services online to make access more convenient for Albertans who need these services and to reduce in-person wait times for those who do not choose to use the online services.
Bill Tonita, a current municipal councillor for Strathcona County, is the NDP candidate. Tonita won the Ward 4 Councillor seat with 2,792 votes in the 2021 municipal election and a decisive victory over the other two candidates, Hugh Bell and Isaac Cameron.
Having spent five years as an elected official with Strathcona County, Tonita says he’s “learned some things about governance and what good governance looks like.”
Tonita looks forward to bringing his skills to governance on a provincial level after serving on the municipal level.
As seen in previous elections, rural areas tend to lean more conservative, but Bill Tonita hopes to change that in the upcoming election.
But Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, cast doubt on how much of a boost Rachel Notley’s NDP will get from having a candidate involved in municipal politics. “I’m not sure that’s a big advantage for her,” he said.
Need for a full-fledged hospital
One key issue for voters, however, remains the development of the Strathcona Community Hospital.
Strathcona Community Hospital opened in 2014 and cost $130 million. The facility has 27 rooms, x-ray machines, CT scanners, and a lab. The provincial government recently gave the facility $1.5 million to help build an IV therapy clinic. However, that doesn’t answer the most pressing need.
“If you were to go knocking on doors in Sherwood Park, and as the people that are running for election are starting to do … the main thing they’re hearing is that we need a full-fledged hospital,” says Ken Lesniak, chair of the Strathcona Community Hospital Foundation.
Tonita agrees with this statement. “It’s time that this community, which is the fifth largest community in Alberta, had a full-fledged hospital of its own,” he said.
So, what is being done about that? Nate Glubish, the current UCP MLA, recently secured funding to construct the IV therapy unit at the Strathcona Community Hospital. The unit is set to open in the fall. Glubish said he also made sure to push for additional funding.
“I’m proud to say that budget 2023 includes $3 million in funding towards planning for an expanded Strathcona Community Hospital,” Glubish said in an interview.
Ken Lesniak hopes that the planning includes the development of a surgical unit.
“When [Strathcona Community Hospital] was built about eight years ago, it was built with the promise of being a hospital. But after they constructed it, they just left it as… [an] emergency treatment place.”
This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.
The hospital serves over 100,000 residents within Sherwood Park and a wide surrounding area.
Access to a full-fledged hospital would reduce the strain of sending patients to the surrounding hospitals in Fort Saskatchewan, Edmonton, and St. Albert for their overnight stays.
Nate Glubish, the UCP candidate, says that, if re-elected, he will continue working on delivering Strathcona-Sherwood Park residents a hospital that includes surgical capacity, acute care capacity, and a maternity ward.
Bill Tonita, the NDP candidate, agrees that working on developing a hospital with more services would only benefit Strathcona-Sherwood Park riding constituents.
“I think we’re on the precipice of exciting times in Alberta,” Tonita said.
The Strathcona-Sherwood Park riding’s borders are Anthony Henday to the west, Highway 16 to the north, the Camrose riding to the east, and the Maskwacis-Wetaskawin riding to the south. It covers mainly rural Alberta, including the unincorporated places of North Cooking Lake, Ardrossan, and Antler Lake.