Spruce Grove and Stony Plain are municipalities outside of the Edmonton area. The Spruce Grove-Stony Plain provincial election riding was introduced in 2019 after a redraw of electoral boundary lines by the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission (AEBC). In the following provincial election, the riding ran blue and elected a newcomer candidate at the time: Searle Turton, who represented the newly formed United Conservative Party, an amalgamation of the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose parties.
This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.
For this upcoming election, Turton is running against newcomer candidates Chantal Saramaga-McKenzie for the Alberta New Democratic Party and Daniel Birrell for the Green Party. All current candidates have personal connections within the communities they are vying to represent; Turton and Saramaga-McKenzie are both residents and former city councilors for Spruce Grove, while Birrell resides in Stony Plain. As such, each candidate has unique insight into the issues their voters are concerned about which is not always true since anyone who runs as an MLA can choose an area to represent (Source: Elections Alberta). Another thing the candidates have in common? The door knocking strategy. Read below for some profiles and their most recent tweet about hitting the pavement.
Chantal Saramaga-McKenzie is the MLA hopeful for the Alberta NDP. She told the Spruce Grove Examiner: “My experience allows me to be a great leader and bring a lot to the table. People need to understand no matter whose in charge, I will represent them in the best way I can and push what Spruce Grove and Stony Plain need. I will always continue to look for ways we can be improving.”
Searle Turton is the incumbent UCP MLA for the riding. Turton stated he decided to enter provincial politics during his door knocking campaign for city council “I realized truly that our community was hurting there, looking for a voice that they could trust to help represent this area on the provincial side. And that’s why I decided to switch over to … put my name forward to run provincially”
Daniel Birrell is the MLA hopeful for the Green Party. Birrell entered into provincial politics for the Green party due to wanting “proper representation for Albertans. The bigger parties aren’t properly representing Albertans anymore so I wanted to step up and make change.”
The proximity of Spruce Grove and Stony Plain to Edmonton makes their issues closely connected to ones within the city. An instance termed by Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt as a “suburban-rural riding.” As such, the core issues within the upcoming election of healthcare and education are paramount within the municipalities.
Without a designated hospital in Spruce Grove, patients are often sent into Edmonton. Mayor William Choy of Stony Plain addressed the need for increased healthcare support and staffing regarding the backlog on regular care and processes to alleviate pressure from urgent cases.
“We still need better funding and how to address the non-emergency stuff… it’s kind of like a balloon, you keep filling with air, you keep on filling the issues there, it’s eventually going to burst. We’re going to have a huge problem if we don’t start addressing that and relieving some of the pressure.”
As for education, Spruce Grove-Stony Plain also represents the broader pattern in Alberta of academic achievement without the same degree of access to postsecondary and highschools as within the major cities. In our interview, Mayor Choy stated “Municipalities are a creation, or creature of the province” and in the case of Spruce Grove-Stony Plain, these municipalities also represent the wider Alberta demographic in voting patterns and educational pursuit. To maintain this standard, the riding needs more infrastructural access to education to accommodate the budding populations.
In the last two elections, Stony Plain had a higher voter turnout than Alberta. Mayor Choy also emphasized the importance of funding for education and healthcare in municipalities on a provincial level to “provide that quality of life for our residents and then also recreation. When you focus on health care, it’s also about mental health and physical activity as well. So we need to start properly funding those things so that there [are] things for our residents to do”. Elements which are also relevant within bigger cities.
While Spruce Grove-Stony Plain is not a turning point riding, it is one which reflects the broader Alberta voting pattern and demographic. This is a riding about community and the values which should matter on any part of the political spectrum: access to necessities and increased quality of life.