The Lesser Slave Lake riding is one of the largest electoral districts in terms of geographic size in Alberta. The riding consists mainly of small communities, boasting a population of under 30,000 people and stretches over four different municipalities.
Georgie Gauthier has lived in the town of Slave Lake for the last 15 years and owns a local bakery, Fix. Gauthier finds the community very welcoming.
“It’s good for business, we find that people are supportive.”
This year, UCP candidate Scott Sinclair and NDP candidate Danielle Larivee are both trying to gather the support from smaller communities across the riding.
In 2015, Pearl Calahasen ended her 27-year run as the Lesser Slave Lake PC MLA when the NDP’s Larivee won the election with 43 per cent of the vote.
In 2019, UCP candidate Pat Rehn won against Danielle Larivee with 57.7 per cent of the vote.
This year, UCP candidate Scott Sinclair will be running against Larivee, who is attempting to win back the seat she held for the NDP in 2015.
Sinclair won the UCP nomination in February by five votes, beating out three other candidates.
Sinclair grew up in the Slave Lake area and owns a business in Sherwood Park. Sinclair met with Premier Danielle Smith earlier this year, in March, to discuss improving healthcare and making sure the voices of Northern Albertans are heard.
He did not respond to multiple requests for comment. However, Sinclair looks to retain the seat for the UCP after Rehn came under public criticism during his 2019 candidacy—most notably his absence in the community and a trip to Mexico during the pandemic. Rehn was then ejected out of the UCP by former Premier Jason Kenney, but reinstated as an independent MLA in 2021 after working to rebuild trust with the community. Although announced in January that he would not be running again.
This election, Larivee is back trying to reclaim a seat for the NDP.
Larivee is also a longtime resident of the Slave Lake area and was appointed as the Minister for the Status of Women in 2018. After losing the 2019 election, Larivee became the First Vice President of United Nurses of Alberta. She has been going door-to-door in the Lesser Slave Lake area, and notes that residents are worried about the cost of living and health care.
This story is part of an editorial partnership between the Calgary Journal and MacEwan University journalism.
Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt notes that affordability and healthcare are the top concerns for Albertans in general.
“This is in stark contrast to the lead-up to the 2019 election, where the focus was on oil and gas, the economy, and jobs.”
Larivee says that there is a noticeable shortage of healthcare workers in Northern Alberta. The NDP proposed in March that they would spend $150 million a year to increase the number of healthcare professionals in Alberta. The UCP also announced in March that they would be investing hundreds of millions into healthcare and $105 million over the next three years specifically to revitalize rural health facilities.
“Realistically, nobody wants to live in a place where there’s not healthcare and there’s not quality education. Nobody wants to bring their families to a place like that, or even themselves when it comes to healthcare,” said Larivee.
“I believe that it’s important that we do the work of having a solid economic plan to move that forward so that Alberta can be successful well into the future.”