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Alberta gets 2015 spring election

The race to replace Genia Leskiw as the Lakeland's representative at the Alberta Legislature is officially underway after Premier Jim Prentice last week confirmed that a provincial election would take place next month.
Scott Cyr (Wildrose), Craig Copeland (PC) and Rob Fox (Alberta Party) will all be running in the next provincial election.
Scott Cyr (Wildrose), Craig Copeland (PC) and Rob Fox (Alberta Party) will all be running in the next provincial election.

The race to replace Genia Leskiw as the Lakeland's representative at the Alberta Legislature is officially underway after Premier Jim Prentice last week confirmed that a provincial election would take place next month.

Following weeks of speculation and hot on the heels of the unveiling of the groundbreaking 2015 provincial budget, Prentice made the announcement that almost everybody expected during a short speech in Edmonton last Tuesday (April 7), declaring Alberta would be going to the polls on May 5.

"Tough choices need to be made and our province needs a realistic plan to the immediate challenges that we face and also for the long term," Prentice told supporters last week. "I am asking Albertans for a mandate to implement the changes that this province needs so badly."

With current MLA Leskiw announcing earlier this year that she would be retiring at the end of her current term, Bonnyville - Cold Lake will have a new member in Edmonton come next month, with at least three candidates officially in the race to replace the 7-year veteran.

Current Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland will stand in as the PC candidate in the local constituency, with Cold Lake accountant Scott Cyr running for Wildrose. Rob Fox has been announced as the local Alberta Party candidate.

With the campaign trail now well and truly underway, local candidates say they are looking forward to getting out and meeting as many people as possible over the course of the next three weeks.

"This is a really exciting time," Copeland told the Nouvelle. "These next few weeks are going to be (pivotal) in the future of the province. I'm going to be doing my part as the local PC candidate to get out there and meet as many people as possible. I'm going to be talking budget, talking local issues and basically just getting the message out there (regarding) why people should vote for me."

Copeland announced he would be opening two campaign offices within the constituency - one in Bonnyville and one in Cold Lake, with the one in town set for a special opening this coming Friday.

While admitting that he was excited to kick off his campaign in the Lakeland, Wildrose candidate Cyr believes Prentice did the wrong thing in calling an election a year ahead of schedule.

"When all the dust settles, each of the opposition parties in Alberta has been caught off guard once again with an early election," Cyr said. "This is something they've done before and it's very distressing. (Premier) Prentice has created a $28 million election for no good reason other than to catch the opposition off guard once again."

Copeland praised the premier for making a decision he believes shows signs of "real leadership."

"I think the premier deserves an awful lot of credit for calling this election early," Copeland said. "He could have easily sat back and rested on his laurels for a year and waited this thing out, but him coming out and doing this after delivering a much-different budget than recent years shows he's focused on doing things differently."

He added, "This province is under new business. Kudos (to the premier) for deciding to go to the polls and have an election based on what his current platform is."

Each candidate said they would be doing a lot of door knocking over the course of the next three weeks, while each have informally committed to attending potential forum sessions in both Bonnyville and Cold Lake.

Having stuck with the PC's following what he described as a "rough" period over the past couple of years, Copeland said he was looking forward to potentially having the opportunity to represent this region in Edmonton.

"I've been with this party now for the past seven years, and I've stuck with it through thick and thin," Copeland said. "I think under Premier Prentice we have a very strong leader in place who has the skills we need right now as we face the reality of declining oil prices."

"I strongly believe this is the best party with a solid budget. We have sound principals and place a high priority on education and health. Hopefully the people will see that (when polls open on May 4.)"

Copeland wasn't the only one lauding a new leader, with Cyr stating his belief that brand-new Wildrose chief Brian Jean has "got what it takes" to lead the troubled party into a new era.

"As a party, I really, truly believe we're going to be okay," Cyr said. "We have a very strong leader in place now and it's just going to be a matter of moving this momentum we've got going forward."

He added, "My main message is going to be simply - by voting for anybody but Wildrose, you're voting for a tax increase. You're voting for things that are going to affect you both long-term and short-term.

"I've been living in this community now for 14-years. I have a good idea what's going on. I'm a person with a strong financial background, I'm someone this constituency can rely on."

The provincial election will be taking place on May 5. For more information, visit www.elections.ab.ca