Lac La Biche County Mayor Omer Moghrabi's usual political partners weren't with him at the Hylo Harvest Days celebration over the weekend thanks to some political shuffling in the region late last week.
Two years ago, Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche provincial UCP MLA Laila Goodridge was throwing tractor tires in the Harvest Queen competition, and Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative MP David Yurdiga was known to sample the rural fun of the annual event, walking side-by-side with Moghrabi through the family-themed events. This year, the federal and provincial politicians weren't there.
"I did miss them. I felt alone this year," said Moghrabi with a laugh after Goodridge and Yurdiga announced late last week they would no longer be serving in the provincial and federal roles they have held.
No comments from Yurdiga or Goodridge
Although Yurdiga has yet to respond to requests for an interview from Lakeland This Week, reports have confirmed that he will not be running in the next federal election slated for late September. Yurdiga has been the region's federal representative since 2014. Goodridge, who has been the area's MLA since 2018, quit that role last week, announcing on social media she her sights set on federal politics and will be the riding's Conservative candidate in the Monday, September 20 federal election. Goodridge was reportedly appointed as a candidate by Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, and is already featured on the federal party's candidate website, complete with her own website links for fundraising and campaign details. Like Yurdiga, Goodridge has yet to respond to interview requests about her recent political move.
With no word from Yurdiga or Goodridge, Moghrabi was asked if the absence of the federal and provincial representatives would affect Lakeland residents in the short-term? He doesn't think so. Despite the area's federal representative not planning to return, and the provincial representative out of the picture on a federal election campaign, Moghrabi told Lakeland Today on Sunday that local residents shouldn't fear political isolation.
"We have local municipal governments that can handle these changes," he said, explaining that municipal governments are the closest to the electorate in any riding, and connections to other levels of government will continue. "It will still be business as usual for us. We will still be able to engage both the federal and provincial if we need."
For matters requiring urgent political or federal contact, Moghrabi said municipal officials can directly contact political officials including department ministers. He also directly referenced neighbouring UCP MLAs Dave Hanson in the Lakeland constituency and Tany Yao in the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo constituency as people who could assist during the transition.
Moghrabi will run again
The Lac La Biche County mayor, who confirmed his own re-election plans over the weekend, says that while Yurdiga won't be running again, he understands that the MP will still be available for federal-themed issues until the election
Admitting he didn't know about the MP's decision to resign until media reports announced it, Moghrabi wished Yurdiga and his family well. He offered the same for Goodridge.
The Lac La Biche County Mayor wasn't the only one taken by surprise with the political shuffle.
Conservative board calls appointment "undemocratic"
The Fort McMurray-Cold Lake Conservative Electoral District Association (EDA) issued a terse statement against Goodridge's candidacy just a day after she left her MLA post.
The association's membership normally selects a candidate for the riding, stated the letter, penned by a group saying they represent the board members of the EDA. The statement that was sent to media outlets last Friday, says Goodridge's appointment as the candidate is not democratic.
"The EDA does not support or recognize the undemocratic appointment of the current candidate. This appointment severely undermines the fundamental values of conservatives and everyone’s constitutional right to democracy," states the letter. "Our constituents were cheated of the opportunity to democratically select their candidate and were forced by the by the party on who will represent them. Many qualified candidates were not given the opportunity to apply nor were their conservative views vetted by the local Board."
According to the EDA's website, the association's president is Darryl Shott. According to federal records, Shott is also the constituency assistant for MP Yurdiga.
Email requests to the EDA president for interviews regarding this story were not returned by the initial editorial deadline.
ROABA prez running for federal seat
While no official information has been issued by the provincial government, a date for a provincial by-election is expected to be announced soon.
The federal seat vacated by Yurdiga will have several candidates competing in the Sept 20 election, including two from the Lac La Biche area. Goodridge will be up against Peoples Party of Canada candidate Shawn McDonald, the current president of the Lac La Biche-based Resource One Aboriginal Business Association, as well as Lac La Biche's Brian Deheer for the Green Party. Other candidates include Jonathan Meyers from the new, Prairie-based Maverick Party and Abdifatah Abdi with the Liberal party.
In the last federal election, Yurdiga won the seat with more than 79 per cent of the vote. Going back 50 years to the 1968 federal election, the Fort McMurray region has consistently voted in Conservative, Reform or Alliance candidates.
A recent post on Goodridge's social media page says the expectant first-time mom is within three weeks of her due date.
According to media reports, Yurdiga has decided to step away from politics due to personal medical issues.
Letter from EDA
Fort McMurray – Cold Lake Electoral District Association (EDA)
Official Board Press Statement
The Fort McMurray-Cold Lake EDA does not support or recognize the undemocratic appointment of the current candidate. This appointment severely undermines the fundamental values of conservatives and everyone’s constitutional right to democracy. Our constituents were cheated of the opportunity to democratically select their candidate and were FORCED by the by the party on who will represent them. Many qualified candidates were not given the opportunity to apply nor were their conservative views vetted by the local Board.
Conservatives support grass roots democracy and this EDA always has. We have an elected Board and a paid membership that demands the right to choose their representative and expects our conservative policies and principles be upheld at all times.
Our Board is experienced, has a healthy bank account from being active throughout the years, and is fully capable of vetting candidates and running a nomination contest within a tight timeframe in as little as one week. There is no need to appoint a Candidate. We can appreciate appointments when a board is not in place or when a board cannot run a contest within a tight timeline, or when there are no candidates who have expressed interest. However, our Board within hours of the notice of Mr. Yurdiga's resignation, we received requests for nomination packages from several outstanding and credible candidates, and the Board organized themselves to start the nomination process and contacted the Party accordingly.
We were appalled upon receiving notification of the appointment and notice citing Section 13 Abridgement of the Rules per the Rules and Procedures for Candidate Nominations, that is not subject to appeal and their decision was final, to challenge or review, on any grounds whatsoever. We were completely blindsided. There was no discussion or consultation from the Party with our Board on any level.
The Federal Party has failed to not only consult its conservative membership and the Board but has also grossly failed its conservative values and principles. It has been made abundantly clear that YOUR voice does not matter despite the Party continually promoting itself as a grassroots organization including most recently in the press release on this very matter.
Far too many men and women died defending our Canadian constitution and no one has the singular right to ignore or customize those rights afforded to all Canadians by the actions of our fallen men and women.
“We have not abandoned the party; however, the party has abandoned us.” Per Section 15 of the EDA Constitution “It shall be the duty of the Board of Directors to uphold and enforce the provisions of the EDA Constitution.” Let it be known, our local grassroots EDA Board of Fort McMurray Cold Lake, stood for our membership, our constitution, and democracy till the end, and will always stand for what is right and ethical.
Fort McMurray – Cold Lake Board EDA