LAKELAND - "I did kind of miss you guys," said St. Paul-based UCP MLA David Hanson with a laugh when asked about his continuing double-coverage of his own constituency and the Lac La Biche region following the resignation of former UCP MLA Laila Goodridge.
Hanson, the Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA was the previous MLA for the Lac La Biche area before boundary changes in 2019 extended the constituency northward towards Fort McMurray. Three years later, Hanson is once again the area's provincial helper since Goodridge resigned her Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA seat in August to make a successful run to be the region's federal representative in the national election.
"I think some people who have called me didn't realize that I hadn't been their MLA for a few years."
- Double-duty MLA Dave Hanson
Sharing a big area
Hanson is sharing the large Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche constituency with Fort McMurray area MLA Tany Yao, with Yao handling residents in the northern part of the 32,000 square kilometre jurisdiction.
Hanson admits the double-duty makes for a full schedule, but says he enjoys the challenge. He also says many of the calls coming in from the Lac La Biche area are similar to the ones he hears from the Bonnyville and St. Paul areas.
"We have so much in common across the Lakeland ... and what's funny is that I think some people who have called me didn't realize that I hadn't been their MLA for a few years," he said with a laugh.
Hanson and Yao are expected to be handling the provincial connection to the area until a by-election is called to replace Goodridge. A timeframe for when a by-election may be held is up to the Premier Jason Kenney. The Premier's office has made no formal announcements about a vote to elect a new MLA.
Not missing out
The absence of an actual MLA in the meantime won't affect provincial relations with the communities in the Lac La Biche area, assured Hanson, saying that he is visiting with local residents, attending functions and relaying information to provincial authorities on a regular basis.
"I'll be pushing for the Lac La Biche area just like I have been for the other areas," he said explaining that he has most recently been advocating for some Plamondon area residents, as well as hearing continuing concerns about the local fisheries.
"We share so many similar concerns and issues with our lakes. It's an important topic across the northeast," he said, adding that he recently brought the minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon to the region to hear directly from "the people who are on the lakes every day."
Whether it's fish populations, roads, healthcare, schools, or a community event needing a provincial greeting, Hanson says he is ready to listen to the residents of his extended constituency.
"Anything I get invited to, I'll be happy to attend, if I can," he said.