There have been candidate forums in our communities this week as the provincial election looms near. Hopefully residents have taken full advantage of the face-to-face opportunities with their next member of the Legislative Assembly.
In rural Alberta, it's important to make sure that rural Alberta issues are addressed. At the very least, to make sure that the person representing the rural area is taking specific rural issues with them to the Legislature. While it's true that provincial issues have general effects on all Albertans, there are many specific issues that only affect rural residents, and without specific attention many of those issues can be over-shadowed or absorbed by provincial, national or global themes.
Healthcare challenges are a global issue, and doctor shortages are a national one, but when the Bonnyville Health Centre's emergency department is disrupted due to doctor shortages leading into a busy weekend, it becomes very, very personal if you live in the area.
Global warming is a polarizing issue grabbing headlines around the world. But when a blue-green algae alert is issued — before summer even begins — at a local lake, it gets localized pretty quickly.
And that's why we need to take every opportunity to keep our provincial representative close to our issues.
It's not that these newly-elected folks will forget about homeless issues in Lac La Biche, or the rising price of fuel at retail gas stations across the northeast, or specific infrastructure needs like subsidized culvert replacement funding in the County of St. Paul once they are elected, but they will be merging with localized concerns from all corners of the province — and they might get lost in the shuffle.
All too often, larger, often politically-polarized issues take the focus away from localized issues.
And while it may be true that these elected officials should automatically carry the wishes of their community members into the provincial theatre, community members need to help the process too. An onus also falls on local residents not to forget about their elected representative once they enter the provincial stage.
Like the opportunities to get face-to-face at this week's candidate forums, and the privilege to take part in the provincial vote on May 29, residents must continue to keep open channels with their elected officials. Constituency office visits and regular correspondence about local issues must continue in order for local issues to get attention. Face-to-face, personalized connection has to continue from both sides of the field.
Afterall, it's easier to hold someone accountable when you can hold them in your gaze.