County off to the races

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Storseth faces Liberals and NDP; Greens, CHP pending

At least two candidates are hoping to boot Brian Storseth from his Westlock-St. Paul office in this election and two others might be waiting in the wings.

County candidates hit the campaign trail Saturday after Gov. Gen. David Johnston dissolved Parliament and called an election at the request of Conservative leader Stephen Harper. Harper made the request after his party was defeated in a confidence vote in the House of Commons Friday.

Running again for the Conservatives in Sturgeon County is Brian Storseth, the region’s Conservative member of Parliament since 2006. He snagged 73 per cent of the vote in the last election.

Storseth, a 33-year-old former businessman and town councillor, says he’s proud of how his party has seen Canada through the recent recession. Canada was the third-best economy amongst the G7 headed into it, he says, and ranked first by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development coming out of it. “That’s a tremendous accomplishment.”

Storseth says he’s helped bring a considerable number of grants to his riding, some of which helped fund new floors and roofs for seniors’ centres. In addition to his work on the agriculture and justice committees, Storseth says he lobbied hard for drought relief funds and helped create a regional doctors’ recruitment board. “Now, new South African doctor graduates will again qualify to come to Alberta to practise medicine.”

This election is going to be a debate about the Conservatives’ most recent budget, Storseth says. “It has money for seniors in there, money for firefighters … these are things that are very important for our area.”

Two (four?) challengers

This year’s Liberal challenger is Rob Fox, an oil and gas worker with a wife and four kids. He takes over from Leila Houle, who earned nine per cent of the vote in 2008.

Born and raised on a farm near Bonnyville, Fox, 54, says he grew up as a “Peter-Lougheed conservative.”

“In today’s political spectrum, Peter Lougheed would be a Liberal.”

The Conservatives have moved away from Lougheed’s roots, Fox says, and now lean far to the right. “It’s no longer [so much]about people as it is about ideology and corporations.”

Canada has gone from being one of the world’s best places to live to an “also-ran,” he says. “We used to have foreign policy. Now, [our foreign policy is], ‘Well, we’re going to follow what Washington is going to do.'”

Fox says he’s already visited some 11,000 homes in the riding, and hopes to get more people out to vote. “What kind of Canada do we want?”

It will be tough to unseat Storseth, he says, but he hoped to win over the more progressive voters that dominate most communities. “We’ll give people a real viable alternative.”

Edmonton resident Lyndsey Henderson is running for the NDP in the county. Her predecessor, Della Drury, got 10 per cent of the vote for the NDP in the 2008 election.

An office manager with the Friends of Medicare, Henderson grew up near Lac La Biche and has previously worked for provincial NDP MLAs Rachel Notley and Dave Eggen.

Henderson, 24, says she decided to run after years of watching federal dollars pour into big cities at the expense of rural ridings. “It’s important to have a voice for rural Albertans.” It’ll be an uphill battle running against Storseth, she says, but she hoped to give people an alternative to him.

The Green Party was in the process of nominating a candidate for Westlock-St. Paul, says riding representative Craig Hellquist, and expected to have someone declared within a week. Aden Murphy earned the party seven per cent of the vote in 2008.

Sip Hofstede earned one per cent of the vote for the Christian Heritage Party in 2008. He did not plan to run in this election, he says, but his party was looking for a candidate.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.