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    Categories: Provincial Election

St. Albert: education among major issues

St. Albert could be considered a swing riding. The question is will it have swung again when the dust settles on May 5?

The riding, which has been around for decades in one form or another, encompasses most of the city, minus the northwest corner.

The last two MLAs for this riding have been Progressive Conservatives – Stephen Khan was elected in 2011, and Ken Allred in 2008.

But it’s gone back and forth between PC MLAs and other parties since the Tories first swept to power in 1971, including PC MLA Ernest Jamison’s victory.

Jamison was succeeded by Myrna Fyfe, also a PC, but the riding was lost to the NDP in 1986, regained by the PCs in 89, lost to Liberal Len Bracko in 1993, back to the Tories with Mary O’Neill for two terms, from 1997-2004 and Liberal Jack Flaherty won in 2004.

Prior to 1971, the seat was held by a variety of parties, such as the Social Credit, the Liberals, United Farmers and even some independents.

The City of St. Albert has a fast growing group in its 50-plus crowd. About 22.4 per cent of the residents here are between the ages of 50 and 64, while another 14.77 per cent are 65 or more, the city’s 2014 municipal census says.

There are young families here, too. About 20 per cent of the population falls between the ages of five and 19. They’re in the new neighbourhoods such as Erin Ridge North, one of the fastest growing parts of St. Albert, but also in one of its oldest neighbourhoods, Grandin.

There are lots of commuters in St. Albert, with 63.5 per cent of employed St. Albertans working outside of the city. The census said 50 per cent of all working St. Albertans work in Edmonton.

Most people own their homes in this city, and most of the units are single-family detached dwellings.

There are five candidates running to be MLA in St. Albert. Incumbent PC MLA Stephen Khan, Marie Renaud for the NDP, Shelley Biermanski for the Wildrose, Bill Alton for the Liberals and Trevor Love for the Alberta Party.

Many of them mentioned education upon being asked about issues in the riding.

Khan’s proud to point out that in his term, there’s been four new schools promised for St. Albert as well as modernizations for others. He points out the last new school was built in Heritage Lakes about a decade ago, and the last new St. Albert Public Schools building was about 20 years ago.

“We’ll have new teachers, we’ll have new administrators for those classrooms,” Khan said.

Love said there have been four schools announced, but not much progress on the actual construction.

“That’s job No. 1, to get that up to par,” he said.

Renaud noted many younger families are concerned about overcrowding at schools, as well as other issues around supports for families.

“It really depends on where you go,” Renaud said of the important issues in this riding. She and Biermanski both noted the mix of issues, which can switch depending on the age of the voters. Older voters are worried about seniors issues, young families on education and family supports, and the common denominator among many voters is health care.

Khan said St. Albert is a microcosm of the province, where education, health care and seniors care are the three top issues. He highlighted PC achievements in health care and senior care, including an expansion to North Ridge Lodge here.

Alton said growth of infrastructure for both education and health care has not kept pace with Alberta’s influx of residents.

“We run along as if we had a stable population and a stable growth and we don’t,” Alton said, noting the same problem seems to be present in many of the province’s communities.

Some candidates mentioned transportation infrastructure such as Ray Gibbon Drive as well. Love, who uses the road every day, said the traffic problems there need to be addressed.

“I think a lot of people live here that work in Edmonton,” Love said.

Biermanski said many in St. Albert need relief from overtaxing. She also wants to see government spending become more transparent to the general public.

“I’d like to see a clarified view of where those dollars are going,” she said.

St. Albert Gazette: The St. Albert Gazette has been the source for news and community information in St. Albert and area since 1961. Today the twice-weekly full-colour tabloid delivers award-winning journalism in print, online and on mobile.