September 28th, 2021

Local Liberal candidate hopes to bolster bonds with Ottawa

By COLLIN GALLANT on September 14, 2021.

The Liberal candidate in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner says Western Canada has the had ear of the previous government, but there needs to be a greater dialogue between the two sides and relationship building.

Hannah Wilson, 25, most recently worked with finance minister and deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, specializing in a western Canadian desk that summarized Western issues and provided advice to the ministry.

She told the News that the prairie economy and Westerners are important to the party, though “it’s difficult when you don’t have Liberal (MPs)” in the area.

“I hope that will change this time around, but the government has proved a number of times that Alberta and Saskatchewan are very important,” she said.

“There’s a general uneasiness that folks on the prairies have about the global transition. Alberta can be a leader, and I know the (Liberal) government sees that as well.”

Wilson cited the federal government’s taking over of the TransMountain Pipeline expansion, a recent $2-billion jobs training fund for displaced oil workers, and the fact that Alberta received more money per capita than any other province owing to an economic double-whammy caused by COVID and world oil prices in 2020.

Still, her party trails in the polls. The Conservatives are likely to win the vast majority of seats in the two provinces and even a Western Canadian-based Maverick Party has formed to promote issues. Alberta will hold a referendum next month in a show of opposition to the equalization program.

“It’s up to us to overcome that misunderstanding… there’s a pre-emptive fear about the world Liberal in Western Canada,” said Wilson.

“It’s important to recognize Albertans are facing a lot of hardship because so much of the economy is tied to the price of oil. Alberta’s been receiving massive whiplash over the past 10-plus years, and the best way to overcome criticism – that I don’t agree with – is to listen and understand that fear is coming for a real place and working together.

“I don’t think we need more divide or polarization in this country.”

Wilson, 25, grew up in Calgary and says members of her extended family are farmers and ranchers. She studied at Queens University before joining the federal party.

Advanced voting ended Monday ahead of the general election on Monday, Sept. 20.

Also running in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner (in reverse alphabetical order) are Jocelyn Stenger (NDP), Geoff Shoesmith (Maverick Party), Glen Motz (Conservative), Brodie Heidinger (People’s Party) and Diandra Bruised Head (Green).

In general terms, she points to the recent childcare strategy, work on First Nations issues and the Liberals’ raft of COVID support programs as national issues in her party’s favour.

Specifically for Western Canada, she says a national hydrogen strategy announced this term and the recent budget’s inclusion of carbon capture tax credits are positives.

In 2020, the government set aside $1.7 billion for oil-producing provinces, including $1 billion for Alberta, to help tackle a backlog of oil and gas well abandonment and keep oil services companies operating in a downturn.

During the recent parliament, the government also split the Western Economic Diversification portfolio into two distinct offices for the Prairies and British Columbia. Wilson said that goal is to give greater focus to each.

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