Opinion: Let’s be heard ‘loud and clear’ during provincial election campaign

By David Marsden

During the banquet for Sunday’s Boston Bruins alumni game, NHL great Brian Sutter spoke about the important connection between trust and respect.

The two qualities are connected and are at the core of any team’s success, he told his attentive Red Deer audience.

Our politicians should take Sutter’s sage advice to heart. Candidates in the provincial election that was announced Tuesday, regardless of their partisan stripe, can learn a lesson from Sutter, who has been acknowledged as one of the league’s best coaches.

Thankfully, there’s increasing attention being paid to shortcomings in the city, both when it comes to the ability of our hospital to care for central Albertans and the provision of shelter for the region’s homeless.

“This year we will move forward with a badly needed expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital,” the government said boldly in Monday’s throne speech.

“This work will expand the emergency room, establish a cardiac catheterization lab, and expand other services to ensure this vital part of central Alberta is ready to care for generations of patients and families.”

Similarly, the NDP has pledged $7 million toward a 120-bed, 24-hour shelter for the homeless and those struggling with addictions.

“We heard loud and clear that Red Deer urgently needs more shelter space and support to meet the needs of the community’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir earlier this month.

But really? Red Deer has needed such support for years, and Mayor Tara Veer, along with others, has been a strong advocate for such investments, whether it’s better hospital care or a roof over the heads of those who have nowhere else to go.

The NDP’s sudden acknowledgement of these deficiencies is wonderful, but it smacks of politicking. Instead of responding to community needs when they were apparent, the party was quite happy to let the region languish.

Now that an election is weeks away, our pleas have been “heard loud and clear,” we’re told.

Central Albertans should hold candidates to task in the days before the April 16 vote. For too long, a thriving economic and cultural region has been left to languish, regardless of which party has held power.

The NDP only formed government in 2015, and to its credit, it provided financing for the interchange at the junction of the Queen Elizabeth Highway and Gaetz Avenue. It doesn’t have a monopoly on shortchanging the region: the Tories did the same thing when they held the reins of power.

The plums of public spending have too often flowed to Edmonton or Calgary, or even Lethbridge, rather than Red Deer and the surrounding area.

The absence of a central Alberta voice in cabinet is proof of the dismissive way in which we’ve been treated, but the pattern has persisted for years.

As Sutter so ably articulated Sunday, respect and trust are forever intertwined. Voters should be looking for proof of such character as the election unfolds.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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