A mass defection from the Wildrose Party and the killing of two soldiers on home soil were named the dominant news events of 2014 in an informal poll conducted in Red Deer.
It has been a turbulent year for Canadians, from the highs felt after an impressive performance in the Sochi Winter Olympic Games to the horror and sorrow felt after the murders in October of two Canadian soldiers — one in Quebec and the other in Ottawa.
Closer to home, the Red Deer region had a turbulent ride as well, including the announcement that the city would host the Canada Winter Games in 2019, along with Premier Jim Prentice’s reversal of an earlier decision to close the Michener Centre.
In conversations at Bower Place mall this week, the event that garnered the most comment was Wildrose leader Danielle Smith’s decision to cross the floor and join Prentice’s Conservative government.
It might not have been as bad if Smith had been the only one to go, said Fort McMurray resident Germain Routhier, a former supporter of the Wildrose Party. What really stung was that she took eight MLAs with her after making some strong comments about the two who crossed two weeks earlier, said Routhier.
“You find out that during the time when she was doing this, they were already talking together about moving over. What gives? What’s wrong with people? Either you’re out or you’re in.”
Germain said that he voted Wildrose in the last election, but was becoming more confident in the Conservatives under Prentice. However, with Smith’s defection, he doesn’t know who he can support.
Joining the conversation, Marie Routhier echoed her husband’s sentiments.
“I think it’s terrible. I don’t know how they expect us to vote next time. Now we’ve lost confidence, right? If it had been only her (Smith), it could have been forgiven. But when she brought so many with her, something’s wrong somewhere.”
Bentley resident Jim Raabis said he was most affected by the murders, two days apart, of Canadian soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo.
“It just bothered me that this could happen in Canada. We think we’re kind of a friendly people with lots of liberties.”
While he has not served in the military, Raabis said some of his uncles served in the Second World War and his wife’s nephew did two tours in Afghanistan.
The murders in October shatter a presumption of safety, said Raabis.
“You’re back on Canadian soil and you’re safe from all that, and then this happens. I guess the bubble’s burst, eh?”
John Rooke, general manager of Bower Place, also talked about the loss of a sense of security as a result of the murders.
“The Ottawa killing was pretty tragic and a scary thing for Canadians to see on home soil,” said Rooke.
“I think everyone sees terrorism as something that doesn’t happen in Canada or shouldn’t happen in Canada. I think it makes everyone feel uneasy and changes things a little bit for everyone.”
The murders “absolutely” affect the way he and his employer deal with security at the mall, said Rooke.
“Red Deer is still a nice quiet town, but we’re definitely on top of those kinds of scenarios, and we’ve got a lot of policies and procedures in place for security in the event some tragedy like that could ever happen,” said Rooke.
On a brighter front, Rooke said he is excited to see Red Deer’s population reaching 100,000 people and is “cautiously optimistic” that oil prices will rebound and stabilize.
“Alberta’s been chugging along pretty good the last couple of years,” he said.
Joffre residents Ryan Cameron said that while he enjoys the benefits of cheaper fuel, he also hopes the price of oil will recover because of the affect it is having on people who work in the oil and gas industry.
Kim Algar said the most important news for her was the decision to keep Michener Centre open and allow the return of those residents who had been moved out.
“My uncle has lived there. He was lucky enough to have people who advocated for him, so he was not moved out.”
Algar said she was saddened to hear about the impact on other people since March 2013, when the government of Alison Redford announced that the facility would be closed.
“The people who were moved out were offered the opportunity to move back. I feel it’s too little, too late,” said Algar.
The disappearance of a third passenger jet from Malaysia-based Air Asia topped the list for Charlene Stang and Eric Poulin of Red Deer.
“It makes you wonder: what’s going on?” said Stang.
She doesn’t fly much, but Poulin flies once or twice a year. He said the possibility of terrorist attacks are always in the back of his mind.
Wreckage and bodies from the plane that disappeared on Sunday are now being pulled from the water off the coast of Borneo.