Calgary

Shannon Phillips gets applause in Lethbridge on Bighorn, politics

With an election on the horizon, some voters in Lethbridge are already looking for answers ahead of a vote that is likely months away.

The Lethbridge-West MLA spoke to a welcoming crowd about the choice in 2019

Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips speaks with the media during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

With an election on the horizon, some voters in Lethbridge are already looking for answers ahead of a vote that is likely months away.

And while the city nestled in southern Alberta voted for an NDP government in 2015 the two orange ridings were surrounded by municipalities voting for the Wild Rose. 

It's too early to tell if the NDP will keep their hold in the windy city, but on Thursday at the weekly Southern Alberta Council of Public Affairs (SACPA) lunch the crowd seemed receptive to Shannon Phillips, the Lethbridge-West MLA.

The group meets over lunch every week, first listening to a speaker on the chosen topic, then after dessert come the questions.

Laurie Schulz comes almost every week, she's retired. She said so far she hasn't heard a platform from the United Conservative Party, and she trusts that will come in the next few weeks. 

But from every party she hears from, she wants to know the facts and is diligent about checking sources and finding out information beyond headlines. 

'Getting the facts'

"As a mother and a grandmother I'm more concerned now than I have ever been about all of us not checking out the facts, not getting the facts and I just don't think we have that luxury anymore of just angrily expressing an opinion," she said. "Whether it's TransMountain pipeline, energy, women's rights." 

She said Phillips' speech had good information in it, but it's clear there are some disagreements between the parties vying to rule Alberta.

Some believe the event is a good temperature gauge that gives a sense of what voters might be thinking heading into an election. But according to political science expert Duane Bratt, the room isn't typically a true cross-section of the Lethbridge population. 

Applause for the Environment Minister

Bratt says if the NDP can't hold on to their seat in Lethbridge-West, their hope to keep any ground in the rest of the region is lost.

"If Phillips can't win, they won't win anything," he said. "But just because she does won't mean her coattails will carry others on there."

He says the SACPA is filled with members who are engaged and who vote. 

His assessment of SACPA checked out at the event. Phillips was applauded on several points, including statements she made about the controversial Bighorn project — especially when she said Albertans want the government to protect nature.

Questions about Bighorn

"Local groups asked us for this thing," said Phillips. "There's been a lot of lightning in the sky around that — we can look at how we want to tweak those boundaries, or not do a public land use zone at all, if people just want anarchy out there that's an option open to that area." 

To the media and in her speech, she painted a picture of two "fundamentally" different visions for Alberta. 

Phillips highlighted health care, building schools, giving teachers jobs and talked about the United Conservative Government, specifically Jason Kenney, and his plans to privatize healthcare and cut spending. 

"We are standing up for human rights and we're really fighting for Albertans," Phillips said. "In Jason Kenney's vision what we have is a massive tax cut for the very richest among us, the millionaires, so we can finance cuts to healthcare, education and other services — it's really a question of priorities."

About the Author

Helen Pike

Reporter

Helen Pike joined CBC Calgary as a reporter in 2018 after spending four years working as a print journalist focusing on urban issues and municipal affairs. You can find her on Twitter @helenipike.

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