Government needs to 'pay attention' as election talk comes to southern Alberta salon chairs

There are some things you just don't talk about at a hair salon.

There are things you just don't talk about at a hair salon and politics tops that list

Wendy Shingoose, left, gives Anne Mackay a trim at Image Hair Design in Okotoks. (Helen Pike/CBC)

There are some things you just don't talk about at a hair salon.

Typically you wouldn't talk sex, religion or politics in the chair, but last week CBC News was invited to pick off one of the taboo topics at Image Hair Design in Okotoks.

Wendy Shingoose eggs on her clients, asking them to talk to the reporter with a camera setup. 

She says it's important and she's eager to talk.

The salon is in the Highwood Riding just south of Calgary and has gone to Progressive Conservative candidates for years. 

In 2012, Danielle Smith won the riding as a Wildrose candidate and the party's leader before crossing the floor in 2014. Smith lost her Progressive Conservative nomination in 2015 and Wayne Anderson, a Wildroser, won the election.

This election, Anderson lost the United Conservative Party nomination to RJ Sigurdson

And on the NDP side, Erik Overland, a 19-year-old student is running in the conservative-friendly riding. 

The Alberta Party doesn't have a candidate listed, and the Liberals don't either. 

'Notley is dogging it'

Many of Shingoose's clients, while they mention the need to build a pipeline, to get it built, don't want to be on camera, use their names or talk to the media on the record. 

"To me, it's a no brainer that you should have a pipeline," Shingoose said. "If bill C-69 goes through it will make it impossible to get pipelines built and that's what Trudeau is trying to put through, and I feel like Rachel Notley is dogging it because she could go against it, but that's just my opinion." 

She's cutting a man's hair and laughs as she invites him to jump in with his opinion.

Shingoose says a lot of her customers come in and talk politics. 

Wendy Shingoose cuts hair and talks politics in her Okotoks salon. (Helen Pike/CBC)
"I don't want the good old boys back, that's for sure" - Anne  Mackay  

And it's something she's interested in, so she talks about it while she shaves, snips and shapes hair. 

On Friday she has a full book of appointments back to back. 

After a few shy customers, Anne Mackay sits in the chair and cheerfully asks what we're talking about. She's about to go for a month's vacation in Maui and needs a trim. 

Mackay says she likes what Notley has done on the social side, but everything comes back to the economy. 

"I'm not sure anybody in the same situation would have been any better you know, because it's been a very difficult time to be premier," Mackay says. "I don't think she's done a bad job given the time." 

'The government needs to pay attention to us'

She says not only the economy but having a government that understands the differences between rural economy and the urban centres. 

It's something that was brought up at the Mid-sized city Mayors' and CAOs' Caucus — a funding model and approach that fits Calgary and Edmonton won't work in smaller jurisdictions. But they all have similar needs to bigger cities. 

"The government needs to pay attention to us," she said. "There's lots of us." 

She talks about infrastructure, deplorable highways, and bureaucracy. And, as some have expressed, she says she's torn about the choice in 2019. 

"I don't want the good old boys back, that's for sure." 

'It was more of a protest vote'

At the far end of the salon that afternoon Rob Laird sits down at the chair and Misty Shingoose drapes her black cape over and snaps it at the nape of his neck.

She grabs a comb and a buzzer and he gets right into it. 

"Well, the times will improve as soon as they call the election — and the province of Alberta comes back to their senses," he says. "When they elected the NDP government, in my opinion … it was more of a protest vote." 

Misty Shingoose, left, gives Rob Laird a trim and they talk about the provincial election ahead. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Laird says under the current government the economy has suffered, and a different leader would change that. 

"We wouldn't have come to the point where we are right now in this desperate situation," he said. 

Laird and Shingoose talk about the small businesses in Okotoks, the mom and pop shops having to shut down. 

For Laird, small municipalities like Okotoks are feeling the down economy, and he says the provincial government simply isn't handling any of those effects in a way that would get people back to work.

Nostalgic for the good old Alberta

And then the conversation turns to a nostalgic time when Laird says the enthusiasm in the province of Alberta has been sucked right out. 

He recalls the Olympics in 1988, how the Russian figure skating team trained at the Murray Arena. 

"The town was abuzz with excitement," he said. "Fast forward to where we are now and the City of Calgary and the government of Alberta couldn't even come together for a bid, in fact, they cancelled it — that was terrible." 

He says he was hoping the Olympic legacy could come back, and help the next generation of kids — just like in 1988. For him, Ralph Klein went out, and he got the Olympics for Alberta — this time that didn't happen.

Shingoose brushes the white hair off Laird's shoulders and says the cut looks perfect. 

"Why mess with perfection?" he laughs.


Helen Pike


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.