Photo: Premier Rachel Notley and MLA Colin Piquette at an event in Athabasca in 2017 (source: Facebook)
New Democratic Party MLA Colin Piquette announced in a post on Facebook this week that he will not be seeking re-election when the writ is dropped. Piquette has represented the Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater district since 2015 and had previously announced plans to seek re-election in the sprawling new Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock district.
Concerns about the change in electoral boundaries and the geographic size of the new district were a reason given for his decision against running in the expected spring election:
“As it stands now my present riding is “only” 13,000 sqr km in size and laid out on a north-south access to Edmonton making it possible to visit communities on my way back and forth to meetings in the city. The new riding come this spring will be almost double that size spread west to east. For perspective, this is about half the size of Nova Scotia and just a little smaller than Belgium. That’s a lot of territory for one person to have to cover on a regular basis. I made no secret of my concerns over the electoral boundary changes and the negative impact they would have on effective rural representation. But I always somehow expected that if they did come to pass I would find a way to overcome the challenges they posed and make it work. However, as the election has drawn closer and campaign preparations have begun in earnest I realize just how much serving these new boundaries would demand, and not only of me. I just can’t see how to do this without an unacceptable degree of sacrifice from my family.”
Piquette raised concerns about the boundary changes when they were debated in the Assembly in 2017 and he and West Yellowhead MLA Eric Rosendahl were the only NDP MLAs to vote against changes recommended by Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission. The changes recommended by the commission significantly altered the boundaries of the electoral districts they represent.
Had he run for re-election, Piquette would have faced United Conservative Party MLA Glenn van Dijken, who was elected to represent Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock in 2015 and is standing for re-election in the new district. His decision not to seek re-election is not surprising. A path to a second term for Piquette, and most other rural NDP MLAs, would be extremely challenging as it is unlikely that this new district will be brimming with NDP voters in 2019. This is not a reflection on Piquette or his record as an MLA, but of the current prevailing political winds in rural Alberta.
Piquette is the former president of the Boyle District Chamber of Commerce and director with the Boyle and District Agricultural Society. He worked as a university instructor and an insurance agent representing the Cooperators in Athabasca and Boyle before his election.
Piquette is the 11th NDP MLA to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2019. A total of 19 MLAs are not seeking re-election.
Here are some of the latest updates to the list of candidates running in Alberta’s upcoming provincial election:
Kelly Mandryk was nominated as the NDP candidate in Calgary-North on February 4, 2019. Mandryk is a Senior Service Representative with Great West Life and is a former journalist and editor, having worked at the Barrhead Leader and Calgary Herald.
Stephen Drover is seeking the NDP nomination in Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. Drover is a trustee with the Fort McMurray Public School Board and was the NDP candidate in this district in 2015, earning 30.42 percent of the vote. He is an oil sands operator and member of Unifor Local 707-A. The NDP have scheduled a nomination contest in this district on February 17, 2019.
Gulshan Akter is seeking the NDP nomination in Calgary-West. Akter is the managing director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Education and President and CEO of the Peerless Training Institute, a government-accredited private career college in Calgary.
The NDP have scheduled candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud on February 7, 2019, and in Calgary-West, Cypress-Medicine Hat, and Edmonton-South West on February 9, 2019. The UCP is holding nomination votes in Calgary-North and Lethbridge-East on February 9, 2019 (I hope to have updates about these two UCP contests posted tomorrow).