Elec­tion Con­cern

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - VIN­CENT MCDER­MOTT vm­c­der­mott@post­media.com

Ru­ral res­i­dents de­mand clar­ity over ‘spe­cial in­ter­est groups’ term.

A Fort Chipewyan chief is ask­ing UCP Leader Ja­son Ken­ney to clar­ify his def­i­ni­tion of “spe­cial in­ter­est groups,” fear­ing the term refers to In­dige­nous vot­ers in ru­ral ar­eas.

On Tues­day, Chief Al­lan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Na­tion said the use of the term by Ken­ney and UCP by­elec­tion can­di­date Laila Goodridge is hit­ting a nerve with In­dige­nous vot­ers, many of whom have favoured NDP can­di­dates in re­cent pro­vin­cial elec­tions.

“The UCP and Ja­son Ken­ney should clar­ify what they mean when they say the NDP is tak­ing care of their spe­cial in­ter­est groups. What does that even mean?” he said.

“He should re­mem­ber it is In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and lead­ers who want a stake in the Trans Moun­tain project,” said Adam. “As ‘spe­cial in­ter­est groups,’ we’re the ones who want to help the gov­ern­ment push a pipe­line through.”

In an email, NDP can­di­date Jane Stroud said she has heard Adam’s con­cerns re­peated by many other res­i­dents dur­ing the cam­paign.

“I’ve spent a con­sid­er­able amount of time in In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and these com­mu­ni­ties want the same thing as any other Al­ber­tan - good jobs, schools and health­care,” she said. “I’m proud to have the en­dorse­ment of many In­dige­nous lead­ers, my ru­ral coun­cil­lor col­leagues at the RMWB and peo­ple frol all walks of life, both in and out of Fort Mcmur­ray.”

Chantelle Ta­tum, a Métis woman in Fort Mcmur­ray, says she feels the UCP sin­gle out marginal­ized groups the NDP have sup­ported when they use the term ‘spe­cial in­ter­est groups.’

“They have passed sev­eral leg­is­la­tions, like GSAS and Bill 9, that sup­port women and LGBT peo­ple. They are work­ing to­wards get­ting ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties run­ning wa­ter,” she said “The UCP seem to be against all that when talk­ing about ‘spe­cial in­ter­est groups.’”

Voter turnout dur­ing by­elec­tions are typ­i­cally low, par­tic­u­larly ones called in the sum­mer. All can­di­dates have said they are pre­dict­ing a low show­ing at the polls in Fort Mcmur­ray-con­klin.

Dur­ing vis­its to Fort Mcmur­ray, Ken­ney has warned con­ser­va­tive sup­port­ers that a “well or­ga­nized, hard core NDP” could win Thurs­day’s by­elec­tion if con­ser­va­tive vot­ers re­main com­pla­cent. He has also warned that an NDP cam­paign could use “spe­cial in­ter­est groups” to win.

When reached on Tues­day, Ken­ney de­nied he was re­fer­ring to First Na­tion or Métis peo­ple, ar­gu­ing his party and Goodridge’s cam­paign has at­tracted In­dige­nous sup­port­ers.

‘Not a racial state­ment’

“I want a pros­per­ous prov­ince for all Al­ber­tans,” he said. “Com­mu­ni­ties in Wood Buf­falo like Fort Mckay are part­ners in de­vel­op­ment, and there’s been huge ben­e­fits for the econ­omy. Lots of In­dige­nous vot­ers have started suc­cess­ful busi­nesses and are con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy.”

In­stead, Ken­ney said his use of “spe­cial in­ter­est groups” refers to or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Green­peace and 350.org, as well as the Al­berta Fed­er­a­tion of Labour and sym­pa­thetic union lead­ers.

“My con­cern is that a very small turnout in Fort Mcmur­ray could mean groups like that could have an im­pact,” he said. “If any­one is try­ing to turn this into a racial thing, that’s kind of sad and it’s not true.”

“This is not a racial state­ment this is about peo­ple who have been or­ga­niz­ing to at­tack our oil­sands,” added Goodridge.

Ta­tum points out those en­vi­ron­men­tal groups want the Trans Moun­tain ex­pan­sion not be built at all, while Adam says he has never heard a labour leader or or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ferred to as a “spe­cial in­ter­est group.”

“I don’t be­lieve the NDP is anti-oil­sands if they just in­vested in the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line,” said Ta­tum. “I don’t think they would be on the side of the provini­cal NDP.”

Fort Chipewyan invite of­fered

Ken­ney also said he would visit Fort Chipewyan if com­mu­nity lead­ers in­vited him for a meet­ing, while Adam says he is will­ing to meet him in the north­ern ham­let.

Stroud and Al­berta Party can­di­date Sid Fayad are the only by­elec­tion can­di­dates to visit Fort Chipewyan dur­ing the cam­paign, with Al­berta Party Leader Stephen Man­del the only party leader to visit.

Not­ley has yet to visit Fort Chipewyan, al­though In­dige­nous Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Richard Fee­han vis­ited in Fe­bru­ary. The last premier to visit was Jim Pren­tice in 2014.

“Pren­tice went out of his way to sit down with the abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple and the chiefs. He wanted to sort out all the prob­lems re­gard­ing land and court dis­putes. He was go­ing about this the right way,” he said. “He’s in­vited to come to Fort Chipewyan and un­der­stand what we’re all about… I want to hear it from him first-hand what he means by ‘spe­cial in­ter­est groups.’”

VIN­CENT MCDER­MOTT/FORT MCMUR­RAY TO­DAY/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Chief Al­lan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Na­tion poses for a photo with Coun­cil­lor Jane Stroud, mo­ments af­ter she was de­clared the Al­berta NDP'S Fort Mcmur­ray-con­klin by­elec­tion can­di­date at the Uni­for 707-A build­ing in Fort Mcmur­ray, Alta. on Thurs­day, May 10, 2018.

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