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Tuesday , 5 July 2022

MLA Hanson not surprised by Kenney stepdown; believes rural voices were heard

Hanson said he will also seek the nomination from the area in the upcoming 2023 election.

MLA Dave Hanson says it’s been an interesting two weeks following the count of the UCP leadership confidence vote and the subsequent announcement of Premier Jason Kenney stepping down.

The representative from Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul sat down with Lakeland Connect on Wednesday to discuss how these turbulent times have gone.

Hanson believes that rural Alberta spoke in this review. In the months leading up to the vote, Hanson had been critical of Kenney’s leadership style, and he says he’s looking forward to the leadership race.

“I wasn’t surprised that he actually stepped down because previous premiers have stepped down with lower than 70 percent and some with over 70 percent,” said Hanson. “I wasn’t really surprised that that he only got 51 percent. 

“We’ve actually seen an uptick in popularity [since], which doesn’t surprise me. I tried to push that message to leadership and to Mr. Kenney for the last 18 months, two years, that they need to do some work, especially in rural Alberta. It wasn’t all just about COVID. It was about some of the other policies and decisions and just the general governance. So I wasn’t too surprised.” 

So far, three people, including Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche MLA Brian Jean, Danielle Smith, and former Finance Minister Travis Toews, have said they will run for the party leadership.

Although no firm dates have been established, the UCP looks to have their leader by the end of October.

Hanson has not endorsed any one candidate but does have strong ties to Brian Jean.

“I don’t think it’s any secret. I’ve supported Brian for a long time. He’s a friend, a good friend; I worked very closely with him in the Wildrose party. I think he’s got recognition. Like I say, one of the important things for me is recognizing the importance of rural Alberta. Having a premier from Northeastern Alberta, oil country, I think that would be great,” he said. 

“It’s going to be all about unity. We need to unify the province behind a good leader. He’s gonna have to work on that for sure. Danielle Smith, I think she really softened up Albertans with her radio talk show. I think she got a lot of respect.

“A lot of people were angry with her, especially Wildrose people on the floor cross. And of course, that’s a baggage that she’s going to have to work through for sure.”

Hanson said he would not throw his hat in the leadership ring but confirmed that he would seek nomination in the Lakeland riding for the MLA seat. He highlighted some of the issues were Highway 28, physicians and healthcare, plus utility bills.

“We’ll be working to represent this area again. I think there’s a lot more work than we can do, and I’m starting to get some support for improving things in the north while I chaired the Northern Alberta Development Council as well,” said Hanson. 

“As I’ve said many, many times, 30 percent of the bitumen royalties come into this constituency alone, so I want to see that recognition when it comes to access to health care and infrastructure like Highway 28.

“One of the key issues that I’m going to be promoting with whoever I support…if you think COVID was bad, deal with utility bills. It’s a huge, huge issue. I get calls from seniors saying, I want to stay in my home as long as I can, but I can’t afford to because of utility bills. So I’ve come up with a little bit of a program I presented to cabinet to use our surplus to take care of the overburden, the overbilling and some of the expenses.

“Another big issue is access to health care up here. You asked me what I’m working on it? Those are huge.”

Hanson says he and other local leaders have a meeting with Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney about the highway next week.

Another initiative he is passionate about is an east-west corridor in the northern part of the province. Hanson says he has been on the books for the Northern Alberta Development Council since the 1970s. 

“It’s an east-west corridor between Fort McMurray and Peace River region, including a highway, powerline corridor, possibly rail and pipeline as well. It kind of fits in with the A to A project that Shane Getson has been working on with the Alberta to Alaska pipeline. It all kind of ties in together. I think we’re definitely getting some support on that from all levels,” he said.

Hanson had this message for those considering running with the party in flux to decide upon a new leader and an election less than a year away.

“My message to the people that are applying for the leadership of the party is that that message wasn’t just to Mr. Kenney, it’s to anybody that’s thinking of leading this party. You have to listen to Albertans, you got to listen to caucus. Otherwise, you get shown the door.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.