The Mayor of Cold Lake announced his intention to run for United Conservative Party nomination in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul riding on Wednesday.
Craig Copeland joins current Lac-la-Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills MLA David Hanson in the race for UCP nomination. Earlier this year, MLA Scott Cyr announced he would not run again. Copeland lost to Cyr in the 2015 election before the conservative parties at the time (Progressive Conservative, Wild Rose) dissolved during the “Unite the Right” movement.
“Provincial politics has always interested me – trying to get the voice for the area until the ledge,” said Copeland. “I think it’s very important that whoever the MLA works for everybody in the constituency. I think as mayor I’ve been trying to work with council as best we can to make Cold Lake the community a better place to live.”
Copeland says the lakeland area has been severely neglected for capital spending projects, and that it’s important whoever is elected can “stickhandle” in the legislature for the area and industry.
“I think one of the major things to do is get the energy projects moving forward. We cannot compete right now with Texas. We need to get fast turnarounds on these projects. Do your consultations with the Aboriginal communities and Metis communities – but let’s get them done.
“Give those communities the proper resources to do the consultations. But we need industry and we need to turn around faster, because we need to invest in this area, because basically the foreign, American investment is gone.”
There has been political tension between Bonnyville and Cold Lake for years, which may hurt Copeland’s chances in Bonnyville.
“I think we need to stop competing. Right now for the Town of Bonnyville, I think it’s in their best interests to look at a candidate like me for what we’ve done in Cold Lake. I’ve been the Mayor for the City of Cold Lake. Not the Mayor of Bonnyville.”
Earlier this month, the provincial government decided to disperse the Improvement District 349 funds for the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range more evenly between Cold Lake, Municipal District of Bonnyville, the Town of Bonnyville, Glendon, Elizabeth Metis Settlement and Fishing Lake Metis Settlement.
While Copeland has been an advocate for Cold Lake receiving the majority of ID 349 funding for a decade, he says it’s unfair to assume he’ll just focus on Cold Lake if elected as MLA.
“ID 349 is only about $25-30 million worth of tax dollars from the oil companies and so our argument has been that that money is not enough to keep an urban community sustainable.
“When a Town of Bonnyville or City of Cold Lake or Glendon – when they get a $1000 per capita, that money is still not enough to sustain urban communities. Urban communities across Alberta are in big trouble. So 349 is a bigger provincial issue. Our argument with the province was, you just carved up 349 for other communities to jump into, are you going to do that throughout Alberta now?
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you the Town of Bonnyville doesn’t deserve money, they do. But coming and just looking at ID 349 probably isn’t the smartest opportunity for the Town of Bonnyville. But I’m not the Mayor of Bonnyville.”
Copeland says his track record as mayor of Cold Lake speaks for itself. If he wins, he will have to resign as mayor.
“Don’t judge me or hold it against me representing the whole area. I’m going to bring my passion and my commitment to the whole constituency.”
This election will be the first since the provincial government changed the electoral boundaries in December. Now, the Bonnyville-Cold Lake riding extends into St. Paul, and as far west as Saddle Lake.
Glenn Anderson, former mayor of St. Paul, has also announced his intention to run for MLA for the Alberta Party.