Turner Valley Votes
Posted by Tonda MacCharles, Ottawa bureau
TURNER VALLEY, AB— No matter where she travels in the world as the prime minister’s wife, Laureen Harper signs the guestbook at palaces and global summits as the girl from Turner Valley.
So I thought I’d wander to her hometown, 63 km southwest of Calgary, to see how the election is playing out.
Not that there’s any doubt the riding of Macleod held by Conservative Ted Menzies would change hands. I just wanted to see place, and see if people here were engaged in this campaign. I expected more signs, more enthusiasm, more interest, perhaps.
What I found was much indifference, if not cynicism about politicians and broken promises, and disgust with negative campaigning.
Apart from one small wind-blown Liberal sign falling over off a ranch driveway just outside town, the only signs in Turner Valley I saw were the ones on the public square. They included three leftover provincial campaign signs and have nothing to do with this election, two small Conservative Menzies signs, one generic Green Party sign, and the biggest one, the NDP’s.
“I guess everyone’s tired of elections every couple of years,” said one woman.
Another 29-year-old woman who said her name was Kim but didn’t want to give her last name didn’t believe her vote would make a difference one way or the other. She’s voted before, but has given up on any notion that politicians deliver.
“If that was true then the things people care about would be looked after,” she said, citing jobs, minimum wages, and poverty as her main concerns. She said she throws every party’s pamphlets in the recycling box: “Ridiculous, every bit of it is ridiculous.”
Nobody has seen any candidates come through town to door-knock.
Gaylon Lunn, a firefighter who commutes from Turner Valley to work in Calgary, is dismayed at the negative tone of what he’s heard, though he doesn’t peg the blame on the Conservatives or any other party in particular.
“It’s hard to believe anything they all say because they’ve all been running that attack stuff. Their platforms are just a bunch of lies. They all promise something they can’t deliver.”
When it comes down to voting, many here appear to be set to make a calculation based on what they believe to be Alberta’s and the economy’s best interests.
On that, Lunn suggests that the Conservative government was faced with “circumstances” it couldn’t control – a global economic downturn – but he’s not convinced that its claims of job creation and economic stimulus were met. He’d like an independent office to do third-party verification on claims that parties have met their “benchmarks.”
He won’t say how he’s voting. But he will vote, he vows.
So will Anne Howell, despite the fact she says she hasn’t paid a whole lot of attention.
Standing outside Hi Ho Gas and Grocery in a chill spring wind, she says she is taking over her late husband’s company that sells “environmentally-friendly” material to stabilize roads in northern Alberta that see a lot of heavy truck traffic. That’s her main preoccupation these days. Economic issues are her focus.
“We do a lot of business in the tar sands,” she said. “And I’m a little worried about the NDP.”
Jack Layton’s vows to hike corporate taxes, end subsidies for “big oil” companies, and bring in a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade program are going to hurt her province and all of Canada, she believes.
“The oil companies always get a bad rap, and yet we all drive our vehicles to get from point A to point B. There shouldn’t be that animosity towards a province doing well in the tar sands.”
None mention the town’s personal connection to the Conservatives or the Harpers, although several I spoke to knew Laureen’s family. I’m directed to the Longview Jerky Shop, about 18 km from Turner Valley, as one of Laureen’s favorites.
It’s quiet on a late Saturday afternoon.
Though he hasn’t paid much attention to the campaign either, the owner’s son, Alex Kirk, 18, says he’ll vote for Stephen Harper, the only voter I’ve met to cite the personal connection with this area.
The Conservative leader came to the shop last year with Laureen and Alex is proud to have met him. He says Harper will probably get his vote: “I got a picture with him, it’s on my Facebook page. He’s a nice guy.”