South Peace News
A Joussard man has joined the field in a bid to become Lesser Slave Lake UCP’s candidate in the next Alberta election.
Jerrad Bruce Cunningham has joined Martine Carifelle, Scott Sinclair and Silas Yellowknee in the race to replace current MLA Pat Rehn, who has declared he is not seeking the nomination in the riding.
Cunningham was born in High Prairie and has lived in the Lesser Slave Lake region his entire life, calling many communities, including Metis settlements and First Nations reserves, home. He is First Nations and Metis and a member of Driftpile Cree Nation.
“I have had an interest in politics since I was a child,” says Cunningham, adding it was fueled while attending Joussard School and Prairie River Junior High School in High Prairie, where he began learning about the different levels of government in Canada.
“I have been a member of the UCP since its inception and support the direction we are going,” he says, adding he enjoys helping people and making a difference.
He is learning about the issues while campaigning, for now mostly going door-to-door.
“The feedback I am getting from the people . . . they are concerned about their future. The peoples’ concerns pertaining to provincial governance includes the absenteeism of representation. I aim to change that. Representation is a core pillar of my platform.”
Other issues included: addressing health care concerns in communities; striving for improved infrastructure; more affordable living; working toward improving graduation rates for the area’s youth; addressing accessibility to post-secondary education; and examining affordable post-secondary housing concerns.
He adds consulting with First Nations, Metis settlements, biologists, previous commercial fishing people of the area, and the Lesser Slave Watershed Council, are all important to improving the health and sustainability of local water bodies and watersheds.
He sees the energy industry as vital to the economic success of the region and is pleased to see renewed oil and gas exploration which benefits all communities.
He adds an MLA and government can engage with communities and businesses to create new forms of economic growth and he wants to address high crime rates by consulting with local law enforcement and municipal governments including First Nation and Metis communities.
“I understand I am a new face in this race and – yes – I may not have experience in provincial governance but neither did many of our past MLAs,” he says.
“Our own Member of Parliament, Arnold Viersen, was a journeyman auto mechanic before he entered politics and has been representing our federal riding since 2015.”
Cunningham is holding two meet and greets, the first at the Slave Lake Legion Hall Feb. 22 from 6-8 p.m., the second at the High Prairie Legion Hall Feb. 23, also from 6-8 p.m. Hot drinks and doughnuts provided.
Voting occurs Feb. 25-26, locations to be determined. Only UCP members who purchased memberships before Feb. 4 are eligible to vote.
Cunningham is married and has three children ages seven, 11 and 17. His youngest child participates in High Prairie Minor Hockey and his oldest graduates this year.
At 16, Cunningham joined the Canadian Armed Forces through the Bold Eagle program.
“I learned many great qualities from my time there (Forces) such as time management, task completions against
all odds and discipline with every aspect of life.”
After high school, he and his spouse moved to Slave Lake where he attended Northern Lakes College. He then moved to Peavine Metis Settlement and worked with Canadian Natural Resources. He worked as an oilfield operator while his wife began work at the High Prairie Health Complex as an LPN.
“Years later, we made the decision to move to my hometown of Joussard where we have been since,” he says.
He has worked in the Red Earth Creek area as well as the Nipisi oilfield north of Slave Lake, where he has met many people from the riding and learned issues important to them.