NDP candidate ready for tough political fight

By: Ian Tennant

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 03:48 pm

Aileen Burke, NDP candidate for the Macleod riding, made a stop in Okotoks on May 26 to file her nomination papers for the June 30 federal byelection.
Aileen Burke, NDP candidate for the Macleod riding, made a stop in Okotoks on May 26 to file her nomination papers for the June 30 federal byelection.
Jordan Verlage

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Aileen Burke has no illusions about the difficult task she faces as the New Democratic Party’s candidate in the June 30 federal byelection.

Rural Alberta voters have voted for conservative-oriented parties for decades and Burke, 27, doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that the Macleod electoral district is a “long-shot riding” for the centre-left NDP. In fact, conservatives have been representing this area in the House of Commons since 1917 when Unionist Hugh Murray Shaw replaced Liberal David Warnock as MP.

“It’s going to be a fight,” said Burke on May 26. “I’m excited.”

Burke will be facing Conservative John Barlow, Liberal Dustin Fuller and the Green Party’s Larry Ashmore in the June 30 byelection to replace Ted Menzies.

But the Lethbridge resident is upbeat.

“It’s a good opportunity,” said Burke. “People need someone to vote for.”

Burke insists Alberta voters are “disgruntled” and the only way to affect change is to vote for a candidate who is not a Conservative.

Change, she said, “just doesn’t happen by voting the same way over and over again.

“I’m out there to be the message that there is an alternative route,” she added. “You don’t have to vote Conservative just because (Alberta) has been Conservative forever.”

Not only is the Conservatives’ winning streak hard to overcome, Burke is also fine-tuning her campaign strategy for a riding that covers 25,000 sq. km. She suspects she won’t be able to hit every community in Macleod, but she will start door-knocking this weekend to spread the NDP’s message.

“I’m willing to put in the work to make that happen.”

There is also the matter of the Monday, June 30 byelection taking place on the day before Canada Day on July 1.

“Let’s encourage voter turnout,” joked Burke, mocking Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s date selection for the Macleod byelection and three others, including two in Toronto and in Fort McMurray-Athabasca, on the weekend when many Canadians can’t wait to leave town.

Joining Burke in Okotoks on May 26 to file her nomination papers was her 18-year-old sister Allie.

“It’s exciting to see her take a stand,” said Allie Burke.

The sisters come from a large Lethbridge family, with seven siblings in all. Aileen said their parents have been NDP supporters for a long time, but she is the first in the family to carry the party’s banner into an election.

Burke also ran unsuccessfully last fall for the Lethbridge School District.

The cheerful single woman is an implementation specialist with Sun Life Financial. She also volunteers her time as a network facilitator for the disability sector in her hometown, and is member of the board of directors for the Lethbridge Housing Authority.

Advance polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. June 20, June 21, and June 23 at the Okotoks Elks Club.


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