Highwood constituents will now have a few options in the upcoming provincial election.
Running under the NDP banner in Highwood is Jessica Hallam.
Hallam moved to Okotoks about 10 years ago with her husband, initially working in news media before finding work in oil and gas software technology.
Though she's always had a passion for politics, her desire to get involved only developed over the last few years.
"It was a slow buildup over the past four years. I started off unhappy with what I was seeing in terms of cuts. When we saw AISH get de-indexed by the UCP and they changed the payments for the people receiving that benefit, that one really got to me... As we moved through COVID, which was a terrible time for everyone, on top of that we had mismanagement by the UCP government as well. With that, we saw a war against doctors, a war against nurses, delegitimization of science and research. That frustrated me as well. Today we're seeing threats to the healthcare system, we're seeing under-funded, over-crowded classrooms in our education system... When you feel that, it lights a bit of a fire under you to make a difference."
As to why she chose to run under the NDP, Hallam says the right choice for her was clear.
"Their platform focuses on the things that are the most important to Albertans and to Highwood. That would be better healthcare, strengthening our public healthcare system and ensuring it remains public. We have excellent plans to connect people with family doctors and undertake a huge healthcare recruitment campaign. On the education side, we're talking support for students, support for educators, funding to get those class sizes smaller and to connect people who need support with those supports so we don't have parents to have to essentially act as lawyers to get the help they need for their children... Affordability is huge as well, we're talking about an emergency cap on electricity, we're talking about bringing tuition down."
The election has only just kicked off, but Hallam is already seeing patterns in what people are voicing concerns about.
On top of affordability, economy, and leadership, she's also noticed some recurring issues that are brought up.
"One is the CPP, people are concerned about the future of their pensions and the security of their pensions. The other one is RCMP, people are concerned about keeping the RCMP, what a provincial police force would end up costing them."
For Hallam, the prospect of serving her community as MLA is an exciting one.
"I think I have the aptitude, the listening skills, and because I care so deeply about our community, I think I'd make an excellent MLA. If I were to become MLA, it would be a dream, it would be a full-time job of listening to constituents and figuring out how to improve their lives. I know that I could do that alongside Rachel Notley and the NDP."