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‘Albertans deserve better’: Starke reflects on time in and state of Alberta politics

Alberta’s last Progressive Conservative MLA, Dr. Richard Starke, is looking back on his time in the Alberta legislature. With the dropping of the writ, the election will be held on April 16. Starke has decided not to seek re-election and calls the news a “bit of a relief”.

“You know, you knew the drop of the writ was coming, and now that we know exactly when the election will be held, it’s good to put a period at the end of the sentence and move on to the next chapter,” says Starke.

Starke was first elected to the legislature on April 23, 2012. In the seven year’s he’s served to represent the riding of Vermilion-Lloydminster, Starke has accomplished a number of initiatives for the province. He served as the Minister for Tourism, Parks and Recreation and was also appointed Chair of the Rural Health Services Review Committee.

In his riding, Starke helped bring about the construction of Pioneer House in Lloydminster, a new school in Paradise Valley and the modernization of St. Jerome’s Catholic School in Vermilion. Starke looked to benefit communities and people with individual issues in and around his constituency. He sees the steady growth of tourism in the province as part of a legacy he affected.

“Really, it has been growing over the last couple of years, I’m very glad to see that progress continuing. Also with the provincial parks system, and the sports and recreation area. Those were all my responsibilities, and I think we’re seeing some real improvements. In a small way, I think I contributed to that and I hope to see that progress continue.”

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Starke was the only PC MLA to not join the United Conservative Party caucus when the PC’s merged with the Wildrose Party. He believes the values of the UCP are not consistent with the values of progressive conservatism that he ran on, and that those who disagreed with unity were encouraged to leave the party.

Starke was permitted to sit independently with the status of PC even though neither legacy party was functioning. Going into this election cycle, he doesn’t see much room for the political values he represents. At the moment, Starke calls Alberta politics very polarized with only two major, very opposite options. The Alberta NDP and the UCP are, in his mind, not a reflection of Albertan values.

“Most Albertans are moderate, they’re centrists. They believe in supporting free enterprise and small business, but also are progressive on social matters and want to make sure the vulnerable in our society get taken care of and nobody is left behind.”

Starke says that neither the Alberta NDP or the UCP reflect the values of mainstream Albertans. He adds that he’s heard it from people he’s spoken with as well, that neither option is something they want. While he sees the Alberta Party as something trying to becoming a middle-ground between the two, Starke admits this election is very different from others before it.

“This is going to be a campaign that’s very negative, and not so much about what people are for but what they’re against. I think Albertans deserve better.”

Starke says that he’s not sure if he’ll return to the public life if a more centrist option presents itself. He’s not opposed to it and admits that he won’t say never. At the moment, Starke is looking forward to a long-awaited break from being an elected representative, and getting back to some things put on hold for the past seven years.

“If at some point there’s an opportunity, and it’s right for me and my family to return to public life, you might see me back. In the short term at least, I have no plans in that direction.”

He’s looking to tackle a number of things in the coming weeks. A number of opportunities have presented themselves to him and he’s looking forward to tackling them. Looking back on his service, he thanks the people of Vermilion-Lloydminster for the time he’s spent representing them.

“It’s been a privilege; the honour of my adult lifetime. I want to thank them for their support, and I certainly do appreciate these past seven years. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

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