Rural crime remains an issue for local elected officials heading into the fall election. The Border City sits inside two rural ridings, for both provincial and national elections, making the issue impactful on many voters.
This issue is not unheard by Lakeland MP Shannon Stubbs. First elected to the riding in 2015, Stubbs has doorknocked every summer to share her message and hear from voters. Following the campaign, she says the biggest issue amongst voters was the oil and gas industry. However, by the next summer, she began to hear the issues change.
“In the second summer, that is when rural crime was raised at literally every door and every business, and especially in the surrounding smaller communities,” says Stubbs. “When I’d meet with farmers at coffee shops in places like Marwayne and Kitscoty, people were very concerned about the escalating epidemic of rural crime.”
The problem, according to Stubbs, is that the Liberal government has not only dismissed the chance to take action but have chosen to go the wrong direction. She calls their approach “soft on crime” and doesn’t go as far as the voters in her riding need.
In 2015, Canada’s crime rate rose for the first time in 10 years. Statistics Canada reports the increase can be partially explained by a rise in Alberta’s crime severity index (CSI) which went up 18 per cent. This issue drove Stubbs to introduce motion 167 for the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to be instructed to undertake a study on rural crime. She says the Liberals failed to take advantage of the motion and ultimately held it back.
“It is a multi-pronged issue that involves frankly all three levels of government. That is why it is particularly disappointing that the Liberals really restricted what the committee did with my motion. Frankly, I think it’s mind-boggling that they came out with a report with no concrete recommendations whatsoever. They really just sloshed it off to other levels of government.”
The issue of rural crime doesn’t seem to know provincial borders. Colleen Young’s Saskatchewan riding knows the issue intimately. While the Saskatchewan Government has strived to put more officers and enforcement in the field to address rural crime, Young believes there is more that can be done in other ways.
“I think that there is more work that needs to be done through justice in the court system in our province as well,” says Young “(Work) in how we work with the people in our court system and in our RCMP and policing services, in order to ensure that we are serving justice to the people.”