by Rebekah Benoit
Longtime community leader and advocate Tracy Czuy-McKinnon has announced her intention to seek the PC nomination for Fort McMurray – Wood Buffalo, which will be voted on at the nomination meeting scheduled for March 7.
“I’ve been very active in my community for many years. Since I’ve come here, I’ve had various roles within the community,” Czuy-McKinnon says of her reasons for seeking the nomination. “I feel I can contribute to our community and be a very strong voice in regards to the issues of the day.”
With the prospect of a struggling energy sector and provincial cost-savings measures being implemented in the coming months and years, many residents in Fort McMurray are understandably worried about what the future holds for the region, which is so heavily dependent on the value of oil. Czuy-McKinnon says she remains optimistic about the future, despite the predictions surrounding the provincial budget.
“The premier has been very forthcoming in letting us know that this is going to be a no-nonsense budget. It’s going to be a no-frills budget, and I have no doubt that Albertans will be impacted in the outcome,” Czuy-McKinnon acknowledges. “But this is not the first time we’ve gone through something like this, as a province and as a community, and our community is not a ghost town. It’s still active and vibrant and growing. Now is the time to continue to move forward on infrastructure and address some of the [growth] issues. We can pause and take a breath, and we can move forward and build the infrastructure needs for our community now, for when times turn.”
Czuy-McKinnon is confident she can help repair the breach between the PC party and the community of Fort McMurray. “There have been issues that have soured the public’s perception and belief in the party, but that is changing. Change doesn’t happen overnight,” Czuy-McKinnon says. “But we are on the right track, and that brings hope back. It’s nice to see.”
Czuy-McKinnon brings an impressive resume to the table. A resident of Fort McMurray for more than twenty years, she has been heavily involved in the community virtually since she set foot in the region in 1993.
In the past three years alone, Czuy-McKinnon has served on a number of boards and committees, and her work reflects her passion for education, health, Aboriginal perspectives and arts and culture.
“I’ve worked collaboratively with students, parents, staff and local stakeholders – not just the Education Ministry but all ministries, as well as MLAs and the municipality to enhance education in our region,” says Czuy-McKinnon of her work in the realm of education. She currently sits as board chair for the Fort McMurray Catholic School District and has served on various committees and boards related to local education from the Alberta School Boards association to the Comprehensive School Health Committee.
Czuy-McKinnon sees education as a key issue for Fort McMurray as the province faces leaner fiscal times ahead. “We know in our community that growth is happening. Babies are still being born, and we know that the infrastructure needs for our schools are also important. As these children grow, they will be coming into our school system, and it’s important to have those infrastructure needs ready.” In addition to making sure Fort McMurray has the physical capacity for students, Czuy-McKinnon also believes that the quality of that education itself is equally important. Czuy-McKinnon’s experience also extends to health care, which she sees as an issue that affects virtually everyone in Fort McMurray. “The importance of health care really can’t be overemphasized,” she says. “If we have a healthy society, we have a community that’s ready to grow, and I think that all of our citizens – including caregivers, who are often forgotten – have a very distinct role in developing policies and shaping our health care system.”
As the province implements belt-tightening measures, Czuy-McKinnon believes that public engagement in the health care system will be a major factor determining the future of health care in the region. Czuy-McKinnon believes that engaging the public in a meaningful way is the key to the region’s future relationship with the provincial government. “When I look through everything I’ve ever written or spoken, [meaningful engagement] is a constant tenet. It’s who I am and what I believe in,” she says. “I think you need to start with the premise that solutions to complex issues lie in the diversity of skills, perspectives and strengths that already exist in our community and within each person. That’s why you need to make sure you’re available to have those conversations.”
“As an MLA, you should be available,” she says, adding that she intends to go to the public to begin that dialogue, rather than expecting residents to come to her. “How can I ask you to do something if I’m not willing to do it myself? Have I asked you about your concerns? Engagement is broad and there are many forms of it, and all of those forms should be explored.”
Czuy-McKinnon believes that her experience with the various provincial ministries, as well as her record as a strident voice for the community, stands for itself. “My background within the various fields of the province have given me the knowledge base for well-rounded decision-making, and it’s important when making those decisions to consider all angles and all people,” she says. “Anyone who knows me, knows I stand strong for my community and I’m not afraid to use my voice to talk about the needs of our community.”