by Lindsay Ducharme
Verna Murphy may not be a lifetime resident of Wood Buffalo, however, one would never know it based on her sense of commitment to the community. In fact, the decision to pursue the recently available Ward 1 council seat is one eight years in the making.
“I think for me right now it’s just a natural progression from the work that I’ve been doing for the last couple years in Fort McMurray,” she noted.
“I’ve been writing about Fort McMurray since before I even moved here. Every week for the last almost nine years I have written something about Fort McMurray whether it was in the newspaper here or newspapers in Nova Scotia. Eight years is a good chunk of time to not only get to know the people, but also to get to know the issues and what’s going on.”
Murphy began writing about the region when her husband relocated for a job opportunity, while she remained behind in Nova Scotia for eight months to sell their house. As such, Murphy has had the unique opportunity to view life as both a spouse separated from her husband by almost an entire country, and a permanent Wood Buffalo resident.
“I’ve done several articles in the last year surrounding the psychological impact on families that have people that fly in and fly out of Fort McMurray. They are really a group that needs to be more engaged in our city,” she explained.
“They are falling through the cracks. It’s the ones that are just coming into camp that go home and have a negative thing to say about Fort McMurray even though they are not actually in Fort McMurray. If we could help them make the decision to move their whole family to Fort McMurray I think they would see an improved quality of life. Fort McMurray would also see census numbers go up and we would have more money for infrastructure for different things we need living here,” she added.
“We need to get people here. I would like to work with the municipality in creating better access to programs that help new residents because we really do want families to move to Fort McMurray. The people that live in Fort McMurray love Fort McMurray. I would like to be able to help people make that decision a bit easier.”
Murphy has fully embraced Wood Buffalo as her home and as such her community interests are as diverse as her background. Murphy is passionate about senior’s issues, family services, education, health care, municipal development, as well as community growth and ownership. As a long time foster parent herself, one issue especially important to Murphy is the local foster care system.
“I think when you have kids there’s no getting around being part of the community. Over the last number of years in Fort McMurray I’ve become more and more involved. I’m sure some of the councilors would be happy if I won because then I wouldn’t be asking them a hundred questions in a week from the outside looking in. I would be part of decision making process, that’s really what I’m hoping for.”
“I’ve been so involved with different groups in Fort McMurray that I would really like to be able to represent the average citizen in Fort McMurray and what their concerns are, how they want to see continued growth in Fort McMurray and continued infrastructure even through there is a downturn right now. I think it would be a different way for them to be heard at council,” she said.
Should she be elected to council, Murphy would like to see residents, both permanent and fly in/fly out take on more ownership of the community.
“I think it’s my passion for the life here that spills over to other people. I’m hoping that there will be greater interest in what’s going on throughout the city through my connected voice on council.”