ATHABASCA – The New Democrats’ candidate for the Lakeland riding is under no misconceptions about whether she’ll be going to Ottawa after the Sept. 20 federal election, but that’s not stopping her from getting out and meeting people to tell them they are a priority for her, and would be the biggest priority of an NDP government.
Desiree Bissonnette, of Lloydminster, came to Alberta from Saskatchewan as an eight-year-old when her heavy-duty mechanic father was looking for work in the oilfield. She finished school there and after working in retail and housekeeping for a number of years, she is now a support worker for a young man with disabilities.
“I personally think I have the coolest job in the world, because I just get to hang out with a super-awesome guy all the time and have a lot of fun,” she said in a Sept. 1 phone interview just before she set out to knock on doors in Bonnyville.
Bissonnette, now 26, has been working since she was a teenager, and her biggest concern is making sure people are looked after because she understands what it’s like to be overlooked.
“I'm a worker. I understand how it feels to not have my voice heard, and I understand how it feels not to have my needs met. So, I want to commit to being able to communicate with people,” she said. “I have decided to run because I have been working for so long, and as a young person working in the 2010s and 2020s, it's very different from the kind of the expectation that we were set up with. I was working 60 hours a week, at one point, making minimum wage at $15 an hour, and still struggling.”
And while the socialist boogeyman that appears every time a candidate starts talking about equity in society or fair pay for good work, casts a huge shadow in Alberta, Bissonnette said it’s a fear tactic and she doesn’t see anything wrong with pointing out a small group of people make a huge amount of wealth, while the rest are left to struggle.
“We get told that there's this trickle-down economy that everybody knows doesn't work and I'm tired of living in that,” she said. “I understand that people get really nervous about it. I think that's because living in the system that we do, we're kind of told not to really doubt things. I don't think socialism is a bad thing … I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want better for people.”
Bissonnette wants to be a voice for the people, but wants to provide them with a voice of their own as well, which is why she’s committing to finding feasible solutions for reliable rural broadband access that will connect residents to the rest of the world, and put them on a level playing field in a global marketplace. Electoral reform, specifically a move away from the current first-past-the-post system used to vote in Canada is another priority that will give residents of Lakeland a louder voice.
On the notion of Western alienation, Bissonnette recognizes that it’s a very real thing, and justified, but the creation of a Western Canadian state is a little too far-fetched. Also, as an environmentalist, supporting a sustainable future for, and protecting the agricultural and energy sectors doesn’t have to be a conflict, she said.
“I am very passionate about remedying the climate crisis and moving into a sustainable future and doing that in a way that protects Alberta and specifically protects things like agriculture and the energy sector.”
There needs to be changes, and voicing that in Ottawa would be a great honour for Bissonnette.
“I've always been an outspoken person, but I'm also a fantastic listener, and I just want to do right by the community here. I want to make sure that people are heard. I want people to feel like they're not only heard by me, but that I am speaking truth to what they need from Ottawa,” she said.