Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs is seeking a higher calling.
On Wednesday, July 25, she officially announced she was joining the United Conservative Party (UCP) nomination race for Lacombe-Ponoka, challenging incumbent MLA Ron Orr and Ponoka County’s Rita Reich.
While the idea to vie for the opportunity to represent the area wasn’t there when she ran for council last October, she says it crept up on her somewhere on the floor of the UCP’s founding convention in Red Deer.
“It kind of caught me by surprise. I was there all the days, sitting through the resolutions and all the amazing speeches in the evening,” she said.
“It was really inspiring and I just felt like this was a new party with a new direction. It requires a lot of strong leadership and I thought to myself, I can bring that to the table. I’d like to offer that to the people in Lacombe-Ponoka.”
Leadership and experience are at the core of what she sees as her strengths, and her resume certainly backs that up.
She served as a school board trustee for St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic Schools for seven years, and spent several months as board chair. She was on the federal Red Deer-Lacombe Conservative Association Board, and held the titles of both vice president and interim president during her tenure.
An actively engaged citizen of Lacombe, she often attended council meetings, which naturally led to running for council. At the time, she told the Globe that running for a seat was less of a decision and more of an answer to a call from her fellow residents. They elected her with 2,457 votes, the most of any current councillor.
She dismisses the idea that moving towards the provincial realm of politics is abandoning her commitment to those who elected her, however. In fact, she says that responsibility to those she represents has led her to want to do more for them – things that are currently out of her purview.
At times, including recently as one of two councillors on Lacombe’s Cannabis Readiness Committee, she’s felt like her hands are tied in how much she can do for those in the community.
“A lot of that has been downloaded onto municipalities and yet the government hasn’t seen fit to share some of the money that will support all those changes that are going to be required,” she said. “It’s frustrating when you’re trying to make your community better and your area better. That’s incentive to get to the next level where those decisions are being made.”
Hibbs has no intention of stepping down from council or taking a leave of absence at this point, but should she win the nomination and need to step down – which would trigger a by-election – she says she’s comfortable with where council is now.
“The pivotal direction has been set already, the strategic plan has been written out and that sets the priorities for the next four years. I’m really happy to say that all the priorities I wanted to see are in that document, so I know they’re going to be addressed and that’s really important to me,” she said.
“I have great confidence in our current council. They won’t always agree – that’s a good and healthy thing – but overall, the big picture they want jives with what I want and they will continue to do that whether I’m on council or not.”
She’s far from the first Lacombe council member to put their name forward to run at a provincial or federal level. Blaine Calkins was elected as a town councillor in 2004, before moving on to be elected as an MP for the Conservative Party of Canada in 2006, a position he’s maintained since. In 2012, then-Mayor Steve Christie took a leave of absence to run for the Alison Redord-led Progressive Conservative Party and others have been in the mix as well.
Hibbs will continue on that trend of running for a conservative-based party, and believes the UCP is the right party to form the next government.
“I really think (Jason Kenney) is the right leader and the party’s heading in the right direction,” she said. “It’s going to need a really strong team to get to work and undo all the damage the current government has done and have a vision to go forward and make it an even more wonderful place than it is now and I think I can contribute to that.”
Debt, an increase in what she see to be an “erosion of personal freedoms” and a disconnect with the people are issues she’d like to see addressed, in addition to improving access to health care, reducing rural crime and restoring the “Alberta Advantage.”
As of the time of press, the only political race in the riding is amongst UCP candidates. The NDP, Liberal Party, nor Green Party have put forward candidates. The Alberta Party is currently working on drumming up support, but have not officially announced a candidate as of yet, either.
Anyone interested in getting a hold of Thalia Hibbs is welcome to contact her via her Facebook page, or by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.