Lauren Pezzella steps forward for NDP in Red Deer-Lacombe

Lauren Pezzella will run for the NDP in Red Deer-Lacombe in the 2019 federal election. Here, she's pictured in Red Deer City Hall Park following the NDP campaign kickoff at the Red Deer Public Library Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Ten days into the 2019 federal election campaign, the New Democratic Party (NDP) finally announced their candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe.

On Friday, Lauren Pezzella was acclaimed as the nominee during a joint NDP campaign kick-off event with Red Deer-Mountainview candidate Logan Garbanewsk at the Red Deer Public Library. It was somewhat of a last-mintue decision for her, having put her name forward and gotten through the party’s vetting process just a few days before.

“It’s been pretty crazy – if you would’ve asked me two weeks ago if I would’ve ever considered running in a federal election, I probably would’ve given you a blank face, but I’m really excited about the opportunity its presented me and I think I can make a really big difference in our community,” she said.

Pezzella, 24, was born and raised in Red Deer. She is in the midst of finishing up her degree in Business Administration at Red Deer College, and is also the vice president with Central Alberta Quidditch, in addition to being a player and coach, and works as a taproom expert as part of the Troubled Monk brewery team.

Having known other members of the NDP for awhile and admiring what they stood for, she kept saying she was going to volunteer in some capacity for them, and instead found herself in a position to run.

“I realized that this is where I could make the difference, that this is where I could bring the issues that are important to me, and the issues that are important to the community to the forefront,” she said. “It’s not going to be an easy fight and there are a lot of people who will definitely disagree with my thoughts and ideals, but I believe things like available pharmacare, affordable childcare are what Canada is really about.”

Pharmacare, she said, is the number one issue for her in this election, referring to a diabetic friend of hers who ended up in the hospital for a week after he couldn’t afford his proper dose of insulin as a result of reduced hours at work.

The NDP have pledged to expand health care to include  vision, dental and mental health services, as well as create a universal drug coverage program which would see medication and medical devices free at the point of care by 2020. While the plan involves the federal government pitchingin $10 billion a year, and building on what the provinces put towards medication, the NDP believe this will save Canadians money in the long run.

“If you think that $5-$25 vial of insulin is too much for taxpayers to carry, imagine how much a hospital bed costs on your tax bill. While it might seem like it’s just another expense, it’s actually a way for Canadians to save money in the long run,” said Pezzella.

A student, herself, she also stands behind the NDP’s promiese to work towards free tuition for post-secondary students, and implementing a cap on cellphone bills and data, all of which the NDP say will be achieved by taxing the wealthy more.

Each of those issues resonated with the small crowd of 25 for the two Red Deer-area ridings.

Those in the room, however, admitted they were facing an uphill battle in the campaign, not only in struggling financially, but in facing the incumbent Member of Parliament Blaine Calkins. Calkins is seeking re-election for a fifth time in a riding that has not voted for any federal political party left of centre since the early 1900’s, and is projected, according to polling data from 338Canada, to take the riding again.

That’s not deterring Pezzella, who says it’s time for a fresh, and perhaps younger, perspective.

“Millennials are the biggest voting block in Canada right now and while [Blaine Calkins] has represented our constituency well for the past [four] years, I think it’s time for new ideas,” she said. “We really need to talk about issues that Canadians have to deal with on a regular basis – not just the one per cent.”

She has yet to be confirmed as a candidate with Elections Canada and will have until Sept. 30 to do so. Those looking to reach out to Pezzella can do so via email at Social media pages will be up in coming days, and she hopes to have signs within the next couple of weeks, as well as a list of outreach events.

In addition to the CPC incumbent, she’ll run against Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson of the People’s Party of Canada and Desmond Bull of the Green Party. The Lacombe Globe has reached out the Green Party’s regional contact to get in touch with the candidate, but as of Sept. 22 had not received a response.

The Liberal Party of Canada has yet to announce a candidate, but the local Electoral District Association says they are working through the process of selecting one.

A debate will be held locally by the Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 9 at the Lacombe Memorial Centre at 7 p.m.

Pezzella encourages all to do their research before going to the polls.

“Take a look at the NDP issues. Go online, read, inform yourself – that’s the most important thing,” she said. “Form your ideas based on well thought-out research. Don’t just go with status quo, because as Canadians we can do better.”

The election is Oct. 21.

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