By Mamta Lulla

New Democrat MP candidate Shawna Gawreluck and Conservative candidate Dane Lloyd for Parkland-Sturgeon River joined the Achieving Community Together (ACT) Inquiry Team on Oct. 20 for a cup of coffee and conversations.

The two MP candidates, community leaders including ACT team members joined at Perks Coffee House for conversations around the upcoming byelection in the area and the concerns in the Tri-Region.

Stony Plain Town coun. Judy Bennett and Justin Laurie and Spruce Grove alderman/coun. Chantal McKenzie also attended that morning.

Sturgeon River-Parkland is up for grabs with the by-election scheduled on Oct. 23.

Both MP candidates got to know those who attended and the issues that concern them.

Mental Health concerns, Indigenous issues, crime and drug concerns in the area were on top of everyone’s minds.

When questions related to crime came up, Lloyd talked about the recent gas-and-dash that killed one in Thorsby. Lloyd said it’s no secret crime is high given the economic downturn. He suggested a prepaid service system at all gas stations across Alberta.

Both candidates advocated for better mental health services in the community, something the ACT team is passionate about along with better transportation and overall wellness for Tri-Regioners.

Gawreluck said there’s a need for better resources and support for mental health at the ground level. She said that would help with other problems like crime and opioid crisis that’s gripping Alberta today. She said part of the problem is “we are putting money away for a crisis [situation]” rather than being pro-active about the issue.

With mental health issues, Lloyd said, together – the community needs to work on removing the stigma around mental health.

“We have to realize asking for help from friends and family is showing strength – not weakness,” he explained.

Indigenous issues such as engagement and not having access to clean water in some part of Canada came up as well.

Gawreluck said First Nations community need to have more control over decisions that affect them. She added we need to learn more about the Canadian history and the different cultures instead of generalizing Indigenous populations.

The ACT team meets every Friday for a coffee and chat at 7:15 a.m. at Perks. The team invites community members from Parkland County, City of Spruce Grove and the Town of Stony Plain to join them.

Bennett said she’s proud of the group and the work they are doing.

“These are people who want to be active in the community and promote positive activities in the community and solve problems,” she said about the ACT team.

McKenzie said it was her first time attending an ACT group meeting. She said she saw amazing leaders in the room that morning.

“We need to help each other to build a community and that’s what the group is doing,” she said.