The provincial riding of Morinville-St. Albert has a new NDP representative for the 2019 election after former candidate Shawna Gawreluck announced her withdrawal from the race.
Gawreluck said in a statement Saturday afternoon she was dropping out of the race to focus on her family. She is replaced by Natalie Birnie, the executive director for the Acheson Business Association.
Gawreluck’s announcement came three days before Premier Rachel Notley announced the election was on.
“As the election becomes imminent, and campaign work intensifies, I have realized that balancing my family, my job and campaign duties has become unsustainable for me and my loved ones,” Gawreluck said.
“My family is my everything, and I cannot support them with less than 100% of my commitment and my heart – and they deserve my everything. Right now, our family needs to be my focus and I can no longer give my full efforts to the election.”
This was Gawreluck’s second campaign with the NDP and she has been a member of the party for four years. She represented the party in the recent Sturgeon River-Parkland federal byelection, where she was eventually beat out by Conservative candidate Dane Lloyd.
A few hours after Gawreluck announced her resignation on Facebook, Birnie announced she would be running for the NDP nomination in the constituency.
“After much thought and consideration, I am thrilled to announce I will be running for the Alberta NDP nomination in the constituency of Morinville-St Albert,” Birnie stated.
Birnie did not respond to an interview request before press time. A biography posted on the NDP website called the candidate an entrepreneur.
“Involved with small business in Alberta for over 30 years, she has owned and headed retail, manufacturing and trades businesses in Edmonton and Parkland County. Since 2010, she has led the Acheson Business Association as Executive Director. Sitting on numerous committees, she has proudly helped to establish the Acheson Business Association as a leading organization in the Edmonton region.”
Gawreluck declined to be interviewed for this story.
St. Albert incumbent NDP candidate Marie Renaud said she was surprised to see Gawreluck withdraw from the race but said she respects the decision to put her family first.
“Although I'm hugely disappointed, I completely understand it,” Renaud said.
“What people don’t realize, and I learned it the hard way in 2015, you don’t realize how truly, truly intense campaigning is, you don’t realize how much it takes a toll on your time, personally, on your family. You just don’t realize it until you’re in the thick of it. Maybe the sense that you have going in is that you can manage it.”
Renaud said the 2015 campaign was one of the most difficult things she has ever done.