Jasper candidate leaning on her core values
Paula Cackett’s life is full on these days.
The 29-year-old Jasperite is running for political office in the upcoming provincial election. As such, she’s got a bag full of lanyards, buttons and pamphlets, promoting her party’s messages.
She’s got a truck full of lawn signs, ready to deploy on supporters’ front yards.
And she’s got two armfuls of kids’ stuff to keep her biggest fans engaged while on the campaign trail—toy cars and games for her almost-three-year-old, Asher, and the requisite pacifier, diapers and bottle for her one-year-old, Micha.
“Vote for my momma,” Asher says, passing out an information sheet.
It’s all hands on deck for Cackett and the NDP right now as Alberta gets ready to go to the polls April 16. Cackett, who has never run for public office before, has been busy knocking on doors and attending community events in West Yellowhead—no small feat in a rural riding which stretches from Jasper to Edson to Whitecourt.
And while most of the campaigning has been positive, Cackett knows it’s not always going to be friendly. There are strongly-held beliefs amongst many voters in this riding that the economic downturn is the fault of the current government. Some of the rhetoric has been downright nasty. Cackett, an emergency nurse who is used to working in the heat of the moment, knows that she can’t take it personally.
“Comments like that are never nice but I believe in what we’re saying and the policies we’re fighting for,” she says.
Those values have been Cackett’s polestar. She comes from a family with a background of being involved with, and invested in, worker’s rights. Her dad and brother were both engaged in issues with their local unions. As a nurse, she believes strongly that the healthcare system must be kept public and accessible for everyone. And as a mom, the NDP’s support for families and education allowed her to go back to work after her first child was born.
“I want to fight for things important for my family and other families, particularly healthcare, fair wages and affordable housing.”
Still, when Premier Rachel Notley dropped the writ in Alberta last month, Cackett (who grew up in Jasper as an Ermet before taking her husband Joseph’s last name) hadn’t planned on stepping forward. Then came a call from the NDP’s elections committee, who asked her if she was interested. Her brother had suggested they give her a call. After she thought about it for a day, and with her husband’s support, she called them back.
“In the end I decided it was the right thing to do,” she said.
Cackett has been influenced by other women who have been putting their energy towards things that they deem to be important—people like the premier, certainly, but also Danielle Larivee, the Minister of Status of Women, and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman.
“They’re pushing forward healthcare and women’s rights,” Cackett said. “The strong female leadership in the legislature was really inspiring to me.”
Cackett has been a leader in her community, too. Jasperites will remember her from her swimming days—her success with the Red Fins and River Dragons led her to compete with Team Alberta in the World Lifesaving Championships in France in 2014. And she has volunteered extensively with minor soccer. In 2009 Cackett went to Kenya with the Me to We organization to build schools. All of those experiences have shaped her into the person she is today, but it wasn’t until she went to nursing school on the other side of the country that she discovered her identity for herself, she said. Being born and raised in Jasper is blessed, but she said she needed to grow up on her own. When she saw she could make her own way, she developed a confidence that has helped her find her true self.
“I learned that I could make it on my own, that I was independent and strong and that I could make my own relationships and connections.”
For the next two weeks, Cackett will be making a push to make as many connections as possible. She’s nervous about speaking in public at the scheduled forums, but she’s drawing on the strength she knows is within her—the same place where her core beliefs lie.
“I keep telling myself there’s nothing to be nervous about because it’s all stuff I believe in,” she says.
As she says this, Asher, her almost-three-year-old, makes it known that he recently learned how to ride a pedal bike. He looks at his mom with expectant eyes. Yes, she confirms. He learned while on vacation at grandma’s house.
As Cackett piles her lanyards and buttons into one bag and the baby gear and toys into another, one thing’s clear: everyone in the family is learning on the fly right now.