GUEST POST: Living in a small town scandal amplified by Jason Kenney

What it's like when Jason Kenney turns your small town into cheap campaign fodder

Winses.jpgMy name is Christa Winsnes. I am a farmer who lives and works near Ryley, Alberta and I never thought I’d be writing a guest post for Progress Alberta. We don’t agree on much but people need to know what Jason Kenney has done to my small town.

While what happened in Ryley last week hit the news and was the biggest story to hit this small town as long as I’ve lived here it was not a recent event.

Here’s the short version. William Yarmovich is an 86-year old resident of Ryley who alleges that the town forced him to sell his house in order to pay a $4,000 painting bill. The village of Ryley alleges a much different chain of events:

William Yarmovich was not forced out of his house, nor was William Yarmovich forced to sell his house,” read the letter. “William Yarmovich has not lived in that house for over five years,” said a letter from the town to the media.

What happened was an accumulation of several events, meetings and conversations. It’s a long story but I simply want to ask all of you to remember there are two sides to every story and a lot of collateral damage in between. 

I reside just outside of Ryley. Part of our farm lies within the town boundaries. We do business in the town, attend events and have done so for generations. Ryley is a good place full of people who work hard and are family people. Lately it feels like a fishbowl as the public eye focuses in on us. The result of the news report polarized our community. The attack on our village and residents was awful and shocking. When did people become so cruel? Why would they not seek to find the facts? The last thing our village residents are is bullies. We found ourselves on social media talking to and dealing with angry people. Our town office was bombarded by hate mail and they had it way worse. 

But this story had been an ongoing concern in Ryley for quite some time. It looked like calm was about to prevail after a recent council meeting which laid out the facts and the timelines. But then in rolled Jason Kenney. He has decided facts do not matter. He is convinced that this man from Ryley has been so wronged he needs to step in and help. He starts a GoFundMe account for him.

At this point, as a resident of Ryley and Alberta I am confused. How can this Progressive Conservative party leadership candidate steamroll right over our village administration? He did not call the councillors or administration office nor did he even stop into town to see how we felt or thought..

I personally reached out to him, tried phoning, emailing, social media and even engaged a delegate from my area. Crickets.

I went onto his Facebook post and tried to talk to the people and let them know the other side of the story. I got blocked and all my posts gone. 

On Twitter, the cause of all this nonsense, I got no response. This person claims to represent the grassroots but will not listen to them because we do not fit the narrative of the day. By the end of the day I felt defeated.  

As a political leader is it not part of the job to work with all levels of government and have good working relationships? How does throwing a municipality under the bus and completely ignoring them work with that?

I asked around town and the sentiment for Jason’s action’s was not positive. Why is he doing this? How does this help? Some wondered why he would take our issue and turn it into a campaign crusade. How could our village’s hurt and pain become cheap campaign fodder so quickly? People felt bowled over. 

The situation for Ryley continues and it will until some issues and dare I say bullies and instigators in our community are dealt with. Dealing with Jason Kenney has made me afraid for the future of Alberta politics. Our community will heal over time and get back to normal but Jason Kenney is selling a marketing message when he talks about respecting the grassroots.

I have to ask who does he consider grassroots? How will he unite us when he contributes to the divide? What is his real agenda? I have so many questions that I want the answers to. But I’m trying to keep an open mind and find all the facts for before I make a decision.