The recent election results could bring some challenges for the Wheatland Crisis Society (WCS). This isn't due to the UCP's majority government win or the NDP creating the largest opposition in Alberta history; rather, one specific change could make a huge impact on the WCS: former Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jeremy Nixon lost his seat to NDP challenger Lizette Tejada.

WCS Executive Director Carol Manson Mcleod was initially looking forward to continuing to work with Nixon, but now that he's out she's not sure what that partnership with the provincial government will look like.

"That is going to be a challenge for us because now we have to start all over again. The executive team is still there and understand their issues and things in that industry. We are going to basically have to start all over again pleading our case I think, and showing people what some of the challenges are that we've had." 

Manson Mcleod did not rule out the possibility that a change could be beneficial in the long run, but feels there is no getting around the short-term struggles of a change at that important of a position.

"I'm hopeful that we're not going to have to restart totally, but anytime there's a change of an individual, it takes time for them to get their feet into the desk and understand the issues. And we're not the only sector they're in charge of, and there's many other issues and things, so it's really 'how do we get our voice in the domestic violence world, up to the top for people to listen to?'" 

As for the issues Manson Mcleod is referring to, one of the biggest ones is the fact that government funding for women's shelters has not changed since 2014/15. Given the rate of inflation, this has made things extremely challenging on a day-to-day basis, but also creates bigger problems with staff retention.

"We get really good staff, we train them for a couple of years and they move on to other opportunities because they can get paid significantly more than what they get paid with us, so now we lose that education and skill." 

While not specific to the WCS, Manson Mcleod also pointed to the lack of affordable housing options as a huge problem. Typically the WCS mandates for people to stay in the shelter for 21 days, but since there is nowhere to go clients may stay double or even triple that. Sometimes clients would even try to move to Calgary, but those opportunities have dried up too so there is nowhere for people fleeing an abuser to go.

"They're stuck, and if they happen to come in with a large family, like 3 or more children, that becomes even more difficult to try and find something that they can afford, so a lot of them are forced to go back to their abuser as a result of this." 

On a local level, Manson Mcleod said she has not yet had a chance to meet with new Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Chantelle de Jonge, but looks forward to connecting with her soon. Manson Mcleod said former MLA Leela Aheer was a big supporter of the WCS, and hopes to receive similar support from De Jonge.

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