Half of the 14 Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates made a pit stop in Red Deer on Wednesday.
They reassured Albertans that they understand the province’s importance to Canada’s prosperity and the need for more pipelines to take advantage of our oil wealth and to reach the province’s full potential.
“I’m going to champion a transportation and energy corridor so we can get our natural resources to tide water,” said Andrew Saxton, banker and former North Vancouver MP.
“I think it’s extremely important right now. Canadians are losing billions of dollars a year because we only have one customer for our oil, and that’s the United States.”
Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer said there’s a lot of insecurity across the country related to the economy and jobs, which in Alberta also includes worries about the commodity cycle.
Oil and gas industry workers have told him not to listen to those company CEOs who support a carbon tax.
“Whenever a Liberal politician points to an energy company that says they can get behind the carbon tax it’s not representative of the natural resource sector in Alberta.”
Lisa Raitt doesn’t hesitate when asked what message she has heard in Alberta: pipelines.
“It is an all-consuming, existential question and request here in Alberta,” said Raitt, who was minister in three portfolios in the Harper government.
“Obviously, the role of the next leader of the Conservative Party and the next prime minister is to actually facilitate getting them built.”
Albertan Deepak Obhrai, who has been elected seven times in his Calgary Forest Lawn riding, said he understands best of all the province’s challenges.
The Conservatives message represents what Canadians want for their future.
“The fact of the matter is Conservative policies are universally liked by everyone,” he said. “We as Conservatives need to stand very solidly with our principles.”
Steven Blaney, former minister in the public safety and veterans affairs portfolios from Quebec, said Canada is losing $14 per barrel of oil because we can’t get it to market.
“We need to remove sticky political fingers from the approval process of pipelines,” he said, adding they are the safest and most reliable way to transport oil.
Blaney said he also strongly supports the country’s agricultural community, including supply management for the dairy industry.
Vancouver-based businessman and former journalist Rick Peterson said his financial vision found a supportive audience in Alberta.
“The clear message I’m getting is my tax plan of zero corporate income tax and a 15 per cent flat tax really hits home in Alberta.”
The province’s challenge is to stimulate the resource sector and a prime minister’s best lever is to attract investment is tax policy.
Chris Alexander, a former immigration minister from Ontario, the message he hard in Alberta was that “bad policy, federally and provincially, is holding Alberta back.”
Alexander said Canada must have a bolder agenda to remain strong its North American markets but to “build a massive bridge” to new international markets.
Candidates were expected to share their views at a Calgary forum on Wednesday night followed by a debate in Lethbridge on Thursday.