Skimming the surface on a variety of topics, candidates from Canada’s three largest parties faced off at a election forum at the Red Deer Memorial Centre on Monday.
The Conservative, New Democratic and Liberal candidates for Red Deer-Mountain View and Red Deer-Lacombe fielded questions ranging from health care, the economy, jobs, missing and murdered Indigenous women to drug policies.
But it wasn’t long before the hot political issue of the day – the trans-pacific partnership (TPP) was front and centre.
Twelve nations, including Canada, reached a tentative deal on Monday on a massive Pacific Rim trading bloc billed as the largest-ever deal of its kind. It has implications for a staggering scope of industries, workers, and for long-term international relations between countries on four continents.
It was no surprise both Conservative candidates Earl Dreeshen for Red Deer-Mountain View and Blaine Calkins for Red Deer-Lacombe championed the proposed agreement.
Calkins said if the TPP is ratified and concluded Canada will have access to 60 per cent of the world GDP and 800 million new customers. He told the nearly packed house that Canada needs market access.
Other candidates, however, said Canadians are in the dark about the agreement which highlighted the lack of transparency in the current government.
Jeff Rock, the Liberal candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe, said the government came into power 10 years ago based on transparency. He said the TPP is another example on a long list of completely nontransparent negotiations on Canadian’s behalf.
Doug Hart, the NDP candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe, said there are differing views on the partnership and it may jeopardize the safety of the products coming into the country because other countries use growth hormones that are outlawed in Canada.
A question on Canada’s approach to the war on drugs drew out the issue of decriminalizing marijuana.
Paul Harris, the NDP candidate Red Deer-Mountain View, said Canada needs to look at the root causes and the evidence around how to craft policy in order to address any social issue.
Liberal candidate for Red Deer-Mountain View, Chandra Kastern said the war on drugs has failed. She said there is $6 spent in justice to every $1 spent in health or rehabilitation. She said the Liberal Party recognizes mental health is part of the health-care system.
Dreeshen said he has seen too many young lives affected by drugs and for people to minimize it suggests “we have found a great way to normalize it” is a mistake. Dreeshen said he seconded a harsh private member’s bill dealing with vehicular homicide.
The forum was hosted by the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce.
The Golden Circle Senior Resource Centre hosts an all-candidates forum starting at 9 a.m. today.