Urgent care and safety at a deadly intersection were on the minds of Sylvan Lake voters on Wednesday night.
The five candidates fighting to represent Innisfail/Sylvan Lake in the legislature squared off in a forum organized by the Sylvan Lake Chamber of Commerce at the Fox Run School in Sylvan Lake.
About 150 people packed the gym to hear more from the candidates on local hotbed issues such as bringing an urgent care centre to the resort town and the controversial Hwy 11 and Hwy 781 intersection.
In light of the Progressive Conservatives’ recent election promise to build 140 family care clinics in Alberta, candidates were asked what this would mean for an urgent care centre in the community.
“I can’t tell you today what the difference would be between a family care centre and an urgent care centre but I can tell you my job is to get this community what it needs,” said Tory incumbent Luke Ouellette. “And what it needs is an urgent care centre … whatever (the community) needs, we will put it here.”
Liberal candidate Les Vidok said the very fact that the government doesn’t know the difference between an urgent care centre and a family care centre shows it is really out of touch when it comes to health care.
“Sylvan is becoming a hub of in this province,” said Vidok. “There is about one and a half million visitors that come through this town annually. We need a facility basically to deal with immediate needs and take the pressure off emergency in Red Deer.”
NDP candidate Patricia Norman said urgent care in a community that changes with growth in the summer season would alleviate emergency room wait times in the areas in the riding.
“This is a very important issue and needs to be looked at,” said Norman. “If I were elected, I would fight in legislature to make sure this community got what it needed so every person visiting this community would be able to have that care and everybody living here would get that care.”
Alberta Party candidate Danielle Klooster said the proposed Tory family care clinics are replacement health care options. She said the province opened a Calgary family care clinic and closed a primary care network in the same building.
“It is not expansion of services and additional options to meet the needs of your community,” said Klooster. “It’s replacement and a shuffling of services from one area to another. So if they open a family care clinic, you are going to lose your primary care network that’s been such a vital part of this community. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t meet your needs. It’s a replacement.”
“I believe Sylvan Lake residents deserve more than 9 to 5 care,” said Wildrose candidate Kerry Towle. “This community also needs a facility that expands your X-ray and lab capabilities to sustain its growth.”
Ouellette defended the province’s decision to make the Hwy 11/Hwy 748 intersection “right in-right out” instead of installing traffic lights. He said anyone in transportation will say traffic lights will not stop left-hand accidents and noted it was never in the town’s plans to install traffic lights.
Most candidates said they would explore other options at the intersection, which has been the site of several fatalities in recent years.
Towle said Alberta Transportation is so rigid in its planning they will not consider other options. Towle said she would ensure an independent review of the intersection with the intention of opening the intersection in a safe and responsible manner.
Vidok said he supports the traffic lights but the real issue is the province is not listening to the voters.
“If I get elected, you better believe there will be a set of lights there,” he said. “Basically it’s the voice of the people who should rule, not the government rule the people.”
Norman said she would open up the discussion to explore other options because of safety issues and access to businesses.
Klooster questioned Alberta Transportation’s mandate and not consulting local residents on the work.
“So why was nothing done for so many years while people died then?” said Klooster. “Why was there no consultation. I guess I am really frustrated that people weren’t listened to then. People weren’t listened to all the way along.”
Other issues addressed were education, land owner’s rights and protecting Sylvan Lake’s body of water.