RIMBEY — Health care, property rights and electricity were just some of the issues that prompted a heated discussion at an all-candidates forum in Rimbey on Tuesday night.
The meeting room at the Best Western in Rimbey was filled to the brim, so much so that people elected to sit on the floor as the 75 chairs were filled.
Forum goers were interested in hearing how Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Progressive Conservative incumbent Ty Lund, Wildrose Party candidate Joe Anglin and New Democratic candidate Doreen Broska would handle their questions. Liberal candidate Mason Sisson was not present.
Tensions were high amongst forum goers, as one flourished a sign in the front row that read, “Property Rights Yes!” with a symbol striking out “PC.”
Lund was the first to address the voters, first hoping to clear up misconceptions surrounding an Alberta deficit. In the 1990s, revenue far exceeded what the government estimated, he said, so a process was set up to move a third of the funds into the Heritage Trust Fund, a sustainability fund and a capital fund. With the downturn in the economy years later, Lund said that the government borrowed money from the sustainability fund in order to keep capital projects going.
“That is where the so-called deficit came from,” he said.
“If you spend more than you take in it is called a deficit. If you look at the books you will see there is no debt, as a matter of fact, at the end of this fiscal year, there will still be over $3 billion in that sustainability fund,” Lund said.
Broska was the next to address voters, saying that she supports the New Democrats because they believe in a quality public health-care system, affordable electricity and helping young Albertans succeed. She said the New Democrats are against “private profit.”
“Deregulation is a failed experiment and we need to find a better way,” she said, adding that she committed to the health of rural communities.
Like Lund, Anglin felt the need to clear the air by saying that the Wildrose is committed to the Canada Health Act.
“We believe in a publicly-administered, universal health-care system, anything else in the press is false. We are not going to legislate morality, everything that you are hearing in the news is false,” he said.
The Wildrose candidate also touched on the subject of his qualifications and credentials, which were recently brought into question in the community.
“Someone asked to see my qualifications,” he said while holding up a stack of paper. “Well, here they all are.”
Anglin then brought up what he called an “executive communication law” that he obtained from then Premier Ed Stelmach’s office.
“Four years ago the EUB (Alberta Energy and Utilities Board) hired private investigators to spy on citizens in Rimbey. We can’t allow that,” he said, adding that the Wildrose intends to change the culture of government.
Many questions asked by voters centered around the development of power lines and electricity costs.
Lund said that Premier Allison Redford set up a committee that investigated whether there was a need for more transmission lines in the province.
“With the rate that the population is growing, if we don’t get at those lines we are going to be short. It is necessary to get them.”
“This is where we disagree fundamentally,” Anglin responded, mentioning that Albertans’ electricity bills will triple.
“The idea that we are short on electricity is not supported by any facts whatsoever. The only companies that say they need this are the ones that are going to make money off of it.”
Broska declined to speak to the issue.
There are two more forums in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding before Alberta voters head to the polls on April 23:
• April 17, in Rocky Mountain House at the Royal Canadian Legion, 4911 49th St., at 7 p.m.
• April 19 in Caroline at the Kurt Browning Arena Complex, 5103 48th Ave., at 7 p.m.