Angry audience members had to be warned not to heckle a candidate at a federal election forum Thursday at Red Deer College over the hot-button topic of equalization.
Outbursts started after Tiffany Rose, Liberal candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe, said she believes Canada’s equalization system — which sends federal revenues from wealthier provinces such as Alberta to so-called have-not provinces — is working.
“Tell the truth,” shouted more than one heckler — before moderator Ken Kolby, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, warned they must pipe down or leave.
Rose was given more time to finish her thought: “I think equalization is being used as a wedge issue to separate us from other Canadians,” she said.
“You may not agree with me, but it’s to make sure that all resources that belong to Canada are helping all Canadians.”
While her comment got some applause, louder clapping from some audience members went to People’s Party of Canada candidates who spoke resoundingly against equalization at Thursday’s forum featuring seven out of 10 candidates running in Red Deer’s two ridings.
The event was sponsored by the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, the Student Association of Red Deer College and the Red Deer Advocate.
Blaine Calkins, Conservative candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe, stayed away because of illness, while Gary Tremblay, Liberal candidate for Red Deer-Mountain View, and Sarah Palmer, Green Party candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe, could not attend.
Paul Mitchell (PPC for Red Deer-Mountain View) called equalization unfair and said the formula needs to change.
Laura Lynn Thompson (PPC for Red Deer-Lacombe) recounted how her party leader, Maxime Bernier, accused Quebec of becoming a welfare province because it relies too much on funds from Alberta.
“You can trust Maxime Bernier, that’s the first thing,” as he doesn’t necessarily tell people what they want to hear, said Thompson.
She added: “I think French people can be trusted — but of course, you can’t trust Justin Trudeau.”
Conner Borle (Green Party for Red Deer-Mountain View) said equalization shouldn’t be a tool for getting more votes from Quebec.
Lauren Pezzella (NDP for Red Deer-Lacombe) called it “a product of a bygone era” that needs to reflect new economic realities.
Earl Dreeshen, the Conservative Party incumbent for Red Deer-Mountain View, said the Liberals paid no attention to Alberta’s new struggling economy when they locked equalization payments in for five years.
Government support for foreign countries, for LGBTQ groups, and for pipelines prompted some emotional responses from candidates.
Thompson took Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer to task for not doing more to stop abortions. She also said her party would pull support from the CBC as well as all Pride parades and other LGBTQ causes, saying “we do not support small interest groups.”
This caused Logan Garbanewski (NDP for Red Deer-Mountain View) to respond as “the only openly bisexual candidate,” that it’s the government’s job to protect all marginalized groups.
Rose also stressed that being queer is not a choice, or special interest.
Regarding the PPC’s promise to use the Constitution to ram pipelines through, whether provinces wanted them or not, Pezzella said this would be shot down by the courts as “illegal.”
She feels it’s time to invest in new technologies to create jobs.
Dreeshen blamed Trudeau for stopping the Northern Gateway pipeline because of additional tanker traffic on the northern B.C. coast, when “American and Russian tankers are already going up and down it.”
Garbanewski feels it’s important to not force pipelines on provinces and First Nations.
But Thompson and Mitchell said a leader can impose them for the good of the nation.
Although the two PPC candidates stated Canada should stop giving out foreign aid, Borle said a good portion of it goes toward feeding hungry people and children.