Complaints about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by UCP incumbent Jason Stephan evoked a few boos from the audience at Red Deer Polytechnic on Wednesday night and had one audience member wondering if he was at a provincial election forum.
When Red Deer election candidates were asked the one thing they would do to improve the standard of living in Alberta, Stephan said he would replace Trudeau who is supported by federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
“Trudeau has doubled the national debt. He has attacked and chased away investment from Alberta,” said the UCP candidate for Red Deer-South to a crowd of about 120 people at the forum hosted by Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce held at Red Deer Polytechnic.
“He has brought in a carbon tax. It is adding huge costs to the affordability for Alberta families and individuals,” Stephan said.
Michelle Baer, NDP candidate for Red Deer-South, said addressing affordability would make the zdifference.
“By reinstating caps on things like insurance, on things like utilities, I think we can ensure that Albertans have a little bit more change in their jeans at the end of the month. Over time that will contribute enormously to people’s quality of life,” Baer said.
Jaelene Tweedle, NDP candidate for Red Deer-North, said the UCP cut access to affordable housing, and people on AISH, low-income seniors and families have seen their benefits de-indexed.
“We need to not give huge tax breaks to profitable corporations, and spend $30 million on a war room when we have classrooms and emergency rooms suffering. We need to allocate our funds properly to support people to have a good standard of living,” Tweedle said.
“Improving the standard of living means attending to the people most in need. Currently an unhoused individual costs taxpayers $100,000 a year per individual,” said Heather Morigeau, Green Party of Alberta candidate for Red Deer-North.
She said housing first initiatives would ensure people are not living rough on the streets and that they are safe to receive the addictions or mental health services that they need.
Morigeau said requiring resource extraction companies to clean up their messes would also create employment.
Adriana LaGrange, UCP incumbent for Red Deer-North, said the UCP government brought $6.4 billion in investment back into Alberta which was driven out of the province by the Alberta NDP.
When asked how to continue to strengthen Alberta’s tax advantage, Morigeau said the Greens are looking at lowering taxes for small businesses, which are the lifeblood of Alberta.
“Entrepreneurial spirit is what grows this country in ways that is innovative and progressive,” said Morigeau, who added the Greens wouldn’t add a provincial sales tax.
Stephan said Alberta is leading Canada in economic growth and is seeing record migration.
“When the NDP came into power they jacked up corporate tax rate to 12 per cent and they actually raised less corporate tax revenue,” Stephan said.
He said the UCP reduced the corporate tax rate to eight per cent and actually have higher corporate revenue.
LaGrange said the UCP have brought diversified investment back to the province.
“We’ve reduced red tape. That has taken our credit rating, which under the NDP was an F, is now an A,” LaGrange said.
Baer said under the NDP, Alberta will maintain the lowest taxes in Canada. There will be no sales tax nor personal tax increases, and small businesses tax rates will remain at the current rate.
“We will stop providing corporate tax breaks to oil and gas companies, large corporations, and we’ll ensure that Albertans have more affordability measures and better jobs,” Baer said.
Tweedle said businesses leaders also want stability which the leader of the UCP does not provide.
“We have a leader at this point of the province who from one minute to the next, you don’t know what will happen,” Tweedle said about Danielle Smith.
On the question of reducing health care costs and improving access, Morigeau said it’s important for people to know that health professionals only saw a three per cent wage increase this year, which is seven per cent below the inflation rate.
The city also needs more health care services.
“I don’t understand why there isn’t an urgent care centre here and why we have 19-hour wait times,” Morigeau said.
“Over the past four years the UCP government has created a health care crisis that is being felt nowhere worse than in Red Deer,” said Baer, where there are zero family doctors accepting new patients.
She said Smith is talking about Albertans paying to see a family doctor and potentially selling hospitals to private care facilities.
“We’ve committed to commencing construction of the Red Deer hospital expansion in 2024 if elected,” said Baer, adding that the NDP would bring back respect when dealing with health care workers.
“I had a nurse say to me, you can put another floor on the hospital tomorrow. Good luck finding people to work on it. We are so demoralized,” Tweedle said.
She said the NDP is committed to investing in services under a completely public health care system that does not keep “edging towards private this and private that.”
Stephan said respect includes not lying and fear mongering.
“The premier is not going to make people pay for a doctor, nor is she going to shut down the hospitals and the NDP know it,” Stephan said.
“What is true is we’ve committed $1.8 billion to the hospital. That is the largest single capital investment in the province. When the NDP were in power for four years they took it off the priority list,” Stephan said.
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of the original story. Heather Morigeau is the Green Party of Alberta candidate, not the Green Party of Canada.