Educating voters

A younger voice in the crowd at the last Red Deer-Lacombe forum peppered candidates with questions on post-secondary education and jobs.

A younger voice in the crowd at the last Red Deer-Lacombe forum peppered candidates with questions on post-secondary education and jobs.

Jeff Rock, Liberal, and Doug Hart, NDP, were the only two candidates to show up to the forum. Blaine Calkins, Conservative, and Les Kuzyk, Green Party, were not in attendance.

The Red Deer Public Library held the last forum of the campaign for the Red Deer-Lacombe riding Thursday evening with candidates hard at work in the week leading up to the Oct. 19 election.

The two candidates who were at the forum Thursday evening were in their 10th forum or debate of this campaign.

Close to 30 people packed into the Snell Auditorium, a mix of young and old voters turned out to hear from the candidates.

The younger section of the audience brought questions forward focusing on post-secondary education and financial assistance. A couple of questions focused on how the parties would alleviate the financial burden.

Rock focused on the Liberal plan to increase money for grants and financial aid. Starting with the next budget cycle, if elected, that would provide $750 million annually. It would also make a change to the student loan payment regime, meaning students wouldn’t have to repay their loans until they were earning at least $25,000 per year.

Hart said, although post-secondary education is administered at the provincial level, the federal government can affect change through transfer payments and eliminating user fees. He also pointed to the NDP plan to create a matching grant for students working co-ops or internships, some of which are currently unpaid.

“Society benefits from more people graduating from post-secondary institutions,” said Hart.

But the young voices were also concerned about their future after secondary or post-secondary school, wondering what the candidates would do to encourage job growth. Red Deer has the highest unemployment rate in Alberta at 7.9 per cent, according to Statistics Canada’s August 2015 report. The same report said Alberta has a six per cent unemployment rate.

Hart raised the NDP plank of creating jobs through value-added industries in Canada. Rather than ship raw resources out of Canada, he said we should be building finished goods. Instead of sending raw crude down a pipeline to be refined elsewhere, he said the crude should be refined domestically.

Rock took the opportunity to tout the infrastructure plan the Liberal party has made as a key pillar of their campaign. Conceding deficit spending will be necessary, the party plans to spend $125 billion on infrastructure, creating jobs. Rock pointed to specific projects in Central Alberta that could create jobs including widening Hwy 2 to three lanes in each direction, improved water sanitation in Maskwacis and a new water well for Sylvan Lake.

With enthusiasm, Rock spoke about marijuana legalization, which has been a part of the Liberal platform. Though saying he has never tried pot, Rock stood by the party’s plan to legalize it. However, how it would be distributed safely and how the revenue would be used has not been planned by the party yet.

Hart said the NDP do support the decriminalization of marijuana and would be open to the conversation about legalizing it.

Election day is Oct. 19. For more information on where and how to vote, visit www.elections.ca or call 1-800-463-6868.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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