The oilsands in northeastern Alberta is driving Canada’s economic engine, but its development needs to be done at a slower pace to ensure environmental protection, says the New Democratic Party candidate for Red Deer South.
Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer said this industry is keeping Canadians in good stead when it comes to financing, the economy and people’s quality of life in general.
But the oilsands should be developed at a slower pace and with strong restrictions, she said.
“There’s an awful lot of secrecy that goes on around that area,” said Watkinson-Zimmer. “We don’t see some of the reclamation. I think the government has been really poor on showing what they have done. We don’t see aerial views (of the reclamation). All we see are the aerial views of the devastation.”
She’s also concerned with the level of foreign companies in the area because she’s not sure if they have the proper checks and balances.
“There’s a fair bit of revenue that comes to the province, but at what cost?” Watkinson-Zimmer said.
Watkinson-Zimmer believes long-term sustainable funding is a must for health care, education and municipalities.
“We need guaranteed funding rather than a little dabble here and there — or something before an election where there’s an uplift to get votes,” said Watkinson-Zimmer.
Watkinson-Zimmer said long-term planning, at a minimum of five years, is needed.
“But there also needs to be a clause in there so if there are royalties that come in, maybe you can have a little bit more (in terms of funding),” she said.
Watkinson-Zimmer decided to run for the NDP for the first time because she’s always believed in what the party stands for.
“I believe in families first — they want a good quality of life, good education and health. And they’re not in the pockets of the big oil and gas companies, whereas the PCs and the Wilrose Party are, which are hugely funded by them.”
Watkinson-Zimmer, 64, has been married to Dennis since 1973, and together they have one adult son, Joel. She and her husband have owned Comfort the Soles store for the last 19 years. She taught children for 24 years as well. Watkinson-Zimmer was a city councillor for 15 years before deciding not to run in the 2010 election.