The meat and potato issues of this Alberta election campaign — health care, education, corporate taxes, too much dependency on oil and gas, maybe it’s time for a change — all made appearances at Red Deer election forum on Monday evening.
The eight candidates in Red Deer South and the five in Red Deer North constituencies all attended the tightly scheduled two-hour event sponsored by the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce, and which drew about 300 people to the Memorial Centre. Voters go to the polls on May 5.
Wildrose Party candidate for Red Deer South, Norman Wiebe, started the forum with the now-familiar platform that his party will not raise taxes, and “I want to see integrity brought back to government.”
Wiebe ended the forum by saying the Progressive Conservatives are crumbling, electing an NDP government would be an “unmitigated disaster for the economy” and the Wildrose Party is the only party that can stop the NDP.”
Ben Dubois, the Green Party candidate for Red Deer South, said his main goal in running has been to push participatory democracy and he has run into a lot on cynicism at people’s doors.
Dubois said that with eight candidates in Red Deer South, only 12.6 per cent of the vote is needed to elect a representative. “If we have a 50 per cent voter turnout in Red Deer South and someone is elected with 12.6 per cent of the vote, only 6.25 per cent of the people in riding have elected that person, which means 93.75 per cent of people in the riding either did not support that candidate or did not vote.”
Krystal Kromm, Alberta Party candidate for Red Deer North, said now is the time to make strategic investment in the Red Deer airport and expand the runway, which would be an economic driver. She said her party wants to diversify the economy with market-driven solutions to make it easier start and grow a business, and gradually phase out Alberta’s small business tax.
Barb Miller, the Red Deer South NDP candidate, said “There’s something very special happening in Red Deer in this election. I’m finding on the doorsteps people are wanting change … people are telling me that after 44 years Alberta continues to be stuck in a boom and bust cycle.”
People are frustrated that the PC government can’t get on the right track with health care and “To me this election is a referendum on Jim Prentice’s budget.”
“After 44 years this PC government is only focused on one thing. The PCs.”
Michael Dawe, for Red Deer North, representing both the Liberal and Green parties, said his aim was to provide a positive voice for change that does not follow traditional party politics. “If I do not agree with a particular party platform I will vote according to the wishes of the voters and my own ethical principals. I will be one of those who will not be simply following the orders of a small groups of partisan power brokers.”
He was last elected chair of the Red Deer Regional Hospital board before members were appointed and believes that “true public input must be restored to the health care with decision-making regional bodies restored.”
He also supports Red Deer College becoming a polytechnic university providing proper planning is done, and he does not support a sales tax.
Darcy Mykytyshyn, the PC candidate for Red Deer South noted that the city is thriving and he has heard three key messages knocking on doors. “We solely cannot cut our way to prosperity, we solely cannot tax our way to prosperity” and people want the province run the way they run their households.
Regardless of the price of oil, the PCs will reduce spending, raise revenues and balance the budget by 2018, he said. In this election voters get to make a choice about who has the most effective plan to move Alberta forward and who the most qualified candidate will be, he said.
Serge Gingras, Red Deer South Alberta Party candidate noted that many seniors cannot afford privately operated facilities and he is also concerned about government support to municipalities, pointing out that the city is still waiting for word on whether the former RCMP building can be used for much-needed extra courtroom space.
Christine Moore, PC candidate for Red Deer North, said that these are tough times ahead, and tough choices will need to be made. “We need to make sure health care is efficient and more dollars are directed to the front line,” she said.
Deborah Checkel, Red Deer South Liberal candidate, said the Liberal’s fiscal plan is reminiscent of the days of Peter Lougheed because it will invest in families and communities.
Other candidates attending were Buck Buchanan, Wildrose for Red Deer North, Kim Schreiner, NDP for Red Deer North, William Berry, independent for Red Deer South, and Patti Argent, independent, Red Deer South.