By Emily Jaycox
For the Independent
The candidates’ forum held at the Stettler Community Hall April 1st was well-attended with about 250 people in attendance and five of the six registered electoral candidates present.
By the deadline on Friday, March 29th, six candidates had registered for the ballot in the Drumheller-Stettler riding including Jason Hushagen – Alberta Independence Party (AIP); Nate Horner – United Conservative Party (UCP); Mark Nikota – Alberta Party (AP), Rick Strankman – Independent, incumbent; Holly Heffernan – New Democratic Party (NDP) and Greg Herzog- Alberta Advantage Party (AAP).
Heffernan was not present at the forum.
Questions that were submitted prior to the forum and presented live from the audience ranged from the carbon tax and pipelines, to funding for healthcare, education, municipalities and rural crime.
Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls, Larry Clarke, reeve and county councillor and Guy Neitz representing Clearview Public Schools, were among the attendees, as well as a student group.
The first question put to the candidates regarded their ability for free voting in their party if elected.
Hushagen, Nikota and Herzog said there parties would allow free votes. Horner said the UCP will have free votes except for things that are campaign promises, key platform topics or confidence votes.
Strankman, an an independent, has free voting.
Equalization payments were also discussed.
The UCP plans to hold a referendum on equalization in 2021. Strankman said he’d like this election to decide that.
Hushagen said Alberta could hold a referendum and the federal government could still tell Alberta to “pound sand.”
According to Herzog, the AAP would end equalization by not signing the agreement next time it comes up for renewal.
When asked about the minimum wage and jobs for young people, all the candidates stated that their parties would leave it at $15 an hour.
Hushagen said it would stay the same, but lowering corporate taxes would attract more business and create jobs.
Horner responded by saying that the UCP’s ‘Open for Business’ bill would keep the $15 an hour minimum wage for those 17 and over and make the minimum wage $13 for those 17 and under.
This would encourage businesses to employ young people and create positions for them, said Horner.
One young man from the audience asked why needles are free for drug users but not for diabetics like himself.
All candidates agreed that needles for diabetics should be free and all of them put up their hands when challenged by an audience member to take the young man before the health minister if elected.