Local federal candidates tackled a range of topics from rural crime to tackling deficits to environmental stewardship during a forum held Sept. 30th at the Stettler Community Hall.
Green candidate Geordie Nelson, who lives in Camrose, wondered if those in the audience were wondering why he chose the Greens in what could be one of the most conservative ridings in the nation.
“I believe that it’s important to be able to provide people with an option and an alternative to the status quo,” he said, adding that the Greens are offering a complete platform, a balanced budget and the best tools to face the, “Climate emergency that we are facing,” he added.
Nelson also pointed out that the Greens are the only federal party that doesn’t have whipped votes, so if elected, he would be free to vote according to the wishes of constituents rather than continually towing the party line.
Conservative candidate Damien Kurek said that he’s been politically involved since as long as he can remember.
“I’m passionate about our country, and how incredible it is,” he said, noting that as a fifth-generation farmer he has a solid understanding of what makes the riding of Battle River-Crowfoot work.
He added that through his past political experience he has learned about how a leader can help turn around the the damage done by an ideological government bent on stagnating economic growth.
“This is also a unique community – it’s agriculture, it’s oil and gas, but we also have a vibrant manufacturing sector here. I was speaking with the owner of one of those manufacturing businesses here about a week ago, and he said 100 per cent of the oil and gas product they are making here, they are shipping to the United States.
“It’s great we have a market there, but isn’t it a shame that we can’t be selling those manufactured goods, made right here in Stettler, to our local industry?”
David Michaud, who is running for the People’s Party of Canada, said that he didn’t think the other political parties have Canadian’s best interests at heart.
“We want to get the party back into the people’s hands where it belongs. We work for you – it’s not the other way around. That’s something that the government currently forgets,” he said. “That’s my goal – to make Canada for Canadians,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nelson said that reducing demands on energy includes ramping up public transportation and putting in high-speed trains where it is cost-effective in Canada like southern Ontario and the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.
“It’s a slow transition (to renewable energy). It’s not about turning off the pipes instantly or about anyone losing their jobs.
“It’s about transitioning so we are living differently – not with less, but with less ‘stuff’.” Considering ways to rely more on local food sources is also part of that mix, he said.
One question surfaced about Albertans’ frustration with feeling significantly shut out of Ottawa.
“It’s absolutely key that we have respect within the context of what Canada is, and what it was created to be,” said Kurek. “When the fathers of confederation designed and built this country, it was built on the context that it’s okay if you are different, but you have to respect the fact that different voices need to be at the table,” he said.
“Unfortunately, over the last four years under the Trudeau Liberal government, we seen Alberta’s voice diminished or sometimes even forgotten,” he said. “We need to ensure that we fight for Alberta’s place at that table,” he said.
Michaud said Alberta has to work with the country and it has to get the pipelines moving, but that any talk of separating from Canada just isn’t feasible in the big picture of the province’s future.
“We also just want to get the world to work together to make things cleaner and better,” he said, but a reliance on fossil fuels isn’t going to fade away.
Kurek noted that Canada should be leading the way on the world stage in terms of environmental stewardship and developing any kind of renewable energy.
“It’s about technology, not taxes. The carbon tax is a revenue plan not an environmental plan.”
And then there is the soaring deficit the county has been facing.
Michaud said his party would balance the budget in two years.
“We aren’t promising anything we can’t deliver. We won’t promise anything we can’t deliver. We don’t want Canada to go any deeper into debt that we already are. It’s coming out of all of our pockets.”
Nelson said his party’s budget has been approved by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. “You can see how there is a plan over the next five years to reduce the debt.
“A lot of this includes closing tax loopholes such as tax havens,” and ensuring the very well-off are contributing appropriately, he said.
Corporate taxes would also see some hikes, too.
“That would be competitive with the U.S., our largest trading partner. So we wouldn’t be disadvantaged competitively.
“It’s a balance to make sure we are on track to balancing the budget while we aren’t disadvantaging Canadians who need the services that they need.”