Health care, property rights key issues at Chestermere-Rocky View candidates forum
About 200 people attended an all-candidates forum put on by the Chestermere YELL Youth Council for the Chestermere-Rocky View constituency, April 13.
The forum featured three candidates vying for a seat in the legislature in the upcoming provincial election, to take place April 23, including Progressive Conservative candidate Ted Morton, currently the MLA for Foothills-Rocky View; Wildrose’s Bruce McAllister and Alberta NDP candidate Nathan Salmon.
Each of the candidates responded to 11 questions, submitted by attendees at the beginning of the evening. The questions varied, but a number of hot-button topics were addressed, with the audience responding to the candidate’s statements with applause and jeers.
McAllister’s promise to “kill Bill 50,” which has made possible the Edmonton to Calgary power lines to be built across the constituency, was met with applause.
Morton responded that the lines are critically needed.
“We haven’t upgraded since the 1950s and we need to keep the lights on,” he said, adding that the government will put the cost over a 40-year period to avoid front-end loading consumers.
A second question about property rights brought out more detail.
“If we want to keep the same quality of life in Alberta... we have to have a plan as we go forward,” said Morton, speaking of the controversial Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA).
Morton went on to say recent changes to the act, along with the creation of a Property Rights Advocacy office addressed concerns of landowners fearful of losing their rights to compensation and the courts.
“We are a caucus of 32 rural landowners,” said Morton. “Are we going to pass something of detriment to landowners?”
Salmon said property rights are of one of the major issues in the riding, adding “people should have rights to their own land.”
McAllister’s hard-hitting response solicited cheers from the audience.
“We believe (this government) has a culture of corruption and cronyism,” he said. “‘A” is for abort and that is the button we are going to push on these land bills.”
When asked about what their parties would do ensure responsible mining of Alberta’s oil sands, Morton, the former energy minister, said it is important the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines be constructed.
“Getting this done right is critical,” he said, adding that ALSA is a key portion of getting importers to buy in to Alberta’s oil sands as it shows the Province cares about limiting the environmental impacts.
Salmon and McAllister both said processing as much product as possible within Alberta will help maximize the province’s economy.
Salmon added the environmental impact of the oil sands is proven, but the resource is necessary for Alberta’s prosperity.
“The Alberta NDP get that it is a necessary evil,” he said, adding that Albertan industries would be wise to diversify by getting involved with renewable resources.
Salmon said health care should remain public, at the expense of raising taxes and royalty payments, if necessary.
“This private thing scares the crap out of me and that is why I am running,” he said. “If you get hurt, you should be able to go to the doctor and get fixed.”
McAllister said the Wildrose party would dismantle Alberta Health Services.
“We believe in decentralizing that giant superboard. We believe in regional autonomy.”
Morton mocked Danielle Smith’s recent promise of guaranteed wait times, saying her plan to send Albertans to private clinics outside of the province is unsustainable.
When questioned about how the party would balance its budget, McAllister said Wildrose would not raise taxes but would instead closely examine costs.
Salmon said more money could be garnered by raising taxes for the “super rich.”
Morton admitted the party had several deficit budget years due to the downturn in the economy, but said the PC’s plan is to continue to nurse the economy back to health. Morton added the government’s recent construction of roads, schools and infrastructure was made possible through the Sustainability Fund, which the party has depleted from $17 to $3.7 billion.
“We have had the kind of responsible fiscal conservatism you’d expect,” said Morton. “We offer a steady, stable approach.”