Blaine Calkins seeking re-election in new riding

This is the second of three feature interviews with federal candidates in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding.

With more than 80 per cent of the vote in the last federal election under his belt, Blaine Calkins is possibly considered the front-runner in the Red Deer-Lacombe riding.

Changes to the electoral district haven’t affected Calkins’ plan much, except to spend time in Red Deer knocking on doors meeting residents. “It’s changed the nature of the riding that I’m used to representing a little bit, because now it’s got amore urban flavour to it,” he explained.

Calkins graduated from Red Deer College and he feels he has close ties to the city and suggests the population growth inSylvan Lake, Lacombe and Blackfalds has also changed the dynamic of the riding.

Bringing benefits to farmers is something Calkins feels has already begun with the dismantling of the Canadian WheatBoard. “With the majority government, we were able to bring marketing choice and freedom to barley and wheat growers all across western Canada.”

While the province is struggling in the energy sector due to over supply from OPEC, Calkins suggests other products such as beef, pork, grain and lumber are doing well. He referred to the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a tool that will benefitCanadians in the agriculture sector. “That’s a good thing for producers I don’t ever remember a time, in my lifetime growing up on a farm, where we had solid commodity prices in both meat and grains all at the same time.”

When asked about balancing a renewable energy source with fossil fuels Calkins suggested the world will not be moving away from fossil fuels anytime soon.

“Virtually any so-called renewable energy that’s out there, many of which are made from components of the petrochemical sector, many of these initiatives simply aren’t ready or aren’t cost effective and would need significant government funding to make them viable,” explained Calkins.

He suggests the private sector will determine what is economically viable and what the market can handle. Much of what makes Alberta grow are the fossil fuels, said Calkins.

When it comes to senior care and mental healthcare, Calkins said the federal government has almost doubled the health transfers to the province. He added the benefits to seniors comes in the form of tax breaks.

“We’ve taken about 400,000 Canadian seniors off the tax role altogether who, if we had the same policies we had in 2005,would be paying taxes today,” said Calkins.

He said the country’s budget is strong with growing economy, which helps provide funds for healthcare and other public needs. “A strong economy and a strong private sector pays for the public sector.”

Working with the First Nations communities in Maskwacis, which is part of the riding, is something Calkins says he has done as the Wetaskiwin representative. He is proud of community initiatives at the reserve to reduce gang violence. One area Calkins feels is important is creating transparency in financial reporting of First Nations councils.

“First Nations people living in these communities should know how the money is spent,” said Calkins. “And the taxpayers frankly, who are sending that money, ought to know how that money is being spent.”

He said changes were also made in the Indian Act to allow residents to access human rights complaints and providing women matrimonial rights to their properties.

Calkins said he feels he feels the most important issue for Canadians is the economy. He suggests the PC Party helped grow the country’s per capita GDP. “The Canadian middle class is the richest class in the world.”

He suggests the best way for growth and a sustainable economy is a strong private sector that helps the public sector.