Doug Hart has years of dedication supporting the NDP platform

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

With the federal election campaign in full swing, Ponoka News spoke with the three candidates running for the Red Deer-Lacombe electoral district: Blaine Calkins for the PC Party, Doug Hart for the NDP, and Jeff Rock for the Liberal Party. The same questions were asked of each candidate in an interview setting. There is also one candidate for the Green Party, Les Kuzyk, but requests for an interview were not replied to. An all candidates forum is set for Wednesday, Oct. 7 at theKinsmen Community Centre at 6:30 p.m.

Hot off the heals of the recent provincial election is NDP’s Doug Hart, who has long advocated for rural communities.

With the new riding of a population over 100,000 people, the change has added new dynamics to how candidates seek votes.

“The magnitude of it surprises me still,” said Hart.

He has created a process to meet and knock on doors of constituents with help from a strong group of volunteers while planning for eight forums.

“I do not have an established election machine,” said Hart.

While he is running for the NDP, Hart suggests party politics is a divisive way to running the country.

“I think public servants, including elected officials, need to serve the people that elected them, not just come back fromOttawa and tell them what the party message is,” stated Hart.

He said he is fully against the role of the member of parliament that appears to be less listening constituents and more on winning elections.

With energy prices at an all time low due to heavy supply from OPEC, Hart suggests there needs to be a balance of energy sources in Canada.

“I like to believe we can have clean air and water with a sustainable plan for fossil fuel extraction and at the same time aggressively look for alternative sources of renewable energy,” said Hart.

He calls petroleum products “the low hanging fruit” and questions why Canada has no geothermal energy plants yet there are 88 in the world. He suggests Canada can use its advancements in drilling technology and invest in research to develop a geothermal plan. “Why don’t we drill for heat, for heat?”

Working with the First Nations communities in Maskwacis, who are also part of the electoral district, is another area Hart wants to work on. He suggests the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has shown the serious challenges aboriginal people faced with the Indian residential schools.

“I think we need to promote their self-determination, promote their autonomy. We need to apologize sincerely for the atrocities that were inflicted on their parents and grandparents,” said Hart.

He added the NDP party has been active in taking steps for reconciling with the First Nations communities.

For farmers, Hart says he supports expanding market access for a product but suggests the current market access has not increased how much a farmer actually earns. “We need to reexamine the trade agreements and make the farmer the beneficiary.”

Hart suggests that money is not staying in the community. He also advocates for ways to promote small, specialized niche family farms.

Mental health and senior care are other areas Hart was questioned on. He said the privatization of senior care to for-profit centres is generating high profit for companies but the patients are suffering. “There has not been a national strategy for seniors’ care.”

He added that the province has not had a serious discussion of senior healthcare with the federal government for two years.“We are proposing substantial investment for at home healthcare.”

Alzheimer’s and dementia care are other areas that Hart wants to see some focus on and he added the NDP is promoting a plan for those challenges.

Hart suggests the riding is winnable but knows there is tough competition against Blaine Calkins who received more than80 per cent of the vote at the last election for the Westaskiwin riding. “My objective is to reduce that by at least half.”

His challenge is to create a name for himself in the north end of Red Deer as he has run for the many provincial elections but never as the federal candidate. He feels his knowledge of central Alberta and the rural areas make him the ideal candidate for the position.

“I have two Master’s degrees, one in administration and one in health,” said Hart.