The Lacombe-Ponoka United Conservative Party (UCP) Association recently held a candidate forum, giving nominees an opportunity to show why they should be the UCP candidate in the upcoming provincial election next May.
Initially, three candidates — current MLA Ron Orr, City of Lacombe City Councillor Thalia Hibbs and Rita Reich — however it was announced at the beginning of the forum that Reich had dropped out of the race to unknown personal reasons.
Over the course of the debate, the candidates discussed several issues including healthcare, the size of the civil service, pipelines and education — with the candidates generally agreeing ideologically on most issues.
Ron Orr’s Perspective
The incumbent Orr is betting on his experience being the go-ahead for his campaign
“I am the only one with experience, both in caucus and in the legislature,” he said. “I think that will be extremely important as we move forward.
“I am very passionate about the issues in Central Alberta. This is my home and I really want to work to make this a better place. “
Orr felt the biggest issue for his riding was improving an economy he and his party feels is broke.
“The biggest things on the mind of voters is definitely the economy and the future hope of industry, development and prosperity for Albertans,” he said.
Orr said his understanding of the Legislature and the relationships he has built in Edmonton will be key to improving the economy.
Being able to represent Central Alberta is also a priority for Orr, one he feels would be best solved in caucus.
He said, “Being able to speak up in those free-ranging conversations and first-of-all knowing the details and issues from listening to people and then being able to voice those in a way that gets the attention of the rest of caucus” is the best way to get the Lacombe-Ponoka message across
Orr was pleased to be able to speak at the event, saying it represents the grassroots goal the UCP is trying to achieve
“All politics is local and listening to people directly is really important,” he said.
If Orr were to lose the candidacy, he said he would continue to support the party and whomever is the UCP MLA in the region.
He added it is important to focus on next year’s election.
“We need to get good government going in Alberta again — the sooner the better,” he said.
Thalia Hibbs’ Perspective
His challenger for the riding, Thalia Hibbs, is currently a City of Lacombe Councillor and was previously a School Board Trustee and sees the UCP party as a new direction for conservative voters in Alberta.
“I think I am definitely that. I have a new energy and a different background. This riding is ready for someone like me who has the experience I bring and the passion I bring,” she said.
Hibbs agreed that the economy will come first in a new UCP government.
“That is all sorts of different things, for example we talked about the carbon tax, we talked about transfer payments, we talked about pipelines — theses are all economic issues and they need to be addressed aggressively,” she said.
Hibbs believes her experience with local government will help her in the Legislature
“True, I haven’t sat in the Legislature but I definitely have no shortage of political experience,” she said, adding that the experience of Central Albertans is one that she shares in.
By being someone who has young children and also takes care of aging parents, Hibbs believes she has a unique insight into issues of education, healthcare and seniors.
“As being part of that sandwich generation, I think that is a unique situation that I would like to bring to the Legislature to ensure that voice is being heard,” she said.
Representing Central Albertans will be be key for Hibbs in the Legislature.
“You just advocate for it. It means you are not afraid to continually bring up the situations, issues and concerns that you are meant to bring forward in caucus,” she said. “That is your job to bring those up everyday if you have to.
“That means you may have to argue against someone else’s position, but that is why you are elected.”
Hibbs said if Orr were to win the candidacy, she would continue to support the party by returning to her position on the board of the constituency association.
One concern that was voiced at the forum by an audience member was that a by-election would need to be held for Hibbs’ spot on Lacombe Council.
Hibbs said their is recent precedent for this in Lacombe and that it never has been an issue in the past.
“This happened in this community, for example Blaine Calkins — our current MP — was a sitting City Councillor and ran for the nomination of the Federal Conservatives and won,” she said.
She added she doesn’t feel the few people upset with her choice to seek the nomination do not represent the community at large.
Hibbs added it is important for the MLA to represent their constituency.
“I think that has to be the loudest voice,” she said.
Voting for the candidacy will take play at the Lacombe Legion on Sept. 20th from 12-8 p.m. and at the Ponoka Legion on Sept. 21st from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Voters must be a UCP member as of Aug. 30th, 2018 and must bring their UCP membership, photo ID and proof of residence
The winner will be announced once the polls have closed on Sept. 21.