NDP candidates challenge Progressive Conservative practices

Lacombe-Ponoka NDP candidate Doug Hart hosts informal forum.

Doug Hart

Doug Hart

In continuing efforts to make sure the party’s goals and plans are heard, Lacombe-Ponoka New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Doug Hart and Wetaskiwin-Camrose candidate Bruce Hinkley held an informal forum at the Ponoka United Church, Wednesday, April 1.

Hart says one of the biggest challenges he faces, as an NDP candidate, is the mindset of people fearing they will waste their vote on a non-governing party.

He believes people hold their minds to the thought an MLA is only good to visit Edmonton and Ottawa to garner money for the constituency. “The role of the MLA is more than that. The role of the MLA is to define long term policies; what’s in the best interest of the citizens.”

“Our responsibilities are the citizens,” he added.

For the Lacombe-Ponoka constituency, some of Hart’s concerns include public education and seniors’ care, affordable health care, the province’s economic uncertainty, the Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s per capita funding model, ignored social and physical infrastructure, privatization of public sector and urban drift.

Several years ago, Hart read the number of seniors living in Ponoka was double the provincial average. “It’s because all our kids are moving away, and Ponoka’s no different than other small towns.”

Rural Alberta will further lose its vitality if small towns and family farms cannot retain the younger generations. “We’re killing the goose that laid the golden egg,” the NDP candidate said.

Hart says he does not want to pit rural and urban Albertans against each other. but he does see the importance of teaching urbanites where their food comes from and the need to preserve the vital system.

Hart is displeased with the way the PC Party has handled Alberta since Peter Lougheed, one of the province’s most popular premiers, handed over the reins.

Both he and Hinkley feel the NDP has done a better job of upholding Lougheed’s ideology than the PCs have. “Who would guess the New Democrats are more like Peter Lougheed than the Progressive Conservatives?” Hinkley asked the audience.

In his time as premier, Lougheed developed five principles to guide his actions to a healthy Alberta. While the NDP did not set out to copy those principles, Hart says Lougheed’s  principles and the party’s match well because both were invested in bettering Alberta.

Both believe royalties should be mandated on Alberta oil companies. In his time, Lougheed raised the royalties to 30 and 40 per cent; they are currently paying 9 per cent.

Hinkley says if the government increased the royalties 2 or 3 per cent, that would mean an extra $3 billion in revenue, annually.

Lougheed’s second point was to establish a Heritage Saving Trust Fund, meant to save for the future, diversify the economy and improve the quality of life for all Albertans.

Hinkley says there has not been much action taken to diversify the economy or improve the lives Albertans. “There are all kinds of problems with the health system (and) education.”

The Alberta NDPs also agree with Lougheed’s direction to build oil refineries. This creates long term jobs in Alberta and the party only supports selling refined oil.

Lougheed’s fourth point was ownership. “Because when you own something, you get the profits from in.”

An example Hart used was the province’s oil companies. In the past, the public sector was able to own portions of the companies, until they were sold to the private sector. Over the last few years, other countries such as China have been making purchases in the oil sands.

Hart scoffed that the PC party is allowing foreign companies to own Albertan oil assets when the province’s citizens no longer have the same opportunity.

NDP’s and Lougheed’s final common concern is environmental stewardship. Hart and the party want the extraction of oil to be done responsibly. Adding to Hart’s and Hinkley’s fire is the 65-plus oil projects running in the province.

“And that also affects water,” said Hinkley. “So those tailing ponds are here to stay.”

When an election is called, this will be Hart’s fourth time in the ring. While neither he nor Hinkley were expecting to be candidates this time around, as both were hoping for young blood, Hart says this is a role he is happy to step into. “Albertans are looking for new leadership and I’m enthusiastically applying for this job,” he said.