A packed house filled the Lacombe Memorial Centre in order to hear the six candidates for the provincial riding of Lacombe-Ponoka outline their visions for the Province of Alberta.
Alberta Party nominee Myles Chykerda, NDP nominee Doug Hart, UCP incumbent nominee Ron Orr, Freedom Conservative Party nominee nominee Keith Parrill, Alberta Independence Party nominee Tessa Szwagierczak and Alberta Advantage Party nominee Shawn Tylke all debated the current issues facing the province including healthcare, education, seniors care, the economy and taxation
The all-candidates forum was put on by the Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce in order for residents of Lacombe-Ponoka to get a better idea of the policies that may affect the Albertan business environment.
Alberta Party Nominee Myles Chykerda
Chykerda wanted to let the people of Lacombe-Ponoka know that they do indeed have a choice and that the race is not simply between the UCP and the NDP.
“There is a lot of tales out there that this election is a two-horse campaign and that is not the case,” he said. “There are some ideas out there, but they are usually out attacking each other saying we need to spend more or less money on the exact same things.
“The Alberta Party is trying to put forward a lot of new and novel ideas in order to change what is happening in Alberta. I hope people go to the Alberta Party website and look at our policies.”
Chykerda said that although the party has been described as centrist, that does not mean they are not taking a stance on issues.
“Our riding the middle is about putting province first over ideology,” he said. “Some of our platform policies have been more left-wing that ticked some people off and then we have put other polices that are more right wing that have ruffled some feathers.
“If we are ruffling feathers on both sides, maybe we are doing something right by bringing them together.”
Chykerda said the main issues he has heard on campaign on on healthcare and education. For healthcare, he said it is important to advocate for the Red Deer Regional Hospital expansion and the creation of new seniors care facilities within the riding. One of the main education concerns he heard was the need to get rid of crowded classrooms and the creation of a new high school in Blackfalds.
He also heard the need to diversify the economy.
“This oil and gas thing is not the only basket we should be putting our eggs in,” he said. “Some family members of mine have been in oil and gas since 1980. They realize it is a boom-bust thing and they are big into diversification.”
NDP Nominee Doug Hart
Hart so that the main thing he has heard throughout the campaign is that people in the riding are concerned about jobs and the economy.
“The conservatives are taking the approach that if we reduce taxes more, then we will attract more business and the economy will recuperate,” Hart said. “The problem is that when we lost businesses in 2016, we had the lowest taxes in the country. We had no payroll tax and we still lost them. We didn’t lose them because of taxes being too high — we lost them because oil was $28 a barrel.
“Until oil recovers, simply reducing taxes for business puts a bigger whole in our budget and gains nothing back in return.”
Hart said his Party will continue to advocate for oil and gas while attempting to diversify the economy.
“What we are offering is support for our existing petroleum industry, the expansion of being able to refine products at home, the expansion of petroleum value-added jobs and also getting the Trans Mountain Pipeline built so we can get our product to tidewater,” he said.
While oil recovers, Hart said is important to keep people working by creating jobs through investing in infrastructure that is needed in the province. He said that since the debt-to-GDP ratio is the best in the country and the debt-per-capita is the lowest — along with low interest rates — it is a good time invest.
Hart said the NDP focus on UCP Leader Jason Kenney throughout the election is due to ongoing controversies Kenney is involved in.
“He is leading the league in fear mongering. I call it the penny, penny Kenney — he is the one saying the sky is falling and it is not,” Hart said.
Hart said that Kenney had three cabinet terms while he was a Federal MP in Ottawa where he could have been helping Alberta.
“We had a prime minister from Calgary for 12 years and Kenney was in the PMO office. Why didn’t he help Alberta when he was in cabinet,” he said.
UCP Incumbent Nominee Ron Orr
Orr said the most important issues in this election are to get people working again, while also ensuring services are maintained.
“People want to make sure we keep out services like healthcare, education and things like self-managed care. Those are important,” he said.
Orr said the focus should be on the economy and said the NDP has been using character assassination to discredit potential UCP MLAs.
“We understand that is part of campaigning and we are continuing to move forward,” Orr said. “We are fixated on the objective of getting the economy going and getting jobs back in place.
“We respond to things when we can but as we all know there is so many things in social media that is about lambasting everyone. So much of it is not even true. I tell people to take a breath and to go read the actual policies.”
Orr said part of the polarization of this election stems from western alienation.
“Alberta has for many years felt misunderstood and mistreated by Ottawa,” he said. “There is this attitude of colonialism and it is interesting that we are seeing a rising tide of people wanting to be separatists.
“Personally, I don’t believe that would solve many problems — in fact it probably creates more problems than it solves. I think we need to continue to struggle to create a fair place in confederation.”
Orr said there is a good chance that a central Albertan UCP MLA, if elected, would receive a cabinet seat — although he is not sure if that would be him.
“I will have to leave that up to the premier and I don’t envy his choice,” he said. “We have a lot of good candidates stepping forward and I am really impressed with some of our candidates. There are a lot of other responsibilities other than cabinet. I fully expect I will be in there somewhere.”
The Freedom Conservative Party, the Alberta Independence Party and the Alberta Advantage Party nominees all presented, to a varying degree, visions of how Alberta could be better off outside — or partially outside — Canadian Confederation.
Freedom Conservative Party nominee Keith Parrill said his party would negotiate a new deal with Ottawa.
“Quebec has a beautiful set up. I am jealous of Quebec. If we we able to self-govern some of our laws like they do, we could do a lot better for our people,” Parrill said.
Alberta Independence Party nominee Tessa Szwagierczak said that her parties polices would allow for the services people are accustomed to without taking on my debt.
“I know we can reach a better quality of life if we take the first steps towards independence. All we have to do is believe in ourselves and we can achieve great things together,” she said.
Alberta Advantage Party nominee Shawn Tylke said that a problem not being spoke about is the United Nations Migration Pact.
“I would everyone to take a look at this pact and see what our governments are pushing us towards. Ask yourself, ‘If this really what you are looking forward to?’.”
Lacombe-Ponoka residents will head to the polls on April 16th from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.
There will be advanced polling from April 9th until April 13th at various locations. You can register to vote and find out where your polling stations are by logging on to elections.ab.ca.
Official results of the election will be announced on April 26th, 2019 — however the Lacombe Express will at location on election day providing updated unofficial information through the day.