Barrhead Candidates forum well attended
More than 400 people in audience to hear candidates' platforms
Voters in the Barrhead and Westlock corridor had the opportunity to hear what the five candidates running in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock had to say at a candidates forum April 11 in Barrhead.
In attendance were all five candidates: Leslie Penny (Liberal), Link Byfield (Wildrose), Lisa Grant (EverGreen), Maureen Kubinec (Progressive Conservative) and Trudy Grebenstein (NDP). The forum was moderated by Gerry St. Pierre.
Each candidate was given two minutes to explain why he or she wanted to represent the riding in the Legislature, before being asked a series of questions compiled by organizers and submitted by the audience.
Penny explained that she wanted to help build a better Alberta because through her work in the health care field, she’s seen what can happen to kids when they have their programs cut.
“A society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members,” she said.
Byfield said he was running because of the government’s misspending since the 2008 election. He cited the government voting itself a hefty pay increase and building $16 billion in power lines as two of his major concerns.
A Wildrose government, he said, would cut MLA pay, dismantle the health superboard and adequately address property rights.
Grant was amazed by how many people had turned out for the forum.
“There’s a lot of people here, which is amazing,” she said. “It shows that you’re ready for change.”
She went on to say that although the EverGreen party is rooted in the environment, the environment is connected to everything in society, and therefore needs to be looked after.
Kubinec talked about her previous experience as a school trustee and Westlock County councillor, and how it would benefit her as MLA because she has seen what good and bad government is. She added she viewed health care as a major issue that requires a multi-faceted solution.
Finally, Grebenstein talked about her experience working in education for 37 years, and how she immigrated to Canada and moved to Alberta in 1969. She said voters have a choice in this election whether they want an NDP government or one that is in the pocket of the rich. She also mentioned the things an NDP government would do with respect to health care, education and helping young Albertans be successful.
During the forum, the candidates were asked a total of 18 questions, covering a range of topics.
The first question dealt with how the candidates would handle the shortage in spaces for seniors in long-term care facilities.
Penny’s answer touched on her experience in the health care field. She explained that a lot of people would need to work together to fix the shortage, and that new strategies would be required.
An example she cited would be to have more medical support in the seniors lodges, which could reduce or eliminate the need for residents to go into a long-term care facility. In addition, she said there is also a need to increase the number of people working in the community as a whole who can provide services to keep seniors in their own homes as long as possible.
When presented with a question about the fate of the carbon capture and storage project in Swan Hills, Byfield said it’s an interesting project that is experiencing some initial problems.
However, he was unequivocal in his opinion on the idea of carbon capture and storage. He said it’s a waste of money because all it’s doing is essentially putting air into the ground.
“There are better uses of that money,” Byfield said.
Another question was about how the candidates would address the high cost of energy.
Here, Grant talked about how Alberta, and the world, is too dependent on fossil fuels, and that there is a need for more local, renewable energy sources.
She said the EverGreen party would work to add more energy to the grid via those renewable means, which in turn would create jobs and reduce energy costs on the whole. Overall, she said more innovation is needed, and that we must not focus all our attention on the oilsands.
The candidates were also asked how they would protect Alberta’s water and how they would hold industry to account.
Kubinec’s answer discussed how the Land Stewardship Act was designed for exactly that purpose — to protect the province’s environment, especially its water and land resources. She said the act would allow landowners all the rights they deserve, but it would also have the “teeth” needed to ensure industry sets up shop and acts in accordance with the best way to protect the environment.
Yet another question asked how the candidates would make government spending more efficient.
Grebenstein said what she would do is end corporate and union donations to political parties. She said the big parties are dependent on those business donations, so she would like to see Alberta follow the lead of the federal government and eliminate those contributions.
In addition, she said she would like to implement the same disclosure rules as are currently in place at the federal level.
The forum lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours, and drew a crowd organizers estimate numbered more than 400.
“It was a younger crowd than I was expecting,” said organizer Sharon Mueller.
Voters have one week remaining to consider what they learned at the forum before heading to the polls on April 23.
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