Lacombe-Ponoka provincial candidates sounded off on the issues during a forum at the Lacombe Memorial Centre on May 16.
Topics ran the gamut from strengthening healthcare sustainability to tackling inflation to bolstering ag industry support to the notion of Alberta sovereignty.
In attendance were Myles Chykerda (Alberta Party), Daniel Jefferies (Wildrose Loyalty Coalition), Jennifer Johnson (UCP), Nathan Leslie (Solidarity Movement of Alberta), and Taylor Lowery (Green Party).
Not in attendance was Dave Dale of the Alberta NDP.
A common theme was that of raising the bar of government accountability.
“We as Albertans need people who are just that – average people standing on truth and righteousness for the people of Alberta and for the great people of the Lacombe-Ponoka riding here,” said Leslie. “I want Alberta to be great – and I want to hear from Alberta. I want to put in the work to make the changes that Alberta needs.”
Chykerda also noted that democracy relies on pushing past labels.
“It shouldn’t be about a party’s colours or branding, but about (building) ideas and policies that speak to your needs and concerns,” he said. “Several months ago, I saw this province heading yet again into this narrative of ‘vote for me in order to block them’. That is not good governance. It’s how we morph into constant campaigning instead of finding lasting solutions,” he said.
He said the province’s health care, educational, and business systems can’t be operated on four-year cycles and the idea of ‘what is going to get me voted in’.
Lowery, a teacher, said that although she doesn’t live in the riding, she would bring a youthful, fresh approach to representing the constituency with a goal of bringing as much diversity as possible to the conversation. And contrary to popular belief, her party isn’t anti-oil and gas.
“Not true – especially not Alberta Greens. Obviously, gas and oil are a part of this province and a part of the economy here,” she said, adding the goal is building a more equitable financial playing field for all. That would include building the Heritage Fund, and funding initiatives that would help with moving towards greener energy options, she noted.
Johnson noted that affordability is a key concern for thousands who are trying to just make ends meet.
“No one should have to decide between paying their utility bill or paying for food,” she said. “Taxes are the biggest cost for families. So making life affordable is a top priority,” she added, pointing out that Alberta currently has the lowest inflation rate in the country.
She also said more doctors are needed particularly in Central Alberta, but many opt to practice in urban areas.
The goal is to encourage them to settle in the smaller communities and rural areas. “I agree that throwing money at this doesn’t solve the problem – we have to look at our bureaucratic bloat as well which is a real issue.”
Chykerda said returning decision-making to the local level is essential to many levels of health care, including that of helping people to age in place and the provision of senior housing.
Jefferies also agreed with the concept of restoring the regionalization of boards to bolster accountability over “where the money is going and (then) to be able to talk to the people who are making those decisions.”
But ultimately, he said the real solution for Alberta lies in its independence.
“We have an ‘Ottawa’ problem here in Alberta – they take too much of our money and give us too little in return,” he said.
“A vote for the Wildrose Loyalty Coalition is a vote to say no to these useless carbon taxes and useless carbon policies that aren’t changing the environment – they are only making us poorer and raising our cost of living,” he said, adding his party would negotiate better terms for Alberta.
“The time is right for Alberta to assert its independence.”
Voters head to the polls on May 29.
Voters head to the polls on May 29.