The Lacombe Memorial Centre was packed as three local candidates for the Red Deer-Lacombe riding took to the stage during an all-candidates forum on Oct. 6th.
A wide range of topics from health care, income splitting, First Nations’ education and the Trans Pacific Partnership were on the forefront of discussion for the three candidates which included Jeff Rock of the Liberals, Doug Hart of the NDP and current MP Blaine Calkins of the Conservatives.
In his opening remarks, Calkins stated he has seen Canada grow over the past 10 years while he has served as a Conservative MP. “We are stronger and better than we’ve ever been before,” he said. “We have solid economic fundamentals. We have the wealthiest middle class in the world. Canada is poised right now to do better than ever before.”
He said he is proud of the prime minister, the leadership he has shown and the solid position taken on foreign policy matters.
“These types of questions require solid leadership, dependable leadership, taking the right side of an issue and making Canada a player and engaged on the world stage,” said Calkins. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the policy that we’ve had in place for families and seniors over the past 10 years.”
He added he sees Canada as the best country to live in, which didn’t happen by accident.
“It happened because of leadership from Stephen Harper and the Conservative government,” concluded Calkins.
Hart began his address stating that Harper and his government were elected 10 years ago on the heels of the Liberal sponsorship scandal. He added since then, Canadians have seen more scandals in the Senate, the passing of Bill-C51 and other assaults on democracy.
“I would suggest that it was improper to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership outside of the time the parliament was sitting and able to debate,” said Hart. “The results of which are secret.”
Hart said the Conservative government has eroded democracy, made assaults on peace, the environment, indigenous people, unions, veterans, seniors and scientific research.
“That has to change,” he said.
Rock started off his address stating that this election is about the people. “I believe that we can be better,” he said. “That our economy can be better, that our future generations can inherit a much better country.”
It’s with this optimism, he said Canadians need to come together to create constructive solutions.
In response to a question regarding the Liberal party’s position on income splitting, Rock stated the program only reaches out to 15% of Canadians.
“We need to do something much, much better with the funds from income splitting,” he said.
The Liberals plan to cancel the program but leave seniors pension splitting in tack. “We need better programs to help more people,” he said.
Hart responded by saying that his party’s stance on income splitting is clear – they would cut the program, but not for seniors. “Income splitting really only benefits wealthy people and not the disadvantaged,” he said.
Calkins responded by saying he was concerned about the plans of the opposing parties to cancel the government program.
“I’m not in favour of cutting programs that provide incentives for people to get ahead,” he said.
In response to a question regarding the NDPs alleged anti-oil and anti-pipeline statements, Hart said he did not believe his party was ‘anti-oil’. “I believe we are pro-industry, pro-prosperity and pro-environment, but not anti-oil,” he said.
Calkins responded by stating Alberta and the energy industry is a shining light in the Canadian economy.
“This is a terrible thing to do, to create such division over such a useful resource,” he said of the opposing parties statements.
Rock stated that denying climate change in the 21st century is ‘irresponsible’.
“It’s time to take the environment seriously,” he said. “We need to come up with constructive solutions. I stepped up as a Liberal because I believe we will get the balance between the environment and the economy right.”