Four candidates running in the upcoming election faced a fairly full room of potential voters at a political forum held Wednesday at the auditorium at the Peter Lougheed Community Centre in Rimbey.
The candidates for the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Constituency included David Rogers from the Alberta Independent Party, Jeff Ible, NDP candidate, Joe Anglin, Alberta Party’s candidate and Paula Lamoureux, candidate for Alberta Advantage Party.
UCP candidate Jason Nixon was not in attendance, but voiced his apologies in a letter stating he had a prior committment to an event in Water Valley.
“I am running for the United Conservative Party and we are focused on jobs, pipelines and the economy. We are presenting Albertans with a positive, common-sense plan to get our economy back on track,” the letter stated.
Moderator Rebekah Seidel, who was standing in for librarian Jean Keetch noted that Nixon had written a letter, adding that Paul McLauchlin was in the audience and, if granted permission, would read the letter aloud.
However, Joe Anglin voiced his opposition to such a move, noting that it was a candidates’ forum and only those candidates who were present should be allowed to speak.
Anglin’s request was granted.
In her opening statement, Paula Lamoureux said Alberta is broken and she is committed to standing up to what Albertans deserve.
Joe Anglin, the Alberta Party candidate said Albertans need to take back control of the government.
“I will never be told how to vote,” he said.
NDP candidate Jeff Ebl took the opportunity to slam Jason Kenney and the UCP Party, while encouraging those in attendance to support Premier Rachel Notley.
“The NDP inherited an economy deeply damaged,” he said, “But we will balance the books by 2023. Is the job done? Absolutely not.”
David Rogers, the candidate for the Alberta Independent Party said it is time for change.
“There is too many seniors working at Tim Hortons. That is wrong. We need to make it a great place for us and our children.”
None of the candidates directly answered the question, “when did they decide pipelines were a good idea?” asked by Rimbey resident Teri Ormberg, although they all agreed there was a need for pipelines.
“We all know there is a problem and we are for pipelines,” said Lamoureux.
“I can’t understand why they are doing what they are doing,” said Anglin.
Ebl said the premier is working hard to get the pipelines through.
“It’s in everybody’s best interest to get the pipeline built.”
Rogers said the pipeline is a lifeline for working Albertans.
“We need to have our pipelines up and running.”
Other questions revolved around health care, education, crime, the use of water for fracking and water injection and global warming.
Jackie Anderson from Rimbey questioned per capita funding for health care from the Province.
She noted that The Society for Fair and Transparent Health Care Funding to Central Alberta (”The Society”) has recently obtained data through Freedom of Information (FOIP) summarizing health infrastructure investment throughout the province of Alberta during the ten-year period from 2008 to 2018. The stimulus for this study was to redevelop Central Zone’s major referral hospital, the Red Deer Regional Hospital (RDRH).
During the study period, health infrastructure investment was as follows: Calgary zone received$2538 million ($2.538 billion), which equates to $1,633 per capita and the Central zone received $107 million equaling $228 per capita. The per capita funding for the Edmonton zone was $1118 per capita, the North zone, $2,086 per capita and the South zone, $1,513 per capita.
Anderson noted that over a ten-year period, the provincial rate of investment occurred at nearly six times the rate in Central Zone, and 9.6 times when currently funded projects are considered. This represents a near 1,000 percent difference in funding. The Society objects to exporting local tax dollars to fund health care infrastructure throughout the province and calls on all political parties to immediately commit to finding redevelopment of the Red Deer Regional Hospital including building a cardiac catheterization lab.
Anderson said the Society is also calling on Premier Rachel Notley to publicly release the Updated Needs Assessment for RDRH, which was completed in the fall of 2018.
Unless funding occurs immediately, the Red Deer Regional Hospital is at risk of not seeing a new hospital bed in 25 years. The Society’s report stated that this risk is prevalent even though RDRH is by far the busiest and most acute hospital outside of Edmonton and Calgary.
NDP candidate Jeff Ebl said he couldn’t answer the question in specifics.
Alberta Party candidate Joe Anglin said rural areas should be given a higher rate per capita for health care.
In response to a question regarding crime, Alberta Advantage Party condidate Paula Lamoureux said her party would look at putting criminals back to work to pay off their debt.
Anglin said RCMP staffing, and resources are underfunded.
“When the economy drops, crime picks up.”
Anglin said education of today’s youth is crucial in order to keep this generation abreast of the latest technology which is constantly changing.
“We need to educate our kids in front of the curve. Our young kids are our investment.”
Ebl said the NDPs are looking at new schools, more educational funding and additional teachers and teachers aids.
Rogers said Alberta needs to separate and funding would be available for students to attend post secondary institutions.
“Once we separate we would have resources and people and a way to do it.”
Jim Anderson questioned the use of water by oil companies for fracking and fresh water injection.
“It’s a longterm concern and the river is going to run dry.”
“It’s absolutely not necessary,” said Joe Anglin.
“We have to protect our water,” said Ebl. “There has to be a solution.”
In answer to a question regarding global warming, the Alberta Advantage Party candidate said her party believes climate change is an excuse for the carbon tax.
The fact that library funding has increased only slightly sine 2009, but minimum wage has taken a huge jump was brought to the attention of the candidates by Michael Boorman.
“The library model needs to change,” said Anglin while Lamoureux said more funding is needed to address the problem.