Political forum draws small but vocal crowd

  • Apr. 26, 2011 11:00 a.m.


The crowd attending a political forum for candidates in the Wetaskiwin Riding held at the Rimbey Community Centre last Wednesday was small, but vocal and the politicians in attendance were kept on their toes as the questions kept coming.

Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties Liberal candidate Chris Anderson, who had promised to be there via skype, was not able to participate.

However, Progressive Conservative MP Blaine Calkins and NDP candidate Tim Robson fielded questions fairly steadily during the two-hour forum moderated by Rimbey librarian, Jean Keetch.

And while the two did not take off their boxing gloves and get into a political ring of angry accusations and back biting, there were a few moments when the opponents appeared less than cordial.

Calkins, when questioned about the Conservatives contempt of Parliament for its refusal to share information that opposition members said they needed to properly assess legislation put before them, appeared somewhat annoyed.

However, Rimbey area resident Jackie Anderson said it was not a matter to be taken lightly.

“You can roll your eyes if you want, Blaine, but it is a very serious issue,” she said, adding it was the first time in history that a motion had been made to declare a government in contempt of Parliament.

Calkins said the Conservatives has more than made up for any secrets it was accused of keeping by being more transparent than any government ever has been before.

But the NDP candidate shook his head in denial, pointing out that the F-35 Stealth fighter jets that the Stephen Harper Tories want to buy may be state of the art but they are missing engines.

Derry Armstrong, who recently became a grandparent, said he was concerned about the high cost of childcare in the country.

However, Calkins assured him that the Conservatives are looking after young families by offering incentives such as $100 per month for each child under six and a $2,000 per child tax credit.

Robson said families are important to the NDP and, if elected, that government would give families a break by improving maternity and family benefits, capping credit card interest at 5 per cent over prime, introducing caregiver benefits, decreasing child care costs and delivering on affordable housing.

Both politicians spoke strongly about preserving the family farms.

“We believe in the family farm and the Canadian Wheat Board. We need farms and we need our farmers,” said Robson.

Calkins pointed out that several agricultural programs designed to help farmers financially have been revitalized to meet the ever-changing needs of the farmer.

“Agriculture is a business. We have also given farmers the market access they’ve been asking for. The reality is they want level playing field. We need to open the market. We produce far more than we can here.”

Negative comments and backbiting are becoming more common, said Rimbey resident Don Bresnahan.

“”I want to hear some positive things,” he said. “What positive things can you share with me?”

“I’m all about hope and optimism for the future,” said Calkins. “I go down to Ottawa to support agriculture and our rural way of life.”

“I don’t think the NDP’s have any negative ads and we won’t have any if I have anything to do with it,” said Robson.

The huge deficit the government is facing was also cause for questions and discussion.

“There is a problem, but there is a plan to keep it under control,” said Calkins.

Robson said the Tories have frittered away millions of dollars.

“We would not support big banks and big oil companies,” he said.

Rimbey resident Florence Stemo did not ask any questions at the forum because she felt the answers were not completely truthful.

“I took exception and questioned Blaine’s answers in a number of areas, particularly those having to do with the debt,” she said. A group of us should have got together so we could be prepared to respond to his (Calkins) glib tongue.”