Three candidates running in the provincial election for the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding were put on the hot seat as they were peppered with questions from a packed house last Monday at a forum spon- sored by the Rimbey library.
The forum held at the Rimbey Drop In Centre gave Tammy Cote, the Progressive Conservative candidate, Joe Anglin, who is running as an Independent and Jason Nixon, the Wildrose nominee, a chance to compete in the political arena.
Connie Jensen started off the questions by insisting candidates involved in circulating a letter about Joe Anglin using the name of concerned citizens for democracy apologize. “I saw the letter, but I knew nothing about it. My campaign had nothing to do with the letter,” said Cote.
“It was totally inappropriate and my campaign had nothing to do with it, either,” said Nixon.
The forum then took a different turn, when Reg Kreil asked the candidates what plans they had for doctors, specifically surgeons, to move to Rimbey.
“We need to offer an environment where it’s conducive to come here,” said Cote.
Nixon said Sundre has incentives that help attract professionals and that Athabasca University is creating programs to encourage young people who grew up in rural Alberta to return to their roots after they receive their education.
Anglin said offering surgical care in Rimbey would relieve the pressure on Red Deer Hospital.
The candidates were questioned about the Heritage Trust Fund.
Nixon said Wildrose plans to invest 20 per cent of income by 2017, Cote said the PCs plan to put 25 per cent of all resource revenue in the Heritage Trust Fund.
Anglin said the government is gambling with resource revenue.
The candidates all stated adamantly they would not cross the floor, no matter what happened on May 5.
“I did not walk across the floor,” said Anglin.
Nixon pointed out it would cost a Wildrose candidate $100,000 to be a floor crosser, now.
“I have always been a PC. I have never held another party’s card,” Cote said.
Mayor Rick Pankiw asked the candidates about the PCs soft budget.
“I think it is completely fiscally irresponsible,” said Nixon. “There is a lot of waste in the current government.”
“The spending has not been abated in the budget,” said Anglin.
But Cote defended the budget, saying the PCs are willing to pull all levers; revenue, expenses and borrowing.
Jim Vetch told the candidates he has been very disillusioned with politicians who have made promises they have not kept.
“What will keep you guys accountable?” he said.
“I will not lie to you. I’m not really sure you can put that into legislation,” said Cote.
Nixon noted the fine for floor crossing and the fact that any MLA who lies would be fired are ways the Wildrose would measure accountability.
“As an Independent I don’t make decisions in the back room,” said Anglin.
Nixon said he would side with his constituents rather than toe the party line if necessary.
However, Anglin disputed this.
“I know he wants a free vote, but it’s not that way.”
Cote was not as quick to take a stand regarding which side she would take regarding controversial issues.
“It would depend,” she said.
Nixon and Anglin agreed hydraulic fracking can be done safely, if industry follows the correct procedures.
“We do need to keep in mind this is the only earth we have to live in,” said Cote.
Anglin was quick to slam the PCs regarding health care.
“It’s amazing that how many people (in health care) there are with six figure incomes who actually can’t answer when you ask them what they do,” he said. “We need to make sure AISH (assured income for the severely hand- icapped) funding is increasing with growth,” said Nixon.
“We really need to make sure gov- ernment officials make themselves accesible,” added Cote. “Alberta offers the best AISH funding, but some people are going to fall through the cracks.”
The PCs decision to cut funding for school boards and not allow them to use their reserves is a sign that the government panicked, said Nixon.
But Cote said school boards can use their budgets to get them through this year.
“Education is a priority for me. We need to have a voice and I would be that voice and speak up on education.”
“The only way to stop your taxes from going up is to vote Wildrose,” said Nixon in his closing remarks. Albertans are hurting and they are worried about their jobs and making ends meet.”
“It’s not about parties,” said Anglin. “Its about the issues that affects you. That’s democracy.”
“Our economy is at a critical state, we need to start thinking about our future,” said Cote.