The All Candidates Forum hosted by the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce brought all parties together last night. Each candidate fielded questions on their personal party’s stance on a variety of issues. Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright’s independent candidate, Robert McFadzean, was not present.

When it comes to a provincial sales tax, no candidate stood behind it. Each one affirmed they had no plans to implement a PST and said that an increase in taxes would hurt the economy. Kelly Zeleny of the Alberta Advantage Party made a point to mention their plan to reduce taxes to a flat rate of 10.5 per cent for businesses and individuals.

Each candidate’s top priorities for the riding had slight differences. Ryan Clarke of the Alberta NDP focused on oil and gas. Garth Rowswell of the UCP brought up fighting for pipelines and against bill C-69. Jim McKinnon of the Freedom Conservative Party focused on removing equalization, Zeleny said combatting rural crime and the use of drugs, and Craig Peterson of the Alberta Party said it was getting pipelines built.

When it comes to establishing public and private healthcare, Zeleny, Peterson and Clarke said no. Rowswell and McKinnon were open to establishing the private delivery of healthcare services without jeopardizing universal accessibility. McKinnon emphasized ensuring wait times were reduced.

Rowswell affirmed his party would fight to abolish equalization payments in Canada. Zeleny pointed out that UCP leader Jason Kenney was a cabinet minister who approved the current formula and was skeptical of his position. Peterson said his party has no federal counterpart, and would fight to proceed with the necessary constitutional challenges to remove equalization. McKinnon highlighted the importance of removing equalization and said his party would “make Alberta great again.”

Support for seniors was asked about, and how candidates would bring senior wages up to the standard that minimum wage currently is.  McKinnon focused on reducing or eliminating taxes on RRSP withdrawals, restore market-based power prices, and invest in senior care. Rowswell proposed increasing capital funding for long-term care beds, creating innovative community options and more care home space.

Zeleny affirmed that the cost of living has a huge impact on seniors and called electricity an essential service. She said AAP will plan to re-work the budget to provide more support for seniors. Clarke pointed to the NDP’s record of building more long-term care beds and their plan to continue building more beds and lower the costs of drugs for seniors. Peterson planned to re-work the budget to find better ways to support seniors. He says the AP shadow budget points to inefficiencies in the system, and that more money isn’t the answer.

When it comes to the curriculum review, Rowswell was put on the defensive. He says the party has problems with the secrecy behind the review when asked about the UCP plan to halt the review. Rowswell said he still wants to see a review but wants it to be more transparent. He also pointed to falling math scores as something that needs to be addressed.

Peterson and Clarke, both teachers themselves, gave some stern criticism of the UCP’s position. Clarke points to Jason Kenney calling the curriculum rewrite ideology-based and a plan to indoctrinate children and says it’s just not true.  He calls this position an “attack on teachers” who are reviewing the curriculum and says it’s being unfairly politicized. Peterson says he knows and has worked with some of the people reviewing the curriculum, and that it’s being done by the experts. He also criticized the UCP’s plan to start standardized tests for grade 3 students, calling it unnecessary stress on children.

Each candidate was asked about representing a bi-provincial community and gave similar answers. Zeleny said the AAP had no specific plan but highlighted the need for communication. Rowswell said communication and co-operating with Saskatchewan and Ottawa to achieve community needs. He added that there are only a small number of ambulances available and mentioned there are other healthcare problems.

Peterson affirmed the needs to create a dialogue between proper government bodies to address infrastructure problems. Clarke affirmed he would communicate with whoever he needed to support the city, and sees being bi-provincial as an opportunity to engage different partners. McKinnon also called communication critical between Alberta. Saskatchewan and the federal government. He also wanted to see municipal concerns handled better by the three.

On balancing the budget, Peterson said his party has not released its plan for how and when that would happen. He also said the AP is focused on being fiscally responsible and will approach the matter in increments. McKinnon pledged the FCP’s platform to have a balanced operating budget by 2020 and a balanced consolidated budget by 2022. Clarke pointed to the NDP’s platform of increasing overall revenue and not make cuts to services.

Rowswell responded with growing the economy through reduced regulations, lower business taxes and removing the carbon tax. Zeleny said the AAP’s plan is to lower taxes and reduce bureaucracy, extract from orphan wells for an estimated revenue of $750,000 per day. She also promotes auditing healthcare to find efficiencies while protecting frontline workers.

When asked how they would improve and promote inclusiveness in society, each candidate had different positions. Zeleny said she promotes the inclusion of diverse cultures but criticizes the UCP proposal to direct immigration to rural areas, saying we need to look after Albertans first. McKinnon said proper integration is important, and that in times of high unemployment we reduce immigration.

Rowswell quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in saying that he judges a man not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. He said his view is the equality of all. Clarke was quick to mention the UCP’s record of candidates who have been caught making homophobic, transphobic and white nationalist comments, and their stance on gay-straight alliances in schools. Peterson also echoed the importance of inclusion and that the UCP’s plan to remove mandatory protection for GSA members.

Peterson said that the vulnerability of gender and sexual minority youth is a huge priority and, as a teacher, is disappointed in the UCP rhetoric around them. Rowswell clarified that the UCP isn’t for mandatory notification of GSA membership, just against mandatory secrecy. He adds it’s up to teachers to make their best judgements on notifying parents about them.

In closing comments, each candidate affirmed their party’s position and pledged to do their best to represent the community. Candidates stuck around after the forum to speak with those present and field questions from the audience members.