Morinville – Wildrose candidate Link Byfield has been waiting for the provincial election since winning his party’s nomination 17 months ago. Byfield, who is perhaps best known as a journalist and publisher of Alberta Report for 18 years, received the party nod by acclamation in October of 2010.
A resident of the Rivierre Qui Barre area for the past three decade, Byfield is married and has four adult children. The candidate was elected a senator-in-wating in 2004 but stepped down six years to the day he was elected, citing his displeasure that Albertans should have gone to the polls on the matter a month earlier during the province’s municipal elections.
Byfield was in on the ground floor of the party when the Wildrose merged with the Alberta Alliance in 2007.
The Wildrose candidate sees the big issue of the provincial election as being one of trust. “In the last election they [the PCs] did not talk about raising their pay 30 per cent as soon as the election was over,” Byfield said. “They did not talk about a $16 billion expansion of power lines to export power to the United States, and tripling our own cost of power here in Alberta, which that will do. They did not talk about taking away property rights or taking on the power to unilaterally – and without compensation or appeal – cancel water licences, timber leases, grazing leases, etc. They didn’t talk about that. They didn’t talk about bringing in a super board. In fact they were vague then as they are vague now about what they were going to do about health care. There answer was the super board which has proved to be a bureaucratic monstrosity that has cost billions of dollars and probably done more harm than good.”
Byfield said he is urging voters to ask themselves what the PCs aren’t talking about now. The candidate said the PCs are not getting rid of the super board, have not reversed their stance on electricity, and have not gone backwards on the matter of property rights. “They’re bringing in a property rights advocate, which they say is just a grief counsellor for people who have been beaten up by the government and had their property confiscated or devalued,” Byfield said. “I think that is really what voters ought to wonder: What else do they have in mind? If this is what they didn’t talk about last time; what are they not talking about this time?”
Alternative style of government
Byfield sees his party as a strong alternative to what he sees as a faulty governing party. In addition to dealing with the matter of healthcare, property rights and power lines, Byfield said the Wildrose would lower what politicians are paid. “We’re going to reduce MLA pay,” the candidate said. “We’re going to reduce cabinet pay [and] make sure that they are rational and visible and accountable so that people can see what MLAs and cabinet ministers are being paid, which you can’t do now. It’s a subject of major study to find out how much your MLA made last year.”
The Wildrose, Byfield said, would entrench property rights, repeal all the land bills that have removed or weakened property rights, and put a halt to power line work. “We would freeze power line development until we have a public needs assessment by a competent, neutral authority such as used to exist in this province until Stelmach took it out,” he said. “We would basically go back to where we were before the PCs went off the rails, and then we would go forward from there.”
Byfield said that forward momentum would be guided by all the fundamental freedoms: the freedom of religion, the freedom of association, freedom of speech, and the right of people to consent to their own laws. “If you won’t tell people what you are going to do, and if you won’t admit that that’s what you’ve done – then these fundamental freedoms don’t exist,” Byfield said.
Morinville issue examined
Locally, Byfield said there are always issue of traffic and infrastructure that affect municipalities; however, he sees the Morinville school issue as the only exceptional issue in the area as the election unfolds.
“The only exceptional issue I can think of is the public schools in Morinville,” Byfield said. “What strikes me is that the people of the town have never been asked what they want. Bill 4 – I think our party supported it, but personally I don’t support it unless the people of this town support it, in which case I would support it. I don’t think it’s an issue so much of principal; it’s a practical issue. Are they happy with a Catholic / Public system or aren’t they? If some are not – and I’m sure some are not – It’s always a question of how many. It doesn’t seem to be a large number so far, but that may be deceptive. If some are not happy, you have to come to a practical accommodation as best you can for what they would prefer.” Regardless of the outcome, Byfield believes the matter must start with a plebiscite. “It’s the only fair way to go. We do this in many other areas, and you are not denying anybody of their rights by doing so. What you are trying to figure out is what’s the practical way here?”
Byfield said few took any of the surveys related to the issue seriously because of the belief surveys are subject to manipulation. “I’m not saying they were manipulated,” he said. “But I know if everybody is called out to vote, and you count up the ballots, that’s about as objective an assessment of people’s desires as you can get. I think they should do it before they do anything else.”
Urges a look at policies
The Wildrose candidate is urging voters to visit the Wildrose party’s website to examine the party’s policies. “We hear undercurrents coming from our opponents that we have an extreme policy, a right wing policy, etc.,” Byfield said. “I’m always curious how they come to this conclusion. I mean if saying people are allowed to keep their property unless the government is willing to pay for it – if that is right wing, I suppose. I don’t think it is. I don’t think urging a European solution to a public health care system is a particularly right wing thing to do. I’m not sure why they say it. I just know they do. I would really urge people to understand what it is we are proposing because we are new and it takes a while to get that message out.”
Editor’s Note: MorinvilleNews.com will be bringing you interviews with all candidates over the next few days.