By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock candidates looking to occupy the seat made empty by long-time MLA Ken Kowalski made their pitches to Morinville and area voters Monday night. Approximately 400 came out to hear the five candidates who took to the podium to try and sway voters with their policies, platforms and answers to a variety of questions.
Running in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock are PC candidate Maureen Kubinec, Wildrose candidate Link Byfield, Alberta Liberal Leslie Penny, Trudy Grebenstein of the NDP and Lisa Grant for the Evergreen Party of Alberta, all of whom attended the forum.
Liberal Leslie Penny said the large turnouts of voters at forums in the region shows just how interested people are in this election, something she feels they should be.
“I care passionately about this province, and although many, many good things have been happening in this province, I believe that we can do better,” she said.
Penny said society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. As a public health nurse she said she knows all children do not come into the world with equal opportunities. “We cannot afford as a society, as a province, as a constituency to allow children to fall through the cracks through a lack of programs,” the Liberal said.
The candidate said seniors can be another vulnerable part of society, one she wants to ensure receive the most the government can do for them, making sure they can maintain independence for as long as they can and to get the best affordable care when they cannot. “That’s one of the reasons I am running in this constituency and in this election,” she said. “The provincial government has the major impact on your lives from the time you are born until the time you die. I think you people deserve the best possible government you can get.”
Morinville resident Lisa Grant said she decided to run for public office so she would have someone to vote for. After feeling none of the candidates represented her values, she decided to step up and run for the Greens. After running provincially and federally, Grant aligned herself under the new Evergreen banner, a party that formed in December of 2011.
“We’re building again,” she said. “We’re getting our feet under us. We’re still trying to figure out specifics of what we want for this province. We know the general idea. We have a pretty good vision of the future.”
Grant said her party is under no illusion it will form the next government, something not possible with only 25 candidates running throughout the province. However, Grant believes even one Evergreen seat in the legislature could make a difference. “The Evergreen party is a different kind of politics,” she said. “We don’t look for the next four years. We don’t try to plan just for the next four years, for the next election. We plan for the future. We want to see our children grow up in a healthy environment. We want to see our communities maintain community.”
Grant said she and her party believe it is time to change the government and how it works. The party believes in more cooperation between parties.
For NDP candidate Trudy Grebenstein there is a belief democracy in Alberta is more important than ever before. “In this election you have a choice,” she said. “You can vote for a party that stands for the rich and the powerful over the interests of ordinary Alberta families, or you can vote for Alberta’s New Democrats, a party committed to fighting for the things that matter to most working and middle-income families.”
The candidate said those things are contained in the party’s platform – five key components that include quality public health care, affordable electricity, ensuring the success of young Albertans, and a clean and healthy environment. “It’s not a big shopping list nor a recipe for cuts to public service,” Grebenstein said of her party’s platform.
The NDP candidate said all of her party’s initiatives can be paid for by increasing revenue to the province. “Revenue that will come from bitumen, moving corporate tax rates towards the Canadian average, and asking the wealthiest Albertans to pay a fair share of their income to provide the public services that all of us need to use,” Grebenstein said. “After 40 years in power the Conservative government has lost touch with the concerns and problems of most middle income people.” The NDP candidate said the PCs are more interested in what oil companies and big business has to say over what the average Albertan has to say.
PC Candidate Maureen Kubinec, a Westlock County councillor, said she believes she has the experience to provide good governance for the constituency. “There will be a lot to learn, but my past experiences will help,” she said.
One area she wants to work on is engaging the younger generation. She said she was encouraged by what she sees as great interest among 20 and 30 year olds this election.
Kubinec said she is concerned with health care and seniors issues in the province, but is certain her government has the plan to help. “Our baby boomer bubble is growing and by 2031 we will need to have the right places available,” she said. “We will have to give careful thought to building those spaces so there will be flexibility for the future.”
Another area of concern for the PC candidate is balancing growth and tax revenue with preserving prime agricultural land. Part of her concern with land is preserving land rights, and she believes the government has moved in the right direction.
Kubinec said there are some myths and misinformation surrounding property rights and transmission lines. “Our government listened to the public’s concerns regarding property rights,” she said. “We heard that Albertans accept the fact the crown does have the need for public lands. So what they did is they made some amendments to the Alberta Land Stewardship Act that included consultation, compensation, and continued access to the courts. The need for a property right advocate was identified, and that process is already enacted in the legislation of Bill 6.”
Wildrose candidate Link Byfield asked voters to reflect back to the 2008 provincial election and recall if the PCs mentioned during the campaign raising MLA pay 30 per cent, bringing in an inefficient super board for healthcare, or taking away property rights and approving $16 billion in untendered electrical transmission lines. “They didn’t talk about that. They just did it,” Byfield told voters Monday night. “What are the next things they are not telling you if they get re-elected?”
Byfield said the Wildrose Party offers an alternative to a government that bases its decisions on voters’ likelihood of forgetting what was done between elections.
The Wildrose candidate said if elected, the party would cut MLA and cabinet pay, eliminate committee pay, and cut MLA severance by 65 per cent. Additionally, Byfield said a Wildrose government would repeal all the land bills passed by the PCs, restoring traditional property rights as well as putting in additional legislation to allow for full, fair and timely compensation for landowners whose property is appropriated by government. Byfield said the Wildrose would dismantle the super board in an orderly fashion and restore health responsibilities to the local level.
Power line development would be immediately frozen until such time as utilities can publicly prove the need. The Wildrose would also look into high energy prices. “We have suffered too long under a pricing system that allows utilities to charge whatever the consumer can be forced to pay,” Byfield said.
Plenty of issues covered
A considerable portion of the evening was given over to voter questions, both submitted to a moderator panel in written form and asked by voters directly at the microphone. Questions covered a large spectrum of voter concerns, including health care, student tuition and education funding, revenue sources to pay for programs, power lines and property rights, and a number of questions on human rights versus conscience rights, the latter a subject of considerable media attention over the past couple of weeks.
Local issues addressed by voters included the Morinville public school issue and whether a Wildrose government would put the breaks on the Cardiff overpass. We will bring you candidate answers to some of these questions later on Tuesday.
Anti powerline advocate Colleen Boddez addresses a question to PC candidate Maureen Kubinec. The majority of Monday evening’s program was devoted to questions from those in attendance.
Advance polls Thursday
Candidates have a few days remaining ahead of Monday’s vote to convince voters they are the correct choice to represent them in the legislature. Voting takes place at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre Apr. 23 from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. Advance polls will be held at the same location Apr. 19-21 from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Below are audio recordings of all five candidate’s opening remarks during Monday night’s forum. Click on the link to download the audio file.
Below is video footage of all five candidate’s closing remarks from Monday night’s All Candidates Forum