Three major themes emerged during this week’s local federal candidate forum in Sherwood Park.
Hosted by the Sherwood Park and District Chamber of Commerce, Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan constituents filed into the Community Centre’s Agora on Wednesday evening to see how their next MP handles debate pressure and to hear what they will do for voters in Ottawa over the next four years.
While topics ranged from the mortgage stress test to an updated Canada’s tax code to electoral reform, three key issues dominated the evening; the economy, healthcare, and climate change.
Anticipating the economy and pipelines would be hot topic, incumbent Conservative MP Garnett Genuis addressed this in his opening remarks when he stated local residents are out of work because “anti-energy and anti-pipelines policies” of the Liberals, but voters have the choice to elect a new Conservative government, which would repeal Bills C48 and C69 as well as building a national energy corridor to get more resources to market.
“It’s time that we stop importing Saudi oil and put Albertans back to work instead,” stated Genuis, adding the NDP wants to stop the TMX expansion at any cost.
The Conservative later went on to say the national energy corridor would establish where the right-of-ways are, much like municipal zoning, and would include consultation with landowners, Indigenous groups and provincial governments, municipal leaders, but that doesn’t mean allowing the process to get bogged down by opponents to projects.
“There are some people that believe we can only build something if everybody agrees, well that’s just a recipe for never building anything. Our proposal is yes, for meaningful dialogue and engagement, but also, to recognize federal jurisdiction and not to give vetos to everyone (whose against).”
Liberal candidate Ron Thiering reiterated his party’s support of the energy industry; “We certainly have shown that. They made an investment of $4.5 billion to resurrect a pipeline that was basically dead.”
That drew laughter from the crowd, as well as some voters yelling; “It’s still dead.”
Thiering continued to outline how Inter Pipeline Petrochemical Complex recently received federal financial support and there is no plan to replace the oil and gas industry.
NPD candidate Aidan Theroux outlined his party is aware the future is coming and Canada must be ready for it, therefore it will invest in renewable energy jobs, such as solar, wind, and hydro, as well as infrastructure to make it’s economically sustainable for Albertan “before we run out of time.”
“The future is coming. Oil, unfortunately, is not going to last forever and we need to start investing into a transition that will work for Alberta and Canada. As for the (TMX) pipeline itself, whichever government is formed, I do believe the pipeline will get built because it’s currently an issue for the courts,” Theroux said.
When asked how the People’s Party of Canada will get a pipeline built, Villetard said the PPC would declare pipelines in the national interest and enact 92C under the Constitution. He noted Albertans will not be taken for granted.
“Pipelines are federal jurisdiction and the federal government needs to federal government and that might mean making somebody mad,” said Villetard. “It’s great to negotiate with other provinces but we don’t have 10 years to negotiate, we don’t have 10 days.”
Healthcare: How will your party get healthcare costs under control?
Since health is a provincial jurisdiction, Villetard said the PPC will transfer back all of the GST raised within a province which would equate to the health transfer from the federal government to that province. He noted this approach is predictable and proportionate.
Under the orange banner, Theroux noted the NDP is all about expanding healthcare to offer a national pharmacare system and dental coverage since Canadians pay the third-highest rates for pharmaceuticals in the modern world and compared to other universal healthcare countries, Canada is the only nation that doesn’t offer universal pharmacare.
“Rather than leaving it to do a study like the Liberals or the do-nothing about it like the Conservatives, we’re actually going to expand to join every other universal healthcare countries to cover those costs and save people money on the medicine they buy. We’ll also expand healthcare to cover dental care on the federal level, which could save families $1,200 annually,” said Theroux.
When pressed how the NDP will pay for that, as it’s projected to cost $27 billion in the first year, Theroux stated his party would bring in a wealth tax accounting an additional $5.8 billion annually, closing loopholes exploited by the ultra-rich for another $25-$50 billion each year, and move corporate tax back to 18 per cent.
Genuis said Conservatives would increase transfers from Ottawa to the provinces and territories to support healthcare funding, increasing by three per cent annually. He reminded the crowd that before 2006, Alberta received less in per capita transfers from Ottawa compared to all other provinces, which was corrected by the Harper government. The incumbent acknowledged there is still lots of work to be done on this file.
For the Liberals, Thiering echoed healthcare is a provincial responsibility, however, the Liberals have committed to spending $12 billion over the next decade to homecare and mental health.
Also in the healthcare sphere, questions from the floor kicked off with women’s rights and abortion, which was directed at Genuis, in particular. In fact, there were five similar questions posed about this one topic.
Genuis stated Andrew Scheer has outlined he will not reopen the abortion debate but noted the party acknowledges individuals MPs have different points of view on this topic. More broadly, the Conservative platform includes mandatory training for judges in regard to sexual assault.
Both the NDP and Liberal candidates stated their parties respect a women’s right to choose and committed to not reopening the issue. Theroux added the NDP would invest more into programs to keep streets safe for women to walk at night.
“I believe that is a woman’s right to choose and I don’t think an old grey-haired white guy like me should be able to tell them what to do with their bodies,” said Thiering, who added he was married and has two daughters.
Villetard added the PPC doesn’t expect its MPs to take a side on moral beliefs as it’s a free-speech party, but representatives can vote freely based on constituents’ concerns.
Questions from the crowd about the environment included; what message would you like to send to your children and grandchildren in 2050 as well as how will you address climate change in an impactful way while balancing economic needs?
Thiering acknowledged climate change is manmade, but there needs to be a plan to utilized the current industries Canada has in order to fund future greener technology. He noted once TMX is built, its annual revenue of $500,000 million will be put towards developing green industry.
Noting he doesn’t have children just yet but plans to have them eventually, Theroux noted he wants to be able to tell them that we did something. The NDP plans to invest into solar and wind technology “We didn’t just have one of two governments that kept their head in the sand as the climate crisis continued to envelop us and while we let the energy economy go to waste because we were producing a resource the rest of the world was no longer relying on, I believe when it comes the economy, the NDP has the best plan to invest into the new energy economy.”
Villetard said the climate is always changing and the PPC will also work with provinces and municipalities to set their own environmental policies; “We’re not going to set policy based on fear, panic and hyperbole. That’s not a thing. Canadian policy will be determined by Canadians, not foreign countries or supernational groups so we will withdraw from the Paris Accord.”
He added the party will invest in measurable ideas, such as funding a sewage treatment plant to stop the dumping of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence and improving water on Indigenous reserves.
Getting in a jab at Justin Trudeau’s national campaign, Genuis noted future generations won’t ask how many planes we took to attend climate change protests, but they will ask what we did. He stated the Liberal’s climate change plan is already failing and the Conservatives will meet the Paris Agreement targets.
“We have the same targets actually, but the Liberal approach is with a carbon tax, which would make life more expensive and a lot of businesses investing out of the country into less environmentally-friendly jurisdictions, so the same emissions are happening but it’s just in other places. At the same time, they’re giving a break to the largest emitters. Our plan is to get incentives at the individual and business level to make adaptions,” Genuis explained, adding Conservatives would eliminate the carbon tax and invest in green tech in Canada that can be used then globally.
Thiering was also pushed directly from a resident who stated they can’t afford to turn up the heat during the winter because of the carbon tax. To that point, Thiering said he prefers to call it a price on carbon and outlined there are rebates for certain income brackets.
Veterans Party of Canada candidate Patrick McElrea and Green Party’s Laura Sanderson were not in attendance.