Voters got a chance to see and hear the three candidates for Lesser Slave Lake MLA at a forum in Slave Lake on May 17. Around 100 people attended, at The Gathering Place.
Scott Sinclair of the United Conservatives, Danielle Larivee of the New Democrats and Bert Seatter of the Solidarity Movement of Alberta made their case, answered questions and tried to distinguish themselves from each other.
On that latter point, Seatter probably had the easiest job, and he handled it smoothly. Most of the problems facing Albertans, he asserted – economy, affordability, health care, education, safety and so on – can be solved or improved by separating from Canada.
“We send way too much money down east,” he said. “If you’re going to negotiate you better have a big stick.” That big stick would be independence, or at least the threat of it. Alberta needs to, “step out and do something really radical to get our point across,” Seatter said, concluding his opening remarks.
Larivee hammered pretty hard on the theme of what she called the crisis in health care. Front line workers are “hanging on by their fingernails,” she said, and put the blame for it squarely on the actions of the UCP government. An NDP government would fix the crisis, she said, first of all by “not fighting with doctors and nurses.” She also talked about NDP plans to raise benefits, freeze car insurance rates and cap utility rates.
Sinclair’s approach was a more personal one. He spoke about his family’s deep roots in the area, his desire to “give back to the community that’s been so good to me,” and his commitment to “stand up for northern Alberta.”
Sinclair also vowed, if elected, to put the people who elected him first, and the interests of his party second.
Asked about the unpopular carbon tax, all three candidates said they opposed it. The question (a written one) was actually directed at Larivee, intending to put her on the spot, and implying the provincial NDP is somehow obliged to adhere to the positions taken by its federal counterpart.
Nonsense, said Larivee. Our party is autonomous.
Sinclair said he was glad to hear that, and would welcome an announcement by the NDP leader that they’d repeal the carbon tax.
Of course the carbon tax is federal, not provincial, which played in Seatter’s favour, because a sovereign Alberta could do what it likes.
On health care, Seatter and Sinclair both said they’d favour a return to local or regional boards. Sinclair also talked about an idea he has of providing incentive for nursing school students to work in the north.
Corey Hughes of Slave Lake Deliveries asked how the candidates/parties would support small businesses.
For starters, Sinclair said, the UCP lowered the corporate tax rate from 12 to eight per cent.
The NDP would eliminate the small business tax, Larivee said, and restore the STEP (Summer Temporary Employment Program).
“I agree with the STEP program,” said Seatter, adding that as an independent MLA, he’d be free to vote in favour of ideas regardless of where they originate.
Somebody from High Prairie asked how the candidates would represent all of the riding, and if successful, would they move to the riding (if they don’t already live here)?
Sinclair went first.
“My family has lived here for 150 years,” he said. “I have 250 to 300 family members living here. I opened a business here. If traveling away from your family disqualifies you from a job, there are going to be a lot of northern Albertans out of work.”
Seatter, who lives outside the riding, in Jarvie, said he’d work very hard to make it a better place.
Larivee noted she’d lived in Slave Lake since 1979, apart from the years she was studying nursing.
In his closing remarks, Sinclair said he thinks he’s best-suited to represent everyone in the riding, “from the little native kid who feels invisible,” to farmers and everyone in between.
Going next, Seatter listed some of the points in the Solidary Movement’s platform, including an attack on the RCMP, digital currency and media-funding by the feds.
Larivee returned to one of the main tactics of the NDP campaign, which was to remind voters of things the premier said (when she was a radio talk show host) about Albertans paying to see a doctor.
“Scott would like to distance himself from his leader,” she said. “But he can’t.”
Wrapping up, forum moderator Doug Babiy urged everyone to “get out and vote!” Election day is Monday, May 29.