Sparks fly at Lethbridge West forum

April 22, 2015.

Nick Kuhl

Lethbridge Herald

[email protected]

To no one’s surprise, it was health care, education, and even fracking, that dominated discussion during an often heated Lethbridge West provincial election forum Tuesday night.

In front of a capacity crowd at the Lethbridge Public Library’s Theatre Gallery, candidates Ron Bain of the Wildrose, the NDP’s Shannon Phillips, Sheila Pyne of the Liberals, and incumbent MLA Greg Weadick of the Progressive Conservatives, had their chance to share their ideas and party platforms with local voters.

The forum, presented by the library and the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, used pre-written SACPA-formed questions, as well as an audience question and answer period.

Staff actually had to turn people away about 10 minutes before it began, due to fire code regulations, and an additional crowd of about 25 simply listened through speakers in the lobby as the candidates fielded two rounds of questions, starting in alphabetical order by surname.

Bain had the first one, which asked how the $19-billion provincial health-care industry can have so many problems. He suggested Alberta needs a return to open government through a balanced budget.

“We’d like to reduce the bureaucracies,” Bain said, adding the government needs to stop giving away “ridiculous severance packages.”

Phillips was asked if Alberta has a revenue or a spending problem, or both. She replied with detailed information on how the NDP would present a “very modest fiscal plan” and would “set the right priorities.”

She also said the PCs’ deep cuts to education and health care won’t stand any longer. “The wheels are coming off the bus” after 44 years of PC control, Phillips said.

Weadick countered that his party is creating for the future, citing local examples of the Chinook Regional Hospital expansion and new forthcoming buildings at both Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge.

He was also asked about how the government is managing royalty rates with oil and gas companies. He said he was “not afraid to look at how royalties” both work and would work moving forward.

“It’s good that Mr. Weadick will look at royalties because his premier does not,” Phillips sharply rebutted.

“It’s time for change,” Bain also interjected.

Pyne, who agreed that big cuts are to health care and education are not acceptable, was asked about oil profits and her stance on fracking.

“Cities and towns should definitely have the ability” to make their own decisions on the topic, and that the Liberals would support other renewable options through enhanced research. She added the Liberals would be able to ease student debt through grants and bursaries because of corporate tax adjustments.

Maria Fitzpatrick of the NDP, Tammy Perlich of the PCs, the Wildrose’s Kent Prestage, and Bill West of the Liberal party, will try to make an impression on Lethbridge East voters during a forum at Country Kitchen Catering tonight from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

The Alberta election is set for May 5.