Health care, education key issues at candidates forum
About 400 Airdrie and area residents attended the provincial candidates forum at Bert Church Theatre, April 16.
Attendees were treated to a good-natured discussion between the five candidates looking to get a seat in the Legislature after the April 23 election. Incumbent MLA Rob Anderson of the Wildrose, NDP candidate Bryan Young, Progressive Conservative (PC) representative and current Airdrie Deputy Mayor Kelly Hegg, Joel Steacy with the Liberal Party and independent Jeff Willerton presented their platforms and then took questions from the audience.
The group fielded questions on health care, education, taxes, property rights, electrical rates and human rights.
Health care and education were the two hot-button issues and many questions revolved around those topics.
“Airdrie is the largest city in Western Canada without a hospital and it’s wrong,” said Anderson. “We are not going to get a hospital with the superboard. We need to change the system and create local, volunteer health boards that will determine what we do with our health-care dollars.”
Hegg agreed with the need for 24-hour health care in Airdrie but said the United Nurses of Alberta recently came forward in favour of the superboard.
“They are tired of seeing things changed all the time,” he said. “We have a system and we need to make it work… You have to dream big. It could come soon as long as we work at it.”
Candidates stated their opinions on publicly funded private and charter schools, mandatory school fees, the future of provincial achievement tests and supporting school boards.
“Part of the reason my family left Calgary is that we wanted a better run school board,” said Steacy. “The (Rocky View) school board has done a good job with what they have but the process is far too politically charged. Three years later, there are no schools in the ground. We need portables as a short-term solution and it astounds me that we haven’t had those approved.”
Airdrie Alderman Allan Hunter asked candidates if they support bills that “take property rights away.”
“Property rights are an essential right,” said Young. “This is something the government is not doing their footwork on. The protection of family farms is something that is necessary. We need to consider those rights and compensation.”
Hegg said farmers and ranchers are upset about bills 19, 24, 36 and 50.
“There needs to be some changes to those bills,” he said. “The ground work is there but we need to make it work.”
There were a few lighthearted jokes made during the evening. After moderator Al Jones asked residents to hold their applause until all candidates had spoken, Steacy said he would take all the applause he could get as a Liberal running in Airdrie.
In his closing remarks, Young said he was proud of being raised in Airdrie and would run for government “100 more times in Airdrie like Jeff.”
This is Willerton’s ninth election, he ran for the Social Credit Party in 1997 and 2001, the Alberta Party in 2004, as an independent in Calgary in 2007 and represented the Wildrose Alliance in 2008. Willerton also ran for leader of the Wildrose Alliance in 2009 and for alderman in the 2010 municipal election in Airdrie.
“You have the honourable task of voting for one of these sinners up here. I’ve run eight times and this is my ninth. Abraham Lincoln ran eight times and after seven elections, he could have stopped but he didn’t give up and neither will I,” said Willerton.
The Airdrie Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum.