Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel tours Lacombe’s Blindman Brewing

Hans Doef of Blindman Brewing goes over the canning process with Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and Lacombe-Ponoka Alberta Party candidate Myles Chykerda during a tour of the brewery as part of a campaign stop in the city on Tuesday, March 26, 2019.

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Just hours after tapping into his party’s plans to create a warmer economic climate for businesses across the province, the campaign trail led Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel to a Lacombe business that’s no stranger to brewing success in difficult economic times.

On Tuesday evening, Mandel, alongside the Alberta Party’s Lacombe-Ponoka candidate, Myles Chykerda, toured the three-year-old Blindman Brewing, learning about the operations, and getting feedback on some of the challenges they’ve faced, in particular those unique to being a microbrewery.

“I think one of the great things about the province of Alberta is the entrepreneurship,” Mandel said, speaking with reporters in the midst of Blindman’s taproom.

“This is a perfect example of a business that has grown exponentially. What’s really nice is they’re staying here and not deciding to move to either Edmonton or Calgary. They’re creating jobs here – a fair number of them – and so it’s wonderful and we want to make sure we support them.”

Hans Doef, centre, and Matt Willerton, right, take Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel on a tour through Blindman Brewing’s facilities in Lacombe on Tuesday afternoon. Mandel was in the community as a campaign stop, gathering information on how decisions for small and mid-sized businesses can be better served. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Earlier in the day at a central Calgary restaurant, Mandel announced the Alberta Party’s pledge to add 65,000 jobs by 2026 and grow the economy by $16 billion. The plan, he told reporters, keyed in on small and medium-sized business owners which he said create 70 per cent of jobs compared to larger companies he believes both the United Conservative Party and NDP will focus on.

He also announced the doubling of the Alberta Small Business Deduction from its current $500,000 limit to $1 million over a period of four years, as well as lowering the current corporate tax rate from 12 to 10 per cent immediately if the party is elected.

It’s these measures he and his party believe will help businesses like Blindman Brewing thrive, and be a boon to the rural economy, which he says is essential to improving Alberta’s overall economic situation.

“Rural Alberta is so important. Rural Alberta is the basic strength of the economy and people need to know that without rural Alberta, we would not be the economic powerhouse we can be,” he said.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel is given a tour of Lacombe’s Blindman Brewing by Hans Doef on Tuesday as part of a campaign stop in Lacombe. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

According to current polling numbers, as laid out by 338 Canada, the Alberta Party is a clear underdog in the election behind the UCP and NDP, predicted to only take one seat, but for the first time is being talked about as a main alternative for those disillusioned by the current government, or the former Wildrose and Progressive Conservatives feeling lost following the party merger last year.

While polls may not be on their side, he believes there is potential for Alberta Party support to grow, especially with a full roster of 87 candidates – one for ever riding.

“Myles is an incredible candidate. We have great candidates across the province – one in every riding,” he said. “People need to look at the Alberta Party platform we put forward, whether it’s daycare, education, economic tax changes.

“We’re a party that tries to look at the practical side of politics and deliver programs that are going to help Albertans – not dogmatic, not ideological.”

Paying attention to rural Alberta – and cities like Lacombe who are largely supported by the rural community – he says is crucial to improving the quality of life for all. Over the last four years, he said, people have indicated rural Albertans have largely been left out of decisions made by the current government.

“Rural Alberta wants to be included – up until now what I’ve heard is they feel excluded by the NDP government,” Mandel said. “I’m not sure what the UCP will do – I don’t know much about them. They haven’t said much about their policies, but we deeply believe in rural Alberta. We see rural Alberta as the strength of this province and we want to work with the communities to solidify their concerns.

“We’ll be out and into rural Alberta over the next three weeks, making announcements about a variety of things that we believe will be important to help the communities.”

In fact, Mandel is expected to be back in central Alberta on Thursday to make an announcement regarding transportation. He was the first and only leader, as of yet, to visit Lacombe since the election was called, but all leaders have been in the area.

Last Wednesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley was at Red Deer-North candidate and incumbent MLA Kim Schreiner’s office to promise a re-elected NDP would expand and modernize the Red Deer Regional Hospital, as well as add the cardiac catheterization lab doctors are requesting, despite the Red Deer Hospital falling off the priority list in 2016 under her government.

Over the weekend, UCP leader Jason Kenney held a rally in Red Deer and announced his plan to get a “fair deal for Alberta” by reforming the equalization formula, making changes to EI and removing federally mandated mortgage “stress tests” and reworking the federal fiscal financial stabilization fund. However, according to an Edmonton Journal article on the stop, there were no deals of how he would accomplish those goals other than “demanding” them from from the federal government.

The 30th Alberta General Election will be held April 16, 2019.

Hans Doef, left, and Matt Willerton, right, of Blindman Brewing take Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel and Lacombe-Ponoka Alberta Party candidate Myles Chykerda on a tour through Blindman Brewing’s facilities in Lacombe on Tuesday afternoon. Mandel was in the community as a campaign stop, gathering information on how decisions for small and mid-sized businesses can be better served. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)

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