Alberta Votes: Lacombe-Ponoka All Candidate Forum transcription

Lacombe-Ponoka candidates (left to right) Myles Chykerda - Alberta Party, Doug Hart - NDP, incumbent MLA Ron Orr - UCP, Keith Parrill - Freedom Conservative Party. Tessa Szwagierczak - Alberta Independence Party, and Shawn Tylke - Alberta Advantage Party, participate in the Lacombe Chamber of Commerce's All Candidates Forum at the Lacombe Memorial Centre last Wednesday evening. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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This is a transcription of the April 3, 2019 Lacombe-Ponoka All Candidates Forum put on by the Lacombe Chamber of Commerce at the Lacombe Memorial Centre. Some lines have been eliminated to reduce repetitive statements.

 

Q: What is your party’s position on taking care of the aging population in the way of healthcare, housing and general well being?

Chykerda: Good question. I’ve been really privileged to speak with many people involved with Lacombe Foundation and Bethany Group. In Lacombe, certainly, an aging population is a concern….As the Alberta Party we see that there’s a lot of value in partnering with local organizations whether those be faith-based groups, community groups etc. because they know the situation in communities. We would like to make funding available for those groups and not try and do everything under a centralized government department.

Let’s get things built, let’s get them built efficiently and also make sure there’s the whole breadth of services needed, so basically seniors can age comfortably in the kind of situation they need, and get any specific needs such as dementia beds, things like that.

Orr: Seniors care in this province is in a crisis. The number of seniors actually being admitted within 30 days of needing care has dropped from 60 per cent in 2016 to 52 per cent. The claim of the NDP that they’ve created 2,000 long—term beds is, in fact, 1,758 of them were from the previous Affordable Supported Living Program. We will go back to that program. The 200-plus beds the NDP created on their own initiative have been costing Albertans $700 – $1.2 million per unit. We will prioritize capital funding to create affordable housing. We will return to the ASL Program so the affordable housing, we will allow for creative community options so senior can age in place and age in their neighbourhood with support groups and that will include things like more care at home, and also more personal care homes in the communities. Also, we will maintain seniors benefits including…the issues of supportive living care. We will continue to grow that  and expand that because we believe that’s a really important aspect of it.

We’re about prioritizing funding, restarting the Affordable Living Program and making sure we maintain existing seniors benefits. We will also work with the Municipal Government Act  to try and streamline approval process for Affordable Housing units and with our provincially-controlled financial institutions, to create better mortgage standards that actually fit for Alberta instead of the federal rules.

 

Q: Many individuals are not aware of the funding that a carbon tax gives in searching of alternative energy. Without a carbon tax, these initiatives would cease. Provinces of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick chose not to participate in their own carbon tax and the federal government will be imposing its own. What is your party’s position on a provincial carbon tax?

Parrill: The carbon tax has to be scrapped. It’s just a form of wealth transfer and it’s doing nothing to combat pollution or concerns we have with climate change.

Szwagierczak: I agree. It’s a tax grab.

Tylke: We’re going to phase it out over a three-year period… We’ve got $96 billion in debt. That doesn’t pay itself overnight. I realize that’s not what the carbon tax is for. What the carbon tax is for – it just doesn’t work. Everybody knows that. Well, except for a few.

Chykerda: We just released our ideas on the carbon tax this weekend. While we’re keeping it in place, the Alberta Party has always said that it will be revenue neutral and it has certainly been applied unfairly to a lot of people so we’re saying exempt home heating. A lot of people get rebates right now so we’re dealing with bureaucracy, taking money and giving money back out , so we’re going to remove it from that, remove it from gasoline, and also (keeping it for) larger emitters that are 100,000 tons are greater. Businesses that are smaller are going to be exempt. If they want to participate in the system and build efficiencies I n them….Our position is we want to keep the carbon tax in place, but jigger it to make it more understanding of what it’s like living in a cold climate and also some of the challenges farmers have faced dealing with the carbon tax.

Hart: I support the price on carbon and surprisingly more and more jurisdictions and industries are. Shell Oil just came out yesterday and said we support the Paris Accord and attempts made to reduce our carbon footprint and they are distancing themselves from petroleum producing associations that do not make an attempt to reduce carbon footprint.

In Alberta, our carbon tax is revenue neutral. Individuals with less than $47,500 get rebated and those who don’t get rebated, the money goes into green initiatives, including some major solar farms and it’s seed money for innovation and research into a number of technological and energy-related advances.

Orr: Revenue neutral means you reduce other taxes to the same amount of what you’re collecting. The NDP haven’t reduced a single tax. It’s not revenue neutral at all. Thank you.

Q: The UCP plan has introduced a weighing of marks from 30 to 50 per cent. Please explain to us how changing from 30-50 per cent refers to learning and outcomes.

Orr: That’s something we’ve said we’re very open for discussion on with teachers, with educators and even with some student groups. Let’s examine how we look at exams. Exams are a wonderful teachable moment to help students learn and to help them learn to face the challenges on how to do an exam. We actually want to help students learn how to face those challenges because when they go out into the work world and become professionals they have to be able to face the stress of proving they have a basic body of knowledge.

We’re willing to work with people on that. We think there’s a large support from parents who want to know how their children are doing. We said we should explore and consider it for Grade 3 because if we don’t understand where children are having learning deficiencies or struggling or having a hard time at an early age, they spend so long going undiagnosed. It’s an opportunity to help those students do better and to understand how to help them do better.

It’s not meant to be something that’s challenging to them. Quite honestly, we’ve had some educational professionals work with us in coming up with those recommendations and I’ll even sat I was in the doors in Lacombe a couple of days ago and I knocked on the door and a teacher answered and we talked about it. Her response to me was: ‘You know, I actually think there can be some benefits as well,’ so a lot of teachers supported this one and our goal is to make productive and helpful and help students face the challenge of proving their body of knowledge.

Q: Party stance on education?

Parrill: Setting the bar high is important. Young people believe their high schools and get into the real world – I’ve done three trades myself and all of them required me to get a 75 or 80 grade point when I completed those trade tickets. I think it’s important we challenge our kids to the fullest. I absolutely support high schools having some form of trade program.

Swagierczak: Declined to answer.

Tylke: The Alberta Advantage Party will revise the Alberta education curriculum. I’ve got two kids in grade school – there are a lot of issues. We need more hands on. I can remember when I was in school – that’s how you learn. That’s how I learned everything on the farm; we did everything. The students will receive the highest level of academic and practical skills that can be offered on the planet.

We will uphold and support the ability of the parents to have their child educated in the manner they deem best for their child through a public/catholic/private charter or home school program. We will not amalgamate the Catholic and public school systems. That’s it in a nutshell.

Q: Alberta has a history of trying to balance the budget using royalties from oil production. Can you comment on the effects of this related to the ability to provide civil services.

Hart: We lost $6 billion in one year between 2014-15. It makes it very difficult, then, because Alberta Advantage was using royalty review to provide public service. Our proposal would be that we not reduce the corporate tax that everybody else wants to reduce because we need  a strong tax base to provide public services in the absence of royalty revenue.

While we support our current oil industry, we need to aggressively diversify our economy. That will provide additional strength to our tax base which can provide services the public deserves and respects.

Orr: The NDP do not have credibility on balancing budgets or understanding taxation. The actual reality is tax revenues to Alberta are $8.8 billion lower now than what the NDP promised us. The reality is if you continually tax and drive business away and drive investment away, what has happened is every year for the past four years our government’s revenue has decreased. We need to invite business back, investment back, we need to become business friendly. The pool gets much bigger. You can tax at a lower rate which causes it to grow more and we will increase our tax revenue substantially just by doing that.

University of Alberta economists have verified and confirmed that is good, solid business. The Montreal Economic Institute has even affirmed it’s the right thing to do.

Q: Over the last number of years, there was a change to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act that exempted members of the Sikh faith from being required to wear helmets. Is this creating inequality in the application of traffic laws? Is it appropriate and what is your position relative to that?

Chykerda: Interesting question. I don’t think we have a party position on that one. I remember when it did happen and that change went through. Certainly when it is something when a head attire is so important to one’s faith, I see the importance there, but it’s also about traffic safety.

I would always wear a helmet if I was on a motorcycle. I’ve lost some friends in motorcycle accidents, but I respect their individual choice to make that choice when they’re in a situation like that.

Parrill: The party has taken a stance that in the spirit of equality, everybody should have opportunity to ride a motorbikes on highways without helmets. I have been a safety inspector in the oil patch for the last 13 years and I’m encouraging everyone here to wear their helmets when they ride bikes, but that’s our party platform: equality for bike riders to have the option to travel without helmets.

Tylke: Everyone here should be treated equally. One law for everybody, for everything.

Orr: Our party does not have an official platform, but I do know the way this was put in by the NDP government, it was done in a basically secret council. It was not debated in the Legislature. We had no opportunity to speak to it or address it. We would  have to see the reasons why it was put in and look at it, but we’re certainly open to considering it.

Q: What are your thoughts on nuclear energy?

Hart: We have the transmission lines. They’re underutilized. If we build a plant in northern Alberta we could sell lots of nuclear energy, but it’s controversial. It’s far more safe than it was when they melted down in Chernobyl and Japan. Many countries use it. There are lots of alternatives for energy including nuclear, including geothermal electricity and we are not maximizing. I would not personally be opposed to nuclear energy.

Chykerda: In this era where technology is moving so quickly forward, there’s all kinds of resources and areas we can look at. I guess I agree with my colleague – we should be investigating different means of energy whether that be wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal. There’s lots of options there, but of course it comes down…to safety and making sure we never have something like a Chernobyl or the Japanese disaster.

Let’s definitely keep our options open and stay on that wave of technology.

Orr: There are new developments in small, almost lowland nuclear plants that have been used for years in U.S. submarines. They are very valuable for smaller communities. We actually believe, though, that industry will develop that and industry will find opportunities to make it economic. IT doesn’t have to be regulated and government managed, and government funded. Industry will be the one to figure that out.

Lastly, I think it’s a real opportunity for Canada to develop and international industry to sell very small plants. They’re not big like the old ones that blew up and we could actually build a really strong industry in this area.

Parrill: France is a prime example of building many nuclear reactors in the country and having cheap electricity. We have a source…uranium in Saskatchewan, some of the greatest in the world. There’s no reason we couldn’t tap into that source and have nuclear power here in Alberta if we wanted.

Tylke: I don’t know anything about nuclear, but I’m going to comment. There’s all kinds of options out there. We can look at all the options as long as we can ensure they’re safe for the environment and the people and make sure they’re feasible.

Q: What is your party’s position regarding privatization of health care?

Tylke: No. Every time we privatize anything, it goes for…yeah.

Szwagierczak: Our answer is no, too, and we believe this needs to not be privatized.

Parrill: Yes. Privatization right now is being used by people who can afford to cross the border. There are tens of thousands of Canadians crossing the border to seek out medical care because of the lineups here in Canada, in Alberta. Our lineups are way too long – if that’s what it takes to shorten lineups, I’m for it.
We don’t want a two-tier system, but it already exists in other provinces, and it exists because of our neighbours to the south. If it reduces the lineups, I’m all for it.

Orr: We have a fear in this country that somehow we’re going to destroy the system if we embrace multiple ways of doing it. Most of the countries in Europe actually deliver health care by means of contract. The reality is that today in Alberta when you go to a surgeon in the hospital that operates on you – that is actually a contract. It’s a private operator who has a contract with Alberta Health Services. We’re going to protect the universality of health care, but if we can deliver it to you at equal value or less through any kind of private service, we absolutely will because you know what? Wait times for open heart surgery are up to 22 weeks – I don’t think you want to wait on a table that long.  Every measure of wait times in this province has increased and people need to get service.

Hart: Of course, the NDP are opposed to privatization of probably any essential service to the public. When you think of the quality of the roads in Alberta after Alberta Highways was sold off, when you think of when we deregulated electricity and what it costs in distribution charges, I think it’s important that essential services like education, and health be publicly-owned, publicly-administered and our government just put the rails on privatization of a diagnostic sewer lab.

Chykerda: We do have to realize the realities are we do have some privately-delivered services, whether that by imaging in Red Deer, formerly laundry services were done privately – that has now been rolled under the public umbrella. Basically, the Alberta Party is saying there are some areas where private sector can deliver some things cheaper and more efficiently, but it still has to be regulated. I never want to see this great thing we have in Canada that is universally accessible health care system go away.

I lived for a few years in the States, thank goodness I had health care through my university. I got my tonsils out – my amount paid was $4,000. The insurance paid something like $40,000. That’s not something I even want to have to think about going through. It’s a balance between the two.

Q: What is your party’s position on replacing carbon tax with a sales tax?

Chykerda: That is something we have no decision on because we have a position on modifying the carbon tax a little bit, but we’ve never talked about replacing it with a sales tax. A sales tax in this province, of course, is a big specter. Anyone who talks about it seems to magically disappear into the night.

Just looking to the future, it is interesting there are different ways to implement a sales tax and that is something if we’re even talking about implementing a sales tax to think about.

Hart: Economists will tell you the fairest way to pay for public services is through a sales tax. If Alberta had a 5 per cent sales tax, we would have a $3 billion surplus today. However, no party wants to talk about a sales tax in Alberta. Rachel Notley has said she won’t implement one, and I’m sure Mr. Kenney would say the same thing and it would be political suicide. It might be the best move for Alberta, but it wouldn’t be the best thing for a political party.

Orr: I’m going to have to agree with you on that last sentence.

I actually believe, truly, we can get our province back in order. We’ve done massive studies with economists with the University of Calgary. All we need to do is grow our economy by three and a half per cent, hold our spending without doing any massive cuts. Three and a half per cent compounded over four years on $56 billion budget is a lot of money. We can balance our budget without having to do these crazy things.

We have liberal on the far end that wants to tax us more. I don’t think we need it in Alberta – why should we do it? We will succeed with the way we’ve succeeded for the last 50 years and we absolutely are not going to have a carbon tax, not even a partial carbon tax or a sales tax.

Parrill: Absolutely no more carbon tax. The sales tax – let’s rewind a few years. There was a time when everybody was working and we didn’t have a sales tax and I believe this gentleman sent me a royalty cheque from resources here – Klein bucks. I go back and I want to know why we even entertain it if everybody’s working. If we’ve got a healthy middle class tax at a comfortable level, that should be enough to take care of all of our social programs. No sales tax.

Szwagierczak: Since we’re introducing a tax reform and reducing tax rates and reducing corporate tax rates and implementing a reduction of various taxes – royalties and everything else – we’re scrapping the carbon tax and GST, I don’t see how a sales tax actually fits on the platform.

Tylke: If the province is run properly, we wouldn’t need a sales tax, we wouldn’t need a carbon tax, we wouldn’t need the GST. All we have to do is tell Ottawa the way it’s going to be and what we want, what we need. End of story. We don’t need their taxes. Ottawa’s the problem.

Q: There are many oil service companies on the edge of insolvency. Specifically, what is your party’s plan to target companies within this industry and support them to be competitive again?

Chykerda: One thing is increasing tax exemption for small businesses from $500,000 as it currently is to $1 million so more of these smaller companies would fall into a 2 per cent small tax bracket as opposed to 12 per cent.

We’re also proposing a small decrease to corporate tax rate from 12 per cent to 10 per cent – 0.5 per cent over several years, so really watch what that tax decrease does. Also do the best we can to make sure our product is getting to market. A lot relies on price of oil, price of gas, things like that. IT’s not just putting all our eggs in Trans Mountain, but also seeing if we can develop new technologies.

Hart: One of the challenges small petroleum companies had is when the price of oil dropped from $100 down to $28, unlike the big companies, they didn’t have reserves to cushion and to help them absorb that and manage over time. A lot of them went bankrupt and what we have to do is help them. The ones that have gone bankrupt have created a different problem, and that is the abandoned wells. A lot of them that have been bought up by other companies, the companies will take the assets and walk away from the liabilities. We have an opportunity to put them back to work to reclaim those abandoned wells or repurchase them into geothermal generators.

Orr: Small and midsized oil companies are extremely important to Alberta because that’s where our innovation comes from. These are the creative and nimble guys who actually come up with things so we actually have a whole suite of pieces we would work towards this.

It stars with a taxation piece. We will stand up for our industry around the world. We will fight for pipelines, but more specifically, we are offering a royalty guarantee. Once the oil is drilled, the royalty that’s in place at that time will stay for the life of that well, we’re not going to go changing it five times. We will support natural gas industry so we can get that going and the export of natural gas. We will work toward well remediation.

We want to reform the Alberta Energy Regulator to speed up well approvals and part of reforming the Alberta Energy Regulator is firing Ed Whittingham. This is the guy the NDP hired on Feb. 12, the guy who worked with Pembina Institute. He is a complete environmentalist who is completely against the oil and gas industry.

Parrill: As we all know, the smaller oil companies here in Alberta, they don’t leave when things go sideways and the big companies that I’ve worked for they take off when policy changes. That needs to change. Policies need to be put in place to keep local companies working. There needs to be a contractual situation where the next government can’t come in midstream and destroy what that company is doing or trying to do and the jobs they’ve build their lives around.

Also, the platform talks about low taxes. It’s a 10 per cent tax for businesses, and a 10 per cent for personal tax as well.

Szwagierczak: We’ve indicated where we’re going to reduce business tax to a flat 8.5 per cent, we’re dropping royalties to take out our oil and gas products from the current 12 to 5 per cent. We are scrapping the carbon tax and GST altogether, exploring the option of using the U.N. to get our product to tide water.

The definition of landlocked is this: where you do not have access to bodies of water. Unfortunately, we are not a landlocked province at this point. Until we become an independent nation, is when we become landlocked and when that happens, we have a provision under article 1.25 of the U.N. that states land locked states or nations shall have the right to access sea. It also protects us under 1:27 which states traffic in transit shall not be subject to any customs, duties or other tax charges. We’re guaranteed under the U.N. that tide water access via the security council and we’re not dictated by the liberal ports or special interest groups.

Tylke: We will have a flat tax rate of 10.5 per cent. We will get pipelines to tide water – one through Churchill, bypass B.C. to the north if need be and there’s another way around that as well. Our micro generation, orphan and stranded gas wells – there are huge numbers of these oils out there. Roughly 70,000. Not all of them can still be used but a great number of them can by the smaller companies. The Alberta Advantage Party will cause these wells to become an asset to the province rather than a liability by creating a regulatory business environment that allows the transfer of ownership of these wells to other business entities who can profitably extract the resources, at the same time requiring that all business entities involved retain joint environmental responsibility and liability. Right now land owners are responsible for that. We’re going to change that.

Q: This question refers to a young man in the community who had a terrible accident and he is relying on self-managed care which has been cut by 50 per cent under the current government. This obviously has some extenuating circumstances on his opportunities to live at home, and for his family. Does your party support the individual choice to receive care in homes prioritized or care facility?

Tylke: Their choice. Just like everything. We all should have a choice, otherwise you’re being a dictator.

Szwagierczak: The best care is at home and the longer you can stay at home, it’ll be better for you anyway. Since, under our platform individuals like that person will be getting $3,750 per month, and that should help out with a lot of additional costs he’s occurring.

Parrill: Under this plan, people who built this country shouldn’t have any needs. We should be looking after our senior citizens 100 per cent.

Orr: I actually spoke with the family of that question. They’ve been in touch with my office, I’ve asked the department to look into why that was  cut. I think it’s inappropriate that was cut, so in terms of the case management side, that is being looked after.

We have said, as a party, that we will expand self-managed care. I believe it’s cost-effective to government. I put on my Facebook today, in writing, our party position on self-managed care. I encourage you to look at it. It does save us money, we are committed to it and we will work with people on that.

Hart: I, too, talked to this man’s mother and we had a long talk about self-managed care. In Alberta Health Services, there are a number of programs and they develop algorithms, they do an assessment and they magically determine how many hours of care you get. In this case, there are a number of dollars assigned to that that were cut in half with no warning. The problem is that although everybody is treated the same, not everybody is treated well and so what we have to do is provide individualized care, individualized assessments, individualized interventions and funding, not from an algorithm.

One of the problems when you have one, large AHS, is you don’t have local autonomy and they try to create “one size fits all” policies and that’s the one thing  in the NDP’s campaign I didn’t agree with was centralizing and one super board.

Chykerda: There’s another bipartisan agreement going on here.

This is something I absolutely support. It sometimes comes to ‘it might be more efficient to save some money, but we’re also dealing with situations of comfort and what’s best for individuals whether that be a home care situation such as some accident, a senior, anything like this. It’s about making people comfortable and living out their lives the best way they can.

One area we did announce a difference in other policies is our child care platform. We want to offer tax incentives so if mom chooses to stay at home and raise her kids and not ship the kid off to daycare, there’s going to be tax incentive funding there to help keep the kid at home. It’s the same thing here.

Szwagierczak: In our platform, under the section of APP and AEI – Alberta Pension Plan and Alberta Employment Insurance – there is a section under there that states that for individuals who have a disability and require long term care is a top up to the benefit range that starts at $2,389 to a maximum of $3,750 a month. There is a top up of range for long term care starting from $8.66 extra a month all the way to $1,250 extra a month so that should help shift the situation.

Tylke: Everybody should be taken care of. It should be their choice on how we go about doing that.

Everybody needs to be cared for. It doesn’t matter your age, gender, colour, anything. That’s a problem. Everybody that has a problem, they look at you differently from the next guy beside you. We’re all the same. We all need to be taken care of. You put in, you get back.

Q: What is your party’s position regarding Gay-Straight Alliances in schools

Tylke: Parents need to know everything about their kids. I don’t care what it is – until they’re 18, the parents should be involved, they should know everything that is going on.

Szwagierczak: This is Bill C-24. This is also known in our party as the “Divide and Conquer Bill.” The Alberta Independent Party stands for the 1948 declaration of human rights where it states parents’ rights have an above god laws. That means a strong family needs a strong community and a strong nation. The AIP will repeal the Bill C-24. Children’s rights will be that if the children feel if they cannot talk to their parents on such issues, they’ll be able to report to a teacher, counselor or fill out a confidential form available in every school in Alberta and government support workers will be assigned to that child.

Teachers and staff will have a legal obligation to contact the community support workers if the child cannot speak to their parents about underlying issues. They can offer to hand the information over will end in a civil and possible criminal charges. Teachers will have no direct involvement and are only there to teach.

Parrill: When I was growing up, my dad made it clear he was responsible for my actions while I was under 18 years old. That responsibility, he needs to know everything that’s going on in my life. I believe that applies today. Parents need to know what’s going on with their kids lives.

Orr: It’s easy to take extreme positions on this, but we have to find a good balance here. We have said we absolutely do not believe schools should tolerate bullying. We support the existence of GSA’s – all parties voted to support the original Bill 10 in the Legislature.  Children often need parents and sometimes someone else to talk to about their parents. We get that, so we’re not about outing gay students, but at the same time we need a balance of where parents are, when it’s in the best interest of the child, informed.

There are times when parents actually need to know in order to save a child’s life, so we think the blunt instrument of the law to say parents can never know and teachers are equally prohibited from speaking to parents is patently wrong. Bill 24 will not stand in our platform, but we also will support gay students and parents in an equal balance.

Hart: You don’t need legislation for a child to talk to their parents about sexuality, but if a child is uncomfortable talking to a parent about their sexuality, that’s exactly why we need GSA’s. Bill 10 has a lot of conditions about when and how and who and so on, but Bill 24 doesn’t. The students themselves prefer Bill 10 – Bill 24, than going back to Bill 10.

Chykerda: While the Alberta Party voted for Bill 24 and I think there is an importance to having GSA’s like Doug here said, there are situations where it is not a loving household. I have amazing parents, I can’t even fathom a situation where I couldn’t talk to them about everything, but those situations exist and it’s absolutely horrible and there needs to be support in place for this.

Now, what I don’t like is how Bill 24 has been implemented and turned into a blunt instrument to smash through LCS and CACHS who have worked very hard to put together safe and caring policies. They worked in collaboration with Alberta education and those were ultimately shut down by Minister Eggen without much explanation so I’d like open dialogue here, communication and find that balance.

Q: Party’s platform related ton conservation within the province, specifically parks, increases and decreases to conservation.

Chykerda: Currently we do not have a platform on that that we’ve released. One thing I’ve talked with a lot of people on the ground, for instance, about Bighorn, how to make sure our wild areas are being preserved.

Instead of putting everything behind a glass wall – nobody can touch it – maybe get more boots on the ground. Conservation officers, people who are enabled to patrol, make sure areas are being taken care of because a lot of Albertans who go out to areas and enjoy them are responsible individuals. But there are people who throw cans away and stuff like that, harm the environment and boots on the ground would probably help deal with a lot of those sorts of people while also preserving and making sure our wonderful pristine environment is protected.

Hart: Like Kananaskis country is a wonderful tourist attraction and a great place to hike and fish, as is the Bighorn. I think there was too much action taken too quickly and without enough consultation. The NDP wants to preserve the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan, keep the water supply clean, increase opportunities for day camping, hiking, fishing and hunting, quadding and OHVs and still have opportunities for industry and commercial development. So they’ve slowed down the consultation process, but still are anxiously looking forward to increasing the conservation area declining.

Orr: This is important. I’ve spoken up loudly about the Bighorn, but I’m going to speak directly to the question.

We have said we will introduce an Alberta Trails Act to support trails to fund them. We will increase funding by 50 per cent of the Alberta Land Trust Grant. We are committed to protecting creeks and streams on the eastern slopes and doing that largely by working with some of the volunteer and non-profit groups by helping them out, if they want to do that. We will create a fee for Off Highway Vehicles and camping to create a fund to actually protect the great outdoors and increase enforcement.

Many of the user groups have told us needs to happen. We will be reviewing the Provincial Parks Act, improving data collection to improve environmental outcomes.

We will be ensuring department staff actually have to go outside and work outdoors occasionally, not just in offices in Edmonton. We will sprinkling relationships with parks society and a few other things, but I have to go.

Parrill: Our environment in the Rockies is pristine. I’ve been there many times, I do a lot of hunting from the Nordegg Mountains all the way to down to the border near Pincher Creek. It is absolutely gorgeous. We don’t need any more parks restricting access. We need more access to those locations so Albertans can enjoy them 100 per cent.

Szwagierczak: I’m a firm believer there should be an equal balance between concrete and wildlife. Especially (for) those that have stressful jobs– the day to day stresses are intense and it’s extremely important for everyone to unplug and it’s the best place to be.

Tylke: I’m going to agree with Myles down at the end that we need more policing for the people out there enjoying it because there are some that do more than just enjoy it – they wreck it. It’s just like everything out there. One bad apple ruins it for everyone. That always happens. We get more policing out there. No, you’re not going to get everybody but you’ll be able to try and control it.

I’ve been out west many times. There’s zero policing in my mind. I’ve never seen anyone out there and that’s why the problems that we have are there.

Q: How will your party address reconciliation in our province, specifically between the province and financial components, and building relationships between town and indigenous communities and on reserve?

Tylke: You’ve got to sit down with the reserve, the Chiefs, and see what the problems are. I’ve talked to some indigenous people and they have similar problems to what we have. It’s on the top end – again, it’s not about necessarily needing more money, it’s how it’s spent.

I’ve hear d some stories of what’s going on and it’s everywhere – top end heavy, wasting money, and if we can sit down and talk to the indigenous community, see what they need and make sure that they follow through with the money that’s given (to make sure) it’s used where it needs to be.

Szwagierczak: In our platform, we’ve got a section on First Nations. Our leader has been in many dialogues with the First Nations. We are recognizing the devastation and the continuous non-existence of day-to-day living….We will achieve the improvement of the First Nations, what we like to call, self-governance and self-sufficiency and all First Nations will be negotiating their own oil rates, their own royalty rates, and their own corporate taxes on each reserve. They will be responsible for the improvement of current conditions.

Parrill: I think what is inappropriate right now is that we have a federal government that’s looking after this area that failed to fix one of the biggest problems with clean water in the indigenous communities.

As a sovereign nation of Alberta, or if we exercise that right as Quebec does, we will set up sellf-government and they’re staying within Canada. If that’s the way we go, we will pick up where the Government of Canada has dropped the ball and make sure the first thing is making sure nobody should be going without clean water in this province.

There’s a lot of pristine rivers and lakes in this province. I’ve thought about this a bit, and I think everybody here would agree that one of the key elements to survival is clean water. That would be the first thing.

Orr: I think it really has to begin, more than anything else, with relationships. All too often, governments do things – as happened out in the West country – and nobody actually consults or listens or talks and then they sort of say: ‘Well, we thought you’d love it’ after the fact.

I think there are three areas where we can improve relations. One is education – helping them in that and granting them more authority in that. That’s already progressing in some ways.

Another important issue is children in care. A high percentage of children in care are First Nations and we need to work with them to help them resolve that and figure their own way through that.

Another very important piece is cultural recognition. We have overlooked that for far too many decades. Lastly, I think is the economic piece with self-sufficiency, which comes with economic power and authority. We have very specifically said we will invite them into the industry in Alberta and make them partners in economics.

Hart: The forced assimilation experiment that we imposed on the indigenous people a century ago was a huge mistake by white Europeans.  It eroded any trust between their nation and our governments. We have to earn their trust back.

We can’t solve their problems for them, we can help them solve their problems, but we have to start recognizing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings and we have to implement them.  It was good what we did with inclusion and education, but if you never participated in the blanket exercise, I would encourage everybody to start there.

Chykerda: It is a complex history. It is a history that we, as Canadians, need to recognize at work with our native friends and identify challenges. No community should be without water. There’s unique situations in every single reserve, every community. Let’s find what we can do to help these communities, partner with that, but also make sure that reconciliation is getting into our education system and we’re talking about it and recognizing it as part of what Alberta is and part of what Canada is.

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