By Cal Braid
Westwind Weekly News
The United Conservative Party (UCP) held its final pre-election debate in Edmonton on Aug. 30. During a two-hour debate, each candidate was given an equal opportunity to speak and express the strengths of their vision. Since then, we’ve been releasing soundbites that represent the candidates’ platforms. The winner of the UCP party vote will be announced on Oct 6. and will replace Jason Kenney as premier.
The candidates are Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, Danielle Smith, and Travis Toews.
The moderator began the session by saying to the candidates, “Please give us solutions to what you see as our challenges within education today.”
Aheer: “At the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), one of the things that became very apparent was the lack of consultation on our curriculum. When we talk about education, the next word that has to come in is funding. Our teachers are not able to teach. They are dealing with multiple issues and complex classrooms that were underfunded (…) to balance the budget.”
Sawhney: “I have already spoken about my commitment to restart the curriculum review. One thing I would like to (do is) strategically inject some funding into student aid. (Also), a program that encourages health care workers to work in rural communities in exchange for forgiveness of some of their student debt.”
Loewen: “We need to have our education focused on the basics, not so much the social values. One of my main concerns right now is our post-secondary education, where it’s not graduating the professionals that we need for instance in health. We have to bring doctors and nurses in from all over the world. Our post-secondary system isn’t keeping up. That needs to change.”
Toews: “First principle, parents are the individuals primarily responsible for their children’s education. I support curriculum reform, a focus on core disciplines of numeracy, literacy, and fact-based education. Activist ideology has no place in a curriculum. It has to be removed.”
Smith: “No more masks, no more lockdowns, no more taking kids out of their activities. And we have to make sure that we test every child and give them tutoring support to bring them up to grade level.”
Schulz: “The problem we’ve got is class size and complexity (complex issues). I would agree that parents know what’s best for their kids, that’s why I am a supporter of parent choice. We need to continue to incentivize for innovation, research, and for tax money.”
Jean said we need “to be less divisive in our education system; I think that’s pretty easy to do especially if we take politics out of the education system. I can’t imagine anything more important than getting our education right.”
The moderator then moved on to the next topic, arts and culture, saying, “Help us understand your vision and perspective on the future of arts and culture in Alberta.”
Toews: “I find it ironic that an individual who’s an accountant, a rancher, and a previous finance minister gets the arts and culture question.” Laughter broke out in the room. “At a time when we are looking to attract other people from Canada and around the world into the province of Alberta, it’s critical that we have a very robust arts and culture scene. The best thing that we can do for a thriving arts and culture sector is ensure that we have a robust economy.”
Aheer: “When arts and culture thrive in our province, Alberta thrives. I remember Mr. Toews, when we first came to you to talk about that film tax credit, it was turned away. (You) didn’t believe that for every dollar that we put into the film industry, five would be created. I’m really glad the tone has changed and that it finally came around.”
Sawhney: “Several weeks ago, the City of Calgary was recognized as the fourth best place in the world to live. This is based on livability indices. These include education, health, infrastructure, entertainment, and culture. Investments in culture are not a frill. When you are looking to attract investment, people who can live anywhere in the world like San Francisco, Tokyo, and London will choose to come to Alberta because of our livability index.”
Loewen: “When it comes to culture, I think it needs to come from the people and not from government. When it comes to culture, we have to think about religion too. We had churches shut down, we had pastors jailed, and this government and these ministers (motioning to the panel) were involved in that.”
Schulz: “It’s great to know that we have a thriving theatre music and dance and culture sector that helps not only keep people here but attract people here as well.”
Next week we’ll wrap up our soundbites from the candidates with their discussion on energy and the future economy. Election results will follow.