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.
The candidates are Leela Aheer, Brian Jean, Todd Loewen, Rajan Sawhney, Rebecca Schulz, Danielle Smith, and Travis Toews.
The moderator asked the candidates about crime and policing; specifically, “What will you do to address crime issues across the province?”
Loewen: “We have to stop the catch and release in the court system. The police work hard, they catch people, and then they are back out on the street before they know it.” He supports and recommends and Alberta Provincial Police (APP) that responds to Albertans’ needs.
Aheer: “Job number one is ensuring public safety. Changing the name is not going to change the systemic and structural issues that we have in policing.” She believes that there’s a conversation that must happen across the province. She said that cultural sensitivities are at play along with domestic violence and sexual assault. She believes that victims of rural crime can’t easily access the system due to their geographical isolation.
Sawhney: “It’s time to look at who owns the expertise. Social service agencies can do a lot to help those who are vulnerable and experiencing addictions. (I would) give the police services more resources as well.”
Smith: “I think we need to begin with an Alberta Provincial Police. Number one, our members gave us direction by voting in favour of a provincial police at our annual general meeting. They voted in favour of adopting it to either augment or replace the RCMP.”
Sawhney: “(Smith’s) Sovereignty Act will upend crime and policing in Alberta.” She directly asked Smith, “If you become premier, will you commit to holding off on passing the Sovereignty Act until you get a mandate from the people of Alberta in a general election?”
Smith answered Sawhney: “I believe that we have a mandate to make sure that we get tough with Ottawa. We got a mandate for the equalization referendum.”
Sawhney: “Such a consequential piece of legislation does require a mandate of all Albertans. Equating the equalization referendum with a mandate for the sovereignty act is ludicrous. Danielle, you are not listening when you are enforcing the idea (of an APP) to municipalities.”
Smith: “I think Rajan, that you just said that you don’t accept the wisdom of our UCP members.”
Toews: “I believe that an APP could be part of that solution. I believe the RCMP have been hampered by a deep culture of risk aversion and heavy bureaucracy from Ottawa.”
Jean: “I agree with the idea of a provincial police over the long, long run, but anything that will see fewer officers on the street is a non-starter for me. (We have) over 70 rural communities saying, ‘no, don’t take the RCMP away from us.’”
On the topic of agriculture, the moderator asserted that progress in Alberta is threatened by the prime minister’s fertilizer emissions targets, and asked, “What specifically will you do to defend our agriculture sector from yet another horrible policy from Ottawa?”
Jean: “I put forward a detailed suite of agriculture policies; things like establishing a cross-commodity advisory board of grassroots farmers and ranchers to pass that info to the minister and premier first-hand. What we do in this case is make sure that we have a ‘made in Alberta’ solution. Agriculture is a joint jurisdiction. People don’t know this, but we have a huge part in feeding the world and these stupid moves by Justin Trudeau are going to starve the world.”
Toews: “Agriculture is the backbone of rural Alberta. I will push back and defend (it) every day of the week if I serve as premier.”
Aheer: “The federal government can’t have it both ways. (You) can’t put forward a carbon tax, not show your work and show that there’s been any emissions reduction and then go after another sector. It doesn’t work that way. We have food insecurity right now. Anything that attacks that is a very serious concern.”
Loewen: “The first thing we need to say to Ottawa is ‘no’. For once we need to actually say no to Ottawa and stand up for Albertans. That’s not an environmental policy, that’s a starvation policy. We have carbon taxes (…) we see a war on beef now, I guess they want to see us eating crickets instead of beef.”
Loewen quipped: “We need a ‘right to farm’ act. If we used Justin Trudeau’s BS, we could probably fertilize the crops with that.” Laughter broke out on the stage and in the auditorium.
Jean, a lawyer, added a caution: “All the solutions up here have to go through the same path, it has to go through the constitution in order to make changes. That’s called the rule of law and that’s what we are under.”
Next week, we’ll examine the candidates’ ideas about education and inflation.