By Erika Mathieu
Westwind Weekly News
Candidates of the Taber-Warner riding attended a public provincial candidate forum hosted by the Coaldale Chamber of Commerce on May 18 at the Gem of the West Museum.
UCP candidate for the Taber-Warner riding, Grant Hunter, was joined by Wildrose Loyalty Coalition candidate Paul Hinman, and Brent Ginther of the Solidarity Movement of Alberta. Topics of discussion ranged from wind farms in the region to healthcare and Alberta’s relationship to Ottawa.
The candidates began with an introduction to their platform and were granted five minutes each for this portion of the program. The candidates were then asked a series of submitted questions from voters.
On the topic of education, candidates were asked how does their party plan to address class sizes in K-12 education?
Hinman said, “when kids first go to school in grade one they are so excited to get there. The teacher will ask the student to draw a picture of the best part of their summer. They will immediately grab their crayons and they will start drawing a picture and expressing their thoughts by the time they get to grades 4-6, the teacher would ask that same question and the student will say, ‘well what specifically do you want me to do?’(Students) want instructions, and what our system is doing is putting our kids on a conveyor belt and giving them what they are to do and how to do it, rather than letting them be free to learn and to express themselves.”
“We absolutely need to reduce the size of our classes but the truth is that Albertans are over-taxed, we can do better and in fact we send $65 billion to Ottawa and its unacceptable to send that amount of money and then beg for money back whether it is for healthcare or policing or infrastructure.”
Hunter said, “One of the problems that we are trying to address, (is) we have a lot of people entering Alberta, we have net migration coming into Alberta and with that you’re going to have bigger sizes of classrooms. That net migration is because we got back the Alberta Advantage, we did something right again in Alberta with a conservative government. These are good problems to have. They are problems and we will solve them, we will fund them properly but this is something that we have to address because we’re adding the size of Lethbridge every year coming into this province. Yes, the classrooms are getting bigger in certain areas so we need to address that and we will.”
In response to Hunter, Ginther said, “A lot of this net migration that people seem to be happy about there are kids that actually come and don’t speak English. So these new kids come and they aren’t only adding to our numbers, but they are adding to level of difficulty trying to educate.”
On the topic of healthcare the candidates were asked what their party’s solution or strategy would be to address emergency care, ER wait times and doctor shortages.
Hunter said, “In southern Alberta we have struggled to make sure we have doctors stay in rural Alberta and one of the ways we will actually address this issue is to be able to train rural Albertans from rural Alberta to become doctors and then they go back into rural Alberta because their family is there, and that is probably the best way to be able to address that issue. That is a long-term solution to some of the problems we have.” In terms of short term solutions, Hunter spoke about Alternate Physician Remuneration (APR) as a strategy to incentivize rural physicians to practice in southern Alberta.
Hinman: “We don’t have proper care for senior facilities for people who need to get out of the hospital. Our system has been centralized over the decades and centralization is the wrong answer,” and went on to state initial cost estimates to centralize ambulance services was $60 million, but soon doubled to $120 million. “They have no clue of all the volunteerism that went on in rural Alberta. Central government is disconnected, they don’t understand what we have and what we do here in our communities and we need to decentralize. We cannot have Edmontonians making decisions and saying that we don’t understand the system; we do and we need locals doctors to decide their own scope of practice.”
Ginther: “I think the first thing that the government could do is apologize for firing unvaccinated workers and trying to lure some of those back. It would go a long way to incentivizing health care workers to come from other provinces because who in their right mind would pack up their life and move to Alberta to work in an industry where they just fired hundreds of worker for not doing exactly what the government told them? I think another thing we can do is open the system up to some privatization. You can look at something like laser eye surgery which used to cost $20,000 per eye, and now costs about $2,000 per eye. We need some carrots on some sticks to try to lure some doctors to this area because if you are one of the 69,000 people on the surgical waitlist, you don’t really care what the excuses are, you want your doctor.”
The forum lasted for two hours, and the candidates spoke on a wide range of topics from the issue of homelessness to medical assistance in dying (MAID), and the government’s role in conservation.
The provincial election will be held on May 29.