St. Albert Alberta Party supporters got a taste of the party leadership race on Tuesday night when leadership hopefuls made a campaign stop in the city.
Locals got a chance to navigate some of the candidates at the centre of the political spectrum when Kara Levis, Stephen Mandel and Rick Fraser spoke to a crowd of more than 60 people at the St. Albert Curling Club.
The three candidates took a total of six questions from the crowd including a question to Mandel, the former mayor of Edmonton, asking if the public and private school systems should be amalgamated.
“Last time I looked they amalgamated health care and it was a disaster,” Mandel said. “We have so many other problems in this province to deal with on creating jobs and opportunity and to get into a fight about that right now is not something I support at all.”
Levis, a former tax lawyer, said she would like to see small business tax reform with a third band of corporate taxes introduced in the province.
Currently businesses that make less than $500,000 a year pay two per cent tax and then jump to 12 per cent when they exceed that number. Levis, a Calgary-based lawyer, said that she would like to introduce a third category of corporate tax rates where businesses who make between $500,000 and $1 million will pay a 7 per cent rate.
“I think that is one practical solution that is encouraging our Alberta businesses to thrive,” Levis said.
Levis also said that she supports exploring the option of a provincial sales tax to increase revenue. Mandel said that he does not support using a sales tax as the first option to balance the provincial chequebook and he would hold a referendum on the issue if it were to implemented. Fraser echoed Mandel and said that he does not believe that a sales tax is the right option for the province right now, but said that a new tax is never completely off the table.
“All things need to be on the table,” Fraser said. “If we are including taxes we need to be open and transparent about where those taxes are going if it ever gets to that point and make sure Albertans are getting good value.”
Fraser, a former PC party member, was asked about diversifying the economy and said that he wants to see money invested in education and healthcare to prepare students to work with the technology of tomorrow and to help build a healthy workforce.
The party was elected in 2015 with only one seat but two members have crossed the floor to sit with the party. In October 2017, former NDP member Karen McPherson joined the Alberta Party and in December 2017 Rick Fraser joined to make a three-person caucus.
The party has also been growing the number of constituency associations across the province. In mid-2016 the Alberta Party had representation in 40 ridings and today they have 65 that are active or currently in formation.
The party will vote online using a preferential ballot to select their new leader from February 25 to 27. The vote is available to those who purchase a party membership before noon on Feb. 12.