Several candidates were in attack-mode at the St. Albert Public Library’s forum on Monday night.
With a week left to go in what’s become a contested campaign, PC candidates Stephen Khan and Rus Matichuk each took several jabs at other parties, while other parties’ candidates had their own attacks waiting.
Khan in particular targeted NDP candidate Marie Renaud. Both are running in the St. Albert riding.
He criticized her for not mentioning his support as MLA that he’s offered LoSeCa, the organization Renaud is executive director of, when Renaud was campaigning against funding cuts for people with disabilities.
In his closing remarks, he targeted Renaud for not living in St. Albert. She lives in northwest Edmonton but has worked in St. Albert for 14 years.
“I do think it’s wonderful that Marie cares enough about St. Albert to want to run to be MLA, but what people at the doors are telling me is they want an MLA that cares enough about St. Albert to actually want to live in St. Albert,” Khan said. His remark was greeted by disapproving noises from the 100-plus crowd.
All of the candidates from the St. Albert riding and three of the six candidates from the Spruce Grove-St. Albert riding were present at the forum. Green Party candidate Brendon Greene, Wildrose candidate Jaye Walter and NDP candidate Trevor Horne were absent.
Renaud didn’t stand idly by, working a “math is difficult” quip – a reference to PC leader Jim Prentice’s comment to NDP leader Rachel Notley during last week’s leadership debate – and acknowledging that while Khan was on the steps of the legislature, so were other MLAs.
“I do give you credit that it wasn’t a popular thing for someone from your party to be there,” she said, adding that she also gives him credit for listening – but telling him listening and doing are different.
Matichuk attacked the NDP’s fiscal plan, telling the crowd that the NDP plan to hike taxes and royalties “while energy companies are laying off thousands of people.”
“Clearly the NDP don’t know that only the private sector creates jobs, not government,” Matichuk said. He then moved onto questioning what the Wildrose would cut or delay, saying they won’t tell.
A lighter moment occurred then when Wildrose candidate Shelley Biermanski promptly handed him a page, which Matichuk said showed the information he was looking for and he thanked her.
Later in the forum, Matichuk even swiped at the Alberta Party’s Spruce Grove-St. Albert candidate Gary Hanna and that party’s platform.
Trevor Love, the Alberta Party’s candidate in St. Albert, then thanked Matichuk for going off the “PC talking point manual” and mentioning the Alberta Party.
The Alberta Party candidates did target the other parties in their remarks, criticizing the PC budget, especially cuts within the PC’s education budget, the Wildrose’s “taxes are bad” message and even saying the Liberals need more than sound policy.
Liberal candidates Reg Lukasik and Bill Alton otherwise went largely unacknowledged by attacks. Lukasik did criticize “the Prentice plan of death by a thousand cuts and fee increases” and raised the spectre of a two-tiered health system.
Aside from the would-be PC MLAs, all the candidates said it was time for a change in government or pitched their party as a possibility for strong opposition.
Alton acknowledged that the Liberals won’t be forming government in 2015, but pointed to the voting history of the St. Albert riding in his pitch.
“This is a swing riding. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a swing,” he said.
The audience got to ask questions directed to one or two of the candidates, or by party, for an hour.
The unfiltered questions ranged from young people asking about funding for education to a show of hands survey on introducing a progressive income tax system.
The latter got positive responses from every party but the Wildrose, with Biermanski sticking to party promises to not raise taxes.
Many of the questions were initially directed to the PCs, especially Khan, and the lone NDP candidate present, Renaud, but eventually the field opened up.
For instance, the Liberals were asked how they would close the gender pay gap, an issue the Liberals have highlighted during the election, or how the Alberta Party would restructure the public service.
Lukasik said the Liberals would look at places where similar gender pay gap legislation has been put in place.
Love said there’s no easy solution to address bureaucratic process issues, and they’d have to work through it responsibly.
“We need to do it with a scalpel, not a hatchet,” Love said.
Biermanski was asked if wage freezes would impact front-line workers, and she assured the question-asker “the freezes are up top.”
Other questions covered the environment, the province’s saving plan, mental health supports and more.