There are two strong candidates in St. Albert-Edmonton say residents who attended Wednesday’s forums – but exactly which two they may prefer is where they disagree.
This week residents had their first chance to meet with local candidates at two separate events. After meeting with St. Albert seniors Monday, the Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Independent candidates fielded questions from the public during the St. Albert Public Library’s all-candidate forum.
Touching on everything from tax credits to the treatment of veterans to municipal funding, each tried to set themselves apart – some more successfully than others.
“I think we have two strong candidates in the Independent and the Conservative,” said Valerie Spink, praising both Brent Rathgeber and Michael Cooper for their depth of knowledge.
While Rathgeber’s political fluency was attributed to his seven years experience as an MP, some were impressed with Cooper’s ability to confidently speak to his party’s policies and list off a multitude of facts and figures without the use of any notes.
Others were of a different opinion, saying that Cooper was simply regurgitating talking points. “It sounds like you wind him up. But he’s well-rehearsed,” said Adele Dunnigan.
Dunnigan admitted that she is not a fan of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. But she also does not qualify herself as partisan, saying that when she goes to the polls she wants to elect the best representative possible.
“Brent really cut it tonight, I thought,” she said.
John Kennedy agreed, especially on the issue of the role of an MP and the importance of democracy, which was at the root of many questions asked on Wednesday.
“He actually understands how it works and why it’s important, and that in many ways in much more important than my differences with him over particular social or fiscal policies, because I think he would agree that we ought to come to a conclusion in a proper democratic way. Stephen Harper doesn’t,” he said.
Many were impressed by Liberal candidate Beatrice Ghettuba’s wit and poise – she answered thoughtfully and articulately throughout the night even when criticized for Justin Trudeau’s stance on small businesses acting as tax havens for the wealthy – but all had serious doubts about her ability to win the riding, given the party she represented.
“I can’t see her getting elected in St. Albert; it’s got an ancient history of being small ‘c’ conservative. But she’s a real addition to this area,” said Kennedy.
The latest polls for the riding seem to support the former Crown prosecutor’s theory. ThreeHundredEight.com paints the province blue in its projections, save for a few specs of orange and red.
The latest projections for St. Albert, based on polling numbers for Sept. 30, have the Conservatives taking the riding with 39.3 per cent of the vote. Independent Brent Rathgeber is projected as runner up at 23.9 per cent, with the NDP following at 18.1 per cent, the Liberals at 16.5 per cent and the Greens at 2.2 per cent.
While some candidates impressed, others left residents underwhelmed.
Constituents felt that NDP candidate Darlene Malayko was unprepared. She spent a good deal of time shuffling through her NDP policy binder and her answers were short and hesitant.
“I think the New Democrat might have been a little overwhelmed,” said Spink.
Although he thought Cooper spoke well, Jared Milne (a freelance columnist with the Gazette) was unhappy with the Conservative candidate’s responses regarding balanced budgets and tax credits. At one point Cooper told the 100-person crowd that his party was willing to institute tax credits for single people and widows if they were re-elected to power.
“He doesn’t talk about what we might have to cut in order to keep the budget balanced. He seems to think we live in some sort of magical fairyland where we can have all the tax cuts we want without having to give up anything in services,” said Milne, pointing to cuts to Old Age Security and Employment Insurance already instituted by the Conservative government.
“Say what you want about guys like Mike Harris and Preston Manning, they were upfront about how it wasn’t going to be pretty and what we’re going to have to do to balance the books,” he added.
Candidates will meet with students in the next week, before a final forum takes place at the St. Albert Inn and Suites on Thursday evening. Hosted by the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, the event starts 7 p.m.
The four confirmed candidates will field written questions from the audience. Forms will be handed out at the start of the event. Questions can also be sent in advance to email@example.com.