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Alberta Liberals to host seniors forum

Alberta Liberal leader David Swann will host a seniors’ forum in St. Albert next Tuesday.

Alberta Liberal leader David Swann will host a seniors’ forum in St. Albert next Tuesday.

The evening will include a summary of recently passed bills that affect seniors, followed by an open question-and-answer session with Swann and other Liberal MLAs.

“We want to get more people aware of the issues and aware of where the Liberals stand on some of these issues,” Swann said.

Similar forums held recently in Edmonton and Calgary drew more than 100 people, he said. The visit is part of a summer-long blitz that will see Swann travelling all over Alberta in an attempt to engage Albertans on the issues and increase his profile.

“That’s all part of it. I’m a new leader,” said Swann, who took over from Kevin Taft in December after the former leader resigned.

“People need to know who I am, what I stand for and in what ways I would try to help them in the coming term,” he said.

The seniors’ forum comes about a month after St. Albert PC MLA Ken Allred staged a health forum that drew hundreds of seniors. There’s still plenty of appetite for more discussion, said Dick Tansey, chair of the local chapter of Seniors United Now.

“With the health care issues I would think that everybody is scared a little bit … especially seniors,” he said.

Seniors are still concerned about the government’s pharmacare plan, long-term care and the supply of doctors and nurses, said Tansey, who thinks anyone who’s concerned should come voice their opinions, despite the fact that the Liberals hold only nine of 83 seats.

“I realize with nine members they’re not going to stop anything … but the vocal side might start to resonate with the government,” Tansey said.

By organizing forums around the province right after the end of the spring legislature session, it’s clear that the Liberals are trying to be the first party to attach itself to seniors’ concerns, said David Taras, a political observer and communications professor at the University of Calgary.

This type of “shoe leather politics” is really the only option the cash-strapped party has for increasing its profile.

“It’s not like they can buy TV ads,” Taras said.

For the Liberals to gain ground on the Tories, they need to make serious inroads. Seniors are an obvious target because they vote in large numbers and are currently angry with the government, Taras said.

“If [the Liberals] become the party that has a special relationship with seniors, presumably that won’t be forgotten during elections,” he said.

The forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 16 at the St. Albert Community Hall.