To engage readers and voters in the upcoming Provincial election, the Mail posed a series of questions todeclared Drumheller-Stettler candidates Nathan Horner of the UCP Party, Mark Nikota of the Alberta Partyand independent Rick Strankman. By law, the 2019, the 30th provincial general election will be called on or before May 31. Part 2 will continue next week.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the province in the coming 2-4 years?
NH: Pipelines. This is going to be our hardest fought battle trying to work with the federal government and B.C.’s provincial government. We need to take a hard stance on this issue and let the world know that we are open for business.
MN: There are many challenges facing the province but the biggest, in my opinion, is stabilizing the economy and encouraging job growth in the private sector; when people are employed you get less crime and social problems like domestic violence so economic growth is important. After we get the economy back on track in the next 2 to 4 years, we can work on diversifying it over the long term.
RS: We need to make a prompt return to Alberta’s battle-tested fiscal responsibility principles and structure in delivering targeted, efficient government spending. In order of priority, that means: First, balancing the budget within two years; Second, curbing growth in government; Third, crafting a smart plan to stop adding to Alberta’s debt and begin paying it down, while still delivering requisite essential services.
What is the primary issue facing residents of Drumheller-Stettler?
RS: Provincial government over-reach into our daily lives and the subsequent needs to reduce regulatory red-tape at all levels of government. This suffocating regulatory environment shackles our efforts to harness available economic development projects, creating the growth that comes with aggressive job creation which will help keep more of our young people at home in the region.
MN: Drumheller-Stettler is a tough riding because it’s so large and diverse. The economy and jobs are first and foremost on everyone’s mind but overall sustainability of our communities is a huge problem. We need to work closely with our municipal partners, which I have a lot of experience in as a former Mayor and now CAO. In our riding, we face challenges attracting and keeping residents which means less economic activity and less access to services such as health care as it gets centralized in the cities. Municipal leaders are the best for knowing local concerns so I would build close relationships with them to address those concerns.
NH: Overall poor economy. The most consistent message I hear at the doors is repeal the carbon tax, give us pipelines, and let the world know Alberta is a safe place to invest.
How do you differentiate your party’s views from the governing party? Other parties running?
MN: The Alberta Party is based on a balanced approach to solving problems and puts people and issues first. We aren’t afraid to look at any idea if it’s going to solve a problem whereas the other two main parties seem more concerned with arguing between themselves than helping people.
RS: I’m an Independent candidate which means that I will actively consult my constituents’ ideas, thinking and opinion on provincial matters and then follow their direction when I vote.
My consultation model will involve tools including town halls, in person and online conversations, use of constituent surveys and action-oriented petitions, plus bringing special guests to our region. I believe this consistent consultation with constituents will build a greater level of trust for me as an Independent MLA than for ANY MLAs elected from Parties.
NH: While the NDP believes in big government, higher taxes and unchecked spending the UCP believes in Freedom of the individual, less regulation and bureaucracy and efficient delivery of government services. Under a UCP government, the main objective will be competitiveness.
While I know you don’t set policy for your party but what would be three changes you would like to see in the first 100 days if you are elected?
RS: 1. A better solution to our climate change challenges than a carbon tax.
2. Freedom from OHS regulations flowing from the government’s flawed Bill 6.
3. Overdue tax reduction for Albertans and systematic debit reduction for Alberta.
MN: In the first 100 days I would like to see a defined plan to get our resources to market as there seems to be a disconnect between wanting a pipeline and not knowing exactly why they’re not getting approved. Second, I would start working on sustainability for our rural riding including economic development ideas like value-added agricultural options. And finally the Alberta party and I would like to see clear, long term sustainable funding for municipalities and school divisions; we can’t plan long term if we don’t know what our resources will be.
NH: Repeal Alberta’s Carbon Tax, Begin implementation of our fight back strategy and let the world know Alberta is open for business.
It has been quoted that Alberta taxpayers are paying $5 million daily on interest on the provincial debt. In a situation where the province is dealing with this reality, how do you maintain the services that voters have come to rely upon?
NH: Even-though we have taken on this great debt load in a 4-year term we will not be able to get out of it in 4 years. The first step needs to be stop digging. We need to return to balanced budgets while we determine the best ways to pay off our debt while focusing on efficient delivery of government services.
RS: The provincial government needs to provide full, transparent costs of all primary and secondary services currently delivered to Albertans. Then all Albertans must be given the opportunity to voice their thinking and opinions on which services to keep and which to either downsize or discontinue while Alberta gets its provincial debt under control. Majority opinions should be posted publicly and the government should follow that direction from Albertans. If the government does not follow this model, it means they do not trust the judgment of Albertans. When provincial debt is under control, affected services can then be restored in full or in part, based on a Phase-In plan.
MN: The Alberta Party would term out our debt, just like a mortgage payment on your house, so we have a manageable, scheduled debt payment going forward. Then we would work to balance the budget by looking for efficiencies in the services we do deliver so we don’t have to cut services or add any more debt in the future.
With seemingly no quick return to resource prices the province enjoyed in the last decade, how would your government diversify the economy? How would that look in Drumheller-Stettler?
MN: One of the areas we can work to diversify the economy in Alberta is adding value to the resources we already produce before we export them. This can be done in many areas such as oil & gas and agriculture. I would push for those options to happen in Drumheller-Stettler, especially in the agricultural sector. We lose jobs and revenue when we ship primary products, so we need to work on capturing the value-added portion before we export our goods.
NH: The best way for Drumheller- Stettler to have a robust diverse economy is for Alberta to repeal the carbon tax and make Alberta a competitive tax jurisdiction again. We will massively cut red tape and promote our industries and products while dispelling myths and lies. We will let the rest of Canada and the world know that Alberta is open for business and a safe place to invest.
RS: First, we need to reduce restrictive and unnecessary red tape to streamline and then speed the opportunities to get new primary and secondary processing projects up and running. These should include new irrigation projects in large tracts of current dry-land farming in our region. Second, we need to investigate and convert new opportunities in clean energy sources into generation, production and manufacturing enterprises that create substantial numbers of jobs.
Watch next week’s edition
of The Drumheller Mail
for the conclusion of
“Candidates weigh in”
Q 7. How would have your party handled the response to resource transport issues differently than the current government?
NH: The UCP would have lobbied and fought for all potential pipelines, not just Trans Mountain. Curtailment was a sad, but necessary short term fix and rail is inefficient, expensive, and dangerous. We need pipelines and the UCP and Jason Kenney will use every lever available to set them. Turns out social license isn’t a thing.
RS: An accelerated pace to reduce red tape and regulatory burdens will help land-locked Alberta’s energy resources reach deep water port(s) in the short term. This immediately expands our ability to sell our high-value energy products to new markets. Alberta’s government must find better ways to collaborate with the federal government to widen and accelerate our access to current markets by creating a “Canadian Energy First” policy to ensure short and long-term energy security and self-suficiency.
MN: Approving pipelines, like any policy, needs to have a defined process so corporations and governments know exactly what is expected of them when planning a project. Rather than try to garner social license, which doesn’t exist, we would have worked the process to find out exactly what needed to be done to get pipeline approval and work to solve the problem.
Q 8. Political divisions have become more polarized in the last few years, how would you restore decorum?
MN: The extremes on both sides of the political spectrum seem more concerned with pointing out what is wrong with the other side, rather than actually fixing problems that concern people. The Alberta party is about serving people; we need to get politics back to serving the people by providing leadership, which will focus energy on helping people as opposed to worrying about party ideology.
NH: I’m proud of the work Jason Kenney has already done to reverse decorum in the legislature, no desk thumping or hollering, just civil productive debate.
RS: For Question Period, direct Parties and Party Whips, as well as elected Independents, to lower their emotional temperature when advancing questions to government speakers. Then, put in place appropriate discipline and penalties for identified hecklers from both sides of the Legislature chamber.
Q 9. What is your vision for the agriculture industry over the next decade?
RS: We need a continuation of any new viable, innovative, economic and environmental developments which lead to new primary and secondary production projects and opportunities.
NH: The next theme for Alberta needs to be competitiveness for all industries including AG. We need to keep the Playing field level against our competitors and then focus our attention to expanding into new markets. The world needs more food so we need to give our producers access to markets abroad and stay out of the way at home.
MN: The agriculture industry in our area is already a driving force. There are no stronger advocates for Alberta than our farmers and ranchers; they just want government to work with them and not against them. As government, we need to get out of their way and support the good work and innovative ideas they come up with. The ag info center in Stettler is an example of a huge resource that needs to be supported and enhanced. Organizations like that, together with encouraging value-added options to boost the economy, are areas we need to focus on, especially in Drumheller-Stettler. This can attract people to our region and create more sustainable communities.
Q 10. Are you willing to vote against your party if by doing so would benefit Drumheller-Stettler?
NH: Absolutely. Jason Kenney’s second platform release that came out February 14th will give Voters the ability to fire provincial politicians who have broken their trust. The UCP has pledged to respect free votes among MLAs allowing them to address their ridings specific needs.
RS: As an Independent MLA, I have the freedom to follow the direction of my constituents across the board, whenever legislation, an issue, an initiative or an opportunity comes to a vote in the Chamber or in Committees. I welcome the opportunity to serve my constituents this way as I trust their judgement.
Mark Nikota posed this question to Nathan Horner: “The Alberta party has a plan to term out the provincial debt to pay it down like a mortgage and balance the budget going forward. The UPC says it will implement a flat income tax which will reduce revenues and will also balance the books while paying down the debt in the next few years in a depressed resource economy. In order to balance the books while reducing revenues, what areas will the UPC cut in order to accomplish that quick of a balanced budget?’
NH: The UCP is going to implement a spending freeze while cutting regulations, Carbon tax and red tape by 1/3 to un-hobble the Alberta Economy. A spending freeze and an increase of the GDP by 3% will balance the budget by 2023.
Nathan Horner posed this question to Mark Nikota: Our United Conservatives have a five-pronged “Fight Back Strategy” to stand up for Alberta, combat lies about Alberta’s energy sector, get pipelines built, and demand fair treatment within the Confederation. The Alberta Party has been critical of our plan but has not offered a credible alternative. Does the Alberta Party have anything of substance to offer out of work energy sector workers and how do you expect Drumheller-Stettler to believe that you will be able to instill change? It takes 44 votes to make real change and the Alberta Party has only been able to secure one seat in the previous provincial elections.
MN: With 1 MLA the Alberta party has produced four straight shadow budgets, has successfully passed amendments to government legislation and offered credible opposition. With 25 MLAs the UPC has walked out on votes protecting women, vows to go to court wasting millions of taxpayers dollars to fight the federal government and offers fear of a split vote.
Our pipeline plan starts with a test case at the Supreme Court, stakeholder consultations, and showcases the economic benefits to provincial, federal and other partners in the Trans Mountain project. I will use my experience to work within the Alberta Party to bring resource and agricultural economic development options to our riding, to get people back to work.
With a practical approach to governing, the Alberta Party offers more than fear-based politics and a return to the past, we offer hope for the future.