To engage readers and voters in the upcoming Provincial election, the Mail posed a series ofquestions to declared Drumheller-Stettler candidates Nathan Horner of the UCP Party, Mark Nikota of the Alberta Party and independent Rick Strankman. By law, the 2019, the 30th provincial general election will be called on or before May 31. Part 2... continued from February 27 edition.
How would your party have 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.
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.
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.
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 riding’s 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 the other candidates: “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. How would you balance the budget in regards to tax changes and revenues? If there are cuts, what areas could be on the chopping block to balance the 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.
RS: In consensus government models, budgets are presented in business-like models, not partisan political constructions. Cuts to the over-populated managerial layers that plague Alberta’s fiscal balance sheet are the most effective targets to reduce government budgets, without affecting critical frontline services. Targeted provincial departments for reductions in this government should include Environment and Transportation. They feature layers of management with easily identifiable levels of cost inefficiency which would reduce costs to reasonable appropriations and can be achieved using a business-like model, rather than partisan political priorities. Alberta needs a new tax environment that encourages outside capital investment that restores the province-wide economic advantages of past decades. Lessening the corporate taxation burden and creating increased positive investment opportunities and revenues will help eliminate the need for future budget cuts.
Nathan Horner posed this question the other candidates: 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. What is your plan for out of work energy sector workers and how do you expect Drumheller-Stettler to believe you will be able to instill change, as an independent?
RS: I will advocate for the immediate removal of redundant and unnecessary regulatory restrictions, enabling Alberta to get our products to market on time and with business-based efficiency. Proof of my determination for past regulatory reduction is born out with the development of a microbrewery in Drumheller, as a consequence of past removal of onerous Canadian Wheat Board legislation. As an Independent, I am able to bring forward issues and advances that singularly matter to Drumheller Stettler citizens, direct democracy advocates, grassroots activists and consensus government supporters. As a party member, I would otherwise be restricted from bringing these advances forward if they conflict with party platform or associated special interests.
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.
Rick Strankman posed this question to the other candidates: As a resident of the Special Areas, what new innovative changes do you think could be promoted to encourage population stability or increases?
NH: To stabilize or increase population anywhere economic opportunities are necessary. For far too long wealth has for the most part flowed out of this region of Alberta with very little returned in the form of capital investment. This needs to change, the potential that exists within this riding needs to be identified and capitalized. Investment in capital projects that will add to the region and to the GDP of the province need to be advocated for and it is my intention to be at the table advocating on behalf of Drumheller-Stettler. The UCP platform will encourage investment, entrepreneurship and stability across the province.
MN: There are a number of ideas we can bring forward to help Special Areas and all of rural Alberta increase our population, which includes stabilizing our local economy. Just a couple of ideas the Alberta party has, include working on value added Agriculture and providing fibre optic internet to communities to bring jobs to our riding. The other way to stabilize population is to bring back health care services so our residents don’t have to travel to urban centers to receive care; this keeps spending local which helps business and in turn, keeps jobs and residents in the region.