Maxim wanted the debate to demonstrate to residents of Calgary-Elbow what knowledge the candidates had on important issues within the Calgary-Elbow community. As a community that was affected by the 2013 flood, the issue of flood mitigation was a top priority, as well as education, health care and quality of life.
All candidates started off the evening of Oct 7, 2014 with a five-minute introduction.
· Gordon Dirks (candidate for the Progressive Conservatives) started off by outlining five items that were important to him: public education, strengthening communities, fiscal responsibility, revisions to the accountability act, and increasing market access of Alberta’s natural resources.
· Greg Clark (candidate for The Alberta Party) focused on the “can-do” attitude of Albertans, how Albertans are known for helping each other and that politics is about public service. Clark further outlined how Alberta is a place of innovation and entrepreneurship and that he would be committed to advancing education, health care for seniors and advocating for flood mitigation.
· John Fletcher (candidate for the Wildrose Party) told the crowd that he has 25 years of service in Alberta with the army and knowledge in the field of oil and gas and corporate securities. Fletcher was adamant about ending the entitlement that has been demonstrated by 40+ years of PC governance and that accountability could be restored in Alberta by strengthening the opposition party of Alberta.
· Stephanie McLean (candidate for the New Democrat Party) conveyed to the audience that she was frustrated with the crumbling legal aid, justice, health care, social welfare, and education systems. She said, ‘She has yet to experience the Alberta advantage’ under the governance of the PC party.
· Susan Wright (candidate for the Liberal Party), like Fletcher, highlighted her experience in the oil and gas industry, she further outlined her disappointment with Alberta’s high school drop out rate and outlined the need for a better education system that focuses on special needs and dialogue between educators and administrators. Wright also touched on advocating for a provincial flood insurance program and championed that she would bring back a high level of transparency and accountability to her constituents, if elected.
The first question Maxim organized to have the candidates address was asked by a representative of the Calgary River Communities Action Group (CRCAG) on upstream mitigation and policy creation for flood hazard areas. Fletcher addressed the issue by stating that no project should be off the table and that projects may have to work in tandem. Dirks conveyed that there is a great need for urgency and that the Springbank diversion would be a quick solution for flood volume management. McLean stated that more studies needed to be done before a project was decided on and policy created. Wright agreed with McLean, and further stated that, “the flood brought us together, whereas the Prentice solution will tear us apart” (in reference to the Springbank diversion). Wright further voiced her concern about the lack of public consultation with residents in the Springbank area and the City of Calgary municipal government regarding upstream flood mitigation projects. Clark highlighted his six point plan for flood prevention that is on his website and championed the Tunnel as a viable option to start before the Springbank diversion and/or McLean dry dam.
The second debate question focused on why the candidates were running for the position and what their views were on important current events. All candidates focused on the state of health care and education as their main discussion points. McLean, Wright, Clark and Fletcher further spoke to the need for transparency and the corruption seen by 40+ years of PC governance. Clark further expanded on his views on the need for accurate flood hazard mapping and recovering taxpayer money from the flood buyout program, as well as issues involving marriage equality and gay-straight alliances.
The final question of the debate centered on the issues of public policy, governance, and quality of life. McLean reiterated her frustration with the legal aid, justice and health care systems. Wright outlined three points she would address if elected: rebuilding transparency in Alberta, rebuilding respect across all levels of ministry from top to bottom, and rebuilding respect for the environment. Clark outlined the importance of enforcing environmental regulations, reducing carbon emissions, getting Alberta off the ‘resource rollercoaster’, and putting funding towards arts and culture to promote quality of life in Alberta. Fletcher outlined how long-term care for seniors is failing in Alberta and the need for anti-bullying legislation. Dirks agreed with the other candidates and added flood mitigation and the need to built more schools and long-term care facilities in Alberta to his answer.
Candidate then took questions from the audience, which addressed many of the issues touched upon in response to the three questions summarized above. It is in A Better Calgary’s view that Clark and Wright stood out in the debate. The two appeared to be well-prepared, were able to draw from the knowledge that they had versus reliance on scripted notes, and both made the effort to address all aspects of questions posed to the candidates thoroughly and succinctly. A Better Calgary thanks all the candidates for participating in the by-election debate and all the residents who came out to listen and ask questions.