The carbon tax, Trans Mountain pipeline, and the Horse River wildfire were just a few topics discussed at the first debate for the Fort McMurray-Conklin byelection.
On Wednesday, NDP Candidate Jane Stroud, United Conservative Party Candidate Laila Goodridge, Sid Fayad representing the Alberta Party, the Alberta Liberals’ Robin Le Fevre, and Green Party candidate Brian Deheer fielded questions from Mix News and the Fort McMurray Today.
The common result – more needs to be done for the riding.
Each candidate was first asked about the carbon tax and how it may have impacted Fort McMurray.
Stroud says she understands people don’t like taxes but they need to understand what they can pay for.
“For example, Willow Square, the helipad, schools and healthcare infrastructure across the province. What I’ve heard from the community is for Alberta to get a pipeline we needed to take climate change seriously.”
Fayad didn’t share the same view.
“The carbon tax has crippled Alberta – we are the engine, so to have this tax, it’s not fair, it was rolled out and was basically done with a flawed design, so it needs to be scrapped.”
Goodridge also believes the tax is ‘unfair’ to residents.
“It taxes northern and rural areas at a dispropriate rate, I believe strongly that we can produce cleaner, greener businesses here in Alberta and a tax on carbon is not the most effective way to make our environment better.”
The liberals also see problems with the carbon tax.
“It’s not transparent, nobody really knows what happens with the revenues being raised, it’s not clear that it’s being used to reduce the carbon footprint, it’s just an extra cost and disincentive to growth,” said Le Fevre.
The green party believes it’s serving a good purpose.
“Before this tax was brought in, there were oil companies that were advocating the use of a carbon tax, so what I would want to do is have a look at it and see if it looks fair and responsible,” added Deheer.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was also a discussed.
On Tuesday, the company announced that starting in August, work will begin on 290 km of pipeline between Edmonton and Jasper National Park in Alberta.
However, some of the candidates weren’t too happy about the federal governments plan to buy the project, for the time being.
“Pipeline companies are now waiting for the federal government to start coming into hurdles and struggle to get the pipeline built and paid for, and end up buying it back with a loss to us,” said Fayad.
Goodridge believes the uncertainty over the project is because of the provincial and federal governments.
“While we support the much need project, it’s a catastrophic failure of the NDP and Trudeau liberals that caused Kinder Morgan to pull out.”
Le Fevre notes he’s concerned over the cost.
“Governments are notoriously inefficient when it comes to pursuing business opportunities and it’s our feelings that business decisions should be left to businesses.”
The move was very ‘puzzling’ for Deheer.
“Seems to me it was part of a larger strategy and I really can’t say what that strategy is, I’m still kind of waiting to see what happens.”
While Stroud believes the deal needed to be done since the previous Alberta governments did nothing to get more pipelines built.
“We required the support of the federal government to push that pipeline through B.C. At the moment our only customer is the U.S. the rate of return we will get will come back to Alberta and to our region.”
Another topic of discussion was the Horse River wildfire.
Speaking about his experience in Lac La Biche, Deheer notes he isn’t as knowledgeable about the response but believes the government did all they could.
“I know there were enormous efforts done by the province to try and help in any way they could.”
Stroud notes the NDPs and the municipality collaborated well with moving forward after the events.
“I can tell you right now that we lost 2,400 homes and we’ve had over 1,900 building permits, so we’re still down 400-500 homes to be rebuilt and that could be they’re uninsured and underinsured but I think we’re moving forward.”
Fayad says the work being done here now needs to improve.
“It’s not satisfactory and that’s because the NDP government hasn’t dealt with insurance companies properly to protect the residents, also they haven’t dealt with the local contractors so they can have first rights or an advantage to build here.”
Goodridge adds she’s also disappointed with the effort made by the province.
“The NDP government cut the firefighting budget prior to the fire that happened, they didn’t understand the extreme risk, most people in Fort McMurray were talking about how dry and hot it was and yet they didn’t seem to take it seriously.”
As for the liberals, Le Fevre believes the recovery is progressing.
“Lessons need to be learned so general development can be improved moving forward and responses to similar situations in the future can be more timely and effective.”
Other topics brought up in the debate were healthcare, the rural housing crisis, Truth and Reconciliation, and the Hillview condo situation.
The byelection will be held on July 12.
— MIX 103.7 News (@Mix1037FMNews) July 4, 2018