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Local candidates square off at virtual forum

The two-hour-long event hosted by the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce allowed each candidate one minute to answer questions emailed in by the audience.
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The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce held a virtual candidate forum on Sept. 13. Ken Kobly hosted the two-hour-long event. SCREENSHOT

The four St. Albert-Edmonton candidates vying for a seat in Parliament had the opportunity to make their case to voters on Monday night.

On Sept. 14 the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual candidate forum and featured People’s Party of Canada candidate Brigitte Cecelia, Conservative incumbent Michael Cooper, New Democratic Party candidate Kathleen Mpulubusi, and Liberal candidate Greg Springate.

The two-hour-long event was hosted by Ken Kobly, the president and CEO of the Alberta Chamber of Commerce, and started out with each candidate giving a three-minute statement.

Speaking order was determined by a draw before the event started and Cooper gave the opening remarks.

Cooper spoke about his role in Parliament, including his participation on committees and on various bills.

“I've also contributed in a number of areas of public policy in terms of fighting for safeguards to protect vulnerable persons in Canada's medical assistance in dying regime, as well as standing up for the rights of victims in Canada,” he stated.

Springate spoke about his role as a chartered professional accountant and the Liberal party’s approach to the pandemic.

“We made sure businesses here in St. Albert could stay open and keep workers on the payroll with the Canada emergency wage subsidy. Canada has weathered the storm better than almost anywhere else in the world because we had a plan and we did it together,” Springate said.

Opening with a line about Bernier Nation, Cecelia spoke about being libertarians and freedom fighters, then attacked the Conservatives and also took a jab at Cooper, something she did throughout the forum.

“In an interview with Radio Canada, Mr. O'Toole pledged that his Conservative government would not approve a pipeline as long as there was Quebec objecting to the idea … Alberta and Quebec have a lot in common. They both want to control their own affairs, and they both want to make Alberta pay for it,” said Cecelia.

Mpulubusi spoke about the need for strong leadership and the economic storms that have frequently passed over Alberta and how the community has come together during the pandemic and how she will use that same focus in the riding.

“The same focus on solving problems for everyday people and families, not just for the corporate elites and ultra-rich — regular, everyday people. We can make life more affordable by investing in health care, affordable housing, pharmacare, and child care. We have a detailed and ambitious plan to truly combat the climate crisis that will create the new good-paying jobs,” she said.

The introductions were followed by a question period. The questions were emailed in by the audience and moderators chose which ones to pose to the candidates. Altogether, 23 varied questions were asked, and each candidate had one minute to answer. The order in which the candidates answered was by a draw.

When it comes to the economic impacts of the pandemic on young people, the candidates were asked what supports their parties offer youth.

Springate said the Liberal government would permanently eliminate the federal interest on Canada Student and Apprentice Loans. They would also not have new graduates begin repaying until they earn at least $50,000 annually.

Cecelia said the PPC is not interested in vote-buying and they will not make promises to any particular group. They will not be borrowing more money and their focus will be on paying off Canada’s debt.

The NDP is proposing to give students a five-year break on loan repayment and forgive up to $20,000 in student debt.

Cooper said the Conservatives have a comprehensive plan to reopen the economy and get Canadians back to work. They would also work to improve job training and skills development and increase apprenticeship places for young people.

Another question asked about each party's plan was about whether they plan to expand and enhance old-age security to help seniors impacted by rising drug and living costs.

Springate said the Liberals moved the age for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement back to 65. They want to develop a safe long-term care act and to double the home accessibility tax credit to $20,000. Eventually, the Liberals plan on developing a national pharmacare program.

Cecelia said the PPC is focused on getting rid of the debt, after which they will create a two-tiered tax system that will be much simpler and ensure there is no more fiat money created.

The NDP wants to lower the age for receiving Old Age Security and the Canada Pension. Pharmacare is one of the NDP's key commitments, said Mpulubusi. They also want to see long-term care added to the Canadian Health Act.

Cooper said the Conservatives would scrap the carbon tax and provide a GST holiday in December. He said the Conservatives are committed to working with provinces to close existing gaps with respect to drug coverage.

As for the business side of things, a question was asked about whether or not their parties would support introducing debt relief on government-backed loans to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Springate said the short answer is yes, but they prefer companies grow and thrive so they can pay off their loans. A Liberal government would help companies figure that out and also determine the technology and infrastructure they need for growth.

Cecelia said although they are similar to what the Liberals are saying, they are not looking to buy votes. They are looking at Canada’s debt and are not in the position to make promises.

The NDP would look at measures and extensions to help small businesses get over the hump. They would also look at ways to help businesses grow and reduce costs for businesses.

Cooper said they would establish a minister to help with red-tape reduction to eliminate duplicate and useless regulations. They would look at overhauling the tax system and at provide small businesses hit hard with COVID loans up to $200,000.

The forum closed with each candidate giving a two-minute statement in reverse order from opening. St. Albertans have less than a week to make their choice, as election day is Sept. 20.

The St. Albert Chamber of Commerce plans to feature the full forum video on its YouTube channel.