Five candidates vying for the votes of Morinville – St. Albert United Conservative Party (UCP) voters faced off at a forum on Monday night.
The MLA hopefuls spent two-and-a-half hours with dozens of constituents at the Morinville Cultural Centre and answered 10 questions to help inform UCP members in their choice to nominate a candidate.
Amber Harris, Trina Jones, Joe Gosselin, Dale Nally and Don Rigney fielded questions about parental choice in education, potential complications when it comes to annexation and how to handle potential revenue sharing around the Sturgeon Refinery.
When it comes to a sales tax in the province, most candidates said they would not support a tax because the province has a spending problem instead of a revenue problem.
Nally, a businessman with his masters degree in education, said he would only support a sales tax after taking the issue to the public.
“I would support a referendum on a sales tax. I would support a sales tax if the members of this party told us it was important to them,” Nally said.
All five candidates said they support a parent's right to choose where their children are being educated and how. They all argued that different types of education will work for different students and families and that parents should be able to choose.
Rigney, a former Sturgeon County mayor and councillor, said he believes in the right to choose.
“I believe in personal liberty. I believe in choice,” Rigney said, adding individuals can make mistakes but governments can make huge mistakes.
"We have to allow as much choice as possible in education. I think it's absolutely critical," Rigney said.
When it came to engaging young people in the political process, Harris, who is serving her second term as a councillor for Gibbons, said that they need to promote a youth division in the constituency association.
“We need to connect with young people in ways that they connect with each other,” Harris said, adding social media and electronic communications need to be a key to the engagement strategy.
Joe Gosselin, a former two-term Morinville councillor, said the best way to manage the competing urban and rural interests in the unique riding is to provide all types of housing to constituents, because it is really challenging to service large areas of land.
“The cost of infrastructure is just getting cost prohibitive. By growing up and not out there isn’t as large of demand on the agriculture community to give up their farming land. That also decreases our environmental footprint because we are not expanding beyond current corporate boundaries,” Gosselin said.
A question for the audience was asked about the possibility of amalgamating the communities in the riding into one municipality, similar to Strathcona County, and all of the candidates said they wouldn’t advocate for amalgamation.
Trina Jones, who has sat on Legal town council since 2010, said she would be against combining communities in the riding into one municipality.
“There are a lot of thriving communities. Their budgets are balanced. They have got a good infrastructure. They have got thriving community groups and they have no interest in joining with the adjoining county,” Jones said.
The Morinville – St. Albert electoral district was recently created when the provincial ridings were redrawn. The is no incumbent running for a seat.
The 17,844 St. Albert residents who live in Erin Ridge North, Erin Ridge, Oakmont, Woodlands, Kingswood and Pineview will join with Morinville and a portion of Sturgeon County to create the Morinville – St. Albert riding. This constituency will be home to 50,225 people. The communities of Bon Accord, Gibbons, Redwater and Legal will be included in the Morinville – St. Albert riding.