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Forum focuses on environment and economy

Tuesday, 15 October 2019. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Forum focuses on environment and economy

Forum focuses on environment and economy

By Jess Harrington

Concerned voters had a chance to quiz three of the five candidates running to represent the riding of Foothills at a forum in Bellevue on Oct. 2.

Incumbent John Barlow of the Conservative Party of Canada, who is seeking re-election, Bridget Lacey of Green Party of Canada and Greg Hession of the People’s Party of Canada spoke to an audience of about 60 residents at the MDM Centre.

NDP candidate Mickail Hendi and Liberal runner Cheryl Moller were not able to attend the forum, hosted by the Crowsnest Pass and Pincher Creek and district chambers of commerce.

The present candidates took turns answering preapproved questions read out by moderators, and a few from the floor.

Questions about climate change and the economy dominated the discussion, revealing public anxieties about how to best care for the environment while still creating jobs.

Childcare, the opioid crisis and ethical leadership were also key areas of concern.

Ms. Lacey, a mother of two from the Turner Valley area, said she shares many Albertans’ concerns about the future, and would look to be a voice for change while also supporting families through the tough but necessary transition into a new, “greener economy.”

The Green party’s primary focus, she explained, would be to shift away from a reliance on fossil fuels and drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions as quickly as possible. To do this, the party would reduce subsidies for the oil and gas industry and redirect that money to invest heavily in renewable energy businesses.

To preserve the economy through this transition, workers currently employed in the oil, coal and gas sectors would be given help to transition to new, green technology industries.

“It might not be popular to say, but coal is being phased out around the world … and oil and gas are finite, as we know,” Ms. Lacey said.

“This is something that we are working for — creating a plan to make sure that people have jobs, employment and retraining as they exit those industries that are being closed.”

The Greens would also push to instate a guaranteed livable income for all Canadians, as they believe financial security for citizens is key to navigating the unsure times ahead.

“This would affect people like seniors and those unable to work in making sure there’s a safety net everyone can fall back on,” Ms. Lacey explained. “We want to make sure when there isn’t an ability for the economy to give full employment, there’s still money going into the economy through spending.”

A revamped tax policy under the Greens would also see the wealthiest members of society pay more, and call on banks and e-commerce companies to pay tax on business done in Canada. This would give the government more money to strengthen social programs, like universal daycare and health care.

To Greg Hession and the People’s Party of Canada, the key to forward progress is a strong free-market economy that is allowed to follow its natural course.

Many times throughout the night, the candidate from Beaver Mines came back to this idea, suggesting that when times are good, people will naturally invest in innovation that moves society ahead.

“Albertans want to do the right thing, and when they’re feeling comfortable with their bank accounts, they will look to spend money in the areas that might be good to spend. We don’t necessarily need socialized incentives where we’re redistributing wealth to make that happen,” he said.

Mr. Hession believes these innovations will come when the market demands them, and called on the audience to have faith in the power of necessity.

To enable the market to flourish, the PPC would aim to reduce the size of government and place power back into the hands of the provinces.

The party would also “fight for the oil and gas industry tooth and nail,’’ said Mr. Hession, because it believes the natural resource sector plays “a fundamental role in the economic security of not only [Alberta], but the entire nation.”

Although Mr. Hession is an entrepreneur who has run his own renewable-energy company since 2007, he and his party do not subscribe to what he called the “false narrative” that CO2 emissions drive climate change, and will not aim to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels in light of this belief.

In his opening statement, John Barlow shared that he considers this election one of the most important in Canadian history, as political and economic instability under Liberal leadership has threatened to tear the country apart.

“Should Trudeau win re-election, the western separatist movement in Alberta and Saskatchewan will explode like nothing we’ve ever seen before. We can’t afford to have this happen,” he said. “This is about saving Confederation.”

He stressed the need for a strong economy, warning that if steps aren’t taken to “have our fiscal house in order,” Canada could soon be in the grips of another crippling recession.

In light of this, the Conservatives’ top priorities would be balancing the budget, aiding small businesses and re-establishing relationships with global trade partners. They would also work hard to support the non-renewable energy sector.

Mr. Barlow said that while he and his party acknowledge the need to fight climate change, “this feeling that we can just transition to renewables the day after tomorrow just isn’t reality,” and pointed out that, historically, fossil fuel companies have been some of the leading innovators in green technology.

“We have more wind turbines in my riding than most, and many of them are owned by Enbridge,” he said. “These companies have been doing technology and research for years, pouring hundreds of millions into that.”

He argued that because Canada contributes just two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions every year, we are already an example to other countries.

“As Canadians, we can’t be ashamed of our natural resource industry,” he said.

“We have to be proud of what Canada does better than anyone else in the world, whether it’s oil and gas and coal or renewables. Canada is not the problem, Canada is the solution.”

This recap is only a partial summation of topics covered at the forum. Those who would like to hear more can visit either the Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce Association or Pincher Creek and District Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, where the entire event is still available to watch in an archived version of a Facebook livestream.