Presenting voters with a strong, practical and united alternative to the provincial Tories is something current NDP leadership contenders agreed on Monday night during a forum at Red Deer Public Library.
Rachel Notley, Rod Loyola and David Eggen detailed their stances on a number of topics from health care and the environment to education to royalty structures stemming from the province’s natural resources.
“Every one of us has a part to play in building a vision, but before we roll up our sleeves it’s very important that we consult with Albertans as we move forward through this process,” said Loyola. “We are the grassroots of our communities.
“Together, we can make our communities a better place to live,” he added, saying the current Tory government has a poor track record when it comes to accountability, transparency, the administration of provincial health care.
“They are also failing to protect the environment, they are underfunding legal aid.”
Loyola said the Tories have abused the trust of Albertans as well, so the electorate is hungry for change. “It’s a new way of doing politics where we organize from the ground up – where every Albertan has the opportunity to contribute the plan and where marginalized and vulnerable populations are active participants in making Alberta stronger.”
Notley said that she believes Alberta is on the verge of unprecedented political change, adding Albertans are looking for modern and progressive change as well.
“The fact of the matter is that while we are one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world, we also happen to be one of the most unequal,” she said, adding the sense of inequality is only worsening. “To me, that is a sign of failed governance. A sign of old values and tired government that has lost its will to take the action that is necessary to ensure that we all benefit from the great prosperity that we have here in Alberta.”
The list of issues with the Tories is long, she pointed out, from a lack of keeping up with new infrastructure demands, the lack of building of new schools plus issues from growing classroom sizes to waiting times at some hospitals.
All three candidates said that the basic tax structure in Alberta needed to be changed to reflect a progressive tax system. And even a slight increase in corporate taxes would provide much in the way of extra revenue while still maintaining Alberta’s comparatively low business taxes.
Eggen agreed, noting that flat taxes benefit those with a higher earning power but do nothing to help the middle-income earners. “That’s not the kind of modern tax structure that we should have,” he said. “A reasonable tax structure that pays for the public services people want to have is the best most reasonable way to move forward in our society.”
Eggen said it’s also important for Albertans to start acting like owners. “We have not been getting the value from our natural resources that are owed to us – not just now, but for future generations as well.”
Party members will elect a new provincial leader on Oct. 10th replacing Brian Mason, who announced earlier this year he would be stepping down.