The three individuals running for the United Conservative Party candidacy in Red Deer North answered questions from residents Thursday ahead of the party’s candidate selection on Oct. 27th.
Adriana LaGrange, Lawrence Lee and Cole Kander shared their vision for the constituency during a moderated question and answer session at the Balmoral Bible Chapel.
The questions ranged from where the candidates stood on the controversial Bill 24 to policies for balancing the province’s budget and attracting young people to the party to the candidates biggest priority if elected.
The first discussion topic was Bill 24. The Bill was passed last November by the Alberta NDP government and is aimed at helping students who form gay-straight alliances or join gay-straight alliances at their schools.
LaGrange, who has been provincial president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association, said that legislation is based on flawed reasoning. She said the schools already have strong anti-bullying policies and there was no need for Bill 24.
“Parents are the primary educators of our children and Bill 24 highlights a premise that parents are coming at it from not really caring for the best interest of their children but that the government knows best,” she said.
Lee, who currently works as a City councillor, said to listen to the needs of the party membership as well as what the teachers have to say.
“We’ll make them decide and be the stewards,” he said.
Kander, who for the last three years has worked in Edmonton at the Legislature for the Wildrose and UCP conducting policy research, focused on fiscal responsibility in his answers.
He criticized the NDP government, saying it had weak economic policies.
“They are running on social issues that are meant to divide us,” he added. “They’re running on platforms and issues and policies that are one-size-fits-all.”
A topical question focused on how the candidates would approach health care.
LaGrange called services related to the Red Deer Regional Hospital, a ‘Huge complex issue’ that needed to be looked at in a holistic way. She said the hospital has had longstanding problems that still need to be addressed.
Focusing his answer again on the NDP government and how he thinks its policies are out of whack with Red Deerians, Kander said funding for the hospital should be a priority as it provides services to Central Alberta as well as City residents. But Kander stressed that money could only be spent once there is some to avoid increasing debt.
“We need to take action quickly, but we can only take action once we have money,” he said.
Lee, who was elected as a City councillor in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, said he is passionate about health care. He said the region needs to get its fair share of services.
This could only come with developing the City economically and proving that Red Deer and the region deserve more funding and services, he said.
In his opening comments, Lee said Red Deer should leverage its infrastructure to become a hub for innovation and technology. He said revenue can come in from things such as sports tourism, including the Canada Winter Games and the Canadian Finals Rodeo, all taking place in the coming weeks and months.
“The issue is equity of service of Red Deerians and Central Albertans as a region versus other cities,” he said. “That is the crux of the issue here.”
Red Deer North resident Deloras Selinger said all three candidates seem qualified for the role.
She said her biggest concern was the health care and services at the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
While all the candidates seemed well-rounded to resident Mitch Golay, he said Kander seemed more knowledgeable about the issues.
“I think Cole seems a bit more put together,” he said. “He has answers for everything. I think he nailed everything.”