It was a little bit heated at Red Deer Polytechnic Art Centre’s main stage on Wednesday night (May 10, 2023). Only five candidates were present at the Election Forum hosted by the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce including:
- Green Party Candidate for Red Deer North, Heather Morigeau
- United Conservative Party Candidate for Red Deer South, Jason Stephan
- United Conservative Party Candidate for Red Deer North, Adrianna LaGrange
- New Democratic Party Candidate for Red Deer South, Michelle Baer
- New Democratic Parthy Candidate for Red Deer North, Jaelene Tweedle
Green Party Candidate for Red Deer South, Ashley MacDonald was unable to make it due to prior commitments.
Questions were submitted to the Chamber of Commerce before the event and dealt with a wide range of topics including:
- Cost of living
- Red Deer Regional Hospital
- New curriculum
- The location of Red Deer’s homeless shelter
- Post-secondary funding
- Accountability in the legislature
- Standard of living in Alberta
- Defending Albertan interests federally
- Federal relationships
All candidate responses were met with applause and respect for the majority of the night. However, a disagreement began in the audience when speaking about ways to improve the standard of living in Alberta. UCP Candidate, Jason Stephan said one of the ways in which he would improve the standard of living in Alberta would be to remove Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. The notion was met with audible scoffing and booing from some audience members.
One audience member stood up and asked Stephan to keep his commentary directed toward provincial matters. While other audience members sided with Stephan. Some left the forum following the comment. However, the moderator was able to keep the dispute civil giving Stephan additional time to voice his opinion.
The Election Forum was sponsored by Alberta Municipalities. Krista Gardner, Director of Towns West for Alberta Municipalities said the organization wants Albertans to think local for this upcoming election.
“We have a campaign for this provincial election. The theme is ‘think Alberta, vote local’. We really want all of our voters and our candidates to be thinking about who has the plan to really provide those needs for our local communities. We believe in the importance of communities and we want to see those needs being met,” said Gardner.
Gardner admitted would have liked to see a greater focus on local needs and local representation with the commentary provided by the candidates at forum.
“I think that there's a tendency in what often feels like a two-party system to be focusing on attacking the other party rather than necessarily, how do you feel you can represent your local constituencies? As a local voter, my priority is who's going to represent me when they go back to the legislature, and I would have liked to see a little bit more focus on that specifically. What are you going to do and not necessarily what the previous government did or did not do,” added Gardner.
However, overall, Garnder said the candidates did a great job of localizing broader topics.