Two candidate forums were held in the Lakeland as residents get closer to casting their ballots and deciding the areas next MLA.
The first forum hosted by the Bonnyville and District Chamber of Commerce took place on the 15th, with the Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce hosting their forum the next day.
Both UCP candidate Scott Cyr and NDP candidate Caitlyn Blake addressed Highway 28 at the Bonnyville event, with Cyr speaking first explaining this is something the region has wanted and advocated for.
“I can tell you that for myself I saw a group of very determined Albertans who were conservatives get all together and welcomed our Premier with over 900 people coming to the dinner,” Cyr said the voices were all asking for a plan for Highway 28. “And when that happened suddenly, we had a planning model put forward and a plan for Highway 28. If we are asking how to get more investment from the government into Alberta that is from a lot of voices all working together in tandem to be able to make sure we are heard and let me tell you Daniel Smith heard.”
Blake responded by saying back in 2018 a plan was made to address Highway 28 but was stopped by the UCP in 2019 when they took office.
“This is just to say that the NDP have already expressed interest in doing this and I think more advocacy is needed to go forward but I think we need to pay attention to the fact that the money the UCP have committed is 5 million dollars towards a plan. That is not a single improvement, that is a plan to plan to fix Highway 28.” Blake says she has no doubt those plans can materialize into something but 5 million isn’t enough to do anything. “What I would like to see is more work on Highway 28.”
Both candidates promised to push the issue forward and bring attention to the highway. When asked how their party will support the RCMP Cyr said he is not advocating defunding the police.
“I have been advocating for more police, more safety, and making sure we put criminals behind bars and not turning them into victims which is what the NDP and Liberals are doing,” Cyr said, adding the catch and release system is problematic.
When Blake responded she said the only government in the past eight years to defund the police was the UCP.
“They cut funding to policing just as they cut funding to many other public services,” Blake said. She adds she does not want to get rid of the RCMP but is curious to see how Grande Prairie’s municipal police force will turn out. “We should not be forced into a system that will not work for us.”
The problem of recruiting and retaining doctors in the Lakeland was also brought up and the candidates were asked how their party plans to address the situation. Cyr said the issue is the big city students go back or stay in the big cities. He stressed the need to have rural doctors train rural kids.
“I would like to see rural students actually be educated in our post-secondaries.”
“When it comes to our local doctors it is about respect and I really want to make sure they are heard,” Cyr mentioned the UCP has added 1400 internationally trained nurses into the province.
Blake said she was excited to share the NDP’s plan to recruit doctors.
“We have committed to doing the largest recruitment campaign of doctors in Canada. Additionally, we are looking to bring in programs that would accept credentials faster.”
When asked what concerns they heard most from residents, Cyr named rural crime, taxes to healthcare, and infrastructure. While Blake named healthcare, affordability, and Daniel Smith.
Other topics discussed include what interprovincial trade barriers need to be removed to strengthen trade, affordable childcare, and their plans for education.