Monday afternoon, Thomas Lukaszuk began a two-day stop in the Border City, drumming up support for his leadership bid for the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.
Lukaszuk made stops at the Rotary Club, the Legacy Centre and held intimate townhalls for party supporters around the Border City.
During his visit, Lukaszuk made a stop at the Lloydminster Source for a one-on-one interview, during which he proclaimed that he was passionate about the province and wanted to see a better tomorrow for his two daughters and every Albertan.
“When I look at other candidates, and what was being offered I knew that there was more that this province could be,” he said. “I knew that I would be able to bring something different to the table and I have the experience of being elected in the province for over 13 years. I had the privilege of being a cabinet minister for a variety of portfolios.
“I have always been somewhat of an eager beaver and when I became a rookie MLA, I was always keeping myself busy researching and sitting on committees.”
Lukaszuk, who was born in Poland before immigrating to Canada, said that his background as being an Albertan by choice makes him appreciative of the opportunities that Alberta has given him.
“I know that even though this is by far the greatest province in the country, it can even be better. This province is great for about 90 per cent of Albertans,” he said.
“That means that there is about 10 per cent of the population of Alberta that we are leaving behind.”
Diversifying the resource market would be a key priority for Lukaszuk.
“I know that if we diversify our economy to a greater extent than what we have been doing needs to be a priority,” he said.
“We have been singularly focused on oil and gas in this province, and that is great, and I will continue to do that, because that is the bread and butter of this province and we do need to find new markets, and its what builds roads.”
Agriculture is a budding resource that the province must take into account moving forward, Lukaszuk said.
“Even though it’s our second biggest economy and it’s the most renewable and sustainable economy in Alberta,” he said. “It can be so much more, if we do for the agriculture what we did for the oil and gas industry.”
While speaking to party supporters and during the interview, he said that Alberta needs to bring more work to the province when it comes to food production and packaging.
“When talking about the food industry in this province, I usually use the adage about Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. When you go to a grocery store, you pay $6 and when you bring it home, you open it up and you see about a penny worth of corn, a penny worth of cardboard and a penny worth of plastic. So, if all those products were source from Alberta we would of made three cents of that $6,” he said.
“Somebody is making $5.97 from that box of Kellogg’s, and it’s not someone in Alberta. But Canada will be one of the few markets in the world that will be producing a surplus of food.”
Moving forward, Alberta and the rest of Canada needs to be cautious when it comes to the agriculture sector, Lukaszuk said.
“We have to balance our growth with agricultural sustainability if Alberta wants to have a golden age of Agriculture,” he said.
“Oil and gas will be good (to the province of Alberta) for many years to come, but it fluctuates and has a tendency to peak and bottom out in price worldwide over night. If we are to build a province that is more than work camp, where people come in, work make a lot of money then leave. We need to attract people here to come and stay, we need to grow our economy in a sustainable way in a much more predictable way that is less reliant on one commodity.”
The outside world associates Alberta with the best place to live, according to Lukaszuk.
Traveling across the province, Lukaszuk said that he is hearing about 80 per cent of the similar things in each community, but there is about a 20 per cent of topics that he hears that varies from different locations.
“The top thing that I’m hearing in the province is infrastructure, depending on who you are speaking to. At the end of the day, it’s infrastructure,” he said.
“Right here in Lloydminster, I made an impromptu visit to the hospital, and the first thing they spoke about was infrastructure.
“Lloydminster has been lucky enough to attract the number and calibre of staff that it needs. But one of the concerns that I heard was they were going to lose the infrastructure that is currently there.”
While touring the hospital, Lukaszuk said that he noticed that there are 12 seniors in bed that could be going to a different facility.
“Not only should they be in a long-term care facility. Not only are they occupying beds for sick people people, but it’s not the kind of care that you should be giving to your parents,” he said. “They should be in a much more dignified place, and not in a hospital.”
Lukaszak is also hearing about the pressures on social infrastructure.
“The pressures that rec centres, day care spaces, arts and culture infrastructure, those are needed as well,” he said.
Lukaszuk is running against Jim Prentice and Ric McIver for the leadership of the PCAA. The leadership vote will take place on Sept. 6. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent plus one vote, a second ballot will take place two weeks later on Sept. 20.