The Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce held an all candidates forum at Lakeland College on April 29 where Vermilion-Lloydminster candidates from the New Democratic Party, Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party squared off against each other as they defended their party’s policies and plans for the constituency’s future.
With the election drawing near, NDP’s Saba Mossagizi, PC’s Richard Starke and Wildrose’s Danny Hozack argued why their respective parties would the best choice for voters when it comes time to hit the polls on May 5.
One of the issues heavily discussed at the forum was taxes, with each representative having different views on how to address the province’s fiscal situation.
“We will roll back taxes and MLA pay. We will reduce the number of managers in bureaucracy by 33 per cent and freeze management salaries for three years,” said Hozack. “This, along with other cost saving measures, will save up to $80 million per year. We will ensure that we get savings and value for every dollar spent while protecting frontline services.”
Hozack also said the Wildrose would eliminate corporate welfare subsidies, cut the government’s advertising budget and travel expenses and reduce the number of communications staff and consultants, moves he says that will save taxpayers $297 million per year.
Some of Hozack’s words were countered by Starke, however, when he pointed out that the PCs had already reduced MLA pay last year.
“Let’s start with rolling back MLA pay first. It’s already been done five per cent this year voluntarily,” said Starke.
“I’ve been a member of the MLAs since 2012 and we’ve had our salaries and perks reduced by 18 per cent.”
Starke mentioned an article in the Calgary Herald where Jack Mintz, from the School of Public Policy, said that the PC plan has the correct balance of expenditure cuts and revenue increases to ensure the province avoids a recession.
“He criticized the Wildrose plan and the NDP plan for being too dependant on either solely expenditure cuts or solely tax increases,” Starke said, “both of which would be really bad for the Alberta economy.”
Mossagizi’s take on the issue involves restructuring Alberta’s tax plan, saying that cuts may not be the best way to go, instead asking top earners to pay more instead of burdening the middle class.
“What my friend (Hozack) indicated here was a lot of cuts and that includes cuts to your education and health care and we’re expecting 12,000 new students in Alberta in the coming September with no plan,” said Mossagizi. “We want to make sure that the richest people in this country are taxed rather than the middle class.”
When it comes to corporate taxes, Mossagizi says it’s best to give tax credits to companies that create jobs and that the NDPs want to “loosen ties” with the oil industry as well as renegotiate the percentage that Alberta gets from the energy sector.
“We’re about job creation for this election,” she said. “This is the only party with a job creation plan.”
A lot of points were made and scrutinized at the forum but ultimately it will be up to voters to decide on May 5.