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Alberta 2012:
Calgary- Elbow Debate
Candidates discuss issues facing their riding

First published April 11, 2012 | Click here for the original online article

Candidates in the Calgary-Elbow riding played "The Voting Game" Tuesday afternoon at Mount Royal University. A fun take on the 1960s game show "The Dating Game," candidates walked in as an announcer gave the audience a brief biography of their political history while music from the game show boomed over the loudspeaker.

It was refreshing to see the candidates play along with the themed debate, and walk in with big smiles on their faces while giving a little wave of their hands. However, not all candidates from the riding were in attendance — Beena Ashar, the MLA-contender running for the Liberals in the Elbow riding, was unable to make it to the day's event.

Kaylene McTavish, acting president of the Student Association of Mount Royal University, played the role of the lucky bachelorette, or the moderator.

The debate started off innocently enough, with McTavish asking questions like, "If you're going to go on a date in the Calgary-Elbow region, where would you go?"

Although the question seemed strange at a political forum, it did make the candidates seem more relatable, and generated a lot of "awws" and cheers from the audience. Greg Clark of the Alberta Party even chided James Cole of the Wildrose about Fourth Street — where Cole said he would take his wife — not being in the Calgary-Elbow constituency, which received laughs and applause from the audience.

However, the tone quickly changed when the more hard-hitting questions began to be asked. "What is your top policy priority for the Calgary-Elbow region?" McTavish asked the candidates.

Craig Coolahan, NDP candidate, stated that his top priority was affordable childcare for the community. "It's easier to find a nanny than it is affordable child care," he said.

William Hamilton, of the EverGreen party, said, "The EverGreens are running on the platform of embracing our ecosystem, building our economy, creating our communities, and restoring our voices in legislature."

The incumbent and current premier, Alison Redford of the Progressive Conservative party, committed to support seniors care "so we can have people in Calgary-Elbow who can live out their lives, from the time that they go to school, to the time they have their career, until the time that they're living in their older years."

The Alberta Party's Clark said: "I think the most important thing in government, and this election, is changing the tone of the discussion. This election in Alberta, more than any I have ever experienced, has really taken on a negative tone."

He added: "I would be remised if I didn't mention health care. One of the single biggest challenges we have in health care today is a culture of intimidation. That needs to change.

"The money spent in health care is not a pure expense it is an investment in healthier people, healthier Albertans and healthier communities."

Cole of the Wildrose agreed that health care was a major issue for Albertans. However he suggested: "Wildrose will improve health care by decentralizing and returning control to local hospitals, and physicians closest to patients. Unlike the current government, Wildrose will guarantee access to medical services within clinically acceptable wait times. For example, by performing procedures at independent facilities and out of province until we get those wait times down."

Redford responded to the issue later on in the debate by warning Albertans to pay attention to the wording of the Wildrose: "I will tell you a very important part of health care, and the way we're going to support mental health issues and other issues, is to have a publicly funded health care system. Be very careful when you hear words like 'independent health facilities;' that's code word for private."

As the debate continued, things became more heated between Redford and Cole, while other parties stayed fairly neutral. Cole went so far as to attack Redford in his closing remarks.

"She's said several times in recent days that she's 'frightened' by this election," he said. "The people of Calgary-Elbow, whom I have met on the doorsteps, don't want a premier who's frightened. They want a premier who is confident, poised, and positive. They want as premier, Danielle Smith." At which point he paused for applause, to which there was none.

Redford retaliated, "I'm actually not at all frightened by this election, I'm excited by this election, because I think this election truly will define the future of our province."

After the debate, Joshua Cadegam-Syms, a student at MRU, said, "I feel like there were those on the debate who weren't really talking about the issues or their parties' platforms; they were sort of talking around things. So I wasn't really clear to where they stood on specific, important issues."

However, Cadegam-Syms, a self-professed socialist in attendance, said he was impressed by the way Redford conducted herself throughout the debate. "I felt her answers were specific, poignant, and very surprising.

Disclaimer: This article was written and published before April was a member of the Calgary-Elbow executive board of directors. At the time of publication April had no official political affiliation.

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