News / Calgary

Calgary-Lougheed debate draws raucous crowd

Moderator warned audience as candidates squared off

The Calgary Leadership Forum hosted five of the seven candidates running in the upcoming Calgary-Lougheed byelection at a debate on Sunday at the Braeside Community Association.

Autumn Fox / autumn fox/for metro

The Calgary Leadership Forum hosted five of the seven candidates running in the upcoming Calgary-Lougheed byelection at a debate on Sunday at the Braeside Community Association.

It was a crowded house at the Braeside Community Association on Sunday, Dec. 10, when five of the of seven candidates for the upcoming Calgary-Lougheed byelection squared off at a debate hosted by the Calgary Leadership Forum.

Crowd approval for the UCP, NDP and Liberal candidates seemed matched with loud cheers erupting after Jason Kenney, Phillip van der Merwe and David Khan were introduced, however, a rousing chant of “Jason, Jason, Jason” after Kenney’s final remarks, indicated the UCP leader had emerged the clear favourite.

However, it wasn’t an easy victory for any of the candidates as debate moderators had difficulty reigning in the vocal crowd, with numerous hecklers repeatedly threatened with the prospect of removal from the forum.

Kenney gained common ground with his audience by addressing issues like job loss which he attributes to “policies that are undermining the prosperity that has created this dynamic province.”

“We have nearly 200,000 Albertans who are out of work,” claimed Kenney. “Forty thousand who have given up looking for work altogether. Thousands of people are leaving our province which used to be the brain gain province, it’s now the brain drain province.”

Kenney admitted that commodities have played some part in this loss, but blames the NDP’s scheduled tax increases, particularly the carbon levy, as the catalyst.

Conversely, Van der Merwe, a family physician by trade, claimed Kenney as premier would impose drastic cuts on health and education spending – the benefits of which he says he's seen first hand in his own practice.

“After inheriting a right real mess of fiscal chaos from the previous government, compounding by low oil prices, we chose to protect the things that matter. In just two short years, we have steered out of a recession into the fasting growing economy in Canada,” said van der Merwe.

“With Mr. Kenney’s policies of cutting and ripping the heart out of our budget we will not be creating jobs.”

After the debate, Keney's camp would deny claims his plan includes drastic cuts, calling the claim a talking point from the NDP.

Wayne Leslie, running as an independent with the newly formed Alberta Advantage Party, also criticized the previous PC government for irresponsible cuts, resulting in the loss of hospitals and schools — despite running a surplus for several years.

David Khan, leader of the Alberta Liberals, appealed to those in attendance to look at the Liberals as a moderate option, calling out the “fear-mongering” of both the UCP and NDP.

Khan said he doesn’t believe the province is at “crisis levels where we need to slash and burn,” but said the current NDP government appears to be unwilling to address the building deficit.

He worries that diversification is simply becoming a buzzword for politicians and says the province needs to make inroads in developing sustainable futures for all generations of citizens, particularly for young people starting out in their careers, who are saddled with the weight of debt and working in an industry whose future is not guaranteed.

Khan said he’d like to see comprehensive tax reform designed to bring big business to Alberta.

Green Party leader, Romy Tittel said she believes that the future of the oil sands will last another generation at best, and investments must be made in developing education and technologies such as artificial intelligence.

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