LETHBRIDGE, AB – Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel continued his travels through Southern Alberta this week with a stop in Lethbridge on Thursday, Mar. 14, to discuss a variety of important issues and topics in the province.
With the date for an election call still unknown, the Alberta Party has nominated a candidate in Lethbridge-West: Zac Rhodenizer.
Mandel says he’s been told that they’ll be announcing their candidate in Lethbridge-East in the next couple of days.
“Zac has a master’s degree in psychology, he’s a teacher, and he’s trilingual. He’s fluent in English, French and Spanish. He’s a father of two and a remarkable young man. We’re incredibly proud of him as a candidate, and that’s kind of the level of candidates we have across the province, bright, young, dynamic people who are committed to building a great Alberta. The whole idea of being fiercely Albertan; that’s what we want to be.”
Some recent polls have indicated that Lethbridge could be one of the battlegrounds in the province during the spring election, and Mandel believes Lethbridge is an excellent opportunity for them because it’s a very progressive community.
“We think individuals like Zac are perfect for the province, not too far left or right and has roots in the community. Someone who’s an educator and understands the problems of education, and someone who isn’t too dogmatic and wants to get things done. We think he’ll do very well, and when our other candidate is announced, we’ll have the same thing to say about that individual too.”
Getting down to brass tacks, Mandel explained where the party stands on one of the most significant issues facing the bridge city – the drug crisis. He committed to honouring the funding already announced to help combat the problem and laid out what he believes needs to be done moving forward.
“Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, each of these cities I go to in the province they say, ‘we’re the worst in the province,’ and that’s scary it’s gotten so out of hand. I think, yes, the money that’s been dedicated, but is it enough? Do we have a continuum in place where we have enough supports for families? Are we researching enough to find the root causes? Obviously, it’s not just poverty, it’s not just people who live in certain parts of the province, there are certain reasons this is happening and how can we get to the bottom of it,” Mandel stated, adding it’s important to take a more in-depth look at the issue to make sure the proper supports and facilities for recuperation are available.
United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney recently announced that one of the first things a UCP government would do if elected would be to repeal the NDP’s Bill 6, the farm and ranch workplace legislation.
Mandel says the farming and agricultural industries are gems of this area and one reason why the region has done well over the last couple of years when compared to the rest of the province because there is such a diversified economy.
“I think the model that’s happening in Southern Alberta is a model we need to try and duplicate in the rest of province where it’s a lot of value added and diversification to make it a bit of a different economy,” he continued. “So that’s one thing that we’d like to do, because a big part of it is about creating jobs and more jobs, and down here it’s OK, but the rest of the province hasn’t been as lucky.”
The agriculture industry is vitally important in Alberta, and Ma del believes we need to grow it. That means investing in, helping, and supporting ways in which industry can grow.
“As far as Bill 6 goes, I think it’s typical of what the NDP have done, they made decisions about what they were going to do, and that’s it. They did very little consulting and did some backing off along the way. I would consult with the farmers first and see what they think. We don’t jump into things like announcing we’d repeal the bill outright, we think we’d listen to people and if there are some tweaks need to be done in the legislature then we’d do that.
“It’s about making sure we’re not hurting family farms and making sure that we’re giving farmers options when it comes to the health of their workers. If they can do it better, why don’t we let them do it better, but I would like to hear from them first. If we need to make changes, we would! But we’re not going to unilaterally say we’re going to throw out a whole bill which seems to be Kenney’s way.”
While Mandel thinks the NDP has done a lot of damage to the economy, he admitted that they'd done some things that are positive too, so their goal isn’t to tear down what’s been done but to build a new Alberta.
“We believe in 2019 table stakes should be that you can feed your family as well as have your rights, we think it’s a balance which I think each one of the other two parties tends to forget one of them.”
Another point of contention locally and around the province is over the minimum wage and the changes made by the NDP.
In Mandel’s view, he believes raising the minimum wage as quickly as they did was a social policy the NDP wanted to put in place but said it’s not something the Alberta Party is interested in touching.
“Social policies are the responsibility of everyone, and so if we believe that there should be a guaranteed income, then that’s what they should’ve looked at rather than hoisting upon small business all the changes they made. We will not, and I repeat, will not reverse any minimum wage hikes. The changes have been made, but what we will look at is how do we help small businesses get over the tremendous hump that they’re facing and allow them to survive,” Mandel said, adding it’s about trying to find a balance that allows small businesses to survive but not hurting those who are in need.
One of the big wedge issues that could become a focal point of the upcoming provincial election is healthcare.
Some are wary that a UCP government would cut spending and affect the frontline workers, while Jason Kenney says that wouldn’t be the case.
For the Alberta Party, it’s going to be about their vision of decentralizing the decision making around healthcare in the province.
“We argue that if you look at the metrics under what the NDP have done, they’ve spent nothing but dollars, dollars, dollars and the metrics are not any better today if not worse than they were four or five years ago. Our vision to decentralize the decision-making process focuses specifically on acute care and the delivery of health care per region.”
Mandel says they would set up a region around Lethbridge, and they’d get a way in which they would fund a budget for the area with what healthcare professionals here think are their priorities.
“I believe that would make it a more efficient system and a better system that would respond to the needs of people in Lethbridge. If you need a catheter facility here, you would put that in the budget and would have to justify it. We would encourage the hospitals in the region to work together and to make a much more efficient system. Healthcare is a vitally important part of our lives in Alberta, and we need to make sure it’s a well-run system, but we also have to understand that cutting the hell out of it is not going to help people.”
Allowing people in their districts to make decisions about what they want to see is what Mandel thinks is a better way to do it than having someone from Calgary or Edmonton say, ‘this is what you need in Lethbridge.’
“What do they know? People here know better what they need.”
When asked what an Alberta Party government would bring to the province, that an NDP or UCP one wouldn’t, Mandel replied it’s pretty simple, they’re practical.
“We would look to solve problems, and we wouldn’t do them in the auspices of an ideology. Both of them, they’re ideologues, one’s far-right and one’s far-left. If you look at almost all of the decisions the NDP have made, they’re made under the guise of we know better than you do. Well, Kenney hates the NDP so anything they’ve done he’s going to change and how far he’s willing to go, I don’t know. We think, let’s give Albertans a government that is positive, future thinking and understands and listens to about being fiercely Albertan.”
Mandel says that means they care about the 4 million people in Alberta, all of them, not just the ones who don’t have the money or the ones who do.
“In our process candidates have been nominated and there’s been no kerfuffle over it. We are a grassroots party that believes in free votes in the legislature. We do believe that if Zac Rhodenizer is elected, it’s to represent the people of Lethbridge, not the people across the province all the time. If there are issues that he has problems with, he should be able to vote against it. We think we’ll bring good government, practical government and a government that would be good for Alberta’s future,” Mandel stated.
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