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Letter: Not much substance at Innisfail election candidates forum

Where was the debate, where was the substance during provincial election candidates forum in Innisfail?

Re: Innisfail election forum missing Heistad, suspense and balance

So there’s a provincial election on -- an election to decide who governs Alberta. Or rather, to decide who will spar with the feds better and get more done because of it.

At least, that’s what it appeared like on May 16, at the MLA candidates’ forum at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion. I believe “forum” is from the Greek meaning non-debate. The founders of democracy would have been proud.

Or perhaps it’s "forum," in the sense that it was a gathering of folk to exchange their views on just how much they hate Ottawa – “Yes!”, or Trudeau – “F*** Trudeau!”, or Quebec – “Oui, Oui, Taberna*!”

The event was put on by the Innisfail and District Chamber of Commerce, but could have been mistaken for the Flag Fighters Foundation, if the choice of questions posed to the candidates were any clue.

The panel on stage consisted of incumbent MLA, Devin Dreeshen, of the United Conservative Party on the left, and three other candidates …to his extreme far right. Unfortunately, for balance’s sake (at least), NDP candidate, Jason Heistad, could not attend due to a medical emergency.

But what one might hope to hear in such a forum, is perhaps a bit of actual debate: or at least clear expressions of opinions or positions on key issues. But what we got was a rote series of populist panderings cued up by a lame set list of T-ball questions selected by the chamber to just stir up the anti-Ottawa ire.

To use precise language – it was pathetic.

Carbon tax; transfer payments; abortion; MAID (medical assistance in dying); gun control; net zero 2035 -- all federal Liberal initiatives and or laws. Virtually nothing a provincial government can do about them, save to be perceived as “fighting” them.

If the chamber needs reminding – this is a provincial election, not federal.

It wasn’t until the 77th minute mark that a singular question about our troubled health-care system came up – “How would you attract more health-care workers to Alberta?"

Dreeshen contends they’ve accredited 1,400 new nurses, a claim disputed by the United Nurses of Alberta; accredited does not mean offered jobs. A non-answer.

Then there was  "Yes or no – should we keep the RCMP?” The right side candidates gave clear answers of “no." Dreeshen went on and on about how small town mayors respect our RCMP, what a great job they do, how local decision-making and direction is good, … until ”time” was called by the moderator. Oops, not enough time to say “no”. But his boss said it’s not a campaign issue anyway, so… non-answer.

It wasn’t until 110th minute when a question was asked about what steps might be taken to thwart off climate change. The rights clearly denied it all, and Dreeshen went on about his farming experience that taught him that keeping the environment clean is all that is needed for a healthy climate, unlike Montreal dumping sewage into the river, and…"time!” Oops.

And what would this democratic exercise be without a COVID quickie - “Regarding COVID-19 and measures taken, how would you have avoided the mistakes made by the government?”  (How do you spell leading?)

The rights were of course predictable, but Dreeshen’s response strummed the harp and the heartstrings. He went on and on about how hard it was to listen and hear the stories from his constituents (he does that?), about their families, about the isolation, about the loneliness, about the deaths , about the… “time!." Oh!…so close to an answer.

Where was the debate? Where was the substance?

If not for the  chamber’s not-so-subtle shilling for the flag crowd and anemic forum format, the other half of the packed legion may have left early too.

Where were the questions and discussion on real issues that a provincial government can make a difference on; Education, health care, oil and gas/energy industry, etc.

Where were the questions about the Premier Danielle Smith’s judgment, leadership, trustworthiness; about her very recent, as Rick Bell coined, “space walk” videos, irrational claims and views, phone calls, new arenas, discrimination, sovereignty, CPP, Nazis… “time!”


Jim Carroll,


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