This Saturday (Oct. 20) marks the election date for the first United Conservative Party representative of the newly-formed Airdrie-Cochrane riding. With some 3,400 valid UCP memberships in the riding – one of the highest memberships in the province – Airdronians head to the polls today and conservative Cochranites will cast their ballots at the RancheHouse this Oct. 20 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The writ has yet to be dropped on the looming provincial election but is anticipated to take place sometime in the spring of 2019. Candidates for other political parties seeking to become the next MLA have yet to publicly announce their intentions. For our final nomination race coverage, we have asked the four candidates to answer any three out of six questions sent to them. The questions are as follows and answers from candidates are below. On Education: The job force is a competitive and dynamic place. What are your ideas to better prepare students for today’s workforce? On Healthcare: How would you effect positive change in the health care system at the local level, as it impacts your constituency? On Business/Industry:What are your ideas to foster small business and industry growth in this constituency? On Markets/Oil Sands: What markets or industries should be fostered to help diversify our economy and how does this balance with the oil sands? On Social Issues: Political divisiveness is often centred on social issues. What is your stance on hot button social issues and/or how would you/wouldn’t you address these politically? On Climate Change: It is said that the carbon tax was put in place to help address climate change. The UCP have made it clear that they would roll back the tax. How do you think environmental concerns would be best addressed? Morgan Nagel (Cochrane resident) On Business/Industry: Improving traffic would help our local economy flow. We all know sitting in traffic is inconvenient, but it’s easy to forget that it also hurts our local businesses. Getting in and out of town has become so annoying that some people are choosing not to shop locally. During weekdays, many people are choosing to shop in the city after work, so they can skip rush hour on their way home. On weekends, some people would rather stay home and shop online than sit in traffic for 20 minutes. While the province needs to upgrade our highways for safety and convenience reasons, doing so would also have an added benefit of encouraging local shopping. On Markets/Oil Sands: The government shouldn’t attempt to centrally plan the economy. We should encourage economic diversification by reducing taxes and regulations to create a competitive business environment. By allowing entrepreneurs to keep more of their own money, we can give them an upper hand against their competitors. I would like to see the government pass an official “Alberta Advantage Policy”, whereby we actively seek to have the most competitive business environment in North America. Alberta used to be renowned as one of the best places in the world to do business and we have lost that reputation. If we restore investor confidence, new industries will emerge and develop organically. On Climate Change: The NDP and Justin Trudeau pioneered the “Climate Leadership Plan,” with a goal of making Canada a world leader in climate regulation. It sounds nice on paper, but it’s unrealistic in practice. Leftist environmentalism has put the Canadian energy industry at a distinct disadvantage in the world market. While Canadian families are losing jobs, our international competitors are swooping in and replacing us. The same amount of oil is being consumed globally each day. The only difference is that now less of it is coming from Canada. I would like to see the leftist environmentalism replaced with a firm commitment to match the policies implemented by our economic partners in the G20. That way we aren’t putting Canadians at a disadvantage. Laura Talsma (Cochrane resident) On Education: First, our education system needs to go back to where government ideology does not have a place in a child’s learning. Second, building a bridge between the community and schools is an opportunity to provide real world experience. Third, expanding the accounting curriculum into math programs to foster financial literacy i.e. how to build a budget, understanding basic accounting skills. Fourth, I believe in parental involvement and school choice. Two very different ideals, parental involvement involves knowing what is happening with children at school and school choice is having the freedom to decide where our children will be educated. On Healthcare: I am in the excellent position of being the most knowledgeable candidate working in healthcare. Our health care system is an area that requires a lot of work. Alberta spends 42% of its total provincial budget on healthcare, the most money per capita compared with other provinces, and some of the longest wait times in the country. Airdrie-Cochrane includes two of the fastest growing communities and we need to ensure our citizens have access to care. Cochrane requires a 24-hour urgent care facility, however in the shorter term, we can expedite transfer of care of our ambulances once in the emergency department to reduce turnaround time. That one ‘small’ change can improve timely access to those who are most acute without straining other services (fire and police). On Climate Change: I challenge the thought that putting the word “carbon” in front of the word “tax” has done anything to help the environment. It’s a wealth redistribution tax that we were not told about during the last election. Albertans cherish the natural beauty and work hard every day to protect our environment. From ranchers and farmers moving to better crop and feed management to individuals recycling or composting. We need to continue to search for intelligent ways for all Albertans to make a difference. Renewable energy is absolutely part of that strategy. Isn’t it interesting that our Saskatchewan neighbours under a Conservative government have set a higher renewables target than the supposed nature-loving NDP? Time to stop buying into their rhetoric and boot them out! Peter Guthrie (Cochrane resident) On Business/Industry: The biggest factor in promoting small business and industry is to get our economy on track by lowering taxes, decreasing bureaucracy, and eliminating the carbon tax. I've spoken to numerous business owners and industry players who all say the same thing -–restoring a climate friendly to investment is critical. I'm also advocating for a small business tax credit for our first term in office. The labour law changes and the recent increases in minimum wage have many retail and service providers struggling to stay afloat, let alone make a profit. A tax credit would help them survive and save jobs until our new government can address the economy. On Social Issues (Education focus): I support school choice for the simple reason that all children have different needs, situations, and abilities. Although the public system may be able to provide a healthy instructional and social environment for most students, it isn't everything to everyone. I've spoken to many people in this riding who have homeschooled their children, or sent them to charter, private or faith-based schools for good reasons. The NDP have threatened, and in the case of home-schooling, tried to eliminate educational options. Part of living in a free society is having choice in teaching our children. We need to defend school choice. On Climate Change: -The carbon tax is not a carbon plan. The federal portion of the tax goes directly into general revenue for the purpose of funding a multitude of things, many of which have nothing to do with the environment. The tax punishes the consumer when we should be addressing the problem at the source of the emissions instead. We should also defend our province from activist groups with separate agendas and disclose the source of their funding. In engineering we were taught to consider efficiency, the environment and economics when designing a facility and strike a balance among the three factors. Green technology is improving and engineers will continue to work for this balance. Let’s stand up for Alberta. Mauri Stiff (Airdrie resident) On Business/Industry: My primary objective in running for office is to lift the burden on Alberta families. I see that directly attributed through igniting our local lagging economy. Government should NOT be involved in private sector business or implementing false diversification methods that end up costing the tax payers in the long run. Rather, it is key that we foster the appropriate economic environment to sustain local business and industry by removing barriers to business. That includes a return to a flat taxation model, eliminating the anti-competitive carbon tax, and reducing stringent labour standards that do not promote job creation or investment into Alberta. Albertans and those coming to our province generally are hardworking and resourceful, they will continue to diversify the economy when barriers to doing business and government interventions are removed. On Social Issues: Shying away from social issues is not answering what is on the minds of many within our constituency. It is an important part of the MLA’s role to represent all people within our riding. I am prepared and ready to engage in respectful conversations where all viewpoints can be considered, verses political rhetoric debasing the issues to name calling and discounting opposing views. An example of this is the affront on our independent and faith-based schools recently required to renounce key religious tenets to maintain qualification for public funding and accreditation. Limiting the rights of one group in favour of another is not democracy or freedom. I am committed to respectful conversations and protecting the rights of all citizens. On Healthcare: Exploring multi-faceted approaches to preventative health and various forms of healthcare delivery under the public health banner is imperative as we move into meeting the needs of baby boomers and the growing population in a cost-effective way. Decentralizing decision-making will enhance our abilities to react to specific demographic needs, like added ambulance availability and 24-hour health care within Cochrane. Setting accountability standards within the Alberta Health organization will induce a business model to address excesses and misspending within the system. Public education for proper use of our resources will be critical moving forward to achieve the most optimum outcomes.