BONNYVILLE – Candidates running to fill the spot as the next MLA for the Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul riding took turns appealing to voters during a candidate forum held in Bonnyville on May 15.
When voters in the Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul riding head to the polls on May 29, only two names will appear on the ballot, Caitlyn Blake and Scott Cyr. Blake is the riding’s New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate and Cyr is the candidate for the United Conservative Party (UCP).
Roughly 60 people attended the Monday evening forum held in the gymnasium of École Dr. Bernard Brosseau. The event was run and organized by the Bonnyville and District Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Vic Sadlowski.
The audience was asked to remain respectful of each candidate and submit questions by writing only.
With just two minutes provided to each candidate to respond to questions during the roughly one-hour period, the candidates answered over a dozen questions ranging from investment attraction to post-secondary, francophone education to interprovincial trade, as well as rural crime and rural health care.
Question and answer period
The oil and gas industry and attracting foreign investment is vital to Alberta's economy, especially Northeastern Alberta. How would your party attract large foreign investments that would be on par with those in the U.S.?
Blake stated that blanket corporate tax rates have not resulted in increased investment, as was the hope. She says the NDP plans to develop targeted tax incentives that encourage new jobs, higher wages, local stimulus and new technology.
“We want to make sure that the money we are spending is money that is contributing to our economy, not some project in Texas or North Dakota. So, the NDP plan is to reinstate the Alberta Investor Tax Credit (AITC),” said Blake.
Cyr responded, saying, “The key to a thriving oilfield and gas economy is stability.” He criticized the NDP’s pursuit for a fair deal for royalties and implementation of the emissions cap during their time in office, adding it created instability.
Cyr said that projects like hydrogen development and carbon capture technologies are some of the ways the province can demonstrate to the world that Alberta is environmentally sound.
How will you ensure that our municipalities get the funding and support they need to build new infrastructure?
Cyr referenced the recent funding announcement for an improvement study on Highway 28, that followed a campaign visit from Premier Danielle Smith.
“All the voices that we had were all saying one thing – Highway 28. And what happened, suddenly, we had a planning model go forward,” he said.
“That's from a lot of voices all working together in tandem... Yes, we weren't in the budget, but I will tell you that they heard us loud and clear."
Speaking exclusive to Highway 28, Blake pointed out that in 2018 the NDP government had completed an extensive study that came with recommendations, which included reconstruction of curves from Smoky Lake to Bonnyville as well as highway twinning from Cold Lake to Bonnyville.
“Those plans at the time had been intended to continue into actual action following the 2019 election. However, when the UCP came in, all plans on that front stopped,” she said.
How will you support post-secondary institutions in identifying in demand occupations?
Blake said it is the priority of the NDP to make post-secondary institutions more affordable and accessible to Albertans.
“We have committed to funding 30,000 post-secondary spaces over four years with 10,000 of those spaces to be in health care,” she said. “We will also support the UCP pilot program on micro-credentials.”
The UCP is looking to put about $820 million into enrollment growth, $126 million to address classroom complexity over the next three years, translating to an additional 3,000 support staff, listed Cyr.
“We are seeing remarkable programs coming out of our Portage College. This is going to help our local economy as well as our local students,” he said.
Will your party help keep the RCMP in Alberta?
"I know that for myself, I support the RCMP. They have been a valued source of safety protection for each and every one of us,” Cyr said, adding that rural crime is top of mind across the constituency.
He noted that he has been advocating for more police, increased public safety, and significant changes to the federal bail system, which he refers to as the ‘Catch-and-Release System.’
Blake acknowledged that rural crime is a “massive problem,” and she is concerned about what may happen if a provincial police force is forced on municipalities.
“There are definitely arguments to be made for different communities choosing how to police themselves,” she said. “But we should not be forced into a system that will not necessarily work for us.”
What are some interprovincial trade barriers that you feel are a priority to be removed to strengthen supply chains?
“At the end of the day, the issue comes down to collaborating with other provinces. We need leadership with a proven track record of cooperating with other provinces, who approaches issues with this in the spirit of collaboration as opposed to hostility,” said Blake.
When responding, Cyr took aim at Alberta’s Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) Provincial Red Tape Report Card ranking under the NDP’s leadership.
“Under the NDP, Alberta received an F Grade for the CFIB,” he said. “Right now, we are sitting at an A Grade for UCP. From an F to an A, that shows you that the UCP has the ability to be able to manage our interprovincial partners and still be competitive inside of Alberta.”
What are your party's plans for supporting families and addressing the issue of affordable childcare?
Cyr noted that the UCP is working with the federal government to introduce $15 a day daycare, which is an incentive being offered to all provinces.
“I know that a lot of parents are welcoming that,” he said, also acknowledging concerns that the program could disrupt childcare businesses' ability to compete.
Since 2021, the Alberta NDP called on the UCP to work with the federal government to get down to $10 a day daycare, stated Blake. The NDP candidate went on to reference new family-oriented programs that are being pursued by the party – the Kids Activity Tax Credit and the Hometown Alberta funding program.
The tax credit would see up to $500 spent on youth activities returned to families, she explained. The Hometown Alberta project will see an investment of $175 million directed towards municipalities building community facilities such as swimming pools, hockey rinks, parks and art centres.
What are the top three issues raised by constituents while door knocking?
According to Blake, the top three issues are: Health care. Affordability. Danielle Smith.
According to Cyr, the top three issues are: Rural crime. Health care. Infrastructure.
What are your personal top qualities that will allow you to provide a leadership role in governing our province?
Cyr said one of his greatest assets is his ability to understand the Income Tax Act and legislation. His abilities previously resulted in him being the deputy whip under the former Wildrose Party and the chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
Advocacy, cooperation, and partnership are personal qualities Cyr sees in himself.
“I think that it's fair to say that I'm not a traditional politician,” acknowledged Blake. “The further I've come into this process, the more I've come to realize that education isn't everything... I have been homeless, I was a foster child aged out of kinship care, I have struggled to access health care. My husband and I have been through oil crashes, we have lived through downturns in the cattle industry. We have been through a lot together – and we share the experiences of a lot of people in our community.”