Wednesday, 28 February 2018 08:49

Swift Current by-election candidates make their case at public forum

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The four by-election candidates on stage during the all-candidates forum, Feb. 26. From front, Maria Lewans, Stefan Rumpel, Everett Hindley, and Aidan Roy. The four by-election candidates on stage during the all-candidates forum, Feb. 26. From front, Maria Lewans, Stefan Rumpel, Everett Hindley, and Aidan Roy.

Swift Current residents had an opportunity to hear from the four candidates in the provincial by-election before going to the polls on March 1.

The Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce hosted an all-candidates forum at the Living Sky Casino event centre, Feb. 26.
The four candidates in the by-election are Everett Hindley of the Saskatchewan Party, Maria Lewans of the Saskatchewan Green Party, Aidan Roy of the Saskatchewan Liberals, and Stefan Rumpel of the Saskatchewan NDP.
Each candidate received 10 minutes for an opening statement. Thereafter it was the turn of audience members to direct questions at them. The event ended with brief concluding remarks by candidates.
Roy made it clear that the Saskatchewan Liberals have no connection with the federal Liberals, and he is actually a member of the federal Conservative Party. He is concerned about the lack of fiscal responsibility and the deficit spending on federal and provincial levels, and he wants to see balanced budgets.
“For us to continue our economic growth, we need to invest into our future and make long-term investments that will provide us with a greater return than what we put in,” he said. “As well, I would like to see us loosen the restrictions and regulations that currently bind our small businesses. … Balanced budgets and low taxes make Saskatchewan strong. Being fiscally responsible will help us pay off our rising provincial debt and put more money into the pockets of our people.”
Hindley highlighted the record of the Saskatchewan Party in government during the past 10 years.
“We’re experiencing right now what’s a very important time in Swift Current’s history with this by-election,” he said. “It’s a time when we get to decide whether or not we’re going to continue along the path that has been laid out by the previous MLA and by the current government here, Brad Wall and the path of the Saskatchewan Party government, and I would argue that’s a path we want to continue on into the future.”
Lewans decided to stand for the Green Party because she is concerned about the state of the world and the impact on the environment.
“We need to learn to live within our means,” she said. “We’ve become pretty entitled, living in this world of convenience, and I think we really need to re-examine how we live. ... So when you vote for Green, every vote says you're not happy with what's going on. You want change.”
She feels politics has become more about who can speak the loudest and less about ideas and people, and how to make the world a better place.
“We need to listen to all sides of the story,” she said. “I really think we need proportional representation, because right now it feels like we’re having two voices and the one that has the most people just gets their way regardless. So I think there needs to be more collaboration and discussion of ideas instead of just an us versus them mentality.”
Rumpel said voters have to decide who will best represent Swift Current, and due to his deep roots in the community he will be a loud voice to represent the community’s interests. He believes the number one job of government is to listen to people, but the current government has not been good listeners.
“We need our government to understand that cutting from education, cutting our grants, cutting from health care doesn't save money,” he said. “It just offloads the debt on the most vulnerable. … We need to put people first. We need to talk to the people on the ground floor, the people who are living it, activate them, their passion, move forward, because building together we will do better.”
Some key themes were evident from the questions posed by audience members. They wanted to hear from candidates about a federal carbon tax and their positions on health and education. A number of questions were related to the issue of government spending and how to reduce the size of government.
The Liberal, NDP and Saskatchewan Party candidates opposed the federal carbon tax, but disagreed on the way forward.
“We need to focus on some actual solutions that will help the environment,” Hindley said. “Things like SaskPower, which is now focusing on reaching 50 per cent renewables by 2030 and things like the Boundary Dam carbon capture and sequestration project in Estevan. We need to focus on technology and things that will actually reduce emissions, not a tax.”
Rumpel is in favour of a made-in-Saskatchewan approach that will bring the provincial and federal government together around a table to discuss a realistic plan with industry leaders. He did not think it will be a good idea for the province to start a legal challenge against the federal government.
“Make a plan that protects our industries instead of paying lawyers, wasting government time and money for a battle we're going to lose,” he said.
Roy felt the province will lose a legal challenge, and he proposed an alternative to make the best of the situation. The province should use the estimated $2.5 billion in revenue from the carbon tax to reduce the provincial income tax by 50 per cent, pay off provincial debt, lower small business taxes and fully fund K-12 education.
Lewans presented a different view on carbon tax, and felt it might be inevitable to deal with the human impact on the planet.
“One of the tangible benefits is it is there to try to reduce consumption,” she said. “It is super unfortunate that we have to tax people to get them to reduce their consumption, but it seems like nowadays that’s the only way people will listen.”
Roy and Rumpel expressed concerns about budget cuts to education and they consider education spending to be long-term investments in the future.
“There’s been changes to the funding formula for school boards since 2009 that have taken power out of school board hands and have taken powers out of local communities,” Rumpel said. “Government’s role shouldn’t be to tell us what to do. It should be to ask us how can we support you, because we have brilliant, passionate individuals already in the system that can do that.”
Hindley referred to the current government’s efforts to address the education infrastructure deficit since 2007 and the recent announcement of additional funding, but he emphasized these investments will have to take place within a balanced budget cycle.
“We are hearing from folks on the frontlines who are saying we need to do something to address the pressures in the education system,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work with educators, with folks in the administrative end of things, with the school board trustees who represent the people of Swift Current and try to find the best possible solution.”
Hindley said health care was an important focus for the government during the past 10 years.
“I’m not saying the job is done yet,” he emphasized. “We’re going to continue to work on that and we’ll do that into the future.”
According to Rumpel there is a need to invest in health care professionals, and to adapt to new technologies. He felt it is important to commit to frontline workers, because they are working with patients and vulnerable people in the community.
With regard to government spending in general, Hindley said the Saskatchewan Party government had to make some difficult budget decisions.
“What we’ve been trying to do is to get away from that rollercoaster cycle of commodity prices, whether it’s oil or potash or agricultural commodity prices going up or down, and being less reliant on that and being more reliant on a sort of a sustainable tax system,” he mentioned.
Rumpel emphasized the government must look at where tax dollars are going, and how it can be best utilized.
“If we want to break that boom-bust cycle of our resource sector, then we need to be looking at ways to invest in diversifying our economy, looking at opportunities to get us to a stable sort of place, initiatives like looking at renewables,” he said. “So to diversify, we need to use our tax dollars well.”

Read 466 times Last modified on Wednesday, 28 February 2018 08:55
Matthew Liebenberg


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