Conservative by-election hopeful forum

Emcee Denis Perrault speaks at the start of the Conservative Party nominee forum in Swift Current, May 22. The candidates, seated from left right, are Kyle Bennett, Megz Reynolds, Jeremy Patzer, Sean Checkley, Norm Nordgulen, and Kelly Williamson.

Six candidates are hoping to become the Conservative Party candidate for Cypress Hills-Grasslands in the upcoming federal election.

The opportunity to enter the political arena came up after David Anderson, the long-time Member of Parliament for Cypress Hills-Grasslands, announced in early March he will not be running in the 2019 election.

These candidates have been criss-crossing the large rural riding to talk to residents and recruit new party members. They had an opportunity to make their case to party supporters in Swift Current during a nominee forum at Palliser Pavilion, May 22.

The candidates are Kyle Bennett from Shaunavon, Sean Checkley from Fox Valley, Norm Nordgulen from Assiniboia, Jeremy Patzer from Swift Current, Megz Reynolds from Kyle, and Kelly Williamson from Pambrun.

The event was hosted by a group of Swift Current business people. The forum format gave each candidate seven minutes to address the audience. The candidates were available afterwards for informal discussions.

They used their allotted time to talk about their background and experience, and to highlight their platforms and policy positions.

“I did not grow up wanting to be a politician and I'm not running to be our next Conservative candidate because I want that title,” Reynolds said. “I'm running because I want to fight for our riding. I want to work with you and our communities, our industries, and our businesses to create a stronger and brighter future for our riding.”

Patzer felt there is a need for a candidate that can be a strong voice for all facets of the riding and not just for one part of the economy or industry.

Williamson decided to become a candidate because he believes in the people of the riding.

“This fall's election is going to be dominated by environmental and economic issues,” he said. “Our riding needs an MP in Ottawa who has a proven track record of getting results in both of these areas.”

Checkley described the best candidate as someone who can represent the numerous needs and sectors within the area.

“I feel the economy of the Cypress Hills-Grasslands needs a voice that understands the area's strengths and what is needed to encourage vital growth and competitiveness in all businesses, whether it's agriculture, oil and gas, manufacturing or small business,” he said. “We need to promote and encourage growth and maintain the expansion of our riding.”

Economic issues and the federal carbon tax were common themes in all the presentations. Nordgulen will support the immediate repeal of the carbon tax if he becomes a MP in a Conservative government, and he will suggest to caucus that it should be a priority to restore markets for canola, lentils, durum and barley.

“To do that we need a government these countries will respect,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, these countries do not respect our Liberal government or its prime minister. We need a Conservative government under Andrew Scheer who as prime minister I know will not embarrass our country by playing Mr. Dressup, nor forget what country he is in.”

Bennett emphasized the importance of export and trade for the region’s economy. He said he will be a voice to let everyone know that Canada’s agricultural exports are safe, clean and of the highest quality.

“We need to repair and expand relationships with our agricultural trading partners and build new partnerships,” he mentioned.

He is in favour of scrapping of the federal carbon tax, and he felt it has a negative impact on Canada’s global competitiveness.

“Our agricultural industry is among the most advanced in the world and we have the best land stewards,” he said. “Our oil and gas sector is regulated and of a very high standard. I commend our industry professionals for the work they do and the respect they show our land owners as well as our environment. The carbon tax not only harms our petroleum and agricultural sectors, it removes Canada's competitive advantage at a global level.”

He viewed pipeline construction as a priority, and he supports the construction of three pipelines – Keystone XL, Trans Mountain, and Energy East.

“We need to reunite our great country and this would provide direct and indirect jobs all across Canada,” he said. “It would demonstrate to the rest of the world that we respect our fellow Canadians and put our own economy, our people and our products at the highest priority.”

Patzer also referred to the potential of pipeline construction to unite the country. The topic of separation by the western provinces has been raised frequently during his discussions with people, but he believes in the unity of the country.

“Developing our resources is in the national interest of Canadians and getting our resources to tidewater is essential to accomplish this,” he said.

Reynolds described the federal carbon tax as an income redistribution scheme, and she wants it to be scrapped.

“You cannot tax an industry into sustainability and it is not fair to penalize people that live, work and raise their families in rural Canada,” she said.

Checkley is in favour of a productive and competitive royalty structure for the oil and gas industry.

“This will allow competitive and new technologies into the industry,” he said. “A competitive royalty structure will give confidence to our oil and gas sector by staying predictable, progressive and sustainable. This will allow the industry to grow and allow companies to reinvest their capital in our area.”

All candidates expressed strong support for the agriculture industry in the riding, the importance of free trade agreements, and access to market for agricultural producers.

“I'm committed to making sure we stand up against bad policies like the seed variety use agreement, which is another way to take money out of our farmers' hands,” Patzer said.

Nordgulen said there is a need to increase the capital gains tax exemption for farmers. Land prices have gone up since 1980 by over 1,000 per cent, but the capital gains tax exemption only went up 100 per cent.

“Many farmers have all their savings in their land and it's their life's work,” he emphasized. “It is only fair that they reap a decent reward and not give it all to government.”

Candidates spoke about their support for policies that support entrepreneurs and small businesses. 

“Small business and entrepreneurs are the backbone of our western economy,” Bennett said. “We need to create a positive environment for entrepreneurs to create value added industries and jobs within our region.”

Reynolds said the entire business tax structure must be revamped to provide more freedom to businesses to grow and innovate.

Some issues were only mentioned by individual candidates. Checkley favours closer cooperation between local authorities in the riding, and he views regional cooperation as the way of the future.

Reynolds wants a greater focus on the mental wellness and well-being of community members.

Williamson said Canada needs a robust research and innovation sector to ensure the country’s competitiveness in the global economy. Patzer spoke about the importance of improved wireless communication services in rural areas.

Nordgulen wants tougher penalties for criminals, and he is concerned about the crystal meth epidemic. He expressed strong support for an immediate increase in pensions for seniors and veterans, and he announced a concrete action in support of seniors if he is elected to be the riding’s MP.

“Until seniors are treated fairly and raised to above the poverty level, in their support I will not be seeking or participating in any parliamentary pension plan,” he said. “If elected, I will have the same bowl of macaroni at the table with the rest on retirement.”

Individuals who reside in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands electoral district and who have been Conservative Party members on May 16 are eligible to vote for candidates. The voting will take place at different locations on June 14 and 15. The voting locations in Maple Creek and Kindersley will be open on June 14 and the voting locations in Assiniboia and Swift Current are open on June 15. The winner will be announced after ballot counting on the Saturday evening in Swift Current.

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