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Livingstone-Macleod election forum panelists seated at table – five men and one woman, with white-haired female moderator off to right side

Livingstone-Macleod candidates make last appeals at Crowsnest Pass forum

Riding candidates in Livingstone-Macleod gave mostly stock performances at an election forum in Crowsnest Pass on Wednesday, May 24.

The United Conservatives’ Chelsae Petrovic and the Alberta NDP’s Kevin Van Tighem, certainly no strangers to political controversy in what has been a bitterly contested election, were distinctly on-brand, repeating, defending and doubling down on their parties’ campaign planks. 

A re-elected UCP under Danielle Smith would “embrace the renewed Alberta Advantage,” Petrovic said, warning that to vote for anyone else would jeopardize her party’s recent accomplishments — especially this year’s whopping budget surplus.

Smith’s erstwhile promise to replace the Alberta RCMP with an independent provincial police force “is no longer a topic of conversation,” the candidate said. Nor does Petrovic have “any affiliation with” Take Back Alberta, the right-wing populist movement whose Marco Van Huigenbos watched the forum from the back of the room. 

Petrovic, who told TBA founder David Parker in a February podcast interview that she wouldn’t necessarily cleave to the party line if she were elected, strongly endorsed Smith’s leadership.  

Holding precisely the opposite view was Van Tighem, who wasted little time laying claim to Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservative legacy for the NDP. Party leader Rachel Notley would deliver “good government you can trust,” he said, holding up Smith’s “unstable and chaotic leadership” as the mirror opposite. 

An NDP government would eliminate Alberta’s small-business tax, and wouldn’t add to personal income taxes, he promised. He was less keen to engage Notley’s plan to raise the corporate tax rate from eight to 11 per cent, although he said the increased rate would stay the lowest in Canada. 

The Alberta Party’s Kevin Todd, who briefly entertained a run at the UCP nomination, repeatedly positioned himself as an independent voice for Livingstone-Macleod, reminding the audience that his party doesn’t whip votes — unlike the UCP and NDP.

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Van Tighem took knocks for his untrammelled opposition to coal exploration on the Eastern Rockies. 

“It’s a terrible position to take,” Pincher Creek MD councillor John MacGarva said from the floor, drawing thunderous applause from roughly half the audience. 

Lougheed’s PC’s blocked regional coal exploration for perfectly sound ecological reasons, Van Tighem shot back, scoring loud approval from the other half. 

Another resident introduced himself to Van Tighem as “one of those entitled rednecks you despise,” alluding to the candidate’s 2021 Alberta Views article wherein the author paints a disconcerting stereotype of oil and gas workers. 

The candidate said the article’s subtext underlined widely held conceptions about a rapacious oil and gas industry — conceptions Van Tighem has consistently said hurt Alberta’s interests on the world stage — but the barb stuck. 

Petrovic and Independence Party candidate Corrie Toone were pointedly asked if they would support a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Neither candidate gave a yes or no answer, despite prodding from moderator Val Danielson. 

Toone and Petrovic each said “life begins at conception,” with Petrovic saying that, while she supported bodily autonomy when it came to vaccines, she and the UCP are “pro-life.” 

The most compelling performance came from the Alberta Liberals’ Dylin Hauser, if audience reactions are to be any guide. 

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When the candidates were asked to defend their leadership credentials, Hauser was the only one who gave a full “with flaws and all” recounting of a life well lived, but also tempered by ordinary struggles. 

“What do I bring?” he asked rhetorically. “I bring failure. I bring hardship. I bring the ups and downs we all face down in life.”

His answer palpably won over the audience, drawing applause so loud and intense, it rumbled the floor. Many cheered as strenuously Hauser’s call to “vote for who you want,” rather than voting in the least offensive party with the most realistic chances of forming Alberta’s next government. 

Toone and independent candidate Erik Abildgaard spent much time trying to convince the audience that climate change was bogus, that pandemic health restrictions were draconian and that the UCP and NDP were fundamentally untrustworthy. 

Albertans head to the polls Monday, May 29.

Advanced voting is open May 23 to 27.

For voter information, including polling stations, see pages 9 to 11.

View Crowsnest Pass election forum videos here: Part 1, Part 2

Individual candidate statements:

Dylin Hauser – Alberta Liberal Party

Kevin Van Tighem – Alberta New Democratic Party

Kevin Todd – Alberta Party

Erik Abildgaard – Independent

Corrie Toone – Independence Party of Alberta

Chelsae Petrovic – United Conservative Party

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