AB Liberal leadership candidates debate

By Joshua Johnson

The Alberta Liberal leadership race made a stop at the University of Calgary with a debate between the three contenders.

Roughly 100 people attended the Sat., Mar. 7 forum hosted by the Young Liberals Association.

Dr. Kevin Taft began by outlining what his throne speech would look like, touching on eight major policy objectives. His ideas included re-regulation of electricity, the introduction of public auto insurance and initiatives to decrease tuition.

Dr. Jon Friel agreed with many of Dr. Taft’s stances, but argued they would be of little use unless the Liberal Party of Alberta formed the next government. He would focus primarily on election readiness, assuming an election could be called by the end of this year.

“It doesn’t matter how smart we are, sitting at this table here, if we don’t win the next election,” said Dr. Freil. “We have to win.”

John Reil maintained the Liberal Party of Alberta should offer “real and feasible alternatives” that are affordable and practical. He pushed for funding post-secondary education and criticized the rationale that says social benefits must outweigh those to the individual in dollar form.

“We educate our children because we love them,” said Reil, pointing out that higher education excludes peo- ple from today’s work force, making it a necessity, not a privilege.

All three agreed the need for change has never been greater. Problems with health care, public education and electricity bills were all said to be unacceptable.

With a PhD in business, Dr. Taft spent much of his career researching policy for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative government before jumping into politics himself.

“What I like about the Liberal Party very much is that while Tories tend to be all business, and the New Democrats all labour and social issues, Alberta Liberals are both ends,” said Dr. Taft after the debate. “We recognize that a strong private sector is crucial to our economy, and at the same time a strong public sector is equally as crucial.”

Dr. Friel has a PhD in chartered psychology and is currently a forensic examiner. He spent 32 years working with federal and provincial correctional institutions. He reiterated the urgency facing the Alberta Liberals.

‘A founding member of the Alberta First Party, Reil is no stranger to politics. He said public education issues could be solved by “putting the monkey on the government’s back.” He suggests forcing Alberta Learning to decide which services should be cut when budgets are cut.

Members of the Liberal Party of Alberta will tele-vote for a new leader on Sat., Mar. 27.

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