Byelection candidates face trio of forums

With less than a week until constituents go to the polls for the Brooks-Medicine Hat byelection on Nov. 8, the home stretch is one of candidate forums – two in Brooks and one in Medicine Hat.

NDP candidate Gwendoline Dirk stated by email, “I am excited and ready to debate Danielle Smith about our ideas about the importance of properly supporting our education, fixing our public health-care system and ensuring that families in Brooks-Medicine Hat can make ends meet.

“Alberta is facing an affordability crisis we haven’t seen in over 40 years and we must address it. I am focused on developing solutions for the issues people in Brooks-Medicine Hat are facing because I live here and I love it here.”

The first forum is being hosted by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and will be held at Griffin Park School in Brooks from 7-9 p.m. The event is open to ATA members and education stakeholders, which includes but is not limited to administrators, educational assistants, wellness members, parent council and school board trustees.

Barry Morishita, leader of the Alberta Party, is hoping the ATA forum centres around the local perspective, not only for K-12 but also how post-secondary affects the region.

“There is some significant uniqueness, certainly in education, when it comes to Brooks-Medicine Hat compared to the rest of the province,” Morishita said. “We know there are broader education issues as well, but as a contest for an MLA we need to talk about the very localized issues, what matter here.”

The evening will start with an introduction by the moderator who will give a brief bio of each candidate.

Candidates will have two minutes to speak on each question, starting with five general inquiries provided to each in advance. Various educational stakeholders will be given time to ask questions next and then the floor will be opened to the audience. To end the forum, each candidate will have two minutes to give closing statements.

On Wednesday at 7 p.m. there will be an all-candidates forum at the Heritage Inn and Convention Centre in Brooks. This forum is being hosted by that city’s chamber of commerce and questions from the public have been submitted in advance.

This is a free event and open to all residents in the Brooks-Medicine Hat constituency. Deadline to submit a question is today. Questions can be emailed to manager@brooksdistrictchamber.ca.

Morishita plans this week to put focus on job retention.

“We often talk about expansion but we also need to talk about retaining people,” he said. “We have to understand what is getting in the way of people retaining a business and staying in southeast Alberta, what could help keep those businesses growing. Retention is a big part of business strategy that doesn’t often get enough attention.”

The final forum will be on Thursday at the Medicine Hat College Theatre. Hosted by the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce, the event begins with a meet and greet at 6 p.m., with the forum at 7 p.m. Questions for candidates can be submitted in advance by emailing policy@medicinehatchamber.com.

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News