People outnumbered seats as Innisfail-Sylvan Lake constituents crowded the Penhold Library to hear their MLA hopefuls answer questions on a variety of topics Tuesday night.
The forum was attended by all candidates running in the riding — Don MacIntyre (Wildrose), Patricia Norman (NDP), Kerry Towle (PC) and Danielle Klooster (Alberta Party).
For an hour and a half, they fielded questions on everything from floor crossing to behaviour in the legislature.
Asked what messages they’ve been receiving on the doorsteps of voters, the candidates responded similarly, all noting a sense of anger and frustration.
“There’s a sense of dismay — people don’t want to vote,” said Klooster.
MacIntyre said constituents he’s spoken with feel betrayed by Towle’s decision to cross the floor from the Wildrose Party to the PC Party late last year.
The $100,000 fine against future floor crossers put in place by the Wildrose Party, he said, would ensure that doesn’t happen again.
Towle admitted she knew she’d be “in the hot seat” throughout the evening, and said she shared voters’ concerns.
“I can appreciate that Albertans are angry. I was angry too, and when I decided to run in 2012, (Alison) Redford and the PC Party didn’t fit me, and (former Wildrose leader) Danielle Smith did,” she said. “The last two administrations broke a lot of trust in Albertans … that’s where we needed the Wildrose.
“What we need now is for conservatives to come together; people who stand by their word and their integrity.”
Norman said she’s become unsettled by the amount of “frustration, anger and fear,” she’s heard from constituents. Some have told her that the prospect of another PC government has made them consider leaving the province to live elsewhere.
“That scares me,” said Norman. “I don’t want constituents to be angry. I’ve heard that people are ready for change, and they’re fully aware that we’re going to make change in this election.”
Asked how she’d bring trust back to the government, Towle pointed to her previous record as MLA.
“Over three years, I have not changed my platform,” she said. “I’ve stood up for seniors … and been the largest voice this riding has seen for a long, long time. My platform remained the same, and that is how you build trust.”
Klooster voiced her concern with the “new” PC Party, which she referred to as “undemocratic and dictatorial.”
“I don’t understand how you can ever trust somebody who … speaks out against the government and (then) joins them,” she said. “You have to be trustworthy and respectful, and you cannot be that when you are talking out both sides of your mouth.”
MacIntyre voiced a need for improved accountability and transparency, noting the PC Party has “failed to uphold fundamental checks and balances.”
“There’s just far too many in senior positions in our government that are PC appointees,” he said. “They’re nothing more than stooges, and they’ve got to go.”
Norman she felt trust needed to earned by a governing party.
“Any government that gets voted in now that is different than the PC Party has a lot to prove,” she said. “We have to earn your trust, we have to run with integrity, we have to stand with what we’ve said, and if we make mistakes, we need to own up to that and say sorry. That’s how I will operate as an elected official.”
Throughout the forum, candidates answered questions on how their respective parties would approach economic diversification, public sector wages, education funding and budgets.
A predominantly elderly audience penned the questions candidates faced.
A chorus of boos rang out just once on the night when Towle assured that constituents approached her prior to her floor crossing as opposed to the contrary.
A second election forum for Innisfail-Sylvan Lake was scheduled to be held at Meadowlands Golf Club in Sylvan Lake Wednesday night.