LETHBRIDGE: It's a debate that has already proven popular at other post secondary
institutes and the University of Lethbridge debate on Thursday night is the 4th
stop in the series.
Danielle Smith and Brian Mason go toe-to-toe during each debate.
According Smith, "We're doing this to find out what is on everyone's mind
during the open Q-and-A and share some ideas about what Alberta can look like in
the future, after we're done with a P-C dynasty. The government will have been
in power for 45-years as of 2016 and we think it's time for us to start looking
past that, about how Alberta can be better - that's what Brian and I are
offering, two different visions of where Alberta can go".
Smith says the topics have been similar during all the debates so far,
"What's happening with post secondary cuts, what is the problem, is it a revenue
problem or a spending problem, what's the plan for debt, for savings, for
pipelines, how do we balance energy development with the environment, what's the
plan for health care?" According to Smith, "This is the fun thing about being
able to go to different campuses, is being able to engage students".
With the debates being held at colleges and universities across the province,
one of the top issues is cut backs in education. Smith agrees post-secondary
institutions have been blind-sided by a 7% cut, when they were expecting a
funding increase. She noted there have already been courses cut and reductions
in the number of students admitted to certain programs. Smith responded to
situation, "The fact of the matter is that if you're going to have an agency or
an institution, almost 100% reliant on the provincial government for funding,
you have to provide stable funding. You can't give them the impression you're
going to do one thing and then pull the rug out from them and that, I think, is
what we hear loud and clear from post secondary institutions".
While they tend to wrangle the same sort of issues at each debate Smith and
Mason have different ideas on how to solve them. Smith notes, "We shouldn't be
saddling future generations with debt, unlike what this government is doing.
Brian (Mason) thinks the way to solve that is to raise taxes and I think the way
to solve that is to find efficiencies in spending. We both agree that we need a
health care system that performs better - Brian thinks the current system can be
made to work better and I believe we have to get back to local decision
The Wildrose/NDP Leaders debate series came out of an idea from the students
at the University of Calgary, where the first debate was held in the spring.
Smith says, "We had such a great time, Brian challenged me to a rematch at the
U-of-A and we got to thinking the other post secondary institutions might be
interested in doing it to and we've been delighted that so many have been. I
think when you have one-on-one debates, you can really get into issues at a
level of depth that you can't do during question period (in the legislature)".
The series has not only been to the U-of-C, the U-of-A, Medicine Hat College
and now the U-of-L but, it will also hold the debates at Augustana, Grant MacEwan
and Mount Royal Universities, as well as Keyano and Red Deer Colleges.
The U-of-L debate in the Students Union Ballroom beginning at 7:00 had a
nominal charge of $5, with the funds going towards the Students Union Food