The federal election writ is expected to drop any time – the latest it can come is Sept. 15 – and Banff-Airdrie candidates have already hit the campaign trail trying to convince constituents why they are the best choice to send to Ottawa.
So far three candidates are vying for the seat – one of 34 in the province – with incumbent Blake Richards squaring off against Nadine Wellwood with the People’s Party of Canada and Austin Mullins representing the Green Party. Neither the NDP nor the Liberal Party of Canada have announced a candidate thus far, though the Liberals did say the party “is being approached by a variety of talented community leaders interested in becoming the Team Trudeau candidate for Banff-Airdrie.”
Nick Flaumitsch, who announced back in 2018 that he would run as an independent, confirmed he has decided not to put his name forward for health reasons.
Blake Richards - Conservatives
Richards, who is seeking re-election to his fourth term, said he has been focused on door-knocking both in the riding and with the party across the country for the past six or seven weeks.
“What we're hearing is there are a lot of frustrated people and rightfully so. They feel like they have a government that isn’t really there for them and hasn’t done anything to try and make sure that people can get back to work and get some pipelines built,” he said. “The biggest comments I hear at the doors is how soon are you getting rid of Trudeau.”
Jobs and pipelines, Richards said, have been the focus for many of the constituents he has spoken with and he believes the Conservatives have the platform that will move that agenda forward.
“I indicate to people that I am working hard at doing everything I can to make sure it happens,” he said.
Despite the frustration at the doors, the polling gap between the Liberals and Conservatives remains tight. While some polls show the Liberals with a 10-point lead over the Conservatives, the average of all polls, according to CBC’s Canada Votes 2019 Poll Tracker, has the Conservatives with an almost two-point edge on the Liberals.
“I am never a big follower of polls. I agree they are fairly tight. I don’t think that tells the story. I have been across the country and my sense is that it’s no different than what I hear at the doors here, and I have been to nine of the 10 provinces. People are frustrated and they feel like they have been lied to by this Prime Minister,” said Richards.
Among the messages Richards is trying to send is dispelling the idea that the Liberals’ climate strategy is stronger than the Conservative’s.
“I would argue very strongly that ours is a far better plan,” he said. “When you look at their plan, all I see is a carbon tax. No one has ever shown me yet how you can tax your way to a cleaner environment.”
The Conservative Party has stated that, if elected, it will repeal the carbon tax.
“I don’t think it does anything for the environment and it certainly doesn’t do anything for the economy,” Richards said.
He added the Conservative plan focuses on “incentivizing the right choices.”
“If people want to make their home more energy-efficient there will be a tax credit for that. If a company patents a good new environmental technology here in Canada and develops it here in Canada, there will be a tax break for that,” he said. “In the process it allows us to have an impact on the emissions elsewhere in the country. Right now, if we’re focusing as a country on the 1.6 per cent of the emissions that we create here in Canada that’s a pretty narrow focus.”
Richards added the Conservative plan will not only help target the reduction of global emissions, but also improve the economy by encouraging the development of Canadian technology and products.
While some might view the push for more pipeline development and environmental protection as conflicting goals, Richards said there can be a balanced approach.
“I think it boils down to this. The world is going to use oil for the foreseeable future and if you’re going to use it, why would it not be Canadian oil. We have some of the most, if not the most, environmentally responsible producers in the world,” he said. “My argument is the world needs more Canadian energy, not less.”
Austin Mullins - Green
Mullins said he has just begun getting out to knock on doors and will be ramping up in the next week as people wrap up their summer fun for the fall doldrums.
However, he added from the door knocking he has done he gets the sense that a loft of people are undecided on how to cast their vote.
He is capitalizing on that sentiment and trying to sell the Green Party as the best alternative for change in Ottawa and here in the province.
With the more pipelines sentiment strong provincially, he has an uphill battle talking to energy-friendly Albertans, but is confident he can show constituents there is another way while assuring them the Green Party would not simply shut off the oil taps after the election.
“Alberta has the best potential for wind and solar energy,” said Mullins, adding there are hundreds of abandoned oil and gas wells that could be transformed to generate geo-thermal energy. “We’re all stuck on oil and gas.”
The Green strategy would see the near-complete phase-out of oil by 2050, with the exception of using bitumen in the petrochemical industry to produce products such as plastics, rubber and paint.
“We don’t call for a complete shutdown tomorrow,” said Mullins.
Mullins said there are plenty of job and investment opportunities in renewable and clean energy, especially as the country works toward retrofitting current systems to accommodate more energy-friendly initiatives – such as modernizing the electric grid to handle more electric vehicles.
Locally, Mullins would like to see the constituency work toward more environmentally friendly infrastructure such as commuter options that take cars off the road.
He added it’s time to stop flipping between the Conservative and Liberal parties that he believes are not working in the best interests of Canadians and simply pander for votes.
“There are other options than the status quo,” Mullins said, adding unlike the main parties, the Green Party has values.
“I speak to my truth, we have to protect future generations from climate catastrophes,” he said.
Wellwood - PPC
While only polling at around three per cent, Nadine Wellwood is adamant the PPC is the strongest choice in the upcoming election especially for Albertans tired of not having a voice in Ottawa.
“People are looking for a change,” said Wellwood.
On the campaign trail, she said she has heard a lot from people concerned about splitting the vote, though are supportive of PPC leader Maxime Bernier’s messaging.
Pipelines and getting Canadians back to work are the two big issues on people’s minds.
On the pipeline front, she doubts the Conservative’s resolve.
“Harper had many years before Scheer and didn’t get it done. What’s going to make it any different this time around,” she said, adding the PPC would make the pipeline a matter of national interest under the constitution.
Section 92(10) of the constitution has the power to give Ottawa direct control over pipeline construction.
“There’s a small consultation process that happens and that’s months not years,” she said.
The PPC platform has taken a lot criticism for its proposed policies on immigration with many calling it discriminatory. However, Wellwood said the party is not against immigration and none of the PPC’s changes would discriminate against people based on religion, race or culture.
“We would like to see less immigration,” she said. “I think Canadians, in general, have lost confidence in the government’s ability to administer immigration.
She added the PPC would reduce the number of immigrants a year to 150,000 and focus on economic immigrants.
“Anybody who has been watching what has been happening in European countries knows the immigration policy of open borders doesn’t work,” she said.
“We’re not against immigration, this country was built on immigrants. Everyone here came from somewhere else, but we’re all here under one commonality. We all respect freedom and democracy."
With that in mind, she said the PPC would end the country’s long-standing stance on multiculturalism, which she says has been wrongly called one of our national strengths.
“It’s not. It adds to the beauty of the culture and the values, but our strength is unity,” she said. “Let’s stop talking about what divides us, that’s identity politics.”
On the climate change front, Wellwood said she categorically rejects the notion Canada is in a climate crisis.
“Can we do things better? Absolutely. Do we need to destroy our economy to resolve a CO2 global emissions problem of which Canada contributes 1.6 per cent? No. I think that’s foolhardy,” she said.
Instead, Wellwood said Canada should become a global role model.
“We have resources that would allow us to be models for the rest of the world,” she said.