The four candidates vying for leadership of the United Conservative Party want to give the private sector more of a role in health care.
From hip and knee replacements to improving seniors’ care, a UCP government under any of the four men on stage Thursday night in Edmonton for the second party leadership debate would look to the private sector to reduce wait times and improve the public system.
Jason Kenney, Doug Schweitzer, Brian Jean and Jeff Callaway squared off at the Northlands Expo Centre.
The four hopefuls also fielded questions about education, labour and shutting coal plants.
It was a debate characterized as much by candidates agreeing with one another as by explanations of policy and relative experience.
Just minutes from the end of the two-hour event, a dig at Jean about UCP caucus finances, made by rival Callaway, was enough to elicit an unimpressed “Boooo” from the crowd.
It was the only moment close to a personal attack among the candidates, though the NDP was fair game.
From heckling the carbon tax to Kenney flat-out accusing the government of lying about the impact of coal plants on air quality, the government bore the brunt of attacks from the stage.
GSAs and math scores
First out of the gate was education — specifically, how great of a role parental choice should play in Alberta’s school system.
It was serendipitous timing.
Earlier Thursday, Education Minister David Eggen said he’s planning to introduce rules preventing school staff disclosing which students participate in gay-straight alliances.
He will also require all schools — public, private and charter — to submit policies spelling out students’ right to form a GSA, and outline how LGBTQ students will be protected and accommodated in school.
Kenney’s response was that nothing is more important than parental choice.
His declaration that Alberta doesn’t need politicians standing between parents and kids drew perhaps the loudest cheer of the evening.
Schweitzer, though, rejected the notion of informing parents if their child is in a GSA.
If his two girls weren’t comfortable talking to him for some reason, he said, he would hope they could have the support at a GSA at school.
Jean said afterwards he doesn’t favour parental informing, either, but during the debate was keen to shift attention to improving Alberta’s standard of education.
All candidates favoured parental choice when it comes to education programming.
Final week of membership sales
Friday at 5 p.m. marks the deadline for UCP membership sales.
Only those registered at that time will be able to cast a ballot in the membership vote.
Calgary is widely seen as the hotspot for sales, particularly with three of the four candidates coming from Cow Town.
Jean, from Fort McMurray, is the lone northerner, and twice took the opportunity to refer to recent polls that put him as the only candidate able to win a seat in Edmonton.
The leader will be elected Oct. 28.