EDMONTON – The three men vying to become Alberta’s next premier came together for a debate in Edmonton Thursday night.
The debate, which was hosted by the Progressive Conservative Youth of Alberta, saw Jim Prentice, Thomas Lukaszuk and Ric McIver square off for the second time this week.
Accountability was the big topic of the evening.
The debate before more than 100 people often grew testy as the candidates sought to paint each other as insiders who can’t be trusted to change an atmosphere in the government that the province’s auditor general has described as a “culture of entitlement.”
Prentice repeatedly asked Lukaszuk why, when he was deputy premier, he did nothing to stop excesses such as the inappropriate use of government planes. He pointed out McIver sat around the cabinet table when those decisions were being made.
His opponents claimed they did speak out at the time. Both said Prentice wasn’t living up to his own rhetoric by allowing his campaign to give away free party memberships.
The candidates also touched on political terms, which Prentice brought up in a speech earlier Thursday.
Prentice told the audience that his proposal for term limits is part of an overall package to bring accountability to the provincial government.
He said the package would include the end of sweetheart political contracts for staffers and single-source contracts.
“It’s about the end of entitlements. It should involve turnover in our political system. These will form part of the accountability act.”
Lukaszuk called term limits an American-style idea that won’t work in Alberta. Accountability and ethics in government have to stem from conviction, not from rules, he said.
“Either you have integrity or you don’t. If you don’t know it intuitively, you surely will find a loophole. Term limits are not the answer.”
“Term limits? Really?” said fellow candidate Ric McIver. “I believe in democracy – Albertans should decide who sits in the legislature. We shouldn’t tell them who they can elect and who they can’t.”
On Monday, the candidates took part in one of the few forums not organized by the PC party. While there was agreement on the majority of the topics, there was some heated debate on healthcare management.
Card-carrying members of the PC party vote for a new leader on Sept. 6.
With files from The Canadian Press.
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