Residents in the federal riding of Calgary Heritage head to the polls on April 3, to choose a replacement for Stephen Harper, former prime minister and MP for Calgary Heritage. The riding has remained vacant since Harper’s resignation Aug. 2016 and the Calgary Journal has been keeping a close eye on the contenders who hope to fill Harper’s shoes both in Calgary Heritage and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The Calgary Journal reached out to candidates to ask about their stance on topics like Alberta’s energy sector, to who they would invite over for dinner. This series aims not to tell voters who to vote for, but rather to give voters a chance to get to know the candidates better — and clarify some of their policy positions.

The Candidates:

Khalis Ahmed, New Democratic Party

Khalis Ahmed is running for the New Democrats in the riding of Calgary Heritage. Photo by Tyler Ryan.

Occupation: Geologist

Political experience: Ran for the NDP in the 2015 Federal Election for Calgary — Signal Hill. Third place finish, lost to Conservative incumbent Ron Liepert.

Stance on the future of fossil fuel energy: “It’s very difficult to expect when we will go for the phase-out. For coal, we’re talking about phasing out by 2030, but it may go farther than that although we do not expect that … for the New Democrats, we care about sustainable development and we are investing in that so once we get a clear idea, we can talk about it. We need to develop green energy as fast as we can to serve our nation and continue to be an energy leader in the world.”

Taryn Knorren, The Green Party of Canada

Taryn Knorren is running for the Green Party of Canada in the riding of Calgary Heritage. Photo by Tyler Ryan.

Occupation: School teacher

Political Experience: Ran for the Green Party in the 2015 Federal Election for Calgary – Signal Hill. Fourth place finish, lost to Conservative incumbent Ron Liepert.

Stance on the Future of Fossil Fuel Energy: “I do believe that it will eventually be phased out but that’s not going to be in the immediate future at all because we can’t sustain that in the economy and it is a huge portion of our economy and it’s an important piece. But the reason that I say that it should be phased out eventually, is because for us to stay on top of the global markets which are heading toward sustainable energies and green energies, we need to start developing that so that we can stay on par with where Europe is heading and eventually where the rest of the world is heading.”

Scott Forsyth, The Liberal Party of Canada

Scott Forsyth is running for the Liberals Party of Canada in the riding of Calgary Heritage. Photo courtesy Scott Forsyth.

Occupation: Family physician

Political Experience: First time campaigner

Stance on the Future of Fossil Fuel Energy: “The Liberal Party position is fully backing our fossil fuel industry in Alberta, and that’s why it has been a priority of the government to get pipelines approved. The Liberals took a different approach from the previous Conservative government and they did it by taking into account our environmental responsibility as well for a sustainable future. By introducing the carbon pollution pricing requirement for each province, this gave the government more leverage with many of the groups that they needed to work with in order to get approval of the pipelines, like our Indigenous peoples and other municipalities.”

Bob Benzen, The Conservative Party of Canada

Bob Benzen is running for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Calgary Heritage. Photo courtesy Facebook.

Occupation: Businessman, specializing in “data storage and information management for energy companies” according to website.

Stance on the Future of Fossil Fuel Energy: Despite four separate email attempts and three different voicemails left with Bob Benzen and his campaign requesting an interview, the Calgary Journal received no response.

Q & A

What do you view as the federal government’s specific role in getting unemployed energy workers in Alberta back to work?

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

The first would be to get our natural resources to expanded markets and that’s tying back into pipeline approval and completion because that will help the industry greatly. Also, another thing would be to focus on retraining as well. This includes providing funding for people to go back to school and retrain their skills in order to either find work in another area of the energy sector or find work in an entirely different sector all together.

Khalis Ahmed — NDP

[The Liberal] government said that it was going to invest in infrastructure projects so that energy workers like engineers and people who work on the rigs can be involved right away but with that being said, we haven’t seen that much infrastructure development in Alberta. The federal government should take care of Albertans now, before it gets worse. In this city, some publications say that there are almost 80,000 unemployed people, mostly oil sand workers and professionals and there needs to be more investments in Alberta to get people back to work. On top of that, I don’t see much stuff from our federal government to train these people for the transition. So on top of infrastructure funding, the federal government needs to invest in educating and equipping Albertans with the skills they’ll need during this transition towards green energy.

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

A big one is to get the east-west pipeline to go through. I’m tired of hearing that curtailed in favour of the Keystone pipeline, which is not a good idea because it sends most of the jobs to the U.S. However, the east-west pipeline not only brings more jobs to Alberta, it will also bring jobs to the east coast which is good for both Alberta and Canada.

How do you sell this to other Green Party candidates who may be opposed to this?

The biggest thing is that we do need the oil sands at the moment. It’s what keeps our economy running so let’s make these smart choices now for the smart choices later. This east-west pipeline brings in the jobs that we need and most of the pipeline is already built so we’re not building anything new or destroying any new lands or hurting the environment minus what is already there. The Green Party is for this — we want more jobs in Canada instead of sending our jobs overseas and why should we send our raw products south, when we could send them east and have Canadian companies refine our product.

What’s the one thing that has to happen to move Canada from non-renewable to renewable energy sources?

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

The first thing would be to create incentives to move in that direction. The Green Party for example, believes in tax incentives, subsidies, and also encouraging small companies when they’re first starting up to actually start in that direction because it’s a lot harder to move a large company into clean energy versus moving small companies that are just starting. If you encourage these small companies through taxes or incentives, they’re able to move towards green a lot easier. The NDP just brought in the carbon tax and a lot of that comes through gas; people are complaining about how much more they are paying for gas in their car so if you don’t want to spend that money then think about taking public transit or other options that are available. It’s going to come down to the individual, what they’re ready for, and hopefully encouraging them to choose those other options.

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

Innovation. Out of that, the carbon pricing mechanism has the potential to seed green tech innovation. It’s each province’s decision on how that money is allocated and how it’s structured, but hopefully, by using the free-market regulation with carbon pollution pricing mechanisms, we curb our behaviours in a way that is more beneficial to the climate and the world. At the same time, the byproduct is that we have raised revenue to help innovation and technology research and implementation … for example, the Liberal government has provided funding for the University of Calgary’s Center of Energy Excellence and I think Calgary should become the centre of energy excellence, in part for fossil fuel energy because that is still driving our economy but also for other forms of energy and other developments in solar, geothermal and wind energies.

Khalis Ahmed — NDP

The economy is not doing well for Canadian families and many communities are suffering, so the first thing that we need to do is bring green energy quickly so that the economy will pick up but at the same time, as we think about phasing out coal, there are countries that are just starting with coal. If we think about stopping fossil fuels, it’s not stopping the whole world from using fossil fuels and this needs to be taken into account. We need to do research to find what will be sustainable for Canadian families first and we need to think about these families first.

Given that this is the former prime minister’s riding, what is one thing about Stephen Harper that you might like to emulate?

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

In the beginning of Stephen Harper’s run as prime minister, he was very savvy when it came to the economy. He didn’t make any sudden moves and he was smart and articulate during the 2008 crash. He made some intelligent moves regarding the banks and not allowing people to fail and I was very impressed with him during that because he really helped Canada stay stable.

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

Ultimately, he gave prominence to the West. Just by virtue of being from Calgary and being from our riding and being from our voice in Ottawa and I was proud and grateful for that. It was nice having Calgary be a centre of national politics and it was nice having a voice. We haven’t had a voice since he stepped down and in many senses, when I go door-to-door, I try to appeal to people regardless of their partisan feelings. I think it’s important for us to have a voice in active government.

Khalis Ahmed — NDP

The people of Calgary Heritage value strong leadership and that’s what they voted for when they voted for Mr. Harper because he was both the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and also the leader of Canada, and they take pride in knowing that they are a part of that leadership. So I want to bring that sense of strong leadership to Calgary Heritage.

What is one thing about Harper’s work in the riding you don’t want to repeat?

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

He wasn’t really in the riding ever. He had other people who did that part of the work for him, but even as the prime minister, you have to remember where you come from and the people who voted you in. He didn’t really give the people in Calgary Heritage the time of day and I wouldn’t want to be a representative in that way because you’re representing the people who voted you in and therefore you should be chatting with them, meeting with them and getting to know them as much as possible.

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

I know he was the Prime Minister and that’s a different position than pretty much everyone else in Parliament but he was not accessible. He was not really a direct voice for us. Indirectly, he represented us but I feel that we haven’t had personal representation of the constituents in this riding and I live in the riding and I find that the single most common thing that I hear is that people never actually met a candidate.

Khalis Ahmed — NDP

From what I’ve heard from some of the people who live in Calgary Heritage, they never found Mr. Harper’s constituency office open and they had a difficult time getting in contact with him. For me, I will do whatever I can to make sure that I’m connected with the people who rely on me as a leader. They gave me the freedom to serve the nation and I will not forget them. I want to do what Mr. Harper couldn’t do in that regard.

Voters like to know about who they’re voting for and what they stand for. What’s your position on screening newcomers to Canada for so-called Canadian values?

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

I don’t believe in pre-screening people. I believe that Canada is a land of immigrants essentially, who have settled here on Indigenous soil and we have two big things that we need to do as Canadians. First, we need to reconcile with our Indigenous people in a meaningful way on a nation-to-nation front and that’s not going to be easy for any government because there are some fundamental difficulties from the get-go, but we need to address it and this government is starting to at least acknowledge it. On the other hand, we also need to recognize that we are a land of immigrants and we need immigrants. It’s estimated that we need 300,000 per year to keep our economy going. We have to welcome our diversity and to me, Canadian values are best defined by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

I 100 per cent disagree with it. From a mathematical sense, we need newcomers because the Canadian economy cannot survive on the population growth that we have and we need immigrants. Also, the screening process shouldn’t be happening at the beginning. If we truly want Canadian values, then we should be supporting these people when they do come in, such as teaching them English or French, and giving them the skills or transferable skills that they may already have to join our economy and actually pay taxes. We have a lot of people who come over who are just living in their family’s homes so let’s support them to actually become a part of our society and a part of our economy. Having an actual process to have new Canadians learn about Canada, the norms and values, and the language would make way more effect on people becoming Canadian and having Canadian values instead of stopping people at the front gate because doing that is un-Canadian.

Khalis Ahmed — NDP

Instead of screening people, we should teach newcomers about Canada, the culture of Canada as well as the law, so that they can become responsible citizens. Even simple things like showing newcomers where to put the trash or showing them around the city. This step is very important because in other parts of the world, the norms and practices may be very different than how we act here in Canada. It takes time to be a responsible Canadian and to be a responsible citizen and at the beginning, it is a struggle for some newcomers to live here so it’s better to train them. We also need to ensure that when we have educated professionals come to Canada, the resources are available to ensure that they can transition into the industry that they’re trained to work in.

If you could entertain two people (living) from anywhere in the world for dinner, who would they be, and why? And what would be on the menu?

Khalis Ahmed – NDP

The Dalai Lama and Malala Yousafzai: When I go out, I see the Dalai Lama’s work and his message is in the minds of everybody. And that means he has a big mind that he can spread his message all over the world. And the other is Malala. As a very young girl, she went through too much. And when she smiles, I see that the whole world is smiling. When she smiles, she is the encouragement for everybody. As for the menu, I’d make them whatever they’d like. I’m a pretty good chef; I know that I may not be able to cook their traditional foods but I’ll try to make what they like.

But if it was just from your recipe book, what would you want to introduce them to? What is Mr. Khalis Ahmed’s specialty meal?

Well for the Dalai Lama, I would make a vegetable stir-fry for him. And for Malala, I can cook a rice dish called biryani for her.

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

Jane Goodall and Angela Merkel: The German chancellor has made some incredible changes to Germany; they’re now at zero emissions and yet they have a thriving economy and she’s also a very impressive woman. Jane Goodall is also a very impressive and valuable woman but on a completely different end. It’s the economy and the environment and hearing from them, I could learn so much from the two of them sitting down for dinner. And on the menu, Alberta hamburger.

Burgers?

Yeah!

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

Justin Trudeau and Nellie Kusugak: Something that is important to me is to lower the divide or the gap in knowledge between the north and south within our country. I would be interested in having people that would be able to address that and I would like to sit down with Justin Trudeau and Nellie Kusugak, and discuss issues that relate to our Arctic Inuit people because they are an Indigenous people who are struggling. Our Inuit people in the North have suffered a great deal at the hands of Canadian federal policy over the decades and there is a real need to have face-to-face communication.

On the menu, there would be a northern focus from Nunavut. It would inevitably be seal and perhaps some whale.

Why should the people of Calgary Heritage choose you?

Khalis Ahmed — NDP

Because the people of Calgary Heritage like leadership and I want to lead the country to be the world energy leader.

Taryn Knorren — Green Party

The reason that I’m running, and the reason why people should choose me is because I’m running for people to have a voice. I’m tired of people not being heard, including myself, and I have the ability to run so I’m doing what is my civic duty to help others, who may not be able to run, have that voice in the House of Commons; especially as a woman and as a teacher, I’m really tired of being underrepresented and I like diversity, and right now I don’t believe the House of Commons is as diverse as it should be.

Scott Forsyth — Liberal

The people in Calgary Heritage should vote for me so that they can have a direct voice in Ottawa and in the governing party, a voice that is un-whipped, an independent voice. I’m allowed to be my own vote and vote with my conscience and be their voice in Ottawa.