I dropped by the Dion town hall on Thursday, mainly because I figured a public town hall with the Liberal leader in Alberta would be sure to generate excitement (if not protests, riots, and/or lynchings). Unfortunately, there were no irate NEP rants from this large and mostly (but not uniformly) Liberal crowd which received Stephane very well. Here are some of the questions asked and noteworthy portions of Dion's answers; Since half the questions seemed to be on the environment, I may have skipped over some of them. If nothing else, this should provide some clues as to what the Liberal platform and messaging may look like for the next campaign.
-Question Topic: Infrastructure
Answer: Dion said the Liberal promise to send parts of the gas tax to cities will be in the next platform and that it's because of the need to spend on things like infrastructure that he will not be cutting the GST an additional 1%, to 5%.
-Q: Differences between Dion and Harper on the environment
A: Dion feels Harper will do some half measures on the environment now that the polls show it's a major issue but it's never been a priority for him before. Dion also thinks Steve should have appointed Bob Mills as the environment minister.
-Q: Wheat Board
A: Dion asked the audience who supported the wheat board, and over 90% of the hands went up. He feels the board is needed because the farming subsidies the US and Europe give to their farmers.
-Q: Lubicon land claim
A: Dion talked about a desire to have an independent body to solve land claims.
-Q: Would you agree that there is a quiet revolution occurring in Alberta now?
A: Like everyone else, Dion didn't really understand the question and it turned into an environment answer where he announced that he would not bring in a moratorium on oilsands growth.
-Q: Senate reform
A: An elected Senate would hurt Alberta since it would bring more legitimacy to a body where Alberta is under-represented. Dion does think there should be 10-12 year term limits on Senators and consultation with the Premiers before naming new Senators.
-Q: Court challenges program
A: Liberals will re-instate it if they win election
-Q: The need for female candidates versus the unpleasantness of appointing candidates
A: Although Dion didn't say so it in these words, his answers boils down to: appointments if necessary, but not necessarily appointments.
-Q: Health Care
A: Dion congratulated the Alberta Liberal Party for helping to kill Klein's "third way". Stephane would like to see a national healthcare library, a push towards more self-help, an attack on the causes of health problems (ie. toxins), and an attempt to identify which practices the provinces currently use which work best.
-Q: Is "sustainable development" anti-Albertan?
A: Not according to Preston Manning.
-Q: Income Trusts
A: Harper was foolish to make a promise he knew he'd have to break. Liberal still haven't decided if they will propose changes to income trusts in next platform.
A: Dion would use diplomacy to bring more countries on board and tell the world "Canada is a good team player, but we need a team". Wants to have a bigger focus on infrastructure and rebuilding.