Pandemic, economic recovery, climate change: It's a mixed bag of top issues for Calgarians

A 30-year-old engineer, a 66-year-old grandmother and a 49-year-old scientist agree that they can't agree on a clearcut, top issue that should dominate the federal election campaign.

What's important in this campaign? Depends on whom you ask, but there's no clear theme that's emerging

From left: Debbie Worsley, Jeff Yip and Chris Pooley are members of a CBC News election focus group. (Submitted by Debbie Worsley, Jeff Yip and Chris Pooley)

A 30-year-old engineer, a 66-year-old grandmother and a 49-year-old scientist agree that they can't agree on a clearcut, top issue that should dominate this federal election campaign. 

The three are part of a larger group of people who are taking part in a series of panel discussions and focus groups for CBC News during the lead up to the federal and municipal elections.

Their main focus now is on the snap election that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau triggered for Sept. 20.

Each has differing views and opinions on what is the top issue for them during the campaign — and somewhat surprisingly, there is very little overlap.

Some of them like the job the Liberal leader has done, while others loathe him and are hoping to see the Conservatives' Erin O'Toole win a majority government.

The campaign is already into its third week, so we wanted to find out what's top of mind for some of our panelists. There is a wide range of issues depending on whom you ask and which way they're leaning politically.

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Forty-nine-year-old Chris Pooley, an environmental scientist, ranks the COVID-19 health pandemic as his No. 1 concern. One of his daughters is 11 and unable to get vaccinated.

Pooley says the federal government has handled the pandemic "quite well," and he wants to see how it will handle the "global emergency" in the weeks and months ahead as case numbers rise in the fourth wave. 

"Rolling forward with the pandemic … what does these next few months look like for Alberta," he wondered.

He believes the federal government will play a role and is disappointed with the provincial government's handling of the crisis, saying the issue has been become too politicized.

Pooley would also like federal programs to help reduce carbon emissions. He wants to see rebates and subsidies for things like high-efficiency furnaces, water heaters and electric vehicles.

Jobs, the economy, spending

Debbie Worsley is a 66-year-old retired grandmother who has returned to Calgary after working in the Northwest Territories as a payroll tax supervisor. 

Worsley would like to see more economic diversification in the West, perhaps more industrial and manufacturing expansion. She feels too much emphasis is being placed on the infrastructure and technology sectors.

"Not everybody can be in construction and not everybody is qualified to be in technology, There has to be a middle road somewhere."

Worsley would also like to see government spending reined in and more done to recruit members of the Canadian Armed Forces. 

  • Use Vote Compass to compare the party platforms with your views.

Worsley is concerned for her daughter, who has worked as a health-care aide but has been out of work for two years. She'd like to see more opportunities for people — like her daughter — who have taken training courses but can't find work because they lack experience.

"Just prior to the pandemic, she finished a pharmacy assistant training [program] at one of the local career colleges, and because of the fact ... she has no experience, she's unable to get a job in that field," Worsley said.

Economic recovery

Jeff Yip, 30, is a born and raised Albertan who works as a petroleum engineer in the oil-and-gas industry. He's married with two daughters aged one and three. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative but more liberal when it comes to social issues.

He says that with energy prices bouncing back this year, he hasn't felt this much optimism in the industry since prices sank in 2014-15.

He lists economic recovery as one of his top issues and he would prefer to see less government intervention.

"I think economic recovery comes from, like us, it comes from those participating in the economy."

"I think in Alberta, acutely, we've seen a lot of cases where government can tend to get in the way of that. And so I guess I'm probably less looking for parties that are going to create economic recovery and more ones that are just not going to stop it from naturally occurring.

He's referring to the lengthy approval process for large scale, energy infrastructure projects, particularly pipelines that carry crude oil from Alberta to export markets.

Protesters rally against the Trans Mountain pipeline project in Vancouver in December 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

"There's a big chill … I don't think anyone's willing to put forward big, new bold proposals," said Yip.

"If we want to keep growing, specifically in Alberta the resource sector, like, that would be the thing that would get me the most excited, would be somebody who is willing to say like, 'here's at least a path forward for how big infrastructure projects like this could be built.'"

He would also like to see a more balanced environmental policy "that isn't one that's throwing one of our most important industries under the bus at the same time."

He also agrees with Worsley when it comes to Canada's growing debt levels. 

"Being a millennial in Alberta, you are basically, probably, the most exposed to a massive debt load from anyone else in the country, because we're going to have to pay off, kind of per capita, a disproportionate share of that," said Yip.

Taxes top issue for Albertans

A recent national survey by the Angus Reid Institute that included 158 Albertans suggests top issues in the Prairie province are taxes, transparency and honesty in government, management of the deficit, improving access to health care and climate change.

The online survey was conducted Aug. 20-23 and included 1,692 Canadians (158 Albertans). The estimated margin of error for the Alberta results is plus or minus eight percentage points 19 times out of 20. The survey was commissioned and paid for by the Angus Reid Institute.

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.


Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.

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