Liberal candidate Kent Hehr points to government spending as proof he's delivered
Hehr says Calgary needs a voice at the table but others unsure more spending matters
Kent Hehr, the Liberal candidate in Calgary Centre, says he's helped ensure the Trudeau government didn't forget about Calgary.
By his calculations, Hehr — who is the riding's sitting MP — says the Trudeau government has delivered $2.8 billion in infrastructure spending for Calgary since the Liberal government was elected in 2015.
He says that's double what Stephen Harper's Conservative government brought to the city during its decade in power.
"I thought that they were taking this city for granted and that we weren't getting our fair share of investments in things that will move this city forward," said Hehr.
According to Hehr, here are the top spending items by the Liberal federal government from 2016 to 2019:
- Green Line LRT: $1.53 billion.
- Gas tax fund: $342 million.
- SW Ring Road: $333.6 million.
- Springbank Dam: $178 million.
- BMO Centre : $167 million.
- Affordable housing: $100.6 million.
Hehr is seeking another term in the Oct. 21 federal election and has printed up signs and election material extolling the government's spending record.
When asked if voters think this is a good thing, he responds, "Of course."
"That's my job. To go into people's offices and say, 'Hey, we're the fourth largest city in Canada. We deserve the fourth highest amount of funding,'" he said.
As of Thursday morning, Elections Canada listed seven candidates vying to win the seat in Calgary Centre (listed alphabetically by surname):
- Thana Boonlert: Green Party.
- Eden Gould: Animal Protection Party.
- Kent Hehr: Liberal Party.
- Chevy Johnston: People's Party.
- Greg McLean: Conservative Party.
- Dawid Pawlowski: Christian Heritage Party.
- Michael Pewtress: Independent.
Political scientist isn't sure it will resonate
But a political scientist says that while Hehr is merely pointing out the government's record, she isn't sure it will resonate.
Lori Williams, who teaches political studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said voters have other bones to pick with the Trudeau Liberals.
From Liberal policies on pipelines and the energy industry to ethics scandals, Williams says Calgary voters may not agree it's a virtue for Grit candidates to be selling bigger spending.
"There's this attitude, this anger, this animosity toward the under-appreciation of Alberta's contribution to Canada and the focus of that anger is on Justin Trudeau currently," she said.
"So I'm not sure these reasons are going to change the feelings that a number of Calgarians have about Justin Trudeau."
The Liberal government has also pointed to the fact that it spent $4.5 billion to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan in order to keep alive the planned expansion and take more Alberta oil to the west coast.
However, that pipeline expansion still isn't in operation and it's facing legal challenges.
Williams says that fact overshadows what Hehr is trying to do to sway votes.
"There are lots of things that Kent Hehr can point to that have helped Calgary and that have been done by the federal Liberals," she said. "That is not moving the needle."
Calgary Conservatives respond
A high-profile Conservative Party candidate in Calgary said she's not sure bragging about federal spending in Calgary is a sure-fire vote winner.
Michelle Rempel, who is running for re-election in Calgary Nose Hill, said she'd fact-check the Liberal numbers.
Hehr says that when the Conservatives formed the federal government from 2006 to 2015, their top spending items in Calgary and area were:
- Gas tax fund: $490 million.
- Highways and roads: $111.6 million.
- Culture: $100 million.
- Public transit: $79 million.
- Active transportation: $297,000.
She says Liberal energy policies are hurting Calgarians and points out that it was the Harper Conservatives who committed $1.5 billion toward the Green Line — the city's next LRT line.
Both the Tories and the Liberals are beating their chests about funding the transit megaproject. However, not one kilometre of that project has been built yet.
"I think for a lot of Calgarians, they're watching their taxes go up. They are watching their jobs being lost because of Justin Trudeau. They are watching things not get built," she said.
Combine that with the fact Rempel feels many people in her riding are uncomfortable with the rate of spending that's adding to the national debt.
"Spending isn't a metric," said Rempel. "I think Kent is desperately trying to deflect from his voting record on things like the small business tax increase."