ALBERTA
08/19/2014 01:04 EDT | Updated 08/19/2014 01:59 EDT

Alberta Tory Leadership Candidates Face Off Over Health Care, Party Memberships At Debate

CP

Alberta’s three candidates for premier faced off in a heated debate Monday night, as frontrunner Jim Prentice’s views on health care reform were shot down by competitors.

Leadership candidates for Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party — Prentice, Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk — gathered at the Ukrainian Youth Complex in north Edmonton.

Prentice, who is currently leading in polls, drew fire for his view that the Alberta Health Services board should be replaced. In June 2013, the board was fired after it ignored Health Minister Fred Hornes’ command and gave bonuses to executives, reports the Calgary Herald.

“I’m talking about a board of respected Albertans who are doing this to keep an eye on what is happening in the system,” said Prentice, defending his views.

In response, Lukaszuk said the board has been restructured too many times and that Albertans aren't concerned with the corporate structure of the entity.

“Most of the issues that Albertans complain about have nothing to do with a corporate structure of the entity, they have to do with front line delivery,” he said, reports CBC News.

Lukaszuk and Mclver also took turns targeting Prentice for handing out free PC party memberships, which typically cost $10.

Prentice defended himself by saying his campaign had confirmed party rules before giving out memberships, adding that increased membership allows more Albertans vote in the race.

Unconvinced, Luzaszuk remarked Prentice had only found a “legal loophole” to hand out memberships.

Candidates also discussed issues related to education, temporary foreign workers and resource royalty rates with largely similar views, according to CBC News.

Members of the province’s PC party will vote for their new leader Sept. 6. But the saga to replace Alison Redford may not end there.

Prentice, who is positioned for victory but does not have a seat in the house, recently told the Edmonton Journal he will call a byelection to gain a seat if he wins the vote.

“Clearly getting into the house quickly is a priority, preferably in time for the fall session.”

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