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B.C. Southern Interior candidates answer questions

With the election next week

The election takes place next week with standing MP for the B.C. Southern Interior Alex Atamanenko (NDP) running against the Conservatives’ Stephen Hill, Shan Lavell of the Liberal Party and the Green Party’s Bryan Hunt.

We asked each member two questions regarding the riding.

1) What is the single biggest issue in this campaign as it relates to the Southern Interior?

2) How does a constituent within your riding measure the work being done by their MP?

Here are their answers.

Alex Atamanenko (NDP)

1) Health care is one of the biggest issues of concern to the people of B.C. Southern Interior.

Under current provincial and federal governments, our health care services have diminished. The closure of the Castlegar Hospital has placed added stress on the Trail Regional Hospital.

At the same time the Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson is suffering from a serious shortage of technologists leaving them unable to offer echocardiography services.

We continue to suffer from a serious shortage of doctors and nurses throughout the region.

We have seen the tragedy of senior couples being separated to face the end of their lives alone. We also see seniors being placed in acute care spaces because there’s nowhere else for them to go.

Stephen Harper has failed to defend Canada’s Health Charter, resulting in the costly privatization of our publicly funded health care services.  If he is allowed to continue, the service will only get worse.

In this election, it is paramount that Canadians elect a government that actually believes in strengthening our health care system. Harper and his costly privatization agenda simply cannot be trusted to negotiate a Health Accord that will begin to address our urgent health care needs for the long term.

I believe Jack Layton is the only leader that we can all count on to deliver a strong, properly funded national health care system for all Canadians.

2) I’m sure there are multiple ways that my constituents will measure the work that I have been doing as their MP over the last five years.

Most of all, I suspect they will judge me on how well I have learned about and been responsive to the issues affecting their daily lives that the federal government has a hand in.

Many will note whether I stood up to protect our riding’s social and economic interests when government was making cuts to important programs or negotiating free trade agreements such as the one going on now between Canada and European Union.

How well I shared information about government programs and other incentives for constituents to avail themselves of, could be a factor for some people.

Many individuals will consider whether I was able to help them negotiate with government ministries when they were faced with problems.

Depending on their point of view, many will be conscious of whichever side of an issue I voted on when legislation was being considered by Parliament. I expect that despite my best efforts, some will not always have agreed on every position I have taken.

At the end of the day, the ultimate measure of my work as MP will be if I get the honour of being chosen again to represent the people of the B.C. Southern Interior on Election Day.

Stephen Hill (Conservative)

1) “It’s the economy stupid!” – Bill Clinton

Jobs, jobs and more jobs!

According to George Penfold, Regional Innovation Research Chair for Rural Economic Development at Selkirk College, we have lost 7,000 jobs in the past two years – half on the East Kootenay and half in the West Kootenay.

This gives us the distinction of being in last place on the employment front. While the rest of Canada and B.C. recovers from the recession, we sit down here floundering without leadership.

Our schools continue to close, our health care is under attack and our children and grandchildren continue to move away for economic opportunities in Conservative areas, like Alberta and Kelowna.

This needs to change! We need to create an economic development strategy for B.C. Southern Interior.  We need to build on the key assets and core competencies of this great region.

The re-opening of the Midway mill has created renewed hope and confidence in the community.

It has brought the community of Midway/Greenwood and Rock Creek together for common purpose.

It has excited School District 51, with the prospect of new students to protect schools.

This is what B.C. Southern Interior needs and it needs it today.

2) Easy. Did your MP deliver?  Did your economy improve?  Did your community move forward or backward?

Did your community gain schools, hospitals, airports, new businesses, roads and rails or did you watch these disappear?

Did your children and grandchildren return to work in the area or did they leave for greener pastures? Did you watch as your downtown retail sector filled with new stores or close and shutter the windows?

Did your MP assist in your applications and funding requests or did others step in to complete what he could not?

Did your MP vote for the budgets that provided funding to local businesses or did he vote against these budgets?

Did your MP involve himself in municipal property tax issues at the detriment of local business?

Did your MP waste valuable time and effort on issues that had 99 per cent probability of failure while our region suffered?

Did your MP vote to cause this election that 63 per cent of Canadians are angry and upset about having?

These are the questions the voters need to ask their MP.

If the answers are favourable, re-elect.  If the answers cause you concern, it is time for a change.

Shan Lavell (Liberal)


1) The single biggest issue in B.C. Southern Interior is for people to have affordable housing. People need to have their basic needs met before they can respond to opportunities and challenges. This would be followed by child-care options then commitment to healthy environment through healthy business practices.

2) A constituent within my riding could measure my work by how accessible I am in building relationships with them, how quickly I can influence colleagues in Ottawa to move on issues crucial to the riding and how encouraged they feel to participate in solution-focused debate and action taking.

And finally, on my ability to engage federal, provincial and municipal or regional leadership in working together for our riding goals.

Bryan Hunt (Green Party)

1) To me, the biggest issue in this campaign is jobs.

We have the highest rate of unemployment in the province – this needs to be addressed.

Most see the environment and economy as things that are at odds.

As an environmentalist and businessman, I know this is incorrect; the two can work hand-in-hand.

The Green Party has many solid plans for a prosperous economy but I will outline one of my own ideas here that I know

will benefit our riding: mandated telecommuting.

By telecommuting I mean working remotely from your home computer. I think it’s time that our government takes a heavier hand with the corporate world in Canada.

I think we need to be telling corporations that a certain percentage of their workforce that is able to telecommute now must do so.

Further to this, it must be enforced that there be no geographical prejudice with regards to hiring telecommute positions.

With this in place, jobs that were normally open only to large urban centers like Vancouver or Toronto are now also open to our riding. It’s the way the world is going, the way Canada should be going and our riding can lead the way.

2) To measure the success of the work being done by your local MP, you have to view things from two different perspectives.

First, you must look at what is being done in parliament by your local MP or otherwise (as decisions by other MPs can affect you personally) and decide if work being done corresponds to your own values and beliefs.

Does it benefit you as an individual or not? Next you must temper this with looking at the whole riding.

Regardless of whether decisions being made by your MP or otherwise are meeting your own requirements, are they benefiting the riding as a whole?

This only measures the actions being taken though, not the inactions.

You must then look at the riding from a personal and holistic view and determine if the level of service in the riding is slipping.

This could be health care, education, etc. If it is, this means your MP or your government may be letting you down.

These are just simple gauges you can use to determine the effectiveness of the work being done on your behalf.

I believe that MPs themselves should look at the work they are doing with the same lens.

Where to vote on May 2

Rob Switzer, the returning officer  for Elections Canada for the B.C. Southern Interior, reminds residents to check their voter card for the proper polling location – voters will be voting at either the Senior’s Hall in City Park or the Gospel Chapel on 7048 Donaldson Drive and must vote at the proper station.

He also says that those who aren’t registered yet can register in conjunction with voting.