There may not have been a knock out blow, but there were quite a few shots delivered on Oct. 7 at the all-candidates forum at GFSS. More than 200 people showed up for the forum, which was sponsored by the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
All five candidates were in attendance: Richard Cannings, NDP; Samantha Troy, Green; Marshall Neufeld, Conservative; David Gray, independent; and Connie Denesiuk, Liberal.
Michael Strukoff was the moderator and asked the first couple of questions including how would you ensure that the Boundary was well represented in the Southern Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.
In her answer, Denesiuk mentioned her experience as a school trustee and president of the B.C. School Trustees Association and that she knows “how important it is that all voices are heard equally.”
“I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the riding and making sure I’ve been having Coffee with Connie and Campfires with Connie,” she said, “(I’ve been taking advantage of) every opportunity to meet with people in the community. I want to learn the issues so I can properly represent people.”
Troy said that living in Rossland, she is a neighbour to those in the Boundary. “Being in Rossland, I think I’ve got more accessibility to the communities on this side of the riding,” she said. “My issue will be more about how to connect with constituents in the Okanagan.”
Troy said if she was fortunate enough to win she would open up offices both in Rossland or Trail and in the Okanagan to have a physical presence in both areas.
Gray, who struggled with his mic, said that the economy was the main issue in this election and that, “As our national economy soars the whole economy gets swept along.”
Cannings said he is quite familiar with the Grand Forks region as his wife is from here and his in-laws all live here.
“I know this riding,” he said. “It’s very diverse. I’ve talked to almost every mayor and councillors in every community as well as advocates. If elected I will have two offices one in the West Kootenay and one in the Okanagan.”
Neufeld concurred that it was a large riding and he had a number of ideas to bring it together.
“Like the other candidates, I would have offices in both the West Kootenay and the South Okanagan,” he said. “To properly represent the riding though you have to do more. You have to have the time and the energy and commitment to travel throughout the riding. I would be constantly traveling in this position. I think it would be very important to represent the whole riding.”
Neufeld added that it would be very important to him to be in contact with all the mayors in the area as well as community groups and what their concerns are.
When asked by Strukoff what would make each candidate a good choice for Member of Parliament Neufeld talked about his experience in Ottawa as an assistant to Stockwell Day. “I have an understanding of Parliament having spent two and a half years in the Parliament buildings,” said Neufeld. “I was the assistant who would sit in the Parliament buildings and I was always working on his MP duties…and working on constituency files that we needed to advocate for.”
He said he would work hard as a strong advocate for the riding.
Troy talked about having Canada reduce its fossil fuel dependency and move away from oil.
“I’d be a good candidate because I really care, I’m present, I’m here for our riding,” she said.
Gray said he entered the race because he believes that his policies should be heard.
“I would hope that over the course of the remaining weeks that the voters of this riding truly think about what my policies represent and by casting a vote for those policies sends a message to the country that we need change,” he said.
Cannings said that he was a scientist and an ecologist and he thinks, “We need more of a voice from science and ecology in Parliament.”
Cannings added that he has had other broad experience with other groups such as the BC Environmental Appeals Board and Nature Conservancy of Canada and knows how the country works.
“I have a real sense of how the country works at that level through direct, long-time chats with these people,” he said.
Denesiuk told the audience that she wanted to get things done. She said she always wants to move towards action. “Everything I’ve been involved with has been geared towards making things better and measurable action,” she said. “My father had a saying, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get.’ As far as I’m concerned, the harder I work, the luckier we as a riding will get.”
Denesiuk added that besides her strong work ethic she also has a strong business sense, which is also important for the job.
“One thing I’m good at is bringing people together,” she said. “I will work hard to bring this riding together, to bring the people together for the good of the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.”
After the initial two questions from MC Strukoff, the people in attendance were asked to step up to the supplied microphones and ask questions.
There were many good questions although many people felt it necessary to have their questions accompanied by a long preamble of their thoughts.
Questions ranged from how you would deal with off-shore tax loops to literacy to corporate tax rates to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership).
Several times the questions from the audience as well as some comments from the other candidates were thinly-veiled and sometimes not so thinly-veiled attacks on Prime Minister Harper’s policies.
Neufeld, the Conservative candidate, quite often had to defend himself and his party.
“I’m sorry ma’am, I listened to you when you asked your question can you please listen to me as I answer,” he said to one lady who interrupted his answer on the TPP question.
Neufeld said the dairy farmers of Canada applauded the TPP deal because, “we have gained them so much access for so little. They are going to be prospering more because of this.”
Denesiuk, the Liberal candidate, said that the people don’t trust Harper to negotiate with the best interests of Canadians in mind. “And it’s secretive so we don’t really know the facts,” she added.
She said that trade with the other countries is important but that Canada needs to add value to products before they leave the country, “so that we can keep jobs right here in Canada and we need to ensure all the trade deals must put Canadians first.”
Green candidate Samantha Troy said that the TPP merely reinforces Canada’s position as a mere supplier of raw resources. “Maybe the dairy farmers are relieved because they’ve been offered ‘bribery’ money to make it not seem so bad,” she said.
When asked about whether their party would bring about electoral form and switch from the ‘outdated’ first past the post to some type of proportional representation, Denesiuk brought up Liberal leader Justin Trudeau who has said this would be the last first past the post election.
“There are many questions to look at in terms of electoral reform including should we look at mandatory voting,” said Denesiuk. “What we’ll do is commit within the first 18 months of forming government to have a multi-partisan committee…to talk to Canadians about what is the best model. We don’t want just a model, we want the best model.”
Neufeld said he though the Liberal position was ‘imprudent’ without going to the Canadian people and having a referendum. “I am open to having different models of government,” he said, adding that the current system (Westminster) has developed over many years. “I do have resistance to a proportional system particularly in the lower house especially a country as diverse and large as Canada we need to have local geographic representation. We need someone who lives here to represent us.”
Independent Brian Gray said he would support a proportional-type system. “There are other jurisdictions around the world that use these types of models,” he said. “We should scrutinize these and see what works and perhaps adopt it entirely or adapt it to our country.”
He also recommended trying proportional representation on a smaller scale such as provincial or municipal level.
Troy responded to Neufeld’s commenting that the last try at election reform failed (2009).
“I wouldn’t call it failure when the ceiling was 60 per cent approval which had to be achieved in every single riding,” she said. “That seems not very appropriate at all. I would love to see that brought back down to 50 per cent plus one…for some reason 57 per cent (voting for reform) wasn’t majority enough.”
With line-ups reported at many advance polls, it appears that this year’s federal election is generating a lot of interest.
Election day is Monday, Oct. 19. Advanced voting has concluded.
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