North Okanagan-Shuswap residents got their first side-by-side look at their riding’s federal candidates at the first All Candidates Forum of 2019.
The Armstrong Centennial Theatre was at near capacity Wednesday night as questions were thrown to the five candidates following their two-minute opening statements.
The event, hosted by the Armstrong Chamber of Commerce, saw a wide range of topics, with candidates spending time on some topics that were predictable (taxation, climate change) and lingering on some that were perhaps less so (gun control, immigration and the efficacy of the justice system).
B.C’s forestry industry was an early-mentioned concern, and candidates were eager to convey their support of the industry to a community that saw reductions announced at the Armstrong Tolko mill earlier that day.
NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu is from Mackenzie, a town that’s been rocked by recent mill shutdowns, and she spoke to her connection to this community.
“My family relied on sawmills, and forestry was the backbone of many towns like Mackenzie and Terrace.”
Sandhu pointed to a report with 60 recommendations put out by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries on Tuesday. “They align very well with the NDP platform,” she said. “I will be committed to working with (the council) because I know that for a lot of people forestry is bread and butter.”
Green candidate Marc Reinarz likewise sympathized with mill workers, and blamed poor industry management as having created the current situation.
“We have mismanaged forestry in the sense that we’ve been exporting raw logs to the extent that we were dumping them down to the States, and today mills are crying for product which they can’t afford anymore.”
A resident’s question on the candidates’ plans to protect future generations by mitigating climate change drew an applause from the crowd. Sandhu and Reinarz were joined by Liberal candidate Cindy Derkaz in calling for significant attention to the climate change file, each propping up their respective party’s platforms.
“I’m running as an advocate for the environment,” said Derkarz, “and I think in situations of farms in this area we are going to have tremendous changes in climate and weather that’s going to affect your crops.” Derkaz spoke to the need to, “stay with the program,” in other words to stick with the Liberals’ environmental plan, and with commitments like the Kyoto and Paris accords.
For Conservative candidate Mel Arnold who’s held the seat for the last four years, the night was about proving that he and his party are serious about environmental policy. After fending off accusations from a few public questioners that he’d suggested climate change wasn’t human-caused back in 2015, Arnold took multiple opportunities to advocate for the climate plan his party unveiled in June.
“Andrew Scheer, our leader, has rolled out our real plan for climate change and the environment. It deals with incentives and innovation in Canada that we can market across the world.”
The issue of gun control – too much of it – was put to the panel. People’s Party of Canada candidate Kyle H. Delfing was the most strongly in favour of firearm sovereignty and repealing Bill C-67. “It’s no good for farmers,” he said.
Derkaz was adamant that the bill is not an unreasonable restriction on guns. “I want to bust the myth that (we’re) going into people’s homes and taking away firearms,” she said.
Delfing – a political first-timer – was quick to clarify his position: “They’re legislating the guns out of your hands, they’re not taking them.”
As with most electoral forums, taxes were a major divider, with the Greens and Liberals generally supporting more government spending than their Conservatives and PPC counterparts.
Candidates will meet again at the Environmental All-Candidates Forum on Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Schubert Centre in Vernon. The free event is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. but people are invited to come early to read answers to “green” questions provided to the candidates in August. The candidates answers are also planned to be made available just before the forum at www.sensociety.org.