There was definitely less name-calling and party-bashing than at the federal leaders’ debate, but the five candidates at last Tuesday’s Golden All-Candidates Forum answered questions on just as broad a range of topics—from the war in Afghanistan to Twitter— as Harper and company did under bright studio lights in Ottawa just a few weeks ago.
All five candidates, including Conservative candidate David Wilks, Mark Shmigelsky representing the NDP, Bill Green for the Green Party, Independent candidate Brent Bush and Liberal candidate Betty Aitchison participated in Tuesday’s forum — quite a feat considering they’ve only all been in attendance at two out of the five all-candidate forums in the Kootenay-Columbia Riding.
In a question of what order the candidates should make their closing remarks in, Shmigelsky made sure Wilks, who has been called on lately for his lack of participation these debates, knew he’s been watching the Conservative candidate’s behaviour.
“We all have our own little system,” joked Shmigelsky and motioning towards Green, Bush and Aitchison. “We’ve done this five times. Wilks here has only gone through it twice.”
Questions around education, safeguarding front-line services and small business tax were generally answered from the perspective of each party’s platform, but when it came to the deeply controversial Jumbo Glacier Resort issue the candidates moved from a political to personal perspective.
Wilks emphasized that the RDEK has no authority on zoning of crown land.
“My personal view is that I don’t care if Jumbo goes ahead or doesn’t,” said Wilks. “I really don’t care. What I care about is process.”
Shmigelsky, who was a member of the RDEK board when Wilks was Director, said that local government has the right and responsibility to represent the people in the area.
“We don’t abdicate responsibility to a higher government,” he said. “If David can’t stand up for the people on an issue like this, how can you trust he will stand up for any other issues?”
Shmigelsky is referring to the 2009 RDEK decision, which was moved by Wilks, to send the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort decision back to the Provincial government.
Green, who has been working with the Ktunaxa Nation for the past 16 years, brought the First Nations’ point of view to the table.
“When they (Ktunaxa Nation) said no in 1993, for both profoundly spiritual and cultural reasons, they really meant it.”
The mood was lightened a bit when a 19-year-old Golden local asked the question: “I am a first time voter. If you were to tweet me one message, what would you say?”
Although some of the candidates were unsure of exactly how long a tweet is, they all responded in a relatively concise manner, with answers ranging from “Vote for someone that empowers you” to “You wouldn’t let your grandparents choose who you date, then why let them choose your government?” to “You are the future that will guide Canada.”
There was a long silence in the room when an audience member asked Wilks what he thinks of the Conservative government’s opposition to the Insite supervised injection facility in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“I have mixed feelings,” Wilks finally said. “I have seen the devastation of drugs. Some heroin addicts cope well, but most don’t. I struggle with providing a site area that could potentially give the impression that these drugs are okay.”
He finished by saying that his political answer is yes, close the site, but his human answer is “don’t do it.”
The last question of the night came from a high school Social Studies teacher who asked how Wilks could support a party that was found in contempt of parliament.
Wilks spoke of the process the conservative government went through; that he believed all information was provided to the parliamentary committee and that he accepts and supports Harper’s process.
Shmigelsky, on the other hand, believes we are sliding down a “slippery slope” when it comes to democracy in our country.
“This is the first time in history a government in the whole Commonwealth has been found in contempt.”
In closing comments, Independent candidate Bush—who seems to market himself with a fairly one-themed platform but answered the questions with a thorough understanding of the issues— differentiated himself from the other candidates by admitting that he understands his position amongst the other candidates.
“Without a doubt, I am the underdog in this campaign,” said Bush. “But this is a campaign for new ideas.”
Green said he admires this town for the issues we are concerned with. He finished by bringing up the negative impact strategic voting has on small parties like the Greens.
“My campaign is about true democracy,” said Green. “If we want our future corrected, we need to vote for it. We need to vote for the positive vision we want for our future.”
Wilks’ final comments were short and concise: He will work for a stable economy, low taxes, and funding the military, Tough on Crime legislation and an inclusive health care system.