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Okanagan Coquihalla candidates address the issues

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The Western News asked a series of questions to the Okanagan Coquihalla candidates in the May 2 election.

Dan Albas — Conservative

What are the main issues facing the residents of Okanagan Coquihalla?

This is a wonderfully diverse riding, from Fintry to Vaseaux Lake and from Naramata to Logan Lake. Our communities are all very unique, however, the most common concern that I hear knocking on doors throughout the riding revolves around jobs and the economy.

I am just not hearing anyone asking for more taxes and huge spending increases, if anything quite the opposite.

I am also hearing some concerns from citizens who are not happy we are again facing a $300 million election along with some of the negativity they see as part of this election. It is good feedback and I very much value it.

How will you ensure that these issues will be addressed by the federal government?

Fortunately the Conservative government has a proven track record of lowering taxes for Canadians, continuing to create jobs and still helping families and seniors while ensuring Canada remains one of the world’s strongest economies in these very challenging economic times.

Locally, we have put people to work upgrading community infrastructure and I believe in positive relations at all levels of government so we can continue to build on our success and keep our communities moving forward in an affordable manner.

We cannot go back to the days where previous governments continually downloaded costs onto the provinces. The results of these policies were very damaging to our communities.

Why are you the best choice to represent Okanagan-Coquihalla?

One of the great things about being a Canadian is that it is the people and not the politicians who get to decide who is the best choice to be their member of Parliament.

I am running on my track record as a councillor, where my platform was a commitment to keep in touch with constituents, take their concerns forward and to vote against expensive and unnecessary expenditures such as pay raises for politicians.

Constituents must come first and I am committed to keeping my constituents as my priority in Ottawa.

How would you explain politics to your eight-year-old niece or nephew?

I feel it is important that as an adult I take great care when explaining things like `politics` to impressionable young minds.

I have, however, explained to my daughters the role of government. How it is responsible to provide roads, schools, hospitals and other important services to its citizens and that we chose people in our community to serve in government through elections. The people we have chosen are the ones who will work with others to make the decisions on how these services are best provided.

I also point out that often people have different ideas on the best decisions to make while in government and that Daddy goes to work every day to find out what the people in the neighbourhood think are the best ideas. Kids are pretty quick too, they know Mommy usually has the best ideas around our house.

 

 

Dan Bouchard — Green Party

What are the main issues facing the residents of Okanagan Coquihalla?

There is a high level of unemployment in the Okanagan. In the last couple of years we’ve seen many of our manufacturing and good wage jobs disappear amidst the global downturn. Coupled with the cost of living in the Okanagan, we are seeing many folks struggle with the fallout.

We are also seeing our municipal governments struggling to make ends meet. And even though they provide us with clean drinking water, waste management, emergency services, and a host of other essential things, they receive a very small share of the ‘tax pie’. Revenue flows to provincial and federal governments easily, while leaving municipalities to essentially fend for themselves. This imbalance needs to be addressed.

Pensions and health care are a concern for many retirees. We have seniors struggling to make ends meet and they are mad about it. In Canada, of all places, we should be able to take care of our elders.

Prison spending. National crime stats are going down, but we’re hearing plans to spend billions on new prisons. It’s been brought up at every public forum to date. People do not want to see Canada turn into a police state where mental health and addictions services lose out to a ‘reactive incarceration’ process.

How will you ensure that these issues will be addressed by the federal government?

Government should be funding the infrastructure that will enable our middle class to rebuild itself. We need those green-collar jobs that will be resilient in the 21st century. These are jobs in renewable energy, IT, and creative or knowledge-based industries. We need to work smarter and grab new market share in industries that have a bright future.

Direct support for municipalities targeted at water and sewer upgrades, brownfield remediation, public transit, youth employment and affordable housing initiatives. Money will come from pulling subsidies to oil and gas and putting a price on carbon and pollution. We need to account for the things we don’t want, so we can fund the things we do want like strong local communities. It’s called true cost accounting ... and even Preston Manning (an old reformer) is calling for it.

Increase funding to CPP and decrease the strain on the GIS. This would save tons in administration costs alone. Re: health care, create a Crown corporation that will purchase drugs in bulk by negotiating head to head with pharmaceutical companies and drive down the fastest rising cost in health care.

Invest in mental health and addictions services. Reduce a need for more jail cels by making sure the biggest portion of inmates get the resources they need to become productive members of society.

Why are you the best choice to represent Okanagan Coquihalla?

I represent a way for the Okanagan’s aging population to bridge both age and political gaps. Many of our boomers are starting to think about the kind of legacy they’re going to leave, and a young professional working with the Green Party’s platform is the best way to help them with that. In my professional life, I am a lumber broker. We help producers find homes for their products in distant markets. That’s exactly what an MP should do: take the collective will of our riding, and go to Ottawa to find people to buy into that. I can do that for the Okanagan, and the Green Party was built to facilitate that type of an MP.

How would you explain politics to your eight-year-old niece or nephew?

Politics is like making sausage. Everything goes in the grinder, and out shoots an end product. I would encourage them to affect the outcome of that process — as they will always sleep better knowing they have participated in the creation of something bigger than themselves.

 

David Finnis — NDP

What are the main issues facing the residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla?

In my many discussions with citizens from around the riding, health care is probably the top issue; from the lack of home care, to the closing of hospitals in Summerland and Merritt, to the need for more doctors.

Employment and the need for more well-paying jobs is another concern. The loss of jobs has hit many communities very hard; especially the loss of well-paying jobs.  Small business owners have mentioned the negative impact of the HST being introduced during the middle of the recession.

With rising gas prices, the issue of food security resonates with many people, and the need to protect agricultural land and ensure that our farmers and orchardists can remain economically viable. In addition, rising food costs mean people will have less disposable income to be spent in local businesses, leading to the potential closing of some of these.

The impacts of climate change (severe weather events, dying trees from pine beetle) are visible across the riding. People are discussing the risk to water quality, the impact on the local economy from loss of forest sector jobs and the increasing danger of wildfires.

Pensions and financial security for seniors is another issue that comes up in every community. There is widespread acknowledgement that many seniors are living below the poverty line, and that raising the GIS is long overdue. Strengthening the CPP is very important since so many workers do not have a company pension plan or the salary to contribute to RRSPs and TFSAs.

How will you ensure these issues will be addressed by the federal government?

The NDP would add home care and long-term care to the Canada Health Act and ensure annual dedicated transfers to B.C.  This is more cost effective than caring for people in nursing homes or acute care hospitals. Train and hire more doctors and nurses to tackle hallway health care in our hospitals and ensure every British Columbian has access to a family doctor (five million Canadians currently do not have a family doctor).

Rather than continuing to provide tax giveaways to the largest corporations and banks who tend to add these funds to their cash reserves rather than investing in new technology, equipment or create jobs, the NDP would lower the small business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent, which would greatly assist that sector of the economy which creates the majority of jobs. The NDP would also provide a job creation tax credit for every new job created in B.C.   In addition, the NDP would extend broadband access to every corner of B.C.

The NDP would  introduce a Canadian Food Strategy that will combine health goals, environmental goals, food quality objectives, local and organic choices for consumers across the country. The NDP would hire 200 new food inspectors.

The NDP would re-introduce the Climate Change Accountability Act which was passed by the House of Commons but defeated by un-elected Conservative senators.

This science-based legislation will ensure that Canada meets the long-term target of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.  We would establish a national transit strategy to reduce traffic congestion.

Why are you the best choice to represent Okanagan Coquihalla?

I am a graduate of the University of Victoria and worked as a Legislative intern at the B.C. Legislature.

I have been elected three times to Summerland council, and these nine years have provided me with a wealth of experience that I feel will assist me as an MP.

As councillors, we dealt with large projects involving millions of dollars of expenditures, so I am familiar with the budgetary process and the oversight that such projects and expenditures require. I am committed to the need to share that information with taxpayers and citizens.

Throughout my life I have been a volunteer in all the communities where I have lived.   In the 20-plus years that I have lived in the Okanagan I have served on various local boards and organizations which has provided me with an understanding of many of the issues facing this riding.

During my nine years on municipal council I brought forward a variety of innovative ideas, especially with regards to moving towards a greener economy and the need to build more sustainable communities.

I have the passion, the enthusiasm and the commitment to work to solve the many issues that face this riding and our country. And I have the ability to work collaboratively with others to do so.

How would you explain politics to your eight-year-old niece or nephew?

I think the obvious answer would be to explain in very simple terms how democracy works — think playground politics — and some of the fundamentals that Harper doesn’t seem to get.

When you live in a society with this many people, we need to organize it in some way, which means that some people need to be appointed to lead the society.  In order to be fair, everyone is allowed to vote for who the leader should be. That person will then represent all those people and think about their interests when making decisions.

Sometimes, though, the leaders we’ve picked don’t think about everyone’s interests and do things that are only good for themselves or their friends. So to stop that from happening, we have people whose jobs are to check to see that our leaders are being fair.

This is the role of the “opposition” in our Parliament. They provide alternate ideas about how our country should be run and they try to ensure that the leader (prime minister) acts in the best interests of all.

We also have newspaper, radio, television and the Internet to keep us aware of what is happening in our country, and part of what they do is ask questions of the leader (unfortunately our current leader will only answer four per day).

We also have other people (the auditor general) whose job is to keep track of how the leader spends our money.

 

John Kidder — Liberal

What are the main issues facing the residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla?

I hear four main themes everywhere I go in the riding: health care, support for impoverished elders, job creation and environment.

How will you ensure that these issues are addressed by the federal government?

I have the great advantage that they all are addressed in the Liberal Party platform, the “Family Pack”. It describes clearly how a Liberal government will focus government on to these areas, by shifting emphasis and expenditures. Among other things, we will:

Fund and enable home care, a national prescription drug plan, and incentives for doctors and nurses in rural areas, and the prime minister will convene an immediate summit of the premiers to sort out the changes needed to deal with our aging population and the new health demands we know we’re going to face.

Immediately increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for impoverished seniors by $700 million.

Change the tax structure and build out the high-speed internet infrastructure to encourage investment in innovative small businesses, especially in rural areas.

Bring the environment back as a pressing national and international issue, and deal with the nation’s fresh water problems.

We can do this by shifting expenditures and focus from jets, jails and corporate tax cuts to families, communities and the environment.

Why are you the best choice to represent Okanagan-Coquihalla?

An election is an extended job interview — I am asking the voters of Okanagan-Coquihalla to hire me as their member of Parliament.

I have years of experience in agriculture, industry and environmental work. I have directed government programs in rural areas. I have a record of success in business over 30 years. I have volunteered for, managed and directed community organizations in arts, advocacy and industry. I am well educated. I have been a member of the Liberal Party of Canada for 30 years, and was for a period one of the founding members of Green Party in British Columbia. I know how Ottawa works and how to get things done.

I speak truth, and I make decisions based on knowledge not on ideology. I have been successful in bringing consensus to groups in conflict, and in leading people and organizations through crisis to sustainable success.  I have built a strong constituency office for an MP who rivalled Stockwell Day in his service to constituents.

I have the right skills, experience and personal ethics to be an excellent member of Parliament. I believe I am the best candidate for the job, and I look forward to serving.

How would you explain politics to your eight-year-old niece or nephew?

When I talk to kids about politics, I use metaphors they can understand. Without going too far in the world of Disney, I talk about how all sorts of different animals use the forest and the grasslands together, just like all the people in the world. The animals can figure out how to live with each other without words because they’re all used to being together. People need to talk about what they need to do to live together. That’s politics.

 

Sean Upshaw — Independent

What are the main issues facing the residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla?

There are three issues that rise to the surface as I talk with the constituents of this area.

Confidence in the economy. Many people are not confident that the economy has actually recovered. If they lack confidence they will turtle their ambitions. They will not step out and improve their small businesses and will play it too cautiously when it comes to investing. This serves to exacerbate the problem.

Distrust for elected officials. The public harbours a simmering disdain for many public officials. Many people feel completely disconnected from the political process, believing politicians are corrupt and seeing elected officials as self serving. This leads to skepticism, which breeds complacency, and complacency always leads to frustration. The recent corruption of the nomination process in this riding is a salient case in point. Fortunately, the public will hold all the power on May 2 and I anticipate changes to this seemingly entrenched reality.

Senior citizens issues. Senior citizens are the backbone of Canada. Much of what we enjoy came as a result of the sacrifices they made to get us here. Yet their issues are set aside or ignored in the interests of less relevant ones. I see so many senior citizens that are frustrated because they feel ignored by their government. Traditionally, seniors vote for Conservative candidates because they know a conservative philosophy is what’s best. And yet they’re being sidelined by some Conservatives.

How will you ensure that these issues will be addressed by the federal government?

By ensuring all of the economic engines and drivers of our area are brought to the attention of the federal government. I will explore every option that Ottawa has to offer in order to make sure our needs are being tended to. It will begin by listening to the pulse of every community in the area, including business leaders, all levels of government and First Nations. I will also draw upon the wisdom of senior citizens’ committees to find out what they expect from their government.

The economy is the life-blood of the community. When it’s healthy it carries “oxygen” to everyone, and the effect is a healthy body, or public if you will. If the economy is anemic then the pulse of individual citizens will be as well. There is a lot of wisdom accumulated in the collective mind of our seniors; this needs to be tapped into. As far as voter distrust is concerned, what better choice is there than an “independent” conservative to address this dilemma directly? I’m willing to call a spade a spade and stand up for the little guy. Some insiders tried to use the political process to slip one by, but I caught them with their hand in the cookie jar. Surely individual integrity is still a mandatory requirement of all elected officials. Isn’t it?

Why are you the best choice to represent Okanagan Coquihalla?

I am mature enough to possess experience in many areas of life. Being the federal representative of this area requires someone who has the depth of character that only first-hand experience provides. I know what it takes to pioneer successful businesses or non-profit foundations: vision, creativity, character, co-operation, endurance and patience. It also requires flexibility and sometimes compromise, as well as an awareness that you are not merely trying to advance your own ambitions but are instead giving yourself over to what is best for the area. In other words it is not about Sean Upshaw; it is about the people.

The obstacles I overcame in this election testify to my ability to respond responsibly when the self-serving actions of others create an injustice that impacts people’s democratic rights. Whenever such actions are displayed, one has two choices: either accept or ignore these actions and become part of the problem, or expose these actions and chart a course that is going to provide a solution. One must be willing to pay the price in order to bring about the right answer. Being politically connected is only valuable if the second choice is taken. Character and integrity can open every political door, and when that door is opened it will have a myriad of opportunities because it has been thrown wide open by integrity.

How would you explain politics to your eight-year-old niece or nephew?

Uncle Sean is going to be the person who is doing everything he can along with the prime minister to make sure all of the people in this area are taken care of. Men and women like me are needed in Ottawa so that when people have problems I can talk to the prime minister and help them out.

 

Dieter Wittel — Independent

What are the main issues facing the residents of Okanagan-Coquihalla?

Even though everybody is on the jobs bandwagon, for the long term: preservation of the beauty and environmental integrity of the Okanagan is more important and will lastly help preserve tourism jobs. On the jobs issue: we have to stop exporting logs (which even Russia does not allow) and we have to add more value or processing to our resources before shipping them out. Affordable post-secondary education is No. 1 on my agenda. Only educated, healthy citizens living in a healthy environment can defend our country against the “takeover” by multinational corps and by emerging superpowers.

How will you ensure that these issues are addressed by the federal government?

As an independent I am not reined in by the excessive power of Ontario and Quebec. Case in point: as soon as  the two westerners, Day and Harper, arrived in Ottawa, we never heard any more in western provinces of the  hotly debated Triple-E senate, and no changes were made to that archaic appointed senate.

Why are you the best choice to represent Okanagan-Coquihalla?

My educational background should be more than adequate, but more importantly I am not a career politician and I don’t  need the job. And most importantly I have been very successful, even at age 20, in rallying public support for burning environmental issues, and have a background as town councillor on a platform of safeguarding taxpayers’ dollars. I fought with the Reform Party and was one of their constituency presidents. My biggest issue now is food safety, water, lands and resources.

I run on my track record of running for office against all odds and without spending significant funds to get results.

How would you explain politics to your eight-year-old niece or nephew?

Politics is a system that ensures that not one single person like a king or queen decides everything of importance for the country. Kings used to rule for life and there was no way on checking up on their decisions or preventing their mistakes.

So really all the king had to do is: Look good on a horse and not fall off it.

Politics is when matters of government are discussed by all involved and then are voted on by politicians that have been elected by the people. Politics is when several people compete for the position of temporary ruler or legislator.

A good politician will have a plan and also listen to his voters and listen to his competitors and once elected he will have to balance his decision between what is best for his country and the majority of his voters.

A politician will never be able to please everybody but he should stick to his original agenda unless there are major changes outside of his control like a catastrophe or war.

Some of the worst politicians turned out to be those who tried to please everybody or tried to appease adversaries, like Neville Chamberlain in Britain before the Second World War.

Exceptional politicians are very rare. They are the ones that were able to lead a country out of big trouble and calamity and give the citizens and the country strength and a new direction.

 

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