Splitting the vote, the relationship between the government and scientists and whether or not the candidates inhaled were some of the topics that came to light at the all-candidates forum held at the Lakeside Resort Monday.
New Democrat candidate for South Okanagan-West Kootenay Richard Cannings, Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk, Conservative candidate Marshall Neufeld and Green Party candidate Samantha Troy answered questions from a media panel on Sept. 21 ranging from local to international issues.
Denesiuk was asked what her response to the criticism that she is a “spoiler candidate” splitting the progressive vote.
“I’m glad this question has come up because I believe everyone has a choice and I believe that what people need to look at (is) which candidate is going to do the best job of representing them in Ottawa,” Denesiuk said.
She said that she has been working for 16 months, while Liberal candidates in prior elections were “parachuted in” when the writ was dropped.
Troy, a latecomer to the lengthy election campaign, announcing her candidacy last week, was posed the same question.
“I don’t want to live in a democracy of fear, so it’s very important that we have a full range of options,” Troy said.
“You cannot split a vote, if you’re an eligible voter you have one vote. Go vote, use the vote.”
Candidates were asked about the Penticton Airport and the delays in the expansion of the lobby and improved ticketing area, which would allow more than one flight to leave at a time.
Candidates mostly agreed that the airport was critical to the riding, with Neufeld calling it “one of the most important issues for the City of Penticton going forward.”
Denesiuk said that during her time as president of the BC School Trustees association she found herself using the Penticton Airport frequently.
“While the staff were extremely friendly and very helpful, the facilities were lacking and I think when it comes to tourism and we want to draw people to the South Okanagan, it’s very difficult for people to make the drive. They might just stay in Kelowna,” Denesiuk said.
Candidates were asked how they would address the issue of low-income housing for seniors and how their parties would address the concern.
“I think housing is the main topic, the main issue here in the South Okanagan,” Cannings said, adding that the region has one of the highest housing costs in B.C. combined with some of the lowest wages in the province.
Cannings said the NDP will enact the Affordable Housing Act to create new housing spaces across the country with an investment of $1 billion in housing infrastructure.
“We’re not just going to talk about affordable housing and housing for seniors, we’re actually going to do something about it,” Denesiuk said, noting that the Liberal party is committing $20 billion over the next 10 years to infrastructure with affordable housing “topping the list.”
Denesiuk said that the Liberal Party would “immediately” increase the guaranteed income supplement for single seniors living alone as well.
Neufeld cited the affordable housing for seniors at Kiwanis Van Horne and similar projects, though they were provincially run programs, he said they were supplemented by funds from the Conservative government.
All but one party’s candidate at the forum called for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
“Every case that has happened is a complete tragedy and should not be taking place,” Neufeld said. “As far as your question of will national inquiry solve this, my answer has to be no that would not be the solution.”
He declined to call the issue race-specific.
“Every time that anyone gets murdered, there’s a kidnapping, people go missing, these are crimes. We need to find those that have committed them and put appropriate resources into place so that they can solve these.”
Neufeld cited the Conservative’s 30 per cent increase in the RCMP budget and the increase in sentencing for those who commit crimes, though Troy disagreed with that policy.
“More security and more police and more jailing of criminals isn’t going to address the issue of women being murdered, aboriginal women,” Troy said to a loud applause.
Cannings called the issue the “main social justice issue” facing Canada today.
“If we had women of all races going missing we would be screaming for action,” Cannings said.
Denesiuk said that an inquiry would be a first step.
The issue of the federal government muzzling scientists came up and the crowd was not friendly to the Conservative candidate.
“They are allowed to answer media inquiries on their papers,” Neufeld said, though much of the crowd was quick to boo his response.
Cannings, an author and biologist, said he was directly involved in instances where scientists weren’t allowed to comment on their work due to government censorship.
“It doesn’t make sense, we’ve got to have a fact-based society,” Cannings said.
Neufeld cited the work of the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland and funds from the Conservative government granted to the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.
However, Denesiuk said that “the scientists I’ve spoken to in that facility are worried.”
“They are not sure if those facilities are going to be around for the long haul. We know the experimental lakes have been shut down in Ontario and there have been other research stations closed down as well,” Denesiuk said.
Much to the amusement of the crowd, candidates were asked if they have ever smoked or ingested marijuana.
Denesiuk said despite growing up in the 1970s she had never ingested marijuana.
She added the Liberal party is the only party that is going to legalize marijuana, taking it out of the hands of criminals, youth and taxing it as a resource.
Neufeld quickly responded “no” adding “frankly I hope we get back to talking about the issues that matter most to people in the audience and the people I talk to on the doorstep” saying the economy, jobs and taxation issues were the issues he’s heard about the most.
Troy and Cannings both admitted to using marijuana in the past.
“I’ve worked with enough tree planters over the years,” Troy said. “It’s in my system somewhere.”
“I did grow up in the 60s and the 70s,” Canning said. “I must admit I did smoke marijuana on a small number of occasions.”
He added the NDP has long been calling for the decriminalization of marijuana.
“We think it’s high time, no pun intended, that people aren’t thrown in jail for having a few joints,” Cannings said. “Door knocking for people around this riding, a lot of people would be in jail.”
The next all candidates forum in Penticton takes place on Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. at the Seniors Drop-In Centre located on South Main Street.