The four candidates vying to be the next member of parliament for the Kootenay-Columbia riding met for their ninth debate of the election cycle on Monday evening. The debate was held at the Causeway Bay Hotel in Sparwood and was curated by the Chambers of Commerce from Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie.
Roughly 50 people were in attendance to watch the debate, which started at 7 p.m. and lasted for two hours. Moderator Glen Purdy ensured the debate stuck to a rigid format. Candidates from the four main parties were in attendance, including Liberal Party candidate Don Johnston, NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, Green Party candidate Bill Green and the incumbent MP David Wilks, who represents the Conservative Party of Canada.
Each candidate was given two minutes for opening remarks, two minutes to answer each question asked by Purdy and three minutes for closing remarks. The questions were collected from the audience and covered a variety of topics, including trade agreements, the state of the economy and climate change.
The questions started fairly broad, addressing issues such as the Temporary Foreign Worker program, the recent Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and national childcare programs and funding. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer the questions, and was selected in random order to keep the party opinions mixed. From there, three questions were directed at the economy – specifically the coal and logging industries – climate change and how to increase the number of people with disabilities in the workplace. A very region-specific question focused on the federally owned Dominion Coal Blocks in the Elk Valley, and what each party thinks should be done with the asset.
The last question focused on engaging the youth vote and electoral reform, which has been an issue that has been hotly debated by all of the party leaders. Closing remarks followed, starting with Green, and followed by Johnston, Wilks, and Stetski, respectively.
This was the ninth debate that the local candidates have participated in, and the first this week. Additional debates were held in Cranbrook on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 and the last debate is set for Oct. 14 in Jaffray.