Candidates running for federal office in Kootenay Columbia got the chance to pitch their plans and visions for the riding during an All Candidates Forum at the Key City Theatre on Tuesday night.
Organized by JCI Kootenays, the forum featured all six candidates running for Kootenay-Columbia that included Wayne Stetski (NDP), Rob Morrison (Conservative), Robin Goldsbury (Liberal), Abra Brynne (Green Party), Rick Stewart (People’s Party) and Trev Miller (Animal Protection Party).
The format featured opening statements, then questions submitted via email, social media or the audience, followed by a brief lightning round of one minute responses and finally, to closing statements.
The event was moderated by Bruce Seitz, with JCI Kootenay.
After introductions and opening statements, candidates fielded questions that focused on how to get adults to make significant lifestyle changes to reduce impacts on climate change, tax fairness and how tax policy impacts youth programming, and ensuring that individuals with autism can secure the funding and services they need.
Further questions asked how married couples, where one spouse isn’t a Canadian citizen, can get into the country, what candidates see as the single most important issue facing Kootenay-Columbia and protecting the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The ‘lightning’ rounds, with one minute answers, featured questions on how best to support Elk Valley coal mines and what candidate ties to the region make him or her the best suited as a parliamentary representative.
Each candidate then gave a brief closing statement, summing up their candidacy and priorities if elected.
Stetski fielded the first question on steps adults can take to reduce climate change impacts, and outlined planks of the NDP platform such as retrofitting every house in the country by 2030 and pursuing wind, solar and geothermal in order to transition to a green energy economy.
While Stewart questioned the science behind CO2 as a cause for climate change and dismissed solar energy, Brynne noted the success of the SunMine up in Kimberley and pointed out that the area is one of the sunniest in the province.
Morrison got a cheer from the crowd when he raised the Conservative commitment to scrap the federal carbon tax.
All candidates tackled tax fairness. Miller lamented the subsidies for the oil and gas sector, while Goldsbury touted the work the governing federal Liberals have done to reduce taxes for people earning under $100,000.
Stetski pointed out that the Liberals voted not to fund a $21 million action plan put together by medical professionals for autism programs and services, and highlighted the NDP’s universal health care plan.
Morrison also said the federal government has a responsibility to ensure constituents get health care coverage across inter-provincial borders.
Miller raised the challenges of automation replacing jobs and the need for a basic universal income.
On the single biggest issue facing Kootenay-Columbia, Brynne said climate change impacts to the landscape was her most prominent concern, and noted the importance of conserving and preserving what the region has for environmental and economic values.
Morrison stressed the importance of the Elk Valley coal mines to the region and the need to protect jobs in the natural resource sector, while Stetski voiced his support for the industry and praised the work that Teck has been doing to tackle selenium issues with water quality management.
Goldsbury touted the region’s uniqueness and the need to stand up for Kootenay vitality and said she’s the only candidate to operate businesses on both sides of the East and West Kootenay divide.
There were a few moments of levity.
Given the hardline stance the People’s Party has on immigration, the crowd chuckled when Rick Stewart was tasked with opening on a question that dealt with how couples can obtain citizenship for a spouse who was born in another country.
Stewart also had other moments of self-depreciating humour, telling the crowd he’d love to offer everyone a ‘puppy and a box of chocolates’ during a tangent on fiscal responsibility.
Another notable moment from Stewart was when he pivoted to directly attack his former party, criticizing Andrew Scheer and the Conservative plan to tax heavy carbon emitters.
Out of the six candidates, Brynne and Stetski were the most policy wonkish as it related to the debate questions, often with specific platform details in their answers. Themes in answers from Morrison and Goldsbury focused on leadership and advocating as a strong voice for Kootenay-Columbia in Ottawa.