Candidates present to the public at the Sparwood all-candidates forum. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Climate change, worker shortages, more addressed at Sparwood election forum

The Sparwood all-candidates forum was thought provoking and challenged candidates to dig deep, with several commenting on how they received some of the best questions yet in the electoral race.

Each of the questions were geared towards all parties, and inquired about many local, national, and global issues.

The forum was hosted by the Causeway Bay hotel on October 2, and saw candidates from the Animal Protection Party (Trev Miller), Conservative Party (Rob Morrison), People’s Party (Rick Stewart), Liberal Party (Robin Goldsbury), Green Party (Abra Brynne) and New Democratic Party (Wayne Stetski) attended.

Questions were asked in regards to supporting the coal industry and the values of those who depend on it, supporting the value of seniors in rural communities, plans to combat climate change and if so how this would affect the Elk Valley, how to combat the opioid crisis, whether or not they supported medical assistance in dying, the future of youth in the Valley, funding for veterans, how to protect national sovereignty especially in the north, worker shortages, the FPP voting system, and the largest focus of each candidate if elected.

The coal industry

Rick Stewart voiced his support for coal, as well as bringing back the industry to Canada in order to provide Canadians with more jobs. Brynne also spoke to her support of the industry, saying metallurgical coal will play a large role in a green future. She proposed the elimination of shift work to allow workers to spend more time with their families.

Goldsbury stressed that the Liberal government supports the coal industry, and will focus on improving efficiency as well as the value of exports. Stetski agreed that mining is important, but said focus needs to be put on producing steel in Canada and keeping jobs local. Miller spoke to how he used money earned as a blast driller to pay for his education, and also spoke to how automation is taking over and that subsidies will be needed in order to support people in the future. Morrison said he fully supports mining, and will work to ensure Canada receives top dollar for its coal.

Climate change

Asked if they have a plan to combat climate change, the room was divided.

Stetski spoke to his plans to combat climate change by making homes more efficient, and mentioned coal in the Elk Valley will not be impacted but that Teck should meet with the union to discuss how they can make their sites more ‘green’.

Stewart said evidence of a climate emergency is not substantiated, and that if elected the PPC will withdraw from the Paris Accord.

Brynne highlighted the Green Party’s 20-step action plan to make the country a greener place, and also spoke to the work Teck is already doing to make their sites more ‘green’.

Goldsbury reiterated what Brynne said about industries taking the lead, adding that the oil producers are also doing the same.

Morrison said he will advocate for the construction of a pipeline and use the taxed money to hire a panel of scientists to formulate a plan surrounding climate change. After building the pipeline he said oil will go to China, at which point Canada will get rid of China’s coal plants, and give them clean fuel in order to reduce carbon emissions.

Miller spoke to the severity of the climate crisis, and also spoke to what his party plans to do in terms of alternate energy sources and the importance of personal change that comes with it.

Challenges facing youth

Candidates were asked how they will support youth.

A father of five, Morrison spoke of how youth are the future, and that the Conservative Party of Canada ‘is a family party’. Stetski spoke to the importance of listening to youth, inviting youth into parliament, giving youth hope for the future and jobs moving forward.

Miller said he supports a green future for youth, but said changes will not be small. Stewart said his party is committed to a future without debt, achieved by controlling federal spending.

Brynne spoke to the importance of a housing fund strategy, as well as the importance of strengthening inclusivity. Goldsbury said youth need to be pulled out of poverty, and also spoke to the importance of anti-bullying, drug awareness and more.

Worker shortages in relation to immigration

Referencing the worker shortage as well as the aging population, candidates were asked if immigration numbers should increase, remain about the same, or be decreased and why.

Morrison said immigration numbers depend on the needs of Canada at the time. He said there is a problem with the cue, and that Canada needs a faster, more efficient temporary worker program.

Brynne said the professional credentials of foreign workers needs to be realized, and that barriers for these people need to be lowered. She referenced the shortage of doctors. She also said climate refugees, what she explained as people who need to move from where they are due to climate change, need to be supported by Canada.

Stetski supported this and added that multiculturalism is Canada’s strength. He said refugees of all kinds need to be supported. Speaking to temporary foreign workers, he said that if people are good enough to work in Canada, they are good enough to live in Canada permanently.

Stewart said the holdups in the immigration system are too much, that illegal immigrants receive more care than Canadians, and that there are too many people coming into the country. He said the PPC would reduce immigration to 150,000 a year.

Goldsbury said there are strict rules to get into Canada, admitted the foreign worker program needs a bit of work but said the biggest issue with worker shortages is in urban migration. She said motivation in the form of grants to have youth go to school and work rurally could be the solution.

Miller referenced three steps toward a steady state economy including immigration policy: phasing in basic income investment programs, expanding protection for workers in the private sector, and providing low cost government financing for smaller businesses.

Biggest focus if elected

If your party forms the next government, what is the single most important issue or program that your party will promise to implement?

Stewart said Canada needs to focus on energy independence, while continuing to support its industries by building pipelines, and stop the import of foreign oil.

Stetski said he would start with the implementation of universal healthcare for Canadians; free coverage from the tip of your head to the bottom of your feet, starting with people earning $70k or less.

Goldsbury said she pledges to fight for Kootenay Columbia vitality; standing up for the region and being a voice for the people here.

Brynne said she would start with the climate emergency, highlighted in their plan, ‘mission possible’.

Miller said he would start by eliminating over $4B in funding to industries that are ecologically unsustainable. He said the APP will put these subsidies into programs that work for Canadians.

Morrison said he would start with jobs; jobs in the mines, sawmills, and the energy sector. He said the CPC will build the pipeline, and in doing so create an energy independent Canada by 2030.

Read more: Candidates take questions in Fernie



editor@thefreepress.ca

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