The candidates vying to represent Kootenay East in Victoria had yet another head-to-head debate on Thursday, in what was the last of three rapid-fire forums held over three days.
The BC Liberals’ Tom Shypika, the NDP’s Wayne Stetski and the BC Greens’ Kerri Wall touched on mining, child care, tourism, housing, COVID-19, birth control, rural healthcare and the environment.
Shypitka came out of the gate leaning heavily on his business credentials, saying in his opening remarks that he was “pretty sure neither of my opponents know what it’s like to sign on the front of a paycheck” in signalling his support for local businesses doing it tough during the pandemic.
Stetski’s push was on how important it was to have a local MLA that was inside the government of the day, confidently stating that “John Horgan will be re-elected premier, and I want to be your strong voice on John’s team.” Stetski took multiple opportunities through the discussion to talk of the election and next government as a sure thing for the NDP, much to Shypitka’s annoyance.
Wall led her pitch to voters by saying she had “decided to run as MLA candidate for the BC Greens out of frustration” in how levers and tools to find solutions for communities were at higher levels of government, and not on a local level where she has experience working.
On mining, all three candidates either supported or heaped praise on Teck as a community employer, with Stetski denouncing a doubled-up environmental impact assessment for Teck’s Castle project.
““I don’t think we should be double dipping on these kind of reviews – we should have a federal or a provincial review, we don’t need both.”
Shypitka used his answer to talk about a blow-out in permitting times under the NDP government, while Wall said she believed Teck was taking responsibility for selenium, but backed environmental processes.
The candidates engaged in a pile-on when it came to tourism, sustainability and infrastructure with discussion getting caught on the BC Liberals’ proposal to remove the Provincial Services Tax (PST) for a year to stimulate the economy.
Shypitka lauded it as a way to get businesses to plow money back into their operations and the community, while Wall and Stetski rubbished the plan.
Wall said it was a waste due to a loss of dollars that could be spent through government programs on supporting businesses. “It’s the rich that gain off of proposals like that … why would we throw away all that tax money?”
Stetski had a go as well. “There are only two outcomes: one, they cut services, and of course they have a history of cutting services, cutting healthcare, cutting schools. The other option is to add $3 billion that our children and our grandchildren are going to pay.”
Talk about housing was another opportunity for the candidates to spar, with Shypitka accusing the NDP government of failing to get a handle on falling housing supply and rising costs, while Stetski talked about the need for federal and provincial dollars to back housing programs while municipal governments needed to clear paths for development.
In talking about COVID-19, Shypitka and Stetski bickered over which party got to claim credit for Dr Bonnie Henry.
Stetski said BC and Kootenay East was relatively free from COVID-19 “because of the response of the provincial NDP government for dealing with the crisis right from the beginning, and Dr Bonnie Henry in particular.”
Shypitka spent his time taking issue with that claim, rebutting that “Dr Bonnie Henry is not part of the NDP government… in fact it was the BC Liberals who put her in place,” saying that under a BC Liberal government the response would have been the same.
Wall wheeled out the BC Greens’ policies on job security and universal income as key to the pandemic recovery. “Jobs equal opportunities for health … it is integral we are able to have jobs at this time.”
Birth control made it in to the discussion as well given the timing of public support in Sparwood for no-cost prescription contraception last week. In what was a rare moment of agreement during the forum, all three candidates threw their personal support behind the campaign for female contraception to be covered by the MSP. “I think it should have been done a long time ago,” said Wall.
Wall saved some shade for her closing remarks, rubbishing the BC Liberals’ chances of election while acknowledging John Horgan’s confidence, saying he “wasn’t worried the Liberals are going to take over government,” using the point to tell voters they didn’t need to vote strategically.
Stetski also saved a few punches to last, taking aim at the BC Liberals’ tax cuts plans. “You and your family can’t afford Andrew Wilkinson,” he said, while adding the BC Greens had good ideas but their former leader had supported Horgan for premier.
Shypitka used his closing remarks to heap praise on the Elk Valley and its contributions to the BC economy, but also had a dig, saying it was “clear that John Horgan cannot be trusted” due to his “betrayal” of the BC Greens and BC voters.
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