NDP Candidate Wayne Stetski is calling for an all candidates debate in eight communities in the region after MP David Wilks allegedly failed to attend all-candidates meetings in Cranbrook, Creston, Kimberly, Invermere and Revelstoke, amounting to a 43 per cent attendance rate during the 2011 federal election,
In a release addressed to the media and the three other Kootenay-Columbia candidates, Stetski highlighted Wilks poor attendance.
“In various communities, I have heard from some people that they consider it disrespectful of David [Wilks] not to show up in the communities in 2011,” Stetski said. “David [Wilks] now has to account for his last four years as a Member of Parliament.”
Stetski’s proposed meetings would entail an all-issues debate in every major community including Revelstoke, Golden, Invemere, Kimberly, Cranbrook Fernie, Creston and Nelson.
In Stetski’s call to organize a forum he suggested having a representative from each party work with debate organizers to set a date that would work for everyone.
Wilks, however, responded to Stetski’s release by stating,” What I would suggest is that the NDP candidate, rather than trying dictate how the campaign should go, should explain to Canadians’ how the NDP will be paying for all the programs that they are going to put forward and explain the tax increase that will come forward with them.”
The current MP noted that he is focusing on serving his constituents at this time, adding, “I get around. I don’t make a lot of publicity out of it because my job isn’t to get myself in the paper, my job is to get things done for constituents.”
In the upcoming weeks Wilks said he plans to travel across the riding, which includes travel plans to Creston, Nelson, Kaslo, Golden, Radium Hotsprings, Kimberly and Yahk.
With Kootenay-Columbia being the second largest riding in Canada, however, Wilks noted that travelling from place to place can be challenging.
“It’s a challenge, it’s a very large riding,” Wilks admitted.
Liberal Party candidate Don Johnston agreed with Wilks, explaining that as an MP candidate in a 64,000 sq kilometer riding, travelling to each community can be difficult.
“It’s a real challenge to connect with people, so we think this is another important way to do it,” Johnston said in response to Stetski’s request to organize an all-candidate forum.
Green Party candidate Bill Green and Johnston said they would participate in the forum.
“We do believe that people in every community and riding should have an opportunity to meet all of the candidates and we are very much interested in the opportunity to speak to people in all of those communities,” Johnson said, noting that he has already visited several communities, including Fernie, where he met with Mayor Mary Giuliano on June 23 to discuss local issues.
Green also highlighted the value in hosting an all-candidate debate, stating, “I think that all-candidates debates are incredibly important. I think they’re one of the most valuable ways for voters to learn about what the policies and platforms that the different parties are and to learn about the candidates so they can make an informed decision.”
The Green Party candidate shared Stetski’s frustration in regards to attendance.
“If a candidate chooses not to participate than I think that’s something voters can take into consideration,” Green said, adding, “I think that we need to be thinking about more communities so that nobody has to drive more than 30 minutes to be able to attend an all-candidates forum.”