Pubdate: Wed, 08 Oct 2008
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Paul Carlucci
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Candidates Stick To Party Scripts One Week Before Voters Go To The

The Squamish all-candidates debate was a microcosm of the greater
campaign, with the Conservative candidate the focus of sustained
attacks from the Liberal, NDP and Green hopefuls.

Residents turned out in droves, packing the ballroom of the Sea to Sky
Hotel Monday night, first to listen to questions from a media panel,
then to pose a few themselves. Issues ran the gamut, from the economy
to childcare, Afghanistan to environmentalism, health care to arts and
culture. Answers stuck to party playbooks.

"I think it's just an atrocity, the amount of money that has been cut
at the federal level," said incumbent and Green candidate Blair Wilson
in reference to arts and culture spending.

Wilson said Conservative cuts to the GST are responsible for $13
billion in lost revenues, and the controversial overhaul of the arts
and culture budget is a victim of that strategy.

"What I think is appalling is the manipulation of statistics on which
those conclusions are based," replied John Weston, the riding's
Conservative candidate.

He said culture spending has gone up 19 per cent under Stephen
Harper's government. Liberal candidate Ian Sutherland dismissed that
claim, saying those increases were gobbled up by allocations to the
2010 Olympic closing ceremonies and Quebec's 400th birthday.

"Take those out, and it's a reduction."

The legalization of marijuana was another hot topic, with Wilson
positing the most progressive position. "We should tax it; we should
regulate it; and we should get the money out of the hands of gangs
that cause problems in our cities."

Weston was opposed on the grounds that marijuana is an entry-level
drug. "The Conservatives have brought in a series of laws that will
crack down on drug related crime."

Bill Forst of the NDP struck a different note, saying that, unlike his
predecessor, he is not in favour of recreational drug use, though he
does support medicinal marijuana. However, said Forst, he agrees with
Wilson. Sutherland said he supports decriminalization.

Weston's most awkward moment was the result of a resident's question
on gay marriage. When asked about his personal view, he said the
Conservatives have put the issue to bed. When pressed to articulate a
personal view, he simply reiterated that position.

Another difficult moment came as an audience member asked about
state-funded treatments for autistic children, hers included. "You
were the only one who wouldn't meet with me," she said, after the
moderator several times pushed her to phrase a question.

And, when all candidates were able to answer an audience question on
Internet control, Weston confessed he was unaware of the issue and a
related private member's bill. The crowd sounded off in response.

Despite all the rocky moments, Weston was praised on a personal level
by at least one member of the audience. "I admire the salesman," said
one resident, playing off a metaphor Weston presented in his opening
remarks. "It's the car I'm not sure about."
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin